Forming the perfect (or pluperfect) tense in French is sometimes made harder than necessary by what’s called a Preceding Direct Object (or PDO). The object of a sentence is whatever ‘suffers the action of the verb’, eg the nail in ‘he hit the nail on the head’. If the object is a pronoun and the perfect (or pluperfect) tense is being used, the French put it before the auxiliary rather than at the end of the sentence as in English, eg ‘il l‘a frappé’ or ‘he it has hit’!
You might think that’s bad enough, but the real problem is that the past participle has to agree in number and gender with the PDO, eg ‘il les a frappés‘ or ‘he’s hit them’.
When it comes to reflexive verbs, it gets even worse. By definition, every reflexive verb has a PDO, so that means you have to watch what you write when a female character is speaking, eg ‘Je me suis lavé’ for a boy, but ‘Je me suis lavée’ for a girl. Having said that, one of my male pupils once told me that the best way to get a good mark in his French prose was to tell a story in the first person and pretend to be a girl – that way, he’d get a tick every time he used a PDO!
The problem with being a ghost from the future is that people just don’t get it. They know about ghosts, and they know about time travel, but, somehow, when you put the two together, it does not compute. I guess Hollywood hasn’t mixed those two particular genres yet, so they can’t quite grasp the concept. I spend half my time having to explain what I am to people before I can even think about giving them the fright of their lives. Not that I do that much any more. I guess I watched Groundhog Day too often when I was alive, because I find I get more of a kick now out of learning new skills and helping people out. Being a ghost is a bit like a life sentence, so you need to find something to fill your days.
Not that you’d know I was a ghost if you met me, of course. I can pretend to be as real as the next man. I used to play dress-up and pretend to be a ‘proper’ ghost with a powdered wig and knee breeches, but I soon got tired of old clothes – anything from before the 25th Century, really – as they were all so uncomfortable. I also went through a phase of possessing various famous people. You’d be amazed what you can get up to if you have your finger on the nuclear button – even if Margaret Thatcher did wear rather too many skirts for my liking. It’s also good for getting the girls. George Clooney came in VERY handy for 10 or 15 years. I couldn’t keep it up for more than a few hours at a time – it was a bit like trying to have two conversations at once – but it led to quite a few enjoyably meaningless encounters. The only trouble was that it wasn’t really ‘me’ getting all the action, so I eventually stopped possessing people and tried to hook up with girls the old-fashioned way. You have to cast your bread upon the waters an awful lot, of course – and sometimes it comes back a soggy mess – but I did end up having a few long-term relationships. Well, when I say long-term, I mean anything up to five years. After that, the whole ‘you look so young’ thing got a bit awkward. You’d think that having the secret to eternal youth would be a good thing, but the problem is that girls start looking at you in a funny way after a while. It takes a few years, but eventually they make you feel a bit like the undead (rather than the well and truly dead, like me). Either that, or they resent you for looking better than they do. I went out with a Californian girl once who (quite naturally) thought I was just keeping myself in shape and having plastic surgery on the sly every few months, but then she found out my gym membership had lapsed and my friend was a salesman not a plastic surgeon, so it all ended in tears.
Apart from proper relationships, the thing I miss about being alive is having things in common with somebody. I grew up in the late 29th Century, so all the music and art and culture and politics and sport that I used to talk about doesn’t even exist yet. To make any kind of friendship or relationship work, you have to have things in common. You need to be able to able to talk about things that you both know and love, things that you both love to hate, things that you both grew up with. I can’t even talk about my favourite band the Rock Dryads with anyone. I don’t have any of their music, and I can’t play any of it myself because the instruments haven’t even been invented yet! If I try telling people the truth, they either think I’m crazy or that I’m just having a laugh. I tried to explain who I really was to one girlfriend, but, when I said that time travel had been invented in the late 70s, she thought I meant the 1970s not the 2770s and burst out laughing! You try proving that you come from the future. Go on. Have a go. It’s not as easy as it looks. Despite what you see in the movies, people have an incredible resistance to believing in time travel or ghosts, let alone time-travelling ghosts. (And by ‘people’ I mean intelligent, well-meaning, cultured people, not Americans…)
Never mind. I don’t mean to sound too downbeat. After all, there are plenty of advantages to being from the future. Money is not a problem, obviously, thanks to Betfair – although I did lose a few grand when my knowledge of 800-year-old football results let me down! It’s nice to be able to live in the best places around the world, and I certainly enjoy visiting my properties in Barbados, Kenya, the Maldives, San Francisco…and the rest. The only downside is that my friends don’t have as much money as I do, so it’s hard for them to share in my good fortune. You can only be so generous before people start to feel a bit awkward. Some things not even money can buy. I was all set to have plastic surgery to turn myself into a Greek god before I realised that scalpels and ghosts perhaps didn’t make the best combination. Money doesn’t solve all life’s problems, but at least I don’t get up in the morning wishing I didn’t have to go to work…!