Jack …er…Mr Bremner was my French teacher and hockey coach at Westlake Boys High School in New Zealand in the 1960s.
His son, Trevor, and I were in the same class from 1961 to 1964, lived less than a mile apart and were pretty good friends.
I knew the family – his mum, Helen ,and his kid sister Rennie, 4 years younger, quite well.
Jack …er…Mr Bremner was awarded a scholarship to continue his studies in France during that time and came back after a year with wondrous tales of his experience.
Arriving in France, he’d called a phone number and got a recorded message.
Which he didn’t understand.
Until he’d listened carefully the 3rd or 4th time and fought his way through the accent.
“I thought I spoke French” he told us “I quickly found out that I didn’t speak French French”
(Which closely mirrored my experience of engaging in conversation a Bavarian truckdriver with my 2 years of intermittent evening class German from Hounslow High School….)
His other story has been repeated so often that Ms jb can quote it verbatim:
“There are some foods over there that you’ve NEVER SEEN” he said “They have a cheese called Camembert and it’s soft in the middle. So soft and runny, you can eat it with a SPOON”
That – at a time when there were 2 types of cheese in New Zealand’s grocery shops – stuck with me.
And every time we buy St Félicien or a ripe Brie de Meaux at the Super U just across the border in France (and only about a 90 minute drive away) I’ll smile and say “Did I ever tell you….?” and Ms jb will invariably respond with “And you can eat it with a SPOON””
I’d lost touch with Trevor over the years, I hadn’t seen Mr and Mrs Bremner since the early 1970s, but I was hoping to meet Mr Bremner at the 50th school reunion last year.
Which I didn’t – he’d broken his back in 2 places.
But this morning’s Feedly stream popped up with this article from the Otago Times, celebrating their platinum wedding anniversary.
I thought I’d briefly add my congratulations with a quick phone call.
“Jonty? Is that you?” asked Mrs Bremner (No-one’s called me “Jonty” for decades)
The brief phone call continued for 40 minutes…..
Bright as a button, both of them, Jack …er…Mr Bremner telling me how impressive my French dictation was at school, Mrs Bremner with an amazing recollection of facts and names and Rennie talking of her awe at my collection of Airfix aeroplane models when she tagged along with Trevor to our place.
What a nice way to start the day.
Your reminisce of this man and his wife is very touching. How happy they must have been to hear from “Jonty,”. . . one of the times when a teacher feels that it was all worthwhile. Your memories is also a nice start of my day. Life is good!!
What a nice way to start the day indeed! Congratulations to Jack and Helen.
Now I understand why your French is so good – you had a fantastic teacher!