On this day of romance, nice things and nice words I have a question.
I don’t know if men and women would answer this question differently, or if youngsters and the not so young would have opposing views but here goes:
What’s the biggest or best compliment you’ve ever been paid?
As an elderly gentleman of less than film star looks I’ve received very few over the course of my years, but the one that means the most to me has been given twice. The first time in Rome, the second in Paris.
Stood outside the French embassy in Rome waiting for a visit on one of the incredibly rare occasions that it opens its doors to the public, I was chatting to the laydee of the house in French when a lady in front turned and asked us a couple of questions about the proposed trip.
We’d been chatting for a few minutes when her husband (who’d been trying to sneakily stare at a rather attractive Italian lady walking the other way) turned and joined in the conversation. It was only after a full five minutes of discussion that I announced I was English. The lady replied she thought I had a strange accent but couldn’t figure where it was from, but her husband said (and I still remember it word for word) “Bloody hell, not even a trace of an English accent.” Now, I accept that he’d not heard all of the conversation, due to his eyes being busy elsewhere, but nonetheless, I was incredibly happy.
The second time, a year almost to the day later, I was in Twickenham rugby ground, watching England play France in the 6 nations tournament. The laydee of the house is absolutely not a sporty person, but even she got into the atmosphere of the ground, and, even better for her, we were seated amongst an entire bank of Frenchies, I was the only Englishman I was aware of for many a row.
Half time came with France leading slightly, and we started to talk to our neighbours. Again, it was only after I announced that I was in fact supporting the team in white that they realised. One of the gentlemen who’d been very vociferous in the first half shook my hand and said “congratulations, I’ve never heard an Englishman speaking the worlds most beautiful language so well.’
It must be said he’d imbibed more than one small glass of English ale and the noise of a stadium jam packed full of its 80,000 spectators masked a fair few of my grammatical errors, but it was still a fantastic compliment to receive.