Amanda Holden's embarrassing 'joke' at Eurovision reminded me of my own biggest regret | Blaise Tapp

It was pointed out to me the other day that, even if I do defy the cholesterol-laden odds and make old bones, statistically speaking I’m now in the second half of my life.

Friday, 28th May 2021, 5:10 pm
Amanda Holden announces the jury points from the United Kingdom during the 65th Eurovision Song Contest grand final on May 22, 2021 in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

It’s a sobering prospect if you dwell on it for too long but at least I now understand why so many folk of my vintage are enduring a mid-life crisis.

As far as I’m aware I’m not yet at the crisis stage and, if that point were reached, I’m not sure how it would manifest itself.

I don’t have enough hair for a ponytail, don’t have the means to buy a sports car and my dislike of pain means I won’t be getting a tattoo.

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Although my generation is far from past it, enough time has passed to reflect on both former glories and the decisions we now regret.

It was last Saturday night that I was reminded of perhaps my biggest regret, when I settled down on the sofa to watch the annual cheese-fest that is Eurovision.

It was Amanda Holden’s fault. During her brief cameo as spokesperson for the UK’s judging panel, the ubiquitous television personality attempted to say good evening in both French and Dutch, joking that she didn’t know which language was which.

It was an attempt at humour (we think) that didn’t go down well at all with many of those watching at home, who felt that her comments compounded our latest night of shame at the world’s biggest singing contest.

It couldn’t have gotten much worse, given that our enthusiastic flag bearer James Newman finished in last place, having received nul points from both the professional judges and the watching public.

However, there were some at home who felt that her flippant remark reinforced the stereotype of Brits being an insular bunch who can’t be bothered learning anybody else’s language.

Although I’m ashamed to say it, I stand with Amanda Holden in terms of my foreign language skills. It is indeed my biggest regret that I really didn’t pay enough attention in either French and German lessons at school some 30 or so years ago.

I was more interested in making my chums laugh with my impression of the comedy inspector from ‘Allo ‘Allo than I was about learning how to order a cheese sandwich and orange juice from the cafe next door to the library in French.

Nobody wants to look like a fool but that’s exactly how I feel whenever I visit France – my favourite holiday destination – especially when I’m given little choice but to attempt to converse with locals in their mother tongue.

The low point in my linguistic journey came a few years ago when forced into an emergency purchase of a pair of budgie smugglers, I asked the bemused looking boutique assistant for ‘trunks du piscine’.

I did get my trunks in the end, but not before much scratching of heads, and I’m sure it made for an amusing anecdote over a red or two down the tabac.

I’ve long accepted that I’ll be an eternal embarrassment to our children but the 11-year-old takes particular exception to any attempt by her Old Man to speak a language other than English and, after nine months at high school, is already a much better linguist than I’ll ever be.

I have tried to learn; phrasebooks, apps, watching pretentious films with subtitles, but nothing sticks.

This is hardly surprising when you consider that I routinely struggle to remember four-digit passcodes for the array of gadgets that now dictate the terms of my very existence.

Perhaps this inability to learn another language is due to my head being too full of information about work and family, although I still harbour the hope that one day I’ll find the time and headspace to do it.

But until then, my role as a stereotypical monolingual Brit will remain my lasting mid-life regret.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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