Dinosaur hall at the Natural History Museum, London

Disappointed: but not downhearted

How would you feel if you were given an all-expenses-paid trip to Paris with one hand only to have it snatched away with the other? The broad boulevards of Paris have been swapped for the mean streets of south London. The Champs Elysées has become Catford high street.

My company had been due to visit a French counterpart in Paris this week, but, instead, our French colleagues came to London.

To make matters worse, I was asked to act as an interpreter for their trip. In other words: all the pain of the visit and none of the pleasure.

“I did my best to extricate myself, claiming premonitions of a headache, conjunctivitis and life-threateningly flat feet”

My disappointment all hinges on a simple misunderstanding. When I was approached to be part of the delegation, I was told the meetings would be taking place in Paris. Given that I work in social housing, even I realised that some elements of the trip might be grittier than I might choose, but hey – it’s a trip to Paris, right?

Wrong. When I next saw the chief executive, I mentioned how much I was looking forward to our trip to Paris. He looked blankly at me for a moment, before smiling kindly and saying, “They’re coming here, Graham.”

Obviously, I did my best to extricate myself from the visit immediately, claiming premonitions of a headache, conjunctivitis and life-threateningly flat feet. All in vain.

I ended up spending the day easing the conversation between the two camps and introducing the French guests to colleagues who could help them with particular queries. A former boss and friend kindly sent me a bilingual dictionary of housing terms, which proved useful on the day. (Thanks, Jane.)

Unfortunately, I couldn’t join them for their evening meal in a private dining room at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. I was up for an award at a ceremony taking place in the dinosaur hall of the Natural History Museum (pictured) at the very same time.

I didn’t win. Luck clearly wasn’t on my side yesterday. Mind you, I reckon being shortlisted was an achievement in itself. And I got to speak French.

Maybe it wasn’t such a bad day after all.

This entry was published on Friday, 3 October 2014 at 12:55. It’s filed under Language and culture, Places and people and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

8 thoughts on “Disappointed: but not downhearted

  1. Well, being shortlisted was an honour in itself, there’s always a next time

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  2. Sounds like you are doing well all around and your French must be very strong now.

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  3. Being a finalist is an achievement per se. In November I will be in Paris for a whole week. I am participating in a meeting, which means that almost the whole day I will be indoors. The evenings, however will be free. I so look forward, I hope weather will be not too cold.

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    • Yes, I know what you mean. Travelling for work isn’t always as glamorous as it sounds.

      Mind you, I once went on a press trip to Italy for three days and did about an hour and a half’s actual work… Ah, those were the days 😉

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  4. Jane Patterson on said:

    I’m glad the glossary came in handy, Graham, but I’m so sorry you didn’t make it to Paris or win the award, which I’m sure you very much deserved. But you’re still a star to me!

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