“Parlez vous français? as we will be having a french student over for about a month to help you and work in the garden!” That was the first I heard of it, the beginning of the end of my life. I was working as part of a small team of gardeners in the ‘Royal national rose society’, money wasn’t great, despite the misleading regal association in “royal”, leading one to perceive it as a far more lucrative position than it actually was………. it was minimum wage. But we were outdoors in the fresh air, in a stress free environment so I couldn’t complain. Still living at my Mum’s place at the time, reeling and recovering, financially at least, from a pointless University education, and at almost Twenty-five finding myself in this predicament……..was my self confidence lower than that of another male, one who had perhaps opted out of the establishment run carrousel of cash-cows that is a three year degree at a ‘run of the mill’ University, and had learnt a trade such as plumbing or bricklaying, free from debt or any financial headaches and had thus long ‘flown the nest’…………… yes it probably was. Although it should be stated that I was never the most confident at the best of times.
Anyway I digress, the girl, the French girl to be precise, would be visiting in a few weeks and I was feeling slightly optimistic. I can’t quite explain why, I mean it’s not as though I had hitherto enjoyed unbridalled success with Brittish females but there was just something different about this. Maybe it’s because her arrival was anounced to me by the society’s secretary, that I felt, in some way compelled to act on this information, and have a right good go at trying to win her affections. I may have also felt spurred on in this self-assigned challenge, if you like, to win the heart of a girl I was still yet to meet and knew absolutely nothing about thanks to Ollie. Ollie was one of the other workers, a rival, he was a little younger, a little taller, and a lot prettier than myself, and the ‘cherry on the cake’ being that he had already lived in France for six months so spoke the language at an almost conversational level. Like seriously you’re kidding right ! This idea of ‘getting the girl’ despite being the rank outsider motivated me in a way nothing ever had done before………..it was on ! Well actually I did know something about her, and that was her name, it was Cyrielle.
I remember quite vividly the first time I saw Cyrielle, I can’t honnestly say it was a “coup de foudre”, or “love at first sight” as we say in English, but she was nice, modest and homely looking. She was a brunette, of average height and build, all the curves in the usual places, her eyes being the defining feature, an all enveloping, intense brown that made me feel warm when I looked into them. Throughout my life I had never felt comfortable making eye contact with people, male or female, I found it was much too invasive, but with Cyrielle I had no problem with it. On the day she arrived it was just after one o’clock and I was already at lunch in the small office when she joined us. She wore her hair in a ponytail with a fringe dropping down just below her unplucked, somewhat striking eyebrows, so much so that they were still noticable from behind the fringe. Adorning a multi-coloured summer jumper with beige trousers and sturdy looking boots, practical and casual, and with a body like hers she would have made any outfit work. “Hi” I said, “ello, ow are you,” she replied. “I’m fine thanks, and you?”, “Yes I am okay zhankyou”. And that was that, pleasantries dealt with, albeit in a crudely phonetic way. Why didn’t I just walk away, back off, cut and run, however you want to phrase it ? I most certainly should have, if I knew then what I know now. Or perhaps maybe she came to England with a very similar aspiration to mine, to “faire un touche” or “catch the eye” of an eligible young English man, either way I don’t remember doing anything remarkable to woo Cyrielle, or even sweep her off her feet. She just seemed quite ‘into’ me right from the outset, that’s how I was to become her boyfriend for the best part of five wonderful, but also tumultuous years.
I suppose it would be remis of me to not mention at as early a stage as possible, that at the age of Eighteen I was diagnosed with Aspergers syndrome, a psychological disorder on the Autistic spectrum, which affects predominantly males, whilst female sufferes are out there, they are certainly harder to come by. I am not going to describe the condition as if this were a medical journal, I am aiming more towards telling my story, from a real life perspective. Truthfully I don’t know enough about the condition in order to give a breakdown of it complete with medical terminology, I try to ignore it whenever I can, however this is easier said than done. It would be another three years before Cyrielle discovered this shortcoming of mine, three years where she must have no doubt been asking herself “what’s the deal with this guy ?”