How to say tenant in French?

Green Eggs and Man (c) Kristin Espinasse
Wish I'd gotten a picture of the hero in today's story. Meantime, here's a lovable stand-in. Photo taken somewhere in the Vaucluse...

le locataire (lo h-ka-tair)

    : tenant

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc: Download MP3 or  Wav file

Le locataire ouvre grand ses bras. "Entrez, je vous en prie!" il dit.
The tenant opens his arms. "Come in. Please!" he says.  

Get your copy of the 2006 printed archives of French Word-A-Day. Click here.


A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

"La Ciotat, La Ciotat!"

I went twice to La Ciotat yesterday. First, in the morning--to get more ingredients for the Healthy Fudge--and again in the evening to look at an apartment for my belle-mère.

The second trip was Jean-Marc's idea. "But are you sure your Mom wants to leave Marseilles? All of her friends are there. And all of her friendly commercants, too." I remember meeting Michèle-France's pharmacist on my previous visit, and witnessing the cheerful bantering between the two women. In a new town, my belle-mère would lose these cozy ties--or have to slowly build them again. 

Jean-Marc assured me that his maman was desperate to move. After nearly two decades in her shoe-size apartment, Michèle-France feels like a bull in a birdcage. And because there is no elevator, she is obliged to climb four flights of stairs--the idea of which keeps her prisoner inside her own home (and one or two nagging health issues do nothing to encourage her to venture out).

***
In a flowering courtyard a hundred meters from the sea, a thin man is looking out from a ground floor apartment. The smile on his face is as warm as the sunshine pouring down on the flowering lauriers-roses beneath his window. 

"That's Monsieur C. He's moving back to Corsica," the landlady explains, guiding Jean-Marc and me up the stairs to lobby. 

In the entry hall, beside the door of the apartment, there is a giant poster in hues of blue--my mother-in-law's favorite color. The details of the affiche escape me when the porte flies open and another subject comes into view: the Corsican.

"Bonjour, Mr. C." The landlady apologizes for the invasion but we are apparently no bother: her tenant ushers us in with a warm welcome. "Entrez," he says, "entrez!"

We begin our walk-through of the one-bedroom apartment. Passing a hall closet, the landlady assures her locataire: "No need to open it, Mr. C."

"Je vous en prie!" Mr. C. insists, reaching down to push a heavy packing bag out of the way.

I peer into the tiny placard, which holds a few threadbare items. My focus returns to our voluntary guide, Mr. C., whose clothes mimic those in his faded wardrobe. He is wearing an oversized coat and pants and his fedora is about to topple off his head. Standing this closely to Monsieur, I smell fumes on his breath and notice how his eyes are softly lit.... I begin to wonder why he is moving and hope that wherever he goes he will be OK. 

"And here is the bedroom," the propriétaire points out. "The place comes furnished." 

As we step past him, Mr. C. smiles, pushing his packing bag out of the way once again. I reach out and grasp his shoulder in an automatic gesture of thanks. Thanks for the warm welcome. Thanks for being so helpful. Thanks for putting up with this invasion. Only, when I find myself patting his shoulder again  and again, I realize my reflex may be overly sympathetic. I begin to wonder: if Monsieur didn't have the glassy eyes and octane breath--if he didn't have the repurposed suitcase--if instead he had a Louis Vuitton and wore a bow tie--then would I have patted him on the shoulder?

No, I wouldn't have! I would have been too indimidated. But here, there was no intimidation or awkwardness--only a sense of comaraderie. Still, I should be more composed--for overt displays of sympathy can come across as pitying, or worse--condescending!

As we continue to tour the stranger's apartment, I think about how quick I am to show affection to certain types of people. How chatty I can be! But put me in a room with the up and climbing Joneses, the cosmopolitans--or people my own age, or savants--and I'm suddenly tongue-tied and awkward. No way I'd be slapping them on the back, ol' pal style. Ça ne se fait pas!

As my mind overthinks my gestures, Mr. C. is going with the flow--the tide of strangers peering into the nooks and crannies of his upturned life. I notice the padlock on his bedroom window shutters; once again I have the urge to reach out... and comfort him? and for what? But the padlock, or cadenas, is proof of the fragility that up til know could only be sensed. 

"That's the WC," the landlady says as we follow her out into the hall again. "It's separate from the bathroom." Opening the door I'm cheered by the tiny room with its bright turquoise blue paint. There is a picture of a saint on the wall, her arms are outstretched just as Mr. C's were, on ushering us into his home earlier.

As I stand admiring the saint a sour scent lifts upwards from beneath my feet, filling my nose with an acidic tingling.... I quickly back out of the WC. but the scent seems to trail out to the hallway. I guess Mr. C. had missed the spot--as men will--only his aim was a little farther off than most.

Over all Jean-Marc and I loved the apartment, and Mr. C's character lent an affectionate and adorable aura to the place.

"But we'll need to do some repair work," Jean-Marc explained. "Some painting... and we'll need to change the linoleum floors."
 
The deal was sealed with a bottle of wine - one Jean-Marc promised to bring on the next visit. With a little persuading, maybe we can get him to bring a bottle for Mr. C. (or would fudge be a better idea?), in thanks for his warm hospitality.

On our way out I brushed Mr. C's shoulder once again, finding it hard to resist the lovable character. The gesture wasn't condescending, no! How good it felt to touch a saint and to sense his gentle spirit run through me, filling my mother-in-law's next home with love and abundance.

