The hunter squinted down the barrel, took careful aim then squeezed the trigger. “Oui! Oui!” he shouted, as the huge wild boar pelting across the field fell to the ground.
I smiled, but his jubilation was short lived and before long I received a remindful tap on the back from the plastic rifle in an international gesture of “Go faster!” I grimaced and forced my feet down onto the pedals, aware that he possessed an imagination that was matched only by his weight. On this seemingly infinite climb, I considered that for a two year old both were excessive.
The family had welcomed me into their lives with the ease of those who had come to the Alps from elsewhere, embracing my foreignness and strange way of speaking. She worked long hours as a vet and he as a hang-gliding instructor. As an au pair I occupied the children during the day, basking in their constant attention and the opportunity to spend time outdoors.
The farmhouse came into sight at last, a cool respite from a sun that was slowly baking the landscape to pale amber. My young charge would be staying there with his childminder until lunchtime, giving me a couple of hours off.
When I left, the farmer was stood on the terrace, sporting a flat cap over dark greying hair and a nose as imposing as his personality. I groaned inwardly, knowing that my understanding of the lingo was about to be tested. “How do you say ‘cul‘ in English?” he inquired conversationally, studying me carefully over the top of his glasses for the slightest sign of embarrassment. I came to an abrupt halt at the top of the steps. I had no idea and I was appalled all over again. Hadn’t I just spent 4 years at university supposedly learning enough French to respond to this very sort of situation?
I quickly thought it over; thankful that my creativity in English was unrivalled and coughed out a word that I hoped was as vulgar as the one that he had surely just given me. He nodded his head and to my horror repeated it a couple of times until he had mastered the pronunciation to his satisfaction. I felt myself redden and I muttered goodbye before racing down the hill on the bike.
Back in my bedroom, I feverishly turned the pages of the dictionary searching for the translation and memorising it. Then I turned my thoughts to the next likely candidate. I had to go back at midday to pick up le petit and had just two hours to achieve perfect fluency in gutter French.