"It was a very warm afternoon in October when I arrived at La Maison de l’Amitié in Albi, a medium-sized town, birthplace of Toulouse-Lautrec, in south-west France. It was a handsome red-brick building constructed around a large courtyard where an enormous horse-chestnut grows. After a hot and dry summer it was shedding its leaves as fast as its chestnuts.
I went into the office and said hello, in English, to Frédéric and Sandrine, the admin staff. It’s a sort of running joke, though their English isn’t bad: Frédéric even managing to aspirate his h. Natalie, who’s in charge of the office, fired off French at machine-gun pace in her strong south-west accent, all –ng at the end of words. I usually get the gist..."