***

Postnote: The landylord tells us Mr. C. is returning to his native Corsica, after a stint in La Ciotat. No sad ending, here. May the beauty of the southern French island fill his days with joy.

French Vocab

la belle-mère = mother-in-law
le commerçant = storekeeper 
la maman = mom, mother 
les lauriers-roses (mpl) = oleanders
une affiche = poster
la porte = door
le locataire = renter, tenant
entrez = come in 
je vous en prie = please (go ahead)
le placard de rangement = small closet, often in a hallway
ça ne se fait pas! = one doesn't do that!
le cadenas = padlock 
le WC = toilet (bathroom) 

Words in a french life - joAnna students

Photos and words like this are the best reward for sticking to my writing dream, and pushing past all the doubtful moments!  Mille mercis to the students in this photo, and to their thoughtful teacher!

Hi Kristin,  I had an amazing 8th grade French class this year and some of the girls fell madly in love with Words in a French Life.  We did a weekly reading period on Mondays and they would literally fight over who got to read it.  Because I enjoyed them so much, I gave all of the girls in the class your book and they were ecstatic! ... I thought you might enjoy the picture!  

JoAnna, a middle school french teacher in Massachusetts

DSC_0004

Another recipe--maybe we're on a roll?

Three sum years ago, when he was 15, our son Max had an internship at a local starred restaurant. There, he learned how to make verrines! I came across this photo in my archives, which comes in the nick of time: we have several guests this month and I've been needing some kitchen inspiration. This verrine (from the word "verre" or "glass") looks simple:

...a layer of chopped surimi (will replace this with real fish...), a layer of guacamole, a layer of sour cream, and a layer of smoked salmon. Top with anèth, or dill--something that happens to be growing profusely in our garden!

Thank you for the time you've just spent reading this French word story. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next letter, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving these posts. Your support is vivement apprécié. Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I’m a high school French teacher, and I love how your blog gives me everyday vocabulary and glimpses of French character and tradition. Your gentle expression of your faith and rare transparency of emotion inspire me."
--Melanie


How to say crutch or crutches in French

Spaniel and cafe (c) Kristin Espinasse
""The rare Frenchman who uses the crosswalk" Computer is back and so are some long-lost photos from years ago! Youpie! Yay!


une béquille (beh-kee)

    : crutch, stand; kickstand (bike)

Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the following expressions: Download MP3 or Wav file

Elle marche avec des béquilles. She walks with crutches.
mettre une moto, un vélo sur sa béquille = to put a motorbike or bike on its stand.
se déplacer avec des béquilles = to get around on crutches


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

I was staring up at a flower seed display with packet after packet of possibilities when I heard a tap tap tap coming up from behind me. Turning, I saw a woman on crutches who was now looking up at the same rack of flower packets.

"Bonjour," I smiled, quickly turning back around in discretion. A moment passed before I thought to scoot over so that the newcomer could see the entire display.

"Ne bougez pas. Vous ne me gênez pas du tout," she assured me. Her hair, gathered up in a large twist, was the color of Mexican poppies ...or maybe honey-colored nasturtiums? ...the ones I was debating  whether or not to buy. I liked the idea they were edible plus pretty to look at. I had recently bought a pack of blue starflowers, or bourrache, for that very reason. Come to think of it I had recently bought quite a few packets of flowers, so maybe I'd better head off now, and meet-up with Jean-Marc, who was two aisles over, in the "automatic watering systems" section of the store.

But before leaving I felt the urge to say something to the middle-aged lady with the béquilles. During the handful of minutes that we had stood staring up at the flower seed présentoir, I sensed her endearing presence. We had only exchanged a brief greeting and that is when I saw what my dear aunt Charmly would refer to as stardust. It's that heavenly sweetness that emanates from a kindred spirit.

"Wouldn't it be lovely to have them all!" I said to the stranger, betting on the possibility that she, too, was overwhelmed by what the French call l'embarass de choix. There were so many flowers to choose from. I went to put back the seed packet I had been holding when the lady with crutches responded to me.

"Which one is that?" she asked.

"Oh... cosmos," I offered.

"Cosmos?" She had never heard of the flower before.

"Ah," I said, smiling. "They grow this high..." I motioned with my hands," and are covered with fuchsia flowers. (I was thinking of the cosmos that my mom had so loved, back at our farm in Sainte Cécile-les-Vignes. The thought of Mom fawning over those flowers threw me back in time.)

Perhaps emotion had cast a fragile shadow over me, for next the stranger offered an affectionate compliment.

"Hold on," the woman said, as I  returned the seeds to the display. "I will plant them and they will remind me of you."

It was such an intimate and generous thought that it caught me completely off-guard. I thanked the woman with the Mexican poppy-colored hair and quickly hurried off.

It was a strange reaction and, even as I was walking away, I wanted to turn back... to say something back to her just as nice! But what?

Two rows over, in the watering section of the store, I stood there debating. I should go back and get the seeds that she had been looking at (morning glories, I think they were...) and tell her I'll plant them and think of her, too! But as the seconds turned to minutes I convinced myself that the window of opportunity had passed. At this point it would be too awkward to return.

