Yes, such a place does really exist.
On an unsuspecting street in London’s busy Bloomsbury. I’ve known about this school for a few years now, and I signed up for their newsletter just to remind myself each month that one day, somehow, I’d take myself to a class.
So, what is this school about exactly? Rather than write the already written, the cute brochure in front of me says, “We address such questions as why work is often unfulfilling, why relationships can be so challenging, why it’s ever harder to stay calm and what one could do to try to change the world for the better. The School of Life is a place to step back and think intelligently about these and other common concerns. You will not be cornered by any dogma, but directed to a variety of ideas – from philosophy to literature, psychology to the visual arts – that tickle, exercise and expand your mind. You’ll meet other curious, sociable and open-minded people in an atmosphere of exploration and enjoyment.”
Being the dabbler in philosophy/thinking/conscious living and the hopeless word lover that I am, when browsing the October course schedule, skipping at least a few heartbeats over the lessons planned, like, “How to find a job you love”, “How to make a difference”, “How to spend time alone”, “How to realise your potential,” I spotted “Words for life” scheduled on the Saturday that I would be in town and knew it was meant to be.
And I really felt like an overexcited five-year-old on her first day of school, with a shiny new notebook and sharpened pencils as I walked down Marchmont street, secretly hoping to find a magical entrance of sorts with the platform nine and three quarters type of allure. I walked inside the quite ordinary (but at least green) ‘classroom’ door to actually find a little shop with a to-die-for selection of art/philosophy/psychology books – and a breakfast spread before me. Magic enough!
Our curious little class mingled as we munched on croissants and sipped herbal teas, before we were whisked downstairs into the coolest basement classroom i’ve ever seen, to meet Molly and Rob from We All Need Words for a fun day of word play. We covered everything from twitter statuses to CVs, postcards, complaint letters and advertising in a matter of hours.
At the end of the class we were not given homework – just cocktails and nibbles along with a special parting gift: a tiny glass vial with cork stopper, labeled IN CASE OF EMERGENCY – Break Writer’s Block. Later that night, curiosity got the better of me and ever so carefully I attempted to pull out the coiled note inside. Alas, the fragile glass shattered in my palm and my treasured keepsake was ruined, but in my hand was a tiny little paper scroll filled with writing tips and cool website links for inspiration.
I was totally inspired and with creative textbooks like that, I’d be their student for life.
At one time or another, every language student finds himself or herself at a precipice. A certain ‘coming of age’ point of no return, when all of a sudden there is a insatiable desire to seek that which lies far beyond the safe nest of grammar points and verb conjugation.
Follow the curiosity, and your command of the language can never again return to its same, innocent self.
This petite bowerbird flew from her nest very early, by ordering herself a copy of The Complete Merde (for the unflown, that is, The Complete Shit).
I might be a little ambivalent when it comes to perfecting my je fais, tu fais, il/elle fait and so on, but when it comes to this extracurricular shit, I pass with flying colours.
Who wouldn’t love a book that’s divided into the chapters such as:
- Common everyday musts
- The absolute musts
- What an idiot
- I don’t give a damn
- The body and its functions
- Weighty matters of love and sex – national obsession number 1
- The no less weighty matters of food and drink – national obsession number 2, and
- Merde Encore (that is, diagrams of French finger sticking and sign language)
So what’s in my new vocabulary?
- thingummyjig: un bidule
- to not understand a damn thing about: ne piger quedale à
- to be up shit creek: être dans la merde
- to take oneself very seriously: ne pas se prendre pour de la petite merde (lit. to not take oneself for small shit)
- to think highly of oneself: péter plus haut que son cul (lit. to fart higher than one’s arse)
- to be full of energy: péter le feu (lit. to fart fire)
- little twerp: un petit merdeux / une petite merdeuse (m/f)
- to have a screw loose: avoir une case de vide (lit. to have an empty compartment)
- love at first sight: le coup-de-foudre (lit. the bolt of lightning)
- out of sight, out of mind: loin des yeux, loin du coeur (lit. out of eyes, out of heart)
- fiddlesticks: taratata!
- uh oh/oh dear: oh là là là là!
New York. The city of … wow.
I left the city three days ago, and I am still coming down from the most indescribably mesmerising, fun, insane, inspiring, busy, chilled, overwhelming, blissfully contradictory week. Which, let me say, is somewhat difficult to do, because I have spent these past three days roaming the idyllique, romantique streets of Paris, which are so completely beautiful and enamouring that I find myself speechless and completely overwhelmed for similar, yet completely different reasons.
All I can conclusively say in my current state of rapture, enchantment and inarticulate dumbfoundedness, is, this world… c’est stupéfiant. C’est absolument magnifique.
I’ve hardly opened my laptop in the past week, and as someone who is the first to admit i’m a little bit too attached to my Mac, that’s saying something. So, considering this, please understand the lack of photos… because, well, they’re still on my camera. I’ll get around to it.
My well-travelled, wise and forever inspiriting sister tells me that it is actually okay to be like this, and that I don’t have to be on top of things. Apparently I am allowed to just live in the moment! Be in it. Soak it up. Who’d have thought.
And all I really want to be do right now is wander the streets… observe, smell, taste, touch, feel the magic, breathe in the city. Be in it. Like, really in it. So that’s what i’m doing.
You’ll hear from me eventually. xx
P.S Explaining the title, I’m pretty certain that the idiom ‘joie de revivre’ is not gramatically correct. At all. In fact, when I typed it as the subject of an email to my family upon arriving in Paris, I think I had meant to write joie de “reverie”, which I had self-translated in my own special Franglais to mean “living the dream” or “the joy of living in a state of pleasure” (which is also, probably, grammatically incorrect).
Anyway, my french translator kindly translated the sentence to “the joy of coming alive again”, which made me really smile. Isn’t that a beautiful idiom, even if incorrect?
Maybe there’s actually something in that. Joie de revivre-ness.