The restaurant was as French as a langoustine in a beret. The chatter, the spotty-backed wooden chairs, the carafes and the fact that every damn diner was smoking like a chimney. The waitress swanned up to our table in a whirlwind of glamour, the perfect picture of French urbanity. She cooed at the baby and then took my wife's order.
"Je voudrais que le moulles marinair, les ailes de raie et une carafe de la Saumer Blanc," said my wife with all the comfort of a girl who paid attention in her French lessons.*
"Perfect!" exclaimed the waitress, flashing a smile and cooing at the baby. Then she turned to me. Now I don't want to overstate the case - heaven forbid - but nothing bothers the French more than a holidaying sauerkraut who has made no attempt whatsoever to learn their language.
"Hello," I said, and in unfaltering English "I would like the pâté, the steak (medium-rare) and a beer". I never paid attention at school but I felt my English was beyond criticism.
She definitely flinched. After the dizzying heights of my wife's French it is hardly surprising. For a moment I felt like a Victorian schoolboy braced for the paddle. There was no flashing smile and no cooing at the baby.
"And would you like a large or small beer?" she asked in crisp, Frenchified English. Her accent reminded me of the French aristocrats in Blackadder.** For a brief, sombre moment everything stopped. All you could hear was the flapping of parasols, a couple of Frenchies lighting up and the gentle frumpling sound of me chewing on my lip.
"Large," I replied, "a pint would be perfect."
* My own rendition of her French with the help of Google Translater probably does not do it justice.
** If for some godforsaken reason you have not watched Blackadder then you
The restaurant was in Saumer