Hélas this touching encounter will be filed under Missed Opportunities. Meantime somewhere in France dozens of cosmos will bloom this summer. I see the woman with the Mexican poppy color hair hobbling up to admire them. She's finished with her crutches by now, and a part of her is even jogging down memory lane.

***
Post note: Recently, I discovered in my seed collection a packet of Mexican poppies (a gift from Malou a few years ago). I will scatter them and think of the golden-haired stranger. She won't have the joy of knowing my gesture (as I had knowing of her plan) but that brings me back to stardust, which must--like the emanating and far-reaching light from which it is born--illuminate kindred spirits the world over. Somehow she will know.

To comment, click here. Share your remarkable experiences with strangers or talk about another theme in today's edition. Thanks.

French Vocabulary

le présentoir = display rack

ne bougez pas vous ne me gênez pas du tout = don't move. You're not bothering me a bit

le bourrache = borage

les béquilles (f) = crutches

hélas =  alas

un embarras = a difficulty (more here)

l'embarras de (or du) choix = embarrassing variety of choice, multiple possibilites

Au présentoir des fleurs je suis resté bête devant l'embarras de choix.
At the flower display I was stumped before all the choices.

avoir l'embarras du choix = to have too many solutions

Rainbow over the vines (c) Kristin Espinasse
Months before we moved to our first vineyard, in Sainte Cécile-les-Vignes, we would visit it. Here is a picture of Jean-Marc beneath a rainbow... and on the verge of a colorful future in winemaking. You can also see the kids and our dog Braise.

Jean-Marc will kick off his USA Wine Tour in March!  Click here for more info and to see what other cities he'll visit. 

The Dog Wash (c) Kristin Espinasse
A blessing in disguise is what Jean-Marc calls my latest computer crash... for when my PC was repaired, we recuperated all the pictures that were lost during the first computer crash! It is fun to see the kids, in 2007. That's Braise they are washing... in an old grape bucket from Uncle Jean-Claude's vineyard

Pronounce It Perfectly in French - with exercises in sound discrimination and accurate sound creation. Order your copy here.

 

Thank you for the time you've just spent reading this French word story. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next letter, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving these posts. Your support is vivement apprécié. Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I’m a high school French teacher, and I love how your blog gives me everyday vocabulary and glimpses of French character and tradition. Your gentle expression of your faith and rare transparency of emotion inspire me."
--Melanie


chaparder

Artists along the port in St. Tropez (c) Kristin Espinasse

Still pinching images from Google image search (I promise I took these!) after my computer crashed one week ago (typing this post on my son's PC).... This photo was snapped in St. Tropez. Its artist theme fits with today's story of the "tree artists" (or pirates, rather...). Read on, in today's column.

chaparder (sha-par-day)

     to pinch, to lift, to steal

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

Pirates of the Olive Plantation

For the next week or two there will be a modest camping-car parked in the driveway below our house. This is part of Jean-Marc's solution to our tree-pruning dilemma: hire a specialized team to tackle the project in one intensive fortnight!

Like this we have insta-neighbors—though we don't see them or hear them very much. Tanguy* and Thomas, who arrived Friday from the Gard region, will spend their days cutting back the enormous oliviers that have graced this land for centuries.

It would be fun to imagine the two tree-trimmers as Edward Scissorhand's distant French cousins, but the truth is they look more like pirates than gothic gardeners. (There's a definite Johnny Depp connection. It must be the rock ‘n’ roll demeanor they share. It's that giant silver hoop, or créole, that Tanguy sports or that bad boy air that surrounds Thomas, who, with une clope dangling from his lazy smile, easily perpetuates the myth that cigarettes are seductive.)

I knew a little bit about Tanguy before he came to live here for this short séjour. His partner, Aurélie, has helped at all our grape harvests. I had a hunch that Tanguy might know a lot about how to forage wild plants, as Aurélie does, so I asked him to help me identify some pissenlit (or confirm it was indeed dandelion) that I was hoping to use in the kitchen. That is when I learned that Thomas, Tanguy's friend and co-pirate, knew a thing or two about les plantes sauvages. At the picnic table, yesterday, a sleeveless Thomas reached down and snapped up an herb with lance-shaped leaves, declaring it plantain.

Thomas handed me the wild specimen, which I could use to compare against other wild plants—eventually adding it to my knowledge base. I am hoping to have a certain understanding of the comestible plants on our property ("certain" being the key word. I want to be sure the plants I am picking are mangeable and not poisonous as they are destined for soups, salads, and juices).

Changing the subject, so as not to take up Tanguy and Thomas's lunch break, I said: 

"By the way, that would have been a great photo of you two in the olive trees this morning!" I was remembering the image of Tanguy and Thomas, each on a different branch high above the ground which is graced here and there by wild orchids this time of year.

Tanguy laughed. "You aren't the only one to think so!" he admitted, telling me how he and Thomas seemed to be stopping the traffic that normally cruised by the great olive field. 

More than a sight to behold, the tree-trimmers were surrounded by some very attractive commodities: the centuries-old branches that were piling up on the ground beneath them.

"One grand-mère pulled over, hiked up her skirt, and climbed onto the olive grove," Tanguy explained. "She plucked up a couple of olive branches, saying they'd make great gifts (an olive branch symbolizes peace—what better offering than this?).

"Another guy pulled over and snapped up an armful of leafy cuttings. 'For my sheep,' he explained." (I wondered if the punk rock sheepherder was back? Was this whom Tanguy saw stealing away with the olive branches?) 

