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Thursday, 1 November 2012

You're never too old to learn

Just ask Louise del Busto Gomez from the southwestern French town of Castres.

Louise del Busto Gomez swearing in ceremony (screenshot France 3)
 On Wednesday the 84-year-old - yes for the purposes of this story you might want to double check her age - officially became a lawyer at a swearing-in ceremony in the city of Toulouse.

And if that weren't enough, the octogenarian is not only qualified to practise in France but also in the Spanish city of Barcelona.

Not bad going for a woman who only began hitting the books after she had retired and had never even passed her baccalaureate or high school diploma.

Her story is one that must surely draw admiration from anyone and make us all sit up and take notice; a salutary lesson to us all.

Born in Barcelona in 1928, Gomez fled Spain during the country's civil war when she was just 11 years old, arriving in this country as a refugee.

"The day on which Franco entered Barcelona, I left the city on foot and made my way to the border with others who were escaping," she told reporters shortly after her swearing-in ceremony.

Gomez made a life for herself in France, meeting her husband Victor, bringing up two children, settling in Castres and over the years holding a variety of jobs and doing, "a bit of this and a bit of that" from helping out during harvest time, typing for a firm of solicitors, cleaning and a decade spent as a sales assistant at the local Monoprix supermarket.

When Gomez retired, she became involved in a local consumer rights association and that's when her late husband began encouraging her to pursue her studies.

 Maître Louise del Busto Gomez (screenshot France3 report)
She didn't choose the easiest of paths though; not only enrolling at the law faculty in Toulouse but also one in Barcelona at the same time.

"As far as I was concerned, Franco's Spain had deprived me of my childhood," she said.

"That's why I wanted to return to study in the city I was born."

"I had to retake all the exams necessary - in Spanish, and that wasn't easy for me because I had a French accent."

And now Gomez has qualified to practise here in France as well, attending the swearing-in ceremony in Toulouse on Wednesday.

'I'm especially moved because this ceremony made me think about my husband," Gomez said after the ceremony.

"He always encouraged me and told me I could do it," she continued

"And it's thanks to him that I can turn round today and say I'm a lawyer."

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