When I am old and wrinkled—well into the troisième âge—I want to race along the shores of Brittany on my Mobylette, that most groovy of French bikes with an engine!
I want to be an eccentric vieille dame. I don't want to care about what anyone thinks, as long as I am not imposing myself on their philosophie de vie. I'll ride my old bike along the seashore. I'll wear black goggles and wrap a long wool scarf, in orange potiron, around my neck. Off I'll fly, scarf ends flowing in the wind.
I'll let go of the pedals, WHEEEEEEEEE... and sing a song by Yves Montand—or a tune from Les Misérables—depending on my mood.
I'll pack a picnic with all my favoris. Inside the panier there'll be boiled eggs, anchoïade, Gratin Dauphinois, pungent cheese, a soft baguette and a flask of Earl Grey. There'll be tangerines to eat and a few squares of dark chocolate.
I'll gather delicate coquilles from the foamy seashore and tie them to my shoes. You'll hear the jingle of seashells when I pedal by.
My voice will be agreeably hoarse, not from les Gauloises or le vin but from whistling all the day long—a habit I'll have picked up at the beginning of the century, when a certain Frenchwoman cautioned: "Les femmes ne sifflent pas! Women don't whistle!" That's when I puckered up and blew another tune... and another... and then one more!
I hope to have a dear old friend, one who is much more excentrique than I. She'll dye her white hair rouge vif or aubergine. We'll tchatche about the current generation and how people need to loosen up and 'profiter un peu de la vie,' enjoy life a little, like us.
I'll say, "Pépé—les oursins!" and my old man will return from the rocky pier where he has spent the morning hunting sea urchins. When he cracks open their coquilles, revealing the mousse-like orange roe, I will remember that real treasures don't come with a price tag.
I want to live near the seagulls so that I may slumber beneath their cries and wake up to the whoosh of the sea. I'll push myself to a stand, smooth back my white locks, adjust a faux tortoiseshell comb, and say "Dieu merci!" for another day.
Before I tuck myself into bed at night I will, once again, empty mes coquilles into an old metal cookie tin, a treasure from long ago. Looking over to my seashells, I will give thanks: my cherished, tired tin runneth over.
le troisième âge = retirement
Mobylette = a particular model of moped
une vieille dame = a venerable lady
une philosophie (f) de vie = a life philosophy
orange potiron = pumpkin orange
favori(te) = favorite
un panier = a basket
l'anchoïade (m) = anchovy purée mixed with olive oil
un Gratin Dauphinois = a potato casserole with milk, butter and cheese
une coquille = a shell
la Gauloise = brand of cigarettes
le vin = wine
excentrique = eccentric
rouge vif = bright red
aubergine = eggplant purple
tchatcher = to chat (away)
le pépé = grandpa
un oursin = a sea urchin
Dieu merci = Thank God
Listen: hear Jean-Marc pronounce the word coquille Download coquille.wav
coquille d'oeuf = eggshell, off white (paint)
coquille de poisson = scallop of fish
coquille Saint-Jacques = scallops
coquille de beurre = pat of butter
coquillage (m) = shellfish
coquillettes (f) = pasta shells
Citation du Jour:
La vie est ce que notre caractère veut qu'elle soit. Nous la façonnons, comme un escargot sa coquille. Life is what our personality wants it to be. We fashion it, as a snail does its shell. --Jules Renard
rentrer dans sa coquille = to withdraw into one's shell
sortir de sa coquille = to come out of one's shell
Sea Shells by Paul Valery : this short yet graceful essay on these "privileged objects" that "present us with a strange union of ideas: order and fantasy, invention and necessity, law and exception." At turns he likens the forms of poetry to those of shells and the shell itself to poor Yorick's skull, which set Hamlet to wondering about matters of life and death. The noted American poet Mary Oliver provides an introduction. Henri Mondor's pencil illustrations are an added pleasure. --Gregory McNamee (from Amazon.Com)