Learning to speak French can be fun, frustrating and sometimes just downright embarrassing.
Last summer I was coming back from a walk when I saw a group of my French neighbours looking very upset. I went over and asked ca va? I thought that they said that Didier had died. Didier is a neighbour and sheep farmer. He drives past our house 3 or 4 times a day, always with a cheery smile and a wave.
What a terrible shock! What had happened - an accident perhaps? I thought they replied that it was his heart. I then asked where was Didier's wife? One of my friends looked puzzled and said with Didier of course. I then said what about the sheep? Who is going to look after the sheep? More puzzled looks accompanied by lots of shoulder shrugging. Well, after saying poor Didier, I then headed home and told my husband and my brother who was staying with us on holiday. They were both very shocked as Didier is around the same age and he had died so suddenly. So that evening my brother and my husband sat up late in the garden under the stars reflecting on how short life is and drinking to Didier.
The next morning, my husband with a throbbing head, pulled back the curtains and saw Didier driving past as usual going off to work. He did a double-take. Was he seeing another ghost? That's nothing new for my husband! He shouted up the stairs "Didier is alive!" I woke up with a shock. Feelings of relief soon were replaced by confusion and dread. If it wasn't Didier - who was it who had died in the village?
I later found out that it was the wife of one of the villagers who had been standing looking so upset. I used to regularly visit her because she was house bound, very kind and I enjoyed her company. I felt absolutely mortified as I had ignored the poor man with my ramblings about Didier and sheep. What was I to do? I had already made an awful mistake - I was worried that I would make the situation worse if I tried to apologise to him in French. So I decided to write a letter of sympathy and to apologise for my behaviour.
He took it very well, in fact, he laughed and said tell your husband to have another drink tonight for my wife this time. Needless to say we were honoured to be invited to the funeral.
The story has gone down in village history - for months afterwards at aperos and get-togethers it was the source of much amusement and even now the story of Didier le phantom is often resurrected!