Tanguy shook his head, smiling. "I let him take what he wanted. Sheep love to eat olive branches!"

(Come to think of it, that was true! I remembered the transhumance that took place on our land last month—and how the sheep stood on hind legs to reach the olive branches!)

I listened to stories of the other motorists-turned-thieves. What funny images it all painted in my mind. It was amusing, too, to think that Tanguy and Thomas weren't the only ones to share a pirate's likeness—apparently half our neighborhood did too!

I pictured Tanguy and Thomas dangling high up in the olive tree (or ship mast...) as a host of unlikely pirates landed on the orchid spotted deck below, before disappearing with the leafy loot.

*** 

 Here I have to smile at the colorful French definition of today's word:

chaparder: dérober de modestes objets (to steal objects of modest value). True, the branches weren't worth much, but many an unsuspecting thief found value in those discarded tree limbs, and yo-ho-ho! away they rode.

*Learn all about the cool name "Tanguy"--click here and scroll down to the story column. We met Tanguy via his partner, Aurélie. I wrote a poem about her here: "...Heroines with hot peppers in their hearts, they sizzle with mystery and soul." Read the story-poem "Bohème" - click here.

French Vocabulary

un camping-car = camper van, RV

un olivier = olive tree 

une créole = large hoop earring

une clope = cigarette

un séjour = a stay

le pissenlit = dandelion

la plante sauvage = wild plant

le plantain = known as ribleaf, lamb's tongue and other names

mangeable = edible

127 things to do in Paris: click here to read the latest reader-submitted tips!

Olive trees
The gnarled and noble trunks of the olives trees that Tanguy and Thomas are pruning this week.

Pronounce It Perfectly in French - with exercises in sound discrimination and accurate sound creation. Order your copy here.

Sunflowers (c) Kristin Espinasse
Always leave on a sunny note--something I sometimes forget, especially when taking for granted the daily comings and goings of family. Speaking of sunny, have you planted sunflowers seeds yet? If you don't have a big yard, where else could you plant one? Ever seen one of those cool sunflower houses--where you dig a square trench and plant seeds all around - leaving space for the "front door" door? When they are grown you can connect the tops! To comment on any item in this post, click here, and thank you for forwarding this letter to a friend.

Thank you for the time you've just spent reading this French word story. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next letter, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving these posts. Your support is vivement apprécié. Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I’m a high school French teacher, and I love how your blog gives me everyday vocabulary and glimpses of French character and tradition. Your gentle expression of your faith and rare transparency of emotion inspire me."
--Melanie


berger

Cabane
Cabane de berger (the shepherd's wooden hut) photo by the Neurdein brothers. Here we have a slumbering sheepherder with his border collie and german shepherd (is it?) minding the troup. (When Mom sees this photo, she'll ditch her latest treehouse scheme... in favor of this fort-on-wheels with a nifty sliding door! Mom has had a hard time deciding where to anchor, here on the olive farm. This just may be the answer!) 

 

un berger (une bergère)

    : a shepherd, or shepherdess

la bergerie = sheep pen, sheepfold

Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc read the following sentence, in French: Download MP3 or Wav file

Le berger amène ses moutons dans la plaine. Cela s'appelle la transhumance.
The shepherd brings his sheep to the flatland. This is called "la transhumance".


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

A Modern Day Nomad

Returning home from the doctor's on Monday, we ran into a roadblock along our driveway. Dozens of sheep, great and small, were feasting on the grass beside the olive trees! 

They're here! Hurry, get their picture! I said to Jean-Marc, who got out of our car to check the mail. Hurry! Before they wander off!

Sheep (c) Jean-Marc Espinasse
                           (Jean-Marc's photo)

Having collected the courrier, Jean-Marc made his way up the crowded and bleating path. There were sheep everywhere: in the road, in the meadow, and in the trees (or nearly!). I watched, amazed to see the peaceful-looking animals rip off and devour the thorny stems of the bushes, enjoying them like chewy licorice sticks.

Driving cautiously in my husband's wake, I rolled down the window to get a better look at the troupeaux, which included several nursing lambs—agneaux—and even a few black sheep. I smiled thinking of their proverbial brothers and sisters (and a few of my own family members...).

As Jean-Marc advanced, a shepherd appeared on the restanque just above. The two men began a lazy conversation. I struggled to get within earshot, but it wasn't until the shepherd whistled—and a Border collie materialized—that the path instantly cleared of its four-legged traffic and I was able to pull my car over to the side of the road. 

Jean-Marc, interested in some free soil amendment for his soon-to-be planted vines, was informing the berger about which pastures belong to us, and which were the neighbors'. As the men pointed and stretched their arms, measuring the expanse of the pâturage, I stole a closer look at the sheepherder.

He appeared to be in his early thirties, an unusual age for sheepherders, who, once upon a time, were either the very young or the very old (deemed useless to the family for anything but watching sheep!).

History had changed since the down-and-out times of early shepherding; it wasn't likely that this modern day berger was a burden to his family. Shepherds these days earn a living and, from all appearances, made enough to afford a smartphone! 

Apart from the portable phone, I noticed the shepherd's tattered wooden cane, une houlette. It had the famous hook at the end, useful for freeing the hoof of a trapped sheep, one that has fallen from the path.  

