I sat in the room and cast a glance around me. The other people seemed friendly enough. Some seemed to be old hands at this game. They evidently knew each other from previous lives - or was it just they had participated in this group before. Others stared at each other, trying not to show it, just as I was doing. Several had pens and paper at the ready and needed only the crack of the starter's gun let the words flow. Interestingly, apart from the group leader I was the only other male in the room; and with one exception I was the youngest despite it being only a few more years before I reached that magic milestone of fifty.

We began with a round of introductions, then the moment of truth came. Jean-Michel distributed a host of large, wonderfully smooth pebbles, he had found on the beach that summer. Mine still has pride of place on my desk, reminding me of what might have never been. We were each to write one word on our pebble. Well, that seemed easy enough; even I could manage one word in French. The pebbles were then placed in a large basket which did the rounds once more for everyone to take a different pebble. Our task was then to write a text using that word as a springboard.

I stared at my pebble horrified. The word CADUQUES, written in colour in a beautiful hand, stared back at me accusingly. How on earth was I to write about it. I had absolutely no idea what it meant. And what on earth was I doing here. It was all very well for me to say I was looking for some new friends, having just arrived in this town some three weeks previously. And it's true that when I saw the prospectus of activities being offered in the cultural centre, this one tempted me more than others; joining a creative writing class in a language other than my own was an act of pure folly. I'd suspected this might happen, but had been tempted by the prospect held out in the prospectus of attending twice before actually having to sign up. Well, I for one would not be signing up. This was the last time these people would be seeing me.

I looked around the room again. Everyone was busy putting pen to paper while I just sat there hoping the earth might swallow me up, thus providing me with a dignified exit. In the end, I scribbled down the letters of the word horizontally on my paper and managed a small acrostic poem trying to explain how I felt. I put a bit of humour into it and even made a few French mistakes for good measure. If I was going to quit, then I may as well do it with style.

When it was my turn to read, I announced my word and sheepishly admitted I didn't know what it meant, before reading out my effort. Less than one minute later the whole group was in tears... of laughter echoing around the room and people were praising me for my courage, if not for my brilliant French prose. A pretty blonde, the one participant younger than me, admitted to being the cause of my troubles. Indeed, the word wasn't even a French word. She had just returned from a wonderful holiday with her husband and children, and the pebble had immediately brought back memories of the beautiful little Italian resort of CADUQUES.


This is the true story of how I took up writing as a hobby some five years ago. Needless, to say I did go back the following week. And I'm very grateful that I did so.

31 August 2008 at 07:11  

Great story. Loved how you handled it. I would have panicked. Definitely will be back to read more, and I'm not far from 50 so I'm really feeling a connection here on a few fronts. Thanks for coming by BES.

31 August 2008 at 11:30  

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