Saturday, 28 March 2015

Breaking an arm... and all the way from Rouen

Three weeks ago I broke my left arm. It was the end of a glorious spring walk through countryside near Thomas Hardy's cottage, not far from Dorchester. Glorious... until a bramble noose tripped me up and sent me flying.

The result could have been worse. Nevertheless, I completely fractured the top of my left humerus and the arm remains fragile - or so it feels - in a sling. Having been grounded, I had to send some 'sorry and hope to see you later' messages. I won't be jumping onto trains for a while.

However, there was one group of students whom I was determined not to disappoint. Two classes of French students from J B de la Salle in Rouen have been studying The Other Side of Truth and Journey to Jo'burg for their English course and were coming on a 3-day trip to England. Their English teacher, Julie Bertholle - 'Mrs B' to her students - had booked them in to a hotel in Bournemouth, just a couple of miles from where I live. The plan was for us to meet there and spend the evening together.

Thanks to painkillers and plenty of TLC, our evening took place and both I and my husband Nandha enjoyed it immensely. Many of the students' questions were on the context of my writing and the origin of themes within the two novels. It was clear they had been doing their research and that's enough to please any writer!

Afterwards, I was also delighted when two students, Lena and Sacha, presented me with a symbolic drawing they had designed of a South African map with a peace symbol and a touching message. I decided to teach the SA handshake to a few students, asking them to pass it on.

Before dinner, I took on the challenge of signing some 40 books with my right hand. I began a bit shakily scrawl but this is how my signature looked at the end. Not TOO bad I thought and maybe even a little neater than my usual left-handed scrawl!

After dinner, one of the students, Manon, asked if I had any favourite songs and singers. I replied, "When I think of France, Edith Piaf for sure!"  Manon began to sing 'La vie en rose' - and soon she was joined by her friend Eugenie in an impromptu medley. Some of their favourite songs were mine too, including from 'West Side Story'.  It was a lovely ending to our evening.

Mrs B has since sent me a short video of her students hard at work as they write about our meeting and their trip to England which also included a visit to The Globe in London and to Canterbury Cathedral. With music from Bach playing quietly in the background, their concentration is intense. They are in the world of their journey.  How lucky students are when they have such dedicated teachers as Mrs B and Jean-Francois Pezot (the school's deputy director). Thank you J B de la Salle students and teachers for cheering me up after being brought down by my fall!


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