The shepherd tucked his canne under his arm, pausing to roll a cigarette as he listened to Jean-Marc. He was no ordinary shepherd, wearing a newsboy cap and a punk haircut. His short locks were punctuated by a single strand of braided hair that signaled nonconformist. Come to think of it, weren't punk rockers noncomformists who aspired to be nomads? This shepherd was the real deal, a living, breathing wanderer.

"Tomorrow, I'll park on the other side of the field," the berger informed Jean-Marc, pointing to his  beat-up shepherd wagon. It was one of those classic Estafettes, the kind Jean-Marc's grandmother drove during WWII, as she peddled house linens to the Pieds-Noirs in Morocco. 

"Ça marche," Jean-Marc waved goodbye to the sheepherder, before getting back into our car.

I still hadn't had a word with the shepherd, though I was itching to know him. What a fascinating story he must have to share. But I had a feeling he was a private type—he reminded me so much of  my rebel sister-in-law. And though I had so many questions, (just as I had for her), I didn't want to put him out and, admittedly, I didn't want to say something stupid or square to someone so authentic.

But then, wasn't I a little authentic too? How many times had I let my perceived squareness keep me from befriending the nonconformists? But I wasn't so straight as that.  Gone were the perfectly made-up face and fluffy hair. With a bandaged nose* and, wearing a sweater with holes (my dear mom's, for comfort), I might pass for a bohemian, like him.

Before putting the car into gear, I stuck my tattered nose out the window. "Nice dog!" I offered, admiring the hardworking Border collie, and noble chien de berger. "Is she good at what she does?"

A smile now stretched across the nomad's face, revealing a row of teeth as wandering as his sheep.

"Elle est la meilleure!" the berger replied, his enthusiasm as endearing as his smile.  "If one of these moutons ended up on that far off colline (with this, he stretched forth his cane, waving it for effect), Mieszka (mee-esh-ka) would be there in a flash, to steer her home."

It didn't take much, after all, to connect with the mysterious nomad who was so different from this heart-on-sleeves homebody. I had thought I had nothing to say, and yet, venturing the question, I was rewarded by the friendly, universal connection.  

 
To comment on this story, click here. Keep the conversation going by sharing your own stories about connecting with people so seemingly different than yourself. And what about Border collies and the intelligence of dogs? Notice any other themes in today's essay?  Thanks for sharing your thoughts, in the comments box.

 *bandaged nose: the stiches from the biopsy were taken out on Monday. Good news: this time the results came back benign, and not bcc!

References:
Read about Jean-Marc's grandmother in the story "bouder" (to pout). It was Jean-Marc's grandmother who gave me some of the best mariage advice, namely ne jamais bouder! Click here for that story and the scene of the grandmother peddling linens from a military supply vehicle....

FRENCH VOCABULARY

le courrier = mail

le troupeau = herd

un agneau =lamb

le mouton = sheep (some fun & colorful "mouton" expressions, such as "revenons à nos moutons, here)

la restanque = a kind of terrace held by a wall of stacked rocks

le pâturage = field of grasses from which animals graze 

la canne = cane

le pied-noir
= French citizen who lived in Algeria before independence. The term included citizens, like my mother-in-law and her family, living in other North African countries, such as Morocco, during or after wartime.

ça marche = that'll work

le chien de berger = sheepdog, such as a Border collie

elle est la meilleure = she's the best 

la colline = hill

 

DSC01850
Gus was so suprised and touched by the messages you left him for his 88th birthday. Gus writes (in typical Gus "all caps"):

IF I REALLY TRIED, I COULD COME UP WITH A FLOWERY PHRASE TO TELL YOU ABOUT MY FEELINGS FOR THE BIRTHDAY AFFAIR.  THE BEST ONE IS A VERY SINCERE "THANKS"..

Gus is pictured, above, with daughter Mary, who is, Gus tells us, "MY ONE FLOWER AMONG FIVE SONS".

Daisies in Sault village (c) Kristin Espinasse
Marguerites in the lavender town of Sault. Has a friend forwarded you this post? Sign up, here, to receive French Word-A-Day in your in-box.

Thank you for the time you've just spent reading this French word story. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next letter, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving these posts. Your support is vivement apprécié. Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I’m a high school French teacher, and I love how your blog gives me everyday vocabulary and glimpses of French character and tradition. Your gentle expression of your faith and rare transparency of emotion inspire me."
--Melanie


ouvrier

P1110139

What is remarkable, or kind of funny, about this sign above the window? Your guesses in the comments box. Photo taken in Toulon, where today's story takes place.

ouvrier (ew-vree-ay)

    : worker

Example Sentence:

Je ne suis qu'un simple ouvrier. I am but an ordinary working man.

  

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

Mom and I were in Toulon, yesterday, looking up at a giant monument when a man suddenly appeared, like a phantom.

"Do you know the story?" he quizzed, motioning to the statue above us.

I looked back at the plaque, to the dates, which corresponded to WWII. "Were you there?" I asked.

When he didn't answer right away, I worried about placing the man in the wrong generation (and over-guessing his age). Casually, I rephrased things:  "I mean, are you from here?"

A smile lit up his wrinkled face, and he had to hold onto his woolen hat as if to contain himself. Once acknowledged, his voice hushed a notch. "There is another memorial plaque, on the other side..." he pointed out. "For the men who lost their lives in 1911...."

