‘One day you will wake up and there won’t be any more time to do the things you wanted to do. Do them now.’
BC (Before COVID), I had a clear vision of how I wanted to spend whatever time I had left – four months in South America, similar in Southern Europe and the rest in South Africa, repeated ad infinitum. That was my ambition. ‘Following the Sun‘ was my mantra and it seemed to be within my grasp.
Until COVID came along and screwed up the world.
Now we are all in life’s waiting room. And governments have seized their opportunity to legislate and control us. But given their inevitable incompetence, they will mostly fail, and we will eventually regain some independence., albeit probably with another useless layer of bureaucracy.
In the meantime, I continue with my efforts to improve my ability in Spanish, French, and Portuguese. In Spanish, I am conversant and relaxed, in French I can defend myself, and in Portuguese I still valiantly struggle, but I hope to eventually sufficiently improve.
My linguistic goal has never been perfection, but to be able to communicate effectively, with a minimum of glaring error. I will always have the intrusion of my Irish accent, and that I am unlikely to lose.
At school, I was never a great student of Latin and French, although I generally achieved acceptable marks. I never understood why we bothered to study languages. I received no encouragement from my parents, who were monolingual. My father always said that he had had enough of Europe after his six years of war service, and he never ever wanted to return. My mother used to say that ‘the only good German was a dead one’, a view that caused many a clash between us. I understood her bitterness, but I also felt that my generation and our children had to turn the page and start a new chapter.
I first travelled around western Europe in 1968, and it was then that I was bitten by languages. I was fascinated by the communication challenges, and when I later realized that ability in Spanish and Portuguese could open new opportunities for me in Central and South America, I was well on my way.
And I have been going for it ever since!