Froggy’s proof

Je ne peux résister à l’envie de publier ici ce que je viens d’envoyer à mon ancien collège écossais : Loretto. C’est ça l’orgueil d’un artiste… (lol)

Froggy’s proof

It was back in 1969, the little boy was called « Froggy » by his friends
(because he was French) and « Piggy » by his enemies (because he was
fat). Well, not really fat, just moving towards his fifteenth year and
fresh from the cocoon of his Parisian family. At the time of this
story, he could not have dreamt of reaching the fitness of healthy
young Scots and the nickname was in fact somehow appropriate. The boy
had been sent to Loretto by his parents to learn English. Mr
Bruce-Lockhart, then headmaster of the school, had once been a student
in Normandy and had stayed at the young boy’s great-grand mother’s
place in Caen ; it was him who welcomed « Froggy » at Pinkie House on
the first day of his stay at the school.

I shall not detail the mind of Froggy during the first days at Loretto
; these were the times of cold baths in the morning and of corporal
punishment : hardly anything to do with the comfortable and rather
simplistic life of a French schoolboy, home everyday for tea time and
bound for the safety of his mother’s arms. Let me just say that there
were quite a few tears dropped on the pillow of a bed at Hope House
and piles of mockery from rather uncompassionate companions. But
Froggy survived to the harshness of rugby fields and to his fears of
seeing a ball smash his skull to smithereens on the hockey grounds.
The house nurse, the housemaster and Mr Bruce-Lockhart provided for
some sort of family feeling and Froggy began to rather enjoy the
challenge of becoming an improbable Scotsman.

Now, you have to know that there is one thing that Froggy could do
better than anyone else at the school, and, for that matter, better
than anyone else in the whole world : Froggy could sail a boat. I
don’t mean just take the helm and play the sheets, I mean put out to
sea and make one with every wave, with all breezes. I mean that he
could actually become part of the boat he was sailing, like a violin
becomes part of the violinist, and that there was no place in the
world where he felt happier, stronger and more magical than at the
helm of any craft. And this is what brings us to the following story.
This, and the Junior Sailing Cup.

Froggy was beginning to grasp some of the English language and
Lorettonian slang when he heard of a regatta to be held in five races
on the Firth of Forth. The boats were JP fourteens, dinghies that
would now look more appropriate at the Monaco Classic Week than in any
regatta, but which, at the time of these events, were the kind of
improvement to yachting that only the British were capable of. Heavy,
bulky, under-sailed, yet able to provide great sensations in Scottish
winds and certainly not afraid of passing Firthy waves.

Froggy timidly added his name to the list of participants and
immediately became some kind of a school joke.

- What ? Froggy wants to participate in a major sporting event ?
- For heaven’s sake, Froggy, go play snooker will you ?

Even the few friends Froggy had made tried to convince him to abandon
the project.

- You don’t stand a chance !
- Come on, Froggy, you know very well that nobody on earth will want
to be your crew for this one !

More tears were dropped on the pillow at Hope House, but Froggy
decided to stand up to his decision and to win the regatta. No, not
just participate, to win it.

The first regatta was a disaster. The crew Froggy had finally managed
to recruit had hardly ever set foot on a boat before, even Beaufort
could not have measured the little wind there was, a recent gale had
left a strong wake in the Firth and it was so cold that Froggy’s hands
could hardly hold the tiller after gibing the third buoy.

Froggy came first. And this was the real disaster. For the whole
school decided that there would not be a second French victory and
that all tricks would be played during the following races to make
sure of this. The list is long of the tricks that were played and I
shall not bore my reader with their details. Let me just state that
they proved to be very creative indeed, and that Froggy never realised
what had been done to his boat before the starting line had been
crossed. Needless to say that not all rules of a sailing regatta were
strictly followed during the following races and that it was a near
miracle that Froggy won the second regatta, and the third, and the
fourth, and the fifth.

You will probably imagine all sorts of reactions to these victories ;
there was none. Except new tricks discovered each time and silence
after the final victory. The hero was not applauded, the crowds did
not stand up to his glory and all seemed to be forgotten shortly
afterwards.

But the final act of my story will always remain as Froggy’s proof
that it is always worth one’s while to remain confident with one’s
capacities and to stand by them, whatever friends, parents or teachers
might say. For in the final act of this story, several weeks after the
battle of the Junior Cup had been fought, sporting medals and cups
were distributed in the school refectory. All were present for this
great event and champions were called one after the other to receive
their trophy. They would stand up, a few claps of hands would be
heard, mainly originating from the closest friends of the concerned
champion, and the next name would be called. The Junior Sailing Cup
came among the last in the long list of awards given on that day and
Froggy dreaded the time he would have to stand up and walk across the
room to the large wooden table where his cup was standing. What
whistles would then be heard ? Or would complete silence occur ?

His name was finally called. He stood up, shyly, started walking
towards the table, knowing that from now and to the end of times his
name would be engraved on the cup, suffering all that could be
suffered by a kid of his age lost in the absolute silence of an evil
forest, and it was only when a small tear of mixed feelings was
appearing on his left eye that he heard chairs and benches quietly
moving, people slowly standing up and a fury of applause suddenly fill
the room. Mr Bruce-Lockhart looked at him from behind the big wooden
table and smiled.

And to this day, every time he tells of his story, Froggy the little
French boy feels the very same tears of joy and pride coming to his
eyes. He also remembers that Loretto gave him one of the best lessons
of his life : that real fair play is not giving a chance of victory to
your opponent but to respect and admire his victory, to have pride in
his friendship.

If the Junior Cup still exists, if you check on the plaque for 1969,
you might notice the name Amaury de Cizancourt engraved on it. This is
the real name of Froggy the little Frenchman, also known as « Piggy »,
forever grateful to all pupils and teachers of Loretto.

Amaury de Cizancourt
Nantes, March 22nd, 2008

Dear Sir,

I have wanted to write down this story for many years. This is a story
with which I have bored my friends and children many times and of
which truth is, almost, total. (I am not sure whether I did win the
five races …). I am glad to have finally reached a stage of my life
where I can pay part of my debt to Loretto by sending it to you. Make
of it whatever you might think necessary, if only you think it
worthwhile of making anything out of it.

I can only add one thing : It is on that day of 1969 that I have
learnt respect. And that has been the principle rule of my life ever since.

Thank you all, pupils of Loretto.

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