France Métropolitaine - Section S - Juin 2005
Sam landed a job
overseas sales director for a shipping company which took us in turn
As one always does, we thought of ourselves as immortal, so Sam's coronary at the age of fifty-two came like a bolt from the blue. With doctors warning of another one being imminent if he didn't change a lifestyle which involved too much traveling, too much entertaining of clients and too little exercise, we returned to England in the summer of '99 with no employment and a couple of boys in their late teens who had never seen their homeland.
For no particular reason except that we'd spent our honeymoon in
Dorset in '76, we decided to rent an old farmhouse near Dorchester
which I found among the property ads in the Sunday Times before we
left Cape Town. The idea was to have an extended summer holiday
while we looked around for somewhere more permanent to settle.
Neither of us had connections with any particular part of
The reality was rather different.
"Do you get the feeling we've been left behind?" Sam asked glumly at the end of our first week as we sat like a couple of pensioners on the patio of our rented farmhouse, watching some horses graze in a nearby paddock.
"By the boys."
"No. Our peers.
I was talking to Jock Williams on the phone today" - an old friend
I took time to wonder why it never seemed to occur to Sam that Jock was as big a fantasist as he was, particularly as Jock had been trumpeting ‘mega-buck sales’ down the phone to him for years but had never managed to find the time - or money? - to fly out for a visit. "What did you say?"
"That we'd made a killing on the
"Mm." I used my foot to stir some clumps of grass growing between the cracks in the patio which were symptomatic of the air of tired neglect that pervaded the whole property. "A brick box on a modern development more likely. I had a look in an estate-agent's window yesterday and anything of any size is well outside our price range. Something like this would cost around £300,000 and that's not counting the money we'd need to spend doing it up. Let's just hope Jock doesn't decide to visit."
Sam's gloom deepened at the prospect. "If we'd had any sense we'd
have hung on to the house in
Minette Walters, The Shape Of Snakes, 2000.
 Land a job: succeed in getting a job.
Affluence: money and a good standard of living.
 Peer: person of the same age or status as you.
 I: en italiques dans le texte
 To lie through one's teeth : to lie outrageously
 Mega-bucks sales: sales implying very large amounts of money.
a) Who is the narrator? How is he/she related to Sam?
b) Justify your answer by quoting from the text.
2. Match one element from column A with an element from column B.
1. Sam had a heart-attack
a) in `76
2. They had children
b) in the late 70s
3. They got married
c) in the early eighties
4. Sam found a good job abroad
d) at the age of fifty-two
5. They moved back to
e) in the summer of `99
3. What consequences did Sam's job have on his lifestyle? (30 words)
4. Choose the right answer.
decided to a) buy
a brick house in
b) rent a place in
c) buy a farmhouse in
d) rent a flat in Torquay.
Questions 5, 6 and 7. Focus from line 18 to line 29 ("We'd done well ...world sporting fixtures").
a) l.19. "There was no immediate hurry for either of us to find a job."
What does it reveal about their standard of living while abroad? (15 words)
b) l.19-20, "Or so we imagined." - What does this mean? (20 words)
6. How do they see the British society on their return to their homeland? (30 words)
7. Find a key sentence showing that it wasn't difficult for their children to adapt to their new environment.
Questions . Focus on line 30 to the end.
a) Who was Sam in touch with some time after their return?
b) What did they talk about on the phone?
9. Say who the underlined words refer to. (l.39 to l.42)
I took time to wonder why it never seemed to occur to Sam that Jock was as big a fantasist as he was, particularly as Jock had been trumpeting 'mega-buck sales' down the phone to him for years but had never managed to find the time - or money? - to fly out for a visit. "What did you say?"
l. 38. "I lied through my teeth".
What did Sam lie about? Why did he feel the need to lie? (30 words)
11. Did the narrator and Sam share the same vision of Jock Williams? (20 words)
12. What is Sam's state of mind at the end of the passage? (20 words)
13. Translate into French from "The idea was to have ..." line 14 to "...Torquay" line 17.
Choose one of the following subjects.
l. 2. "...
Would you be ready to go and live in faraway countries if it meant getting a better life? (300 words)
a) Do "garden fetes, village cricket" and "theme pubs" correspond
to your vision of
b) How can you account for young people's attraction to designer clothes? Do you approve of it? (150 words)