You may remember that a little while ago, I told you of how a wedding factory moved in next door to my castle – and how I suddenly found myself gazing out of the window at what I considered to be a rather ugly banana palm. I also told how I obtained a new and beautiful phoenix palm from the Heart Garden Centre.
So, with the tree purchased, I hastened homewards. I had already checked the name of the owner of the offending tree – now I just had to wait until she was online.
My intention, you see, was not to be aggressive or confrontational. No, my idea was to offer the beautiful phoenix palm as a housewarming gift and, at the same time, to hint delicately how much better it would look than the banana palm currently in situ.
It was a couple of days before we appeared to be on simultaneously. I was in Venice but – when I saw she was online – I ‘made my excuses and left’, in the best traditional of journalists. Then I im’ed her, explaining that I was the tenant of the castle next door, and it would be lovely if we could meet.
And there I ran into my first problem. She was French – and didn’t speak any English … while my French is desperately limited. Still, I could manage ‘chateau – oui, cet chateau ici’ and was able to get the message across that I’d love to meet. She agreed …
Then we hit the second snag. There was a problem granting her access to my sim – and she couldn’t lift the red ribbons preventing my access to her sim, either. Which meant that the only way the difficult and delicate negotiation could be carried out was fifty feet in the air, in pidgin French, with both of us hovering carefully.
Still, it started very well. I welcomed her organisation … and then I offered my cadeau – ‘un petit cadeau!’ I couldn’t manage ‘housewarming’, but I said graciously (and probably wildly ungrammatically) ‘parce quie vous etes nouveau.’
And then I handed over the tree.
She was delighted. Such a generous gift! At least that seemed to be the general tenor of her remarks. And ‘joli’. I agreed. ‘Tres joli,’ I said.
And then she planted it. In the middle of the garden. Not instead of the banana palm. No – this was as well as the banana palm.
I gulped. Didn’t she think, I asked rather feebly, that cet arbre est plu joli que … Mt French was failing me. What, she responded, did I not like the banana palm? I struggled for about three minutes to find a tactful way of saying in French, “Actually, I hate it. Please put the tree I have given you there instead.” And I couldn’t. It wasn’t just that my French wasn’t up to polite circumlocutions … my French wasn’t up to bluntness either. And while I was still struggling, she found she had an urgent appointment elsewhere.
Probably wise. If she’d let me go on, I’d probably still be struggling – with the aid of an online French dictionary, to find the right words.
No, what I really needed was the animation for a Gallic shrug and a quick pout of the lips. Then I’d have been fine.
And I wouldn’t have to look at my lovely palm tree every day – mostly obscured by that wretched banana palm!