Write a post inspired by your sixteenth birthday.
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Above is the Daily prompt for today and below is the prompt from 365 Days of Writing Prompts for tomorrow. I wasn’t very inspired by them at first. http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/daily-prompt-sixteen/
When you were 16, what did you think your life would look like? Does it look like that? Is that a good thing?
It is a l-o-n-g time since I was sixteen. Looking back, I may have just completed my O-level exams by my sixteenth birthday. I spent many birthdays taking exams from junior school onwards. However there seemed to be a rule that the more important the exam, the earlier it was scheduled! External exams (set by an examining board) may well have been over a week or two earlier than school exams.
The next thing I was going to do, before starting at a new school in September, was to spend four weeks of the school holiday in France. There were preparations to be made. The new dresses, which Mum made for me proved to be rather unsuitable for the place I was staying. They would have been ideal for a city or even a large town. I may have worn them once or twice in the four weeks. They were useful at home later, but we had not realised what sort of a language-learning holiday I was going on. Fortunately I also had shorts and shirts, which I wore almost all the time. I think Mum had based her ideas of style on the wardrobe of the French girl, who had stayed with us the previous summer. She lived in Paris and was elegant and a year or two older than me. Our so-called exchange visit was very unusual as instead of staying in her home, I was going to stay with other members of her family. (I have never seen our French visitor since was staying with us.)
Where I stayed was out in the French countryside. There were a large number of children staying there without their parents, as this was a sort of business. During term-time the children would have been taken to local day-schools. The age range was very wide, but I was the eldest apart from children of the family.
There were facilities for all sorts of exercise, indoors and out. The outings which were arranged were to nearby locations where we could all play and share a picnic. We squeezed into one of two cars and off we went. I can remember sitting with a small child on my knee, who asked in a concerned way (in French) whether he/she was making my knees tired. In English we might have asked whether we were getting heavy (an idiom related to things feeling heavier as you become tired) or whether someone was still all right. I don’t know whether it was a French idiom or whether the child was young enough to be very imaginative with language.
I did go out one evening (no doubt wearing a dress) to a wonderful concert in a nearby castle with some French-Canadian parents, who were visiting their children. It was the first time I heard Debussy’s L’après-midi d’une faune. It was the only evening I spoke English in France.
My time was spent playing in the gym, riding a bicycle and swimming. I also was able to play the piano from time to time in an annexe which housed the TV room. I did not manage to understand French TV, so did not spend much time watching it.
The grandmother of the family was an anglophile and gave up some of her time to help me with my French, because I was working hard at improving it. Together we read Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupèry. I have never forgotten my surprise when I learned from her that the French pronunciation of Don Quixote, sounds like “donkey shot”.
My trip had been arranged at a time when everyone expected me to take languages for A-level and beyond. By the time I went I had already decided to study scientific subjects and keep languages as a hobby.
I think the unexpected aspects of my trip to France are symptomatic of how little we are able to guess about what will happen in the future. I have written a little more about my trip in an earlier post and about my attitude to the future in another.
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