So, there I was, minding my own business in the middle of Whitehall, the kids were warmly wrapped in a cosy sheet that just happened to have the 1st article of the Declaration of Human Rights painted on it. It was, to all intents and purposes, a perfectly ordinary Sunday.
Through the throng, there came a little man. ‘Quelqu’un qui parle Francais?’ he pleaded. ‘Personne?’
Well, me – obviously. I do. I have a string of translations to my name – fascinating stuff, too. Thirteen volumes. If you want to know anything at all about robot spot welding, I’m your woman. CAD/CAM – easy peasy. Remote control and proprioception – pas de probleme. Of course, this was all about 20 years ago, but still. So I stepped forward.
‘Oui, m’sieur. Je parle Francais. Je peux vous aider?’
Well, it transpired that he was not a Frenchman in distress. What he really wanted was an interview for French radio on what was going on. I was now in too far to get out, so plunged on – recklessly.
It’s amazing, isn’t it, just how blank your mind goes when someone puts you on the spot. Particularly in another language. I think I may have said that Gordon Brown was a ladle. And I’m pretty certain that I expressed nothing but disdain for the people who were carrying the Olympic teatowel that day.
I forgot to ask him what channel the interview was going out on. Probably just as well. But if anyone did hear it – please, don’t tell me what else I got wrong.