Coming back into the lounge with a fistful of beers, I regretted that I seemed to be the only one to have remained sober. The conversation jumped between French and English and veered and twisted in a way that was comprehensible only to those under the influence. I gave up trying to follow their discussion on duck hunting and went to make myself a cup of tea, pleased, that at least they no longer required my services as an interpreter.
The evening had started out in what could only be described as formal silence. The bar had been packed and noisy and had discouraged most forms of dialogue. On my left stood the Anglo-American contingent, over from the States on a short visit; my sister and brother-in-law both gazing around suspiciously at the traditional Gallic watering hole. My French family was positioned on my right, eying the others curiously, wanting to speak but separated by a language they couldn’t understand and cultural differences so enormous that they couldn’t possibly be discussed over a glass of beer.
We sat outside to eat, watching the last of the climbers descend the rock faces surrounding us, and at last the subject of conversation turned to something that interested both parties. “Ask him about Mustangs” my French brother-in-law said cautiously, unused to having such an exotic dining companion. He didn’t speak much English, so I helped. The response was enthusiastic. Cars. What other subject could cross the Atlantic so seamlessly? By the time we reached the dessert, all cultural barriers had disappeared.
I returned to the lounge and set my cup of tea down gently on the table, listening to their laughter and chatter. As passionate hunters, my brother-in-laws had, in the space of a few hours, become soul mates. Suddenly language wasn’t a problem anymore; everyone seemed to speak everything fluently: Remington! Duck! Bang! Bang! Canard! Oui! Offers of future hunting expeditions were being exchanged and accepted with a lot of arm waving.
The only thing that separated them now, was 5,000 miles.