‘Stephen, you have the most unusual French accent I have ever heard.’ This ‘compliment’ came from my French teacher at my boarding school in Scotland. Being French herself, I had to assume that she knew what she was talking about. I was seventeen years old and had just managed to scrape a C pass in my French O Grade (the Scottish version of O levels). We were now at the beginning of the Higher Grade (like an A level) course and my teacher went on to
explain that given my aptitude for the French language it might be better all round if something else was found for me to do during French periods. The ‘something else’ was working on the farm attached to my school’s estate. I didn’t really mind, I was a country boy, I really struggled with French and I got time off from lessons. So for the next
year I dug ditches, cleaned out sheds and did all sorts of odd jobs around the farm. Forty years later I am still slightly embarrassed by how bad my French is. Not quite at the level of ‘Allo Allo!’ but not far off. So this January one of my New Year’s Resolutions was to learn some French. I’m using an on-line course that I can access in my free time. So far it is going all right, though much of the vocabulary that I’m learning has to do with interns working in Information Technology or Media Journalism. I’m sure that I’ll get on to the lesson about middle-aged
country rectors very soon. February is a hard month. Christmas is a memory, Easter and Spring are in what seems like the distant future. Our New Year’s Resolutions, those plans to be a better version of ourselves, start to
wobble and one by one they are dropped. Gym membership go unused, diets fail, perhaps even online subscriptions to French language courses are accessed less often. It is human nature to start any enterprise with bright eyes and
optimism. It’s also human nature to start to flag when the six pack doesn’t appear after the first few gym sessions, or the weight doesn’t come off, or you still sound like an extra sitting in the café of M. Rene Artois. February is a hard month, but it is short, it will pass; the Spring will come and with it the great feast of Easter. Losing weight, getting
fitter, being able to speak French better are all commendable things, but in the great scheme of things all that matters is that we are loved. So in this bleak month, as we wait for the winter world to wake up, give thanks for all those you love, and for all who love you. And give thanks for this lovely place, and the evidence of God’s love all around us.