Mom and I listened, one of us translating as the stranger told his story.

"The battleship was called "Liberté"..." he began. "It was a brand-new vessel and it was carrying explosives. But almost as soon as Liberté left the port, the cargo detonated.  The accident caused several hundred men to lose their lives."

As the stranger spoke, his light blue eyes shone through my own, the warmth carrying with it a tangible sense of that dramatic moment in time. So transported, we listened to the waves crashing against the burning boat, the cries of the matelots, and to our own beating hearts, we frozen bystanders, one hundred years in the future.

After the stranger finished his story, my eyes were gently released from the grip of his regard, and I found my vision wandering from the man's peaceful face, to his worn-out coat, to his scuffed purse and shoes. In his hand he held a feuille des soins, or receipt from a recent medical visit. 

Around his neckline there was a layer of debris. Discreetly, I tried to identify it. It was the kind of dust that could collect after a long cold night on the streets of Toulon... poussière from an industrial city shedding itself on the unfortunates, or sans domicile fixes, including schizophrenics, runaways, and drunkards.

I observed the stranger's eyes, which were bright--sober as a newborn. His mind was just as sharp, and we listened, Mom and I, as he began to tell us about his beloved Toulon, this time in verse.

Les arbres qui l'entourent... la mer qui l'embrasse....

Mom listened as I tried to translate the poetic words as fast as the poet spoke them, but I could not keep up. 

I couldn't help wondering if the beautiful rhymes were his own. "Verlaine?" I questioned. 

He shook his head, surprised. "Now, where was I... oh yes! Les arbres qui l'entourent... Toulon, ville de fleurs... Toulon..."

After the poetry came a bit of trivia: do you know about les Farons?

I nodded my head dumbly (really not knowing a thing; in fact, when he said "Faron", I thought I heard "Pharaoh", and was soon lost in Egypt... when Monsieur interrupted my daydream, offering that le Faron was a hill. Pointing to it, he added: "There is a zoo up there." ). 

Just then, I felt a poke to my side. "Ask him if he is a professor!" Mom elbowed me.

"Vous êtes un prof?"

"No, I am a simple worker," came the modest answer. "Juste un ouvrier."

His statement set my imagination on fire again, and I pictured everything from giant cranes to coal mines to dock maintenance.

But before we could find out his story, il a disparu. We watched the simple ouvrier walk away--until he reached the edge of the place de la liberté, at which point he disappeared—poof!—like a ghost. All that was left was the uncanny feeling... of having just received a privileged visit from a drowned Liberté sailor, or ancient matelot.

 

 

French Vocabulary

(Je sais, je sais... I know, I know... this story needs a vocab section. Meantime, feel free to define some of the words in today's story. Click here to add a definition to the comments box. Merci d'avance!)

***

In other stories: this stranger's words, "I am but a simple ouvrier," reminded me of another character we met in the town of Buis-les-Baronnies. Do you remember the last peasant?

 

P1110089
We celebrated Jackie's 15th with my mother-in-law Michèle-France's chocolate cake. Uncle Jacques joined us, too.

P1110093
If you are new to this blog, you might enjoy this mother-daughter story le frisson written last spring. You don't have to be a mom to enjoy it; if you've ever wanted desperately to connect with someone, you'll relate! Click here to read it.

***

Forward to a friend + Sign-up link

Do you know anyone who might enjoy these stories from France? When you forward this post to a friend, they may use this link to sign up for the emailed stories and photos.

P1110110
In other news, Jean-Marc received a very big package yesterday. He has once again chosen the maritime shipping container as a solution to our storage needs! The large unit is not visible from the front porch (ouf!) and the wine color almost fades into the scenery... where grapes will soon compete with the colorful horizon! To add a comment, click here.

For more stories of Jean-Marc's original solutions to life's dilemmas, read Words in a French Life or Blossoming in Provence. Your book purchase is a great support to this journal. Thanks.

Thank you for the time you've just spent reading this French word story. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next letter, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving these posts. Your support is vivement apprécié. Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I’m a high school French teacher, and I love how your blog gives me everyday vocabulary and glimpses of French character and tradition. Your gentle expression of your faith and rare transparency of emotion inspire me."
--Melanie


chariot-brancard

Cabanon and Mont Ventoux (c) Kristin Espinasse
Fed up to your forehead with hospital stories? Je sympathise! Just skip, or saute, today's skin-cancer chronicle... and scroll guiltily or sneakily or self-consciously to the end of the page, to read, instead, about Chief Grape... on second thought, who wouldn't want to read about a hunky French winemaker? (But I do have faith in you and I trust , lecteur or lectrice fidèle, that you'll read on ... in time to meet today's non-hunky caractère extraordinaire: Madonna of the Gurney!) (Photo of cabanon and "Mount Windy" taken last week, near Suze-la-Rousse). 

un chariot-brancard (shar-ee-oh-brahn-khar)
   
: gurney, or metal stretcher with wheels
 

Correct Your French Blunders

Correct Your French Blunders: How to Avoid 99% of the Common Mistakes Made by Learners of French. Speak and write French as if it were your native tongue! Order here.

TYG


Audio File: Listen to these French words: Download MP3 or Wave file

A l'hôpital j'ai voyagé sur un chariot-brancard.
At the hospital, I traveled on a gurney.

 
A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

Material Girl, The Garden Gnomes, and a few other colorful characters I encountered on my way to the operating room...
 
