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The French Lesson, Part 3

by The Scholar

To be honest, I think a Wimpy and a coke would have been more filling than the meal provided in the dining room. Not that I wasn't grateful to be fed, but after such a long trip and all the excitement, I was hoping that we would be given more than we were. I was not alone, a few others had voiced their dismay, too and I was very nearly tempted to do an Oliver Twist and ask for some more. At least it hadn't been gruel, but it certainly wasn't half as good as a Wimpy. This was going in my diary - the one I had to keep of our trip. We all had to do one. What a chore! But, if that's what they wanted then that's what they'd get and I would pull no punches. If something didn't seem right to me, then I would say so and that meal just wasn't right - not for a bunch of growing kids. Simon agreed.

"Maybe we'll get a burger, or something, in town," he said.

I held out little hope, but at least we had the opportunity to find out, as we were all given some free time to go explore our new surroundings and before Susie Miller had a chance to latch on to us - well, Simon - I dragged him from the dormitory and practically threw him out of the building, as we headed towards the beach.

Our hostel accommodation was, apparently, very close to the beach and if the weather held and we got more free time, it would be a great place to go and relax, especially if we found a Wimpy somewhere.

We didn't! But the beach was amazing. It stretched for miles and the ocean was really blue. I don't know why I found it so amazing, I mean a beach is a beach, but I guess I wasn't sure what to expect from a foreign beach; I mean, I'd never been abroad before.

"Dieppe was founded by Vikings."

That was Simon.


"Dieppe was founded by Vikings," he repeated.

"How do you know that?"

"We were told in a French lesson."

"We were?"

"Yeah, don't you remember when Hamilton was telling us about the place?"

Hamilton - Mr Hamilton - one of our French teachers. To be honest, no, I didn't remember, but then I didn't really understand much of what anyone said when they were talking in French.

"He said that Dieppe was named Djupa by the Vikings," continued Simon.

"Really?" It was a question, but not a question, more of a statement of boredom. What the hell did I care what the Vikings called it. The Vikings were a long time ago in - Viking time - whenever that was. I'd have asked Simon, but figured he would actually know, as I figured he would have been paying attention to Mr Chambers, our history teacher, too and I hated history. History was boring. It took me all my time to remember what I did yesterday, let alone what had happened in a year I wasn't even born and I've said that before!

"I'll have to put that in my diary." Simon again.

"Put what in your diary?"

"About the Vikings founding Dieppe and calling it Djupa."


"Why? Because it will show I was paying attention to what Hamilton had told us, that's why."

"Oh, I see, you're after some brownie points! Well, maybe I'll put it in mine, too."

"Why? You weren't paying attention."

"I was."

"You were not!"

"Well, okay, not to Hamilton, but I was to you, so I can put it in because you taught me something that I didn't know."

"I'm not sure that's how it's supposed to work, Paul."

"What do I care? I didn't want to write a stupid diary, anyway."

"You do remember being told that the diaries we write will go towards our end of term marks, don't you?"


I didn't! Why didn't I? Who had said that? Hamilton! I bet he snuck that one in when I wasn't paying attention about the Vikings and them calling it Jupiter, or whatever it was Simon had said. Damn it. If this was going towards the end of term mark for my school report, perhaps I better not start slagging off the meals at the hostel!

"Anyway, it doesn't matter," said Simon.

"What doesn't matter?"

"Whether you put it in, or not. There's plenty of other historical stuff I can use."

"Such as?"

"Yeah, like I'm gonna tell you just so you can use it and pretend that you were paying attention in class."

"I was paying attention."

"No you weren't."

"Of course, I was, I wouldn't be here otherwise, would I?"

"How do you figure that one out?"

"Well, if I hadn't been paying attention, I wouldn't have heard him say anything about a school trip to France, would I?"

Got him! That would show him. As beautiful as he was - and God, was he beautiful - Simon Taylor could be a bit pompous at times. Not all the time, just some of the time, times like this.

"Well, it hardly counts hearing the words 'trip to France' - paying attention means listening to the rest of it. I'll bet you don't know the first thing about Dieppe."

"Bet I do!"

I liked a challenge. Well, ones I could win.

"Yeah right!"

That was Simon, being pompous again.

