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LA Grande Motte

September 22, 2014

I remember, as a rather cocky 17 year old, going to France for the first time. It was a 10 day school trip to a new town in the South of France called LA Grande Motte. I had recently got into the mod scene and despite the sweltering heat, the photos show that whilst my mates were on the beach in t-shirts, shorts and flip flops, I spent the whole holiday in my tonic suit, pork pie hat and loafers. I was so convinced of my cool, I was immune to the piss taking. LA Grande Motte means the big word and we had a running joke of inventing a “big word of the day”. One day, my friends invented ” Prickinaparka” but I rose above it. Until we went to a local bar. I was one of the better French speakers in the group, so I volunteered to get the first round in. I don’t know whether the barman was more taken aback by my terrible accent or the fact that I was wearing a a Lacoste jumper in the middle of June. Making sure that I had an audience was assembled, I gave my order: 7 beers, 2 glasses of wine, a Dubonnet & lemonade and a selection of sandwiches. I expected a round of applause. The barman looked flummoxed and asked me something in return. I was stumped. I couldn’t understand a word he said. Mr Hart, the French teacher came over to bale me out and I slinked away – my face redder than my sta-press slacks.

Steven’s support worker arrived today and said he’d read my blog on personalization. Steven, earwigging, said: “That’s a big word. Massive”.

Social care is full of big words but most of them, meaningless. I try to learn the vocabulary but I always feel like that boy at the bar. I read about ” partnership working” and “experts by experience” and my stomach turns. I think its useful to have a stab at understanding what these things mean but life is too short to get too immersed in them. Most of it is just a game to keep the real people out, so its probably best to understand the rules of the game but not to take part (like me and cricket).

If I’m invited to speak, I feel okay because I know I can use my own language. But when I read tweets like: “@markneary1 should contribute to this”, I get nervous because I know I’m going to be on the back foot. I suppose I have a fear that if I get drawn in, I might end speaking like that too. I know that may sound as cocky as 17 year old me, but I do feel that.

Big words. Small ideas. Words stolen and manipulated to cover what is really happening. One day I’ll write to Suzy Dent in dictionary corner and ask her to look into ” fairer access to care services”. I suspect she’ll find that every word in that phrase is the opposite to the reality – unfair, shut out of no service.

And on that note, I’ll head for the beach, slip into my lambretta shorts and sip my ice cold Dubonnet. Au revoir.


From → Social Care

  1. Weary Mother permalink

    When my son was a teenager, on being more than usually patronised in yet another hollow ‘consultation’, a lovely hard pressed mother (originally from N Ireland), paused poker faced ..faced speaker and repeatedly referred to …… ‘cur in the community’……..Hilarious, made the wasted journey worthwhile….

    Small wins.

  2. Sally permalink

    Please please don’t feel like the boy in the parka-you manage care speak so well-and show it up in all its absurd, dishonest nonsense.Your blogs speak to anybody who has ever sat in a meeting sick with anxiety and frustration as carespeak washes over them thinking “Why on earth don’t I get this? It sounds like you are offering nothing but words.”
    Its hard to cope with carespeak because so much is a stake and we all know what it means when they go into it:A. You are going to be done down B. you will be expected to be very grateful
    Perhaps, as with French, its just a case of useful phrases for the tourist. Ecoute et repete: “broad and balanced approach” ” support in the community” “assessment to look at the best way forward”
    Just throw a couple of those in and look like a native.

  3. Kay permalink

    Love the story, but regret to inform you that Mr. Hart left it a bit late for his linguistic intervention – given that the French for ‘a word’ is ‘un mot’, while ‘une motte’ means a mound (as in ‘a motte and bailey castle’ for a raised keep inside a defended enclosure), you’d all been talking hillocks all week!

    Am absolutely sure, though, that many of the apparently confident carespeakers are equally in ignorance of their own meaninglessness.

    If it helps, you could remind yourself that they are probably talking from their own ‘buttes’?

  4. Jayne knight permalink

    You are not alone with embarrassing 17 year old stories from France. In fact I think if you collected them it would make a good book. I think also that many of those “cool” adventurers turned out to be pretty good people with a sense of what it is to be different and in a different place. A funny tale that makes me squirm a bit for you and for me to remember a very embarrassing moment with a wet, knitted halter neck top, packing my back pack, looking up and speaking French very shyly to this gorgeous male. Wet knitted lhalter neck tops stretch by the way and in those young, bra less days, oh my God. To walk the gauntlet in that youth hostel was unbelievable after. It was the looks and silence followed by rapid language of a whole room full of a French boys. I know exactly what you mean about what I often feel, ” a fish out of water” when I’m in the presence of certain people. I don’t understand and don’t want to.

  5. Jenny Allan permalink

    Ah yes!! That ‘school French’ takes no account of the local ‘patois’ or regional accents and dialects. I’ve often wondered how visitors from other countries get on where I live -and I’m including those from English speaking areas!!

    • Pauline Thomas permalink

      Mark to use the word ‘vibrant’ to describe an area full of dead shops and a local lads street hangout is PR at its most cynical. That is what our LA’s social care officers did when they closed a purpose built day centre with a pleasant outlook and replaced it with two converted dead shops with frosted windows (no one can see in, and no one can see out). Their understanding of the word vibrant and the actual meaning bear no resemblance. They might have well been speaking french!

      • Kay permalink

        Sounds more like double-Dutch to me.

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