Do you remember Madonna in the 80's film Desperately Seeking Susan? ...Rebel Madonna with her hard-lined eyes and her black-roots-and-bottle-blond hair? Voilà! This would be the gurney nurse, Ms. Move Beds, Buster! (remember her from the previous story?)--she's the infirmière who transported me from my hospital room to the bloc opératoire.

"Quel âge me donnez-vous?" "What age do you guess me to be?" Madonna of the Gurney fished, as she guided my bed-on-wheels with the finesse of a bumper-boat pilot.

Quel âge? I was speechless... which might be explained by the happy pill that had just lodged itself in my throat.... impossible to displace it no matter how many jumping jacks, no matter how many dry gulps I'd gargled, back in the accordion-door bathroom.

Madonna of the Gurney was impatient for an answer and her agacement was hinted at in the way she slammed on her bumper-boat brakes. Suspended awkwardly like that in the sterile corridor, I eked out an answer: "Je ne suis vraiment pas douée pour ce genre de devinette!" "I'm really not good at this kind of guessing game," I apologized, playing it safe, after it dawned on me that the misguessing of her age--or eventual erring on the plus side--might backfire into my very near future.

Madonna of the Gurney parked me abruptly beside the surgical block. She snapped her gum once or twice, stalling should an age-defying numéro appear my mind. When it didn't, she sighed, reached deep into her nurse's poche and slapped a surgical cap, or bonnet, onto my head, pushing up my hair as an afterthought. Her brusque gestures had me divining at more than her age: I guessed her mood (la déception, or disappointment) and wondered whether it was payback time, as I had earlier imagined!
. 
La vengeance never came and it all  goes to show just how little I know, least of all the mysterious depths of a stranger's heart. No sooner had she stomped off than Madonna of the Gurney reappeared, arms laden with warmth. And with a no-nonsense "if I'm going to be a Good Samaritan in this story at least don't make a big deal of it!" gesture, she threw a heavy wool blanket over me. Far from being written off as an enemy, it seems I'd somehow won her sympathy.
. 
***
As you have already guessed by now, quick-witted and clever reader, that is how Madonna of the Gurney---or, simply, "Madonna"--earned her "Material Girl" moniker: it's all that warm wool, or material, she offers to grateful patients before they enter the ice block, or surgery room. But I'm jumping ahead of myself, for that, dear reader, is another story...

Post note: I just realized I left out the garden gnomes... the ones I mentioned in the subtitle to today's chapter. Will fill you in next time!
. 
Corrections, comments, and stories of your own are welcome here, in the comments box.

If you missed it, read the short letter ("comme si comme ça") I wrote on returning from the hospital.

Speaking of The Material Girl, I think I'll watch Desperately Seeking Susan - I wonder whether my teenage daughter will enjoy it as much as I once did. Click here to get yourself a copy. (I think Jean-Marc will enjoy the film, too--for the fact that Rosanna Arquette stars in it. He's been a fan of hers since she appeared in his favorite, The Grand Bleu.


French Vocabulary
voilà = there you have it
infirmière, infirmier = nurse
le bloc opératoire = surgery room
Quel âge me donnez-vous = what age do you guess me to be
l'agacement (m) = annoyance
la poche = pocket
le bonnet = cap
brusque = rough
la déception (! vocabulary note: false friend!) = disappointment
TYG
Echantillon
The year was 2008. This is Chief Grape, skin and bones after creating his first wine (indeed, he put himself into it!)... Find out why he isn't jumping for joie, in the story "Echantillon". Click here to read this selection from our archives.
P1040997
All Star Smokey. I know: it's been a while since you've seen photos of Smokey R. Dokey....
. 
P1040999
Here he is playing basketball hamming it up with the harvesters. From Left to right: Vince, Robert (hidden), and Kevin.
P1040998
Did you read about "Get To Know Each Other Night"? When harvest "uniforms" were handed out. Strangeley, no one snapped up the Fruit-of-the-Loom underwear. Read about what items they did snag, here, in the story "Glad Rags" or "Belles Fringes".

Thank you for the time you've just spent reading this French word story. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next letter, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving these posts. Your support is vivement apprécié. Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I’m a high school French teacher, and I love how your blog gives me everyday vocabulary and glimpses of French character and tradition. Your gentle expression of your faith and rare transparency of emotion inspire me."
--Melanie


cheville

Autumn leaves (c) Kristin Espinasse / French Word-A-Day
Butterscotch leaves are collecting along the tree-lined lanes in our village. And in this photo, taken in Suze-la-Rousse a few years back, leaves are turning rouge.


la cheville (sheuh vee)

    : ankle

jusqu'à la cheville = ankle-deep
elle ne vous arrive pas à la cheville = she can't hold a candle to you
avoir les chevilles qui enflent
= to have a big head, to be full of oneself
être en cheville avec quelqu'un = to be in cahoots with someone

Audio File : listen to our daughter, Jackie, read the following French words:Download MP3 or Wave file

Ces sandals à talon mettent en valeur les chevilles.
These high heel sandals compliment one's ankles.

 

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

Allure after 80

I could barely see her lying there, curled up on her side, in bed. The nurse brushed past her and drew open the volets, before tucking the curtain cord back into its place, beside a dilapidated armoire

"Vous avez une camarade de chambre," the infirmière announced. 

