Mind the Gap by (1 Story)

Prompted By Mind the Gap

Loading Share Buttons...

/ Stories

What else could the phrase “Mind the Gap” mean to me but that day I arrived  in London at Victoria Station after three months of French immersion to hear that famous directive as I managed to step off the Chunnel train and adjust my ear to English?

It was disorienting and absolutely wonderful! As though I were being told everything will be easier now. No fog of translation to work my way through! I will know what is being said to me. I had imagined myself as  the oldest Immersion student to try Paris ever. There was also the blatant fact that I probably was the worst student ever to try the patience of my hostess, lovely  Mme Bonfils, thirty years younger than I, with a three year old Mousquetaire named Baptiste at her side. Anne was so kind, too kind actually, because she  felt so bad for me or was so impatient with my fumbling French she switched to English almost immediately. So after weeks and weeks of daily French classes and blissful wanderings all over Paris where virutally everyone I tried my little French sentences on  switched immediately to English, here I was on my way to visit my aunt and uncle in St. Ives, where I would speak English, English and only English! It was a vacation!

(I spent the week obsessing on how to say Mind the Gap in French: Attendez l’ecart? Faites attencion a l’ecart? Or would there be a S’il vous plait? After all, it would be in France.)

Profile photo of Paula Thesimg paulaestelle

Characterizations: been there, funny, right on!, well written


  1. Brava Paula, and welcome to Retro!

    After a year at Alliance Francaise getting nulle part rapidement I feel your pain!

    In Britain another helpful phrase besides “mind the gap” is “look right, then left”’ when crossing a two-way street!

  2. Dave Ventre says:

    My first ever trip to France left me wanting to speak some French for the next one. Progress has been…escargot-like. But I have learned to start any encounter with “Bonjour, madame (or) monsieur!”

  3. Laurie Levy says:

    Perhaps the generation gap was the one between you and your French host, who switched to English when you wanted to learn French? Welcome to Retrospect!

  4. Betsy Pfau says:

    Mme. Bonfils sounds like she was very tolerant of you, so no big generation gap there.

    But I confess, just hearing that you had arrived at Victoria Station brings quite another impression for me, as my son, daughter-in-law and baby granddaughter live in London and we now stay at the Victoria DoubleTree – across the street from that train station, so am very familiar with it. We spent 28 days there in December and could feel our room rattle when the trains came through. We learned to mind the gap (before Omicron kept us above ground).

  5. Suzy says:

    Welcome to Retrospect, paulaestelle! Our intention with calling the prompt “Mind the Gap” was to approach the generation gap from a different angle, but you have written a lovely story that was inspired solely by the prompt title, and that is just as good. Hope we will be hearing more from you.

  6. Khati Hendry says:

    Good on you for trying French immersion—at any age. Of course, going to the UK and hearing English doesn’t always mean you can understand what they say either. In addition to “mind the gap”, I always found the related “mind your head” even more ambiguous and amusing.

Leave a Reply