As I said in my last post, I am not a very good student of languages. When I encountered my French teacher shortly after I left school, I realised that she agreed with this assessment. It was just a few days before university started and we were both standing waiting at Canberra's very first ATM, (this encounter took place back in the 1970s).
Out of an inability to think of any way to avoid talking to her, I greeted my former teacher, for whom, since her method of teaching had been the one Montaigne describes - "The usual way is to bawl into a pupil's ears as if one was pouring water into a funnel" - I had almost total contempt.
As I had never completed a single piece of homework for her or, in fact, done any work at all (I preferred the time honoured strategy of all lazy and arrogant young students - swotting for 20 hours a day for the four days immediately before the final exams, so that for a very brief interval, ideally including the exact scrap of time occupied by the exam itself, each piece of information necessary to answer the paper's cunning questions would hang with uncanny clarity in the empty cavern of my mind, ready to be deployed at a moment's notice before evaporating forever from my consciousness) - she wasn't exactly in love with me either.
Which was why I wasn't that surprised when her face didn't light up at the sight of me.
'Hello, ZMKC,' she said. She looked as pleased as if she'd discovered she'd just stood in dog's poo. 'What are you up to?'
'I'm about to start university,' I told her, 'I'm studying modern languages - in fact, one of the languages I'll be studying will be French,' I said.
She couldn't help herself. Her face convulsed.
'You - studying French', she said. The words almost choked her
I smiled. I decided it would be wise to change the subject. 'What are you doing?' I asked, congratulating myself on my grace and charm in the face of her appalling rudeness.
'I'm getting married tomorrow,' she answered, with a simper.
Her - she must be at least 30. And she was so unattractive. And annoying. Before I could stop myself, and even while my mind was still awash with my own moral superiority in the face of her lack of civility and tact, I heard myself saying, 'You, getting married,' with exactly the same tone of utter amazement and horror as she had used to me.