Walking in the forest recently, I came across an elderly lady walking her dog. It was a little dog, playful and excitable a puppy perhaps. As the puppy ran towards me I bent down to pat it, to only hear the lady calling out ‘ne touchez pas’ french for don’t touch.

As I approached the lady she began to tell me the dog was young and needs to learn to not jump. I responded that I had thought she was telling me not to touch the dog.

Non non, what if you had white trousers on and the dog jumped up, she replied – all of this in French of course. Not understanding her because she spoke too quickly I asked her to repeat. To my amazement she repeated in English.

I was intrigued by this lovely elderly lady speaking English and wanted to ask her how she learnt to speak English, but after a little conversation about her dog and previous dogs, I seemed to have lost my confidence and became mute after moving on saying goodbye.

As I walked away I became annoyed at myself for not asking her how she learnt English. So annoyed I became that I decided if I have the opportunity I will ask her but only if I ask her in French and that if I didn’t I would remain mute in French and never know the answer.

Frustrated with my lack of ability and lack of ‘give it a go regardless’ I found myself having to be real tough with myself. This seemed to be the only way. As another friend of mine has repeatedly said ‘you have to just jump’.

A little further down the track I stopped to take a photo (my iPhone always at the ready) of the sun streaming through the forest giving life to the autumn leaves having fallen to the ground. This lady had caught up to me and commented how lovely the forest was again this winter.

We walked some more, talked some more and then BANG…out comes the question in FRENCH. With a smile and some intrigue she answered. We then continued to walk and talk. She became more interested in where I live, my french classes, and so forth.

To my surprise and delight, she offered for me to phone her when ever I wanted and we would walk and talk or coffee and talk, as I wish, with me practising French and her English.

Her contact details recorded, I learn she lives just down the road from me ‘a bonus’ I think to myself.

I walk home with a great sense of satisfaction with myself for having had the stern talk, grateful I had found a little courage and happy to have found a new friend and language partner.

La forêt de Saint-Germain-en-Laye