Friday, December 14, 2007

Why can't I be nice?

Well, I can’t be. Nice that is.

I had a sharp tongue, even when I was a child. I have always thought that it was my sense of humour. But I’m not like Joyce Grenfell, or Michael Palin…you know, funny…but nice.

I have read a lot of blogs by people who are nice. Are they pretending, that’s what I want to know?

When my sweet H suggested that we move here to France, I think that he was hoping that it might be deactivated. That there might be a little box, like the one on the computer control settings. And it could be ticked and there you are – sharp tongue turned off. Blunted by the sticky glue of another language.

It did work at first, but perhaps not in the way he had hoped. He was the only one who heard the sharp tongue.
Now, after nearly 17 years, it works quite well in French too.

But it isn’t just what I say: it is more of an attitude.
Let me give you an example.

I am on a windy cliff with several volunteer dog trainers who are helping Porridge to acquire sporting skills.
Important fact to remember: I have left a lead or a harness or something important ( a drink ?) in the car which is parked a little way down the hill and I am putting off going to get it because I am too lazy.
The president of the club arrives and announces that a valued member of the club, another trainee (like me with Porridge) has had enough of the dictatorial and high handed training methods (it is true that there can be a fair bit of exasperated shouting) and will have nothing more to do with the club. This is followed by 15 minutes of recrimination, intense examination of consciences and reviewing of situations leading to this crisis. I become rather bored with all this since I don’t know the person concerned, and decide to go down to the car for whatever it is that I have forgotten. Unfortunately, I can’t resist a throw away line to wind them up just before I walk away. “Yes, I am of the same opinion and I wont be coming back either.”
This, naturally enough, is greeted by a terrible silence as I walk off.
A few minutes later, the only English trainer arrives, having followed me down. “I told them it was the English sense of humour but they didn’t believe me”, she says. “It was that wasn’t it?” she continues, hopefully.
She is followed by a really lovely retired sailor, who takes my arm anxiously and says “You can’t leave, there will be aperitifs later.”
You see, they did understand me after all.


Lucy said...

I can't abide all that endless analysis and deliberation about the smallest thing that goes on here; when were in our infamous Breton dancing stage we spent ten minutes at the start of one class discussing why the instructor had been late the week before. I wish I'd had the presence of mind to come up with an aside like yours. Perhaps that's mostly what being nice is, not having the presence of mind to be nasty.

Rosie said...

I think you must really be nice Lucy, since you have managed to be nice about me being nasty

Jean said...

But Rosie, if you were really nasty you wouldn't think this was a nasty way to behave!

I know what you mean about having a sharp tongue, though. I have one too, sometimes feel awful about how much I've upset people, and other times certainly don't realise when I have.

I think it's never a bad thing to be aware of our own behaviour patterns and how they affect others. But there are many worse things than a sharp tongue - better a sharp tongue and a warm heart than the other way round.

And you story is very funny. It reminded me of a friend's story of making a black joke at the end of presentation in Paris... long awkward silence, and then the other bilingual person present said in a slightly uncertain tone: 'Ah! L'humour britannique!'

Rosie said...

Hello jean,
my mum used to tell me that my tongue was so sharp that I would cut myself with it. I dont seem to remember her being fluffy and pink either, however.My son told me yesterday that he thought I was strange and cynical, which I have decided to take as a complement...