Forget bird-watching, flower arranging, archery or even boules. Of all the activities offered to promote Anglo French relations in my patch of the Poitou-Charentes, the one thing that has been embraced with enthusiasm by French and English alike is line dancing.
On Monday evenings I drive 20km to a nearby village to help teach a beginners group, comprised of over forty wildly enthusiastic French locals (men and women of all ages). So keen are they to learn the Cowgirl Charleston or Saloon Scissor Stomp, that some bring video cameras or use their mobile phones to record the steps.
Jeanne, the volunteer teacher (who had never taught line dancing before) does an admirable job, calling out the steps in French. This week however, she discovered that there is no French word for ‘shimmy.’
‘C’est quoi ‘shimmy’?’ one French lady asked me later, and I struggled to explain that it is a sort of wriggling movement. But there are some words that just don’t translate.
Other instructions are more straightforward: ‘n’hésitez pas de porter vos bottes et chapeaux de cowboy,’ reads the regular newsletter. But our French dancers need no encouragement to don cowboy hats, boots or fringing. They have embraced the western theme, full kit and caboodle. Meanwhile, my American friend Trisha, who has lived in France for many years, calls it her 'best attempt at integration ever.’ There are so many line dancing events and parties happening in the coming month, I fear the soles of my Frye boots will soon be worn out.