I first went to France when I was twelve; I had been leaning French for a year and actually not doing too well. I went to France to stay with friends of the family for two, maybe three weeks. I went through customs when the fierce official asked if I had any coffee with me – I was totally bamboozled, why would I have coffee? He spoke to me in French, which I had been learning at school for a year… I wonder now why on earth he would think a naive child of my age would have coffee?
I went through into some sort of waiting area.vA kindly hostess asked me the name of the family I was staying with – Cuvalier – did I mean Chevalier? No Cuvelier! Eventually all was resolved and I met up with my family’s friends and they took me back first to grandparents in Roubaix, then to their home in Paris.
I had a marvellous time, but despite trying my hardest, I didn’t acquire much more French. However I did learn a lot and am so grateful to them; I was in a family who gave me everyday meals and I so appreciate – at the time, and now, their hospitality.
A regular feature on the menu was something unusual, pastas – maybe linguine, served with sugar… My parents cooked a variety of things, and we had pasta… but served with sugar? It not only sounded weird, it was weird… I’m omnivorous, and I try almost anything, but pasta with sugar even with butter which they offered? No, odd to me then and odd to me now