"Okay, how much?" I was gonna win this one.

"How much?"

"Yeah, how much you willing to bet. What's the currency thing here? How much in proper money is a franc?"

"Jesus, Paul, is that the best you can do?"

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, be more adventurous, this is France - the country of love and..."

"Sacha Distel."

"...romance and - what? Sacha Distel?"

"He's French, isn't he?"

"Well, yeah, but that's besides the point."

"I'd have thought it was exactly the point. He's French, he sings romantic love songs on TV; and don't say he doesn't 'cause I saw him on The Tommy Cooper Hour."

"I wasn't going to, but I was thinking more of something you could do when you lose your bet."

"What's my bet got to do with love and romance?"

Simon grinned at me. He should never do that. My heart melts when he does.

"Oh, I get it, you want me to sing Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head in public, or something."

Simon laughed. It was a beautiful laugh and my heart melted even more.

"God, no!" he said, composing himself. "I've heard you sing and it's appalling."

"Hey! I'll have you know that I once tried out for the school choir."

"Yeah - and got rejected, too! "

He was right. I had been rejected but I did have a sore throat that day, I remember it distinctly!

"Okay," began Simon, "this is the bet. If you lose the bet then you have to strip naked and run into the sea."


"You heard."

"You want me to take off all of my clothes and run into the sea?"

"If you lose the bet, yes."

"And if I don't lose the bet?"

"Then you get to keep your clothes on and I'll suffer your rendition of Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head."

"Yeah, like hell. If I win the bet then youhave to strip naked and run into the sea."

"Oh, well, I'm not too sure about that!"

"Oh, I see, it's okay for me, but not for you. Well, that's the bet - take it, or leave it!"

"Okay, I'll take it. Makes no difference, I'm gonna win, anyway!"

Now I had to win. I had to win just to see Simon, blonde, beautiful, gorgeous, Simon strip naked - in public - in a foreign country - and run into a foreign sea. Well, as foreign as it was from this side of it.

"Okay, go on!"

"Go on, what?" I asked.

"Tell me something about Dieppe."

"Okay." I coughed to clear my throat and then announced: "Dieppe was founded by the Vikings who named it Djupa!"

I grinned. I'd won!

"That's it?" asked Simon.

"What do you mean, 'that's it!'?"

"I mean, is that all you can tell me about Dieppe?"

"No, but it's what you asked for!" I grinned again and added. "Come on, get 'em off, let's see you stark-bollock naked and running into that inviting expanse of water."

"Bugger off!

"What? You welching on a bet?"

"You can't win a bet by telling me something that I've just told you."

"Oh, but I can, because to have told you anything else would have lost me the bet."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean if, for example, I had told you that in the 15thcentury the houses in Dieppe were half timbered, but most were destroyed in 1694 when the Anglo-Dutch fleet bombarded the town, which saw Louis XIII ordering the rebuilding of the town in the classic style, with frontages of white brick, then I would have lost the bet."

"How the hell did you know all that?"

"I read it in the guidebook they left in the dormitory."

"Hmm, well, okay, but you still lose, 'cause If you had told me that you would have won the bet, but by telling me something I'd just told you means you lost the bet."

"No, no, no. You said - and I quote: 'I'll bet you don't know the first thingabout Dieppe.' That was the bet - that I did know the first thing about Dieppe!"


"Well, how much more of a first thing about Dieppe could I tell you?" I was emphasising Simon's own words to make the point! "Founded," I continued, "means the beginning, the first thing, so if the Vikings foundedDieppe, to tell you anything else would not have been the first thing!"

Simon looked at me blankly. I tried to look as solemn as possible and could practically hear his brain ticking, as he thought over what I had said.

"Damn it! You always have to be so bloody pedantic."

I grinned.

"So I win?"

"Yes, you win, you bastard."

I smiled broadly and punched the air with my fist.

"Yes, get in there. Okay, time to get stark-bollock naked and hit the ocean."


"You heard me!"

"I heard you, yes, but what the hell do we wanna get stark-bollock naked and hit the ocean for?"

"I won!"

"Won what? Paul, are okay?"

"Of course, I am."

"Well, for Christ's sake get a grip, that's twice today you've said something about getting naked."

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