Home Tiplaw Press

As long as anyone could remember, the family had worked in agriculture, mostly doing digging, draining, tidying up and compost-making. It was not well-paid, but it needed to be done, so they were never out of work. Lenny’s dad had disappeared in mysterious circumstances. Some say he met with an accident on the way home, but that didn’t stop idle tongues wagging.

Lenny lived with his Mum. They lived in the garden under a stone near the rose bush.

One morning after work they were all talking about the price of compost. Grandad said that he did not know what things were coming to. Sam nodded slowly and came out with, I blame the EU. The others looked blank. Sam said, I’ll write it down for you. After he had finished he needed some refreshment.

None of the others could write at all, but Sam could even do joining, as they called it. That was one of the reasons why they thought he was so clever. They all wanted to know what the EU was and how he had found out about it.

Apparently a little bird had told him. It even wanted to take him there, but just as they were getting ready to go, they were interrupted. This was always happening. It was quite annoying.

It turned out that Sam did not know much more, except that the EU was a long way off, and that they all talked in different ways there. They called it ‘Foreign Languages’. There were at least five of them.

Lenny had done some travelling and he liked meeting interesting people, so he was quite excited about this. Also he wanted to get on in the world, so he was going to need a language teacher and he was quite sure that he knew just where to find one. He met her a long time ago when he needed some help.

She was too busy then, but she tried to teach him about maps. She was very clever and he was sure she would know all about languages.

Once he had taken some music lessons with her husband while she was away for a while. It hadn’t turned out too well, but that was not going to stop him trying again.

She had a lot of foreign visitors. She was always talking about how they ‘just flew in’ but nobody ever seemed to see any of them. It was all rather strange. Lenny thought she must be running something called a Bed and Breakfast because the guests had always gone by the next day, but he wasn’t sure. Perhaps if he went there for lessons he would find out.

The next evening Lenny knocked at her door. As usual she was busy helping her visitors packing. She showed Lenny in and told him to wait a few minutes. The windows had beautiful lacy curtains and there was a nice candle on the dining table. Lenny was just looking at it when the teacher came back. Yes she said. That is a glow-worm. It always helps to see what you are eating. Something about that gave Lenny a bad feeling, but he  could not quite work out what had bothered him.

Although they were poor, Lenny’s mum kept the house clean, and there was always plenty to eat.

Lenny’s Grandad had retired long ago. He could be a bit of a problem because he had a lot of time on his hands. More often than not he seemed to be in the way. Sometimes he would bring leaves to dry over the stove. He called it tobacco, but the others weren’t quite sure about that.

Grandad’s friend Sam often came along too. Sam was always talking about going out to work, but no- one really knew what he did, or where he did it. Everybody thought that he was a man of the world . If there was any news or gossip, it was more likely than not to have come from him. He was the first to tell them about five-a-day.

Lenny and the EU

Some people will tell you that going is another verb, but you don’t really have to go anywhere because things come to you, so it doesn’t count. She seemed to have something on her mind now said,  That is enough for this lesson, you can finish off the exercise for your homework.

Lenny hoped that the next lesson would be easier, but it was not, it was the hardest lesson of all. It was about things. The teacher started by saying that there are two kinds of things. There are things that can move about on their own and there are things that can’t move about. In the garden the things that can move are either boys or girls. In the EU it is different, all things are either boys or girls whether they can move about on their own or not. But it is not quite as simple as that. Whether they are boys or girls depends on which part of the EU they come from.

Now the teacher explained that there was one more language to do, and that was German. Lenny had a feeling that it would be the best yet.

In Germany, as in Italy, a fork was a girl and a spoon was a boy. In all the other languages a knife was a boy (or a man), So Lenny was very surprised to hear that in Germany it was not. Then he was even more surprised to hear that it was not a girl (or a Lady) either. So if it was not one, or the other, what was it then. The teacher could not explain it at all. Lenny was sure it had to be one or the other, but the teacher insisted that it was not.  

Then Lenny had one thought too many. He wondered if it could be both. The teacher seemed to be quite nervous, raising one leg, then another from the ground and scratching her head with it.

Now she took Lenny to one side and said to him. I should go home and ask your dad to tell you what you want to know. Then she blushed a bit and said, or your mum.

Lenny had heard that the EU had something called a CAP. Even Sam did not know much about that. He said it was very hard to work out what it was, but he did know that the French liked it the most. Lenny thought it must be a very good idea. Perhaps  in the EU teenagers had to be capped; he would have to find out.

One thing he did know was that you had to be a certain age to be a teenager, but Lenny did not know how old he was and just then his mum was not around to tell him.  

Then Sam remembered that there was a little box in the corner where she kept important things, and it was not long before he found a leaf with writing on it.

It was Lenny’s birth certificate and there in the middle were two lines that looked almost the same. Although Lenny could not read, he thought it looked a bit strange, almost foreign. Grandad was busy trying to relight his pipe and Sam became quite thoughtful. He remembered something about a King, William the Conqueror (was that his name?) and a handful of soil. Whatever it was, he began to wonder if that was the whole story or whether, like so many things in the life of his friends, it might be something to think about.

