French on the inside

Our recent work trip went surprisingly well, in the sense that it may actually have fulfilled its ostensible purpose of building a team. I cite as evidence the exception proving the rule: when we became a little tetchy part way through, it was the tetchiness of a family that has spent too much time together over Christmas, and easing off on the organized fun made us all amicable again. Each of us seemed to move happily between roles—more experienced travellers down slopes shepherded the beginners, whereas more experienced comperes ran the games in the evening—and swapped strengths and weakness, much like a well developed team. Astonishing, really, when you think that I work with brightybot among others.

One of the remarkable aspects of spending time at high altitudes is that the body becomes very sensitive to alcohol; at the same time, recuperation seems much easier, perhaps because one actually drinks less to become as merry as usual. An Amstel or two at the bottom of the slopes would pass from a creamy taste on the tongue to a bright fizziness in the head within ten minutes; moreover, these were short metric “pints” and should have had, oh, twelve percent less effect than usual. But despite some five nights in a row of serious drinking, I only had one hangover during the entire vacation: it felled me the morning after we stayed up till two drinking génépi, an eau de vie flavoured with regional mountain herbs. On the bottle it claimed to contain water, sugar, alcohol and “vegetables”: I can only hope this was a slip of translation.

The oddest phase of the hangover was between abrupt wakefulness at six thirty (when I finally sobered up) and my attempts to fall out of bed at 7.45. Uniquely for me, the sickness manifested itself as a kind of defaulting of my brain to French: half asleep throughout, my foggy self could not permit its own formulation of thoughts in anything other than the local language. Put like that, it sounds rather romantic and istilled with the herbs and vegetables was some essential essence of France itself, and. Unfortunately, despite slamming my brain train onto a set of rails some five hundred miles east of the normal ones, the spirit did not at the same time equip it with multilingual wheels, and I lay for a perplexed, sweaty hour and a quarter trying to pick my way through basic French phrases.

All I could really think of was the vocabulary of the past few days. Towards the end of the nausée I realised I wasn’t going to express any complex concepts with only faire du ski, fromage and, ugh, génépi…. This Franglais thought led on to the antics of the night before, and I soon started to feel like getting out of bed rather sharpish to avoid an explosion in a confined space. But how could I explain—in French—to my now entirely awake mind that I had managed to pull the seat off the toilet last night, as I stumbled around in a laughable effort to avoid waking my roommate; never mind trying to work out comment le, uh, fixer.

This entry was posted in body, development, dreams, experience, far_away, fluids, intoxication, language, location, occupation, person, semantics. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to French on the inside

  1. looby says:

    Now that’s something Berlitz always misses out: “Excuse me receptionist, but I have ripped the loo seat off due to a combination of altitude and the local carrot liquer. How may re-attach the flange lever screw to the seat-bowl interface?”

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