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Stealing Dreams

I WAS A 7 year old revolutionary when I learned my first few French phrases; ca va?je m’appelle; j’habite; je suis. Instantly hooked by the fantooshness, there commenced a lifelong fascination of the foreign and exotic. In P5 at Crieff Primary School I’d a wee notebook of French vocabulary and I recognised then the excitement and interest of strange tongues, different cultures, varied ways and customs entirely at odds with those of Presbyterian Scots. We left our Crieff caravan for a cottage in the Hillfoots of Clackmannanshire; our destination must have been preordained and written in the stars for the wallpaper in my bedroom there, 100 years old at least, comprised the icons of Paris - there was a yellowing background with the Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame and Montmartre. I was in my element until my parents papered the room and I could view Paris again only when I keeked inside the meter box which they had left untouched. But there remained the certainty that one day I would indeed visit that most enchanting of cities.

Ten years later my pal Christine and I bought tickets at Stirling which took us by rail to Harwich, the Hook of Holland, Brussels and Paris. In Brussels we met a nun and at her request took photos of her with her family, brought the spools home to develop, then sent the photos back to Brussels with wee notes written half in German and half in French, with a smattering of pidgin English; we exchanged cards and letters for years afterwards, using our own form of Esperanto. In the underpass at the Arc de Triomphe Christine and I made friends with a Glaswegian busker, went for dinner with him, laughed at how clever we were to have managed an expedition to the continent, and observed Russian diplomats dine with their European counterparts. The world was indeed our oyster.

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iScot Magazine
May/June 2019

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