Later on that morning Sam told him all about something called marking. Some teachers did a lot of it. Some did not seem to do any. Lenny thought that Sam would have been good at marking, but he did not think his teacher would have much time for it.

He was right! By the next lesson the teacher seemed to have forgotten all about the homework. Lenny was relieved. He had worried about it all day, because someone had told him that her pupils never seemed to last very long.

Next morning when Sam came round after work. Lenny told him about body language and how the French do it. Sam seemed a bit nervous. It wasn’t like him at all. Something about France worried him. Lenny wondered if it was the garlic. He had heard a lot about that. Maybe it was the bread or then again perhaps it was the butter.

After he had gone Lenny’s mum said, Sam thought he had a distant relative in France. This is his picture with the address on it, but although he has written many times, there has been no answer and Sam worries that something bad may have happened to him.

In Spain it is different. There they are very proud and they have style.

There a knife is a man,

a fork is a man

and a spoon is a lady.

Lenny thought it all very grand and that if that was what languages were all about, he ought to be able to learn them, but he was a bit puzzled by it all.

He had not used cutlery very much, but  a spoon and a fork seemed to be the most like each other and a knife seemed very different. He could not wait until he found out what they did in France and he was very pleased with what he heard

Next morning the teacher explained that the most important thing in the EU is learning how to be polite. Lenny was happy to hear this because he always wanted to please people.

She added, good manners are mostly about what you say, not what you mean, so you have to be very careful.  It can be quite tricky because what is polite in one part of the EU may be not very polite at all in another part.

Firstly how you talk to people, starting with what you call yourself;

This is what we call people when we are with them

So you want to learn Languages she said after Lenny told her what Sam had been saying. I can teach you all those, but you will have to work very hard and do your homework. I’ve had rather too many lazy students lately, she said, loosening her belt. Lenny had heard about belts and what teachers were supposed to do with them, but it did not worry him at all. His mum always called him happy-go-lucky. Grandad would not be much use if he needed help, but there was always Sam to turn to.

Then she said, we have got to start with the most important words. We call them verbs and there are only three that matter. Here they are:-




We call them the modal verbs because they are about how we do things.

                              This is how you use them,

 I am going to greet you.

                                                       I am going to meet you.

  This is how they do it in Italy



Lenny did not know much about cutlery,  

but he thought that it was all very interesting.

A knife is a boy

A spoon is a boy

And a fork is a girl

Lenny was quite happy with these different ways because it made him think what good manners were all about.

Then she added. There is just one last thing. In the EU they do not only talk with words. They talk with movements. It is called body language. The Italians do it with their hands, but the French are the best.They really do know how to tell people that there is nothing more to say.

That was when Lenny decided he liked the French best of all. If they could talk by changing their shape, he ought to do it even better.

It all made Lenny have funny feelings inside. Was he one thing or another. Could he be both. Could he be a teenager, that might explain it all. Then he thought, did they have teenagers in the EU? Maybe they didn’t. Sam told him that they did things better there because they had lots of regulations and quotas. Did they have a quota for teenagers and were there regulations about them?

By this time Lenny was really beginning to wonder about it all. If the EU could not decide whether or not things were boys or girls, or even something else, what could it decide!

Languages did not seem to help, they just made things more difficult. The only one he really liked was French, but that was the one language which seemed to upset Sam.

In any case the EU was much too far away and he could not move very fast. He wanted to stay in the garden. Then an idea occurred to him that he had not had before. He had heard of something called

‘A job in Brussels’

That sounded like a good idea. He would ask Sam if he knew anything about it. But although Sam was ready to talk about almost anything, to Lenny’s surprise he went very quiet and seemed to turn a pale shade of  green.

If you are alone

you are

                    I or Me

If there is

someone else you are

                           We or Us          

If you are a

special person

you are also           

 We or Us

If you are talking

to someone

it is



If there are

A lot of them

It is also


                                         You (lot)

If you are talking

about someone

it is  

                                      Him or her

It you are talking

about a lot

of people

it is

                                   They or them

It is the same in the EU except when we are talking to someone.The French, Germans, Italians and Spaniards all have a special word they use when they are talking to someone they like very much and want to get to know better and perhaps invite to dinner.

                                                 You (dear)

When he arrived for his next lesson, this is what he learned.

We used to have a word like that but now we only use it on very special occasions.

In the EU they must not use that word for someone they don’t know very well.

In France (and Germany)

when you talk to someone

like that, you  must pretend

there is more than one of them

In Italy you pretend

you are not looking

at them and that you

are talking about

someone else.

In Spain you usually pretend that you

are talking about someone else

even when there are a lot of people

there. Whatever you do, you do not

look them in the eye

If the other person is very

important,You must pretend

that they are not looking at you.


They did seem to have much more more fun there.

In France knives are men but spoons and forks are ladies.