Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Ermintrude goes swimming

It is Wednesday. Usually that means misery because it is swimming day. But not today. Because Ermintrude is here. I can feel a gloat the size of the Midlands spreading over me right now.

I say, innocently, 'Dear Ermintrude, would you like to go swimming today with the children?' I tell her that going swimming would be a lovely cultural experience to have in la belle Angleterre. Indeed, going swimming is a perfect opportunity to learn a lot of useful English. In the reception to the leisure centre you would overhear the staff talk to each other and you would learn conversational phrases like 'F*** off. I'm not f***ing doing the extra f***ing shift.' Then in the changing rooms you would overhear useful idiomatic expressions like 'Where's the f***ing cossy?' Then there are the notices to read all about swimming in someone else's bathwater. You would even benefit from some sociolinguistic material. Listen to Fish instruct the children. She says 'R-i-i-i-i-ght' in a very drawn out way, which really means, 'Are you being bolshy again because if you are I'm going to ignore you'.

I think at this point Ermintrude was trying to tell me that she would rather stab herself in the head than go swimming, but unfortunately I could not understand Ermintrude's English, and my limited French seemed to fail me totally. So I said 'That's settled then', and bundled Ermintrude and her swimming costume in the car with Shark, Squirrel and Tiger.

I cannot tell you whether Ermintrude enjoyed the experience. All I can say is that tonight she has been on the phone to her parents for 50 minutes and has checked the timetable of the trains back to Francois in London three times now. Perhaps I could find out what she really thinks when I ask her to go swimming again next week.

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