Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Comprenez-vous des fleurs?

Definite confirmation that I'm never going to fit in here--no matter how much I may like beer, be able to withstand the country's bizarre fascination with Posh Spice, and fluidly pepper my conversations with Briticisms such as "Brilliant!"and "Lovely!"--arrived in the form of a recent trip to the local gardening center. Being a city slicker who's never owned so much as a cactus for fear of the responsibility, I immediately fell for the enchanting array of colorful plants on display--look what I'd been missing out on all these years! Needing to keep up with the Jones', or in this case, with Mrs. Sayers next door (yes, that's an aerial view of her lush little Garden of Eden below), we loaded up a dolly full of beautiful indoor and outdoor varietals.

We bought geraniums, petunias, hydrangeas, daisies, African violets, and a lovely purple blossomed thingy that I'm still not sure what to call since the ID card fell out in the delivery van. Well, that was three weeks ago, and the fruits of my attempts at "gardening" (as the British appear to refer to any form of purchasing a plant and placing it somewhere) have failed miserably. I think my friend Georgina, who doesn't beat around the bush, pretty much summed it up last week when she said, "Every plant I've seen around here so far is dead."

It hurt to hear, especially coming from an English person (their innate ability to garden seems to come as naturally as our ability to breathe), but it was true. My Daisies--bent over on their stems. My Hydangeas--either not enough water or too much sun--we're still not quite sure which, but either way they've gone from a vibrant shade of pink to a not-so-lovely state of shriveled brown. The African violets--not only dead but also appear to be sprouting a white fur-like substance.

The sad thing is, I've really tried. I've followed all the given instructions, watered religiously, and placed each in the position that seemed optimal per its ID card. I've been blaming my failure on the unseasonably hot British weather we've been having, but a short walk around our neighborhood (the lovely rose garden to the right is located across the street) and this weekend's trip to the Royal Botannical Gardens seem to have proven that theory wrong. Everywhere around me, as if in mockery, there exists a flourishing, flowering paradise that remains elusively out of reach from my non-green-thumbed grasp.

Thank goodness I have other pursuits that I'm more successful with, like French, for example. Or so I thought up until recently, anyway. Last week I had my phone interview for the French language course I'm taking during our upcoming vacation in Paris and am fairly certain they may have placed me at beginner level again (this coming on the heels of four years of French study)...not positive as I only understood about 10% of what Mme. Guillaume was saying. Either way, they're going to leave me a message about it, or perhaps I'm supposed to leave them a message...not really sure which but am hoping to know more details before we board the train on Friday.

The one thing I'm definitely certain of is that Mme. Gillaume knows I may have cheated a bit on the written exam they sent me. I know this because the one moment I could make out with enormous clarity was the shock in her voice when she told me how well I did on that (and who wouldn't, with four text books and 12 hours spent on it...official time allotted: 45 minutes with no dictionary). I tried to cover by telling her--or attempting to tell her--that my grammar and vocabulary were way better than my speaking ability, but not sure if she believed me since I didn't understand her reply. Perhaps it's time I threw down my gardening trowel, burned those french textbooks and took up something I will surely excel at--like cooking, for instance.


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