"Bonjour," came the friendly reply, as the patient stirred.

"Bonjour, Madame", I smiled, setting my bag on the second bed, on which there was a neatly folded paper gown, sterile as the sheets below it.

"You can shower and change now... or plus tard," the nurse informed me. I then learned that my operation wouldn't be until 13:00. To pass the time and to take my mind off food and water (for the general anesthetic I'd fasted over 12 hours -- and would not be allowed so much as a sip of water until later in the day), I decided to wash and then get in bed and sleep off the remaining time.

"Would you like to use the bathroom before I go in?" I smiled to my roommate. 
"That would be a good idea," she agreed and slowly made her way across the room, to the tiny salle de bain, before closing the plastic accordion door, which remained open by an inch or so (it was broken, too). I heard the shower, which ran for 5 minutes, followed by the flush of the toilet, followed by the shower, which continued. She's just like me, I realized, creating a sound barrierin the absence of privacy

Meantime the nurse quizzed me: "You've washed with Betadine last night? Head to toe? Scrubbing your hair with it?"

"Oui. Oui. Oui.
"Bon. You need not wash your hair again, ce n'est pas la peine, but," she explained, handing me a small iodine-red vial, "you'll scrub your body once more." It was humbling, the realization that this sterilization process was more to protect the hospital and its patients from me, rather than the reverse.... And no matter how clean I try to be, in the end it seems I am just plain dirty.

The bathroom floor was wet from my roommate's douche and I soon discovered why: only a thin paper mat to absorb shower spray (and no shower curtain!). I worried that my roommate might glisse and fall, when next she returned to the bathroom and, looking around I found the only solution: industrial toilette paper! I tossed the useless mat into la poubelle and used toilet paper to sop up the flooded tiles. Doubtful that the floor was dry enough to prevent a dangerous slip, I reassured myself that we were, after all, in the hospital, just a few doors down from the bloc operatoire.. where a broken hip could be conveniently mended!

Dressed in the paper gown, crossing my arms over my backside, I returned to my bed and noticed my neighbor brushing her hair. After a moment of silence, in which I felt foreign eyes on me, I heard her speak softly.

"I looked very much like you, once upon a time..." 
I studied my roommate, who must be twice my age. "Same large front," she explained, riffling through her purse, from which she produced a photo. From its white framed edges, I guessed it to be from the 70's.

I studied the auburn beauty in the photo.

"I was 44-years-old, there..." she offered. (She must be in her 80s now...)
"I'm 81," my telepathic roommate smiled, and I noticed her hair was much the same color, only a lighter shade. 

"Do you see a resemblance?" she ventured.
Gosh, I didn't look anything like that. I drew the photo closer. How alluring she was, in a sky blue, cinch-waisted, plunging-necklined dress that flowed like an autumn breeze. Autumn! It was the color of that auburn hair... her long wavy tresses were richer than molten bronze. Bronze... the color of her sun-kissed skin.

"Where was the photo taken?" I wondered.
"In Saint Tropez," with this, I glimpsed a mischievous look. Indeed, she was what my mom would call "a pistol" or "a cougar" (indeed, at the time the photo was taken she had just left her husband and was following her heart to Spain!), what with that infectious smile and that playful demeanor that was beginning to reveal itself.

Studying the photo, I could just imagine the alluring subject walking away from the iron railing... and onto the Tropezian dance floor! My eyes fell on the thick belt that complimented her tiny waist... 44 years old at the time, she was one year older than I! 

"I... I've got to get a dress like that!" and, finally, I admitted what I was really thinking: Vous êtes ravissante! (I didn't dare mention she was sexy!)

"People don't dress up anymore," my roommate sighed. Next, her face lit up as she reached for her overnight bag. "Look at these!" said she, pulling out a pair of high-heels.

Les talons?! I myself had brought a pair of sterile slippers to the hospital... but this woman of a certain age was more forward-thinking in a possibilities-are-endless way! 

She giggled in delight as she swung her legs over the edge of the bed and slipped her crooked, arthritic feet into the high-heeled sandals, lacing the racy snakeskin straps around her ankles: "These, she explained, put one's ankles in the limelight!" I watched as her fragile feet were transformed... And I could see her now, dancing in that very same lumière.

"It is important to pay a little more for shoes," she explained. These cost a lot--I bought them in Marbella!--but I've had them for 10 years!" I noticed the timelessness of the high-heeled sandals--higher than any heels in my closet!

No matter that 40 years separated us, I was yearning, as young roommates do, to borrow those shoes! How attractive they were! My roommate admired them anew: 

"I'll buy a pair of sheer hose... that way I can wear them for several more weeks--even after the weather cools!" (forward-thinking indeed!). That is when I noticed her tan legs, enhanced by her above-the-knee skirt. 

When we were finished talking fashion, my roommate told me about her cat, Beryl (named after a gem stone). "Beryl can turn on the radio with his teeth! He does so every morning so that I can enjoy my programs." It was the truth and I had only to dig up the the local newspaper, in which Mr Beryl and his radio-alluming trick were featured, to verify it. The article also mentioned Beryl's penchant for art, and the favorite painting (one by his mistress-artist, my roommate, who affirmed: "He spends five minutes each day, gazing at that pastoral scene"). 

There was so much more that I wanted to know about my lovely ginger-haired roommate with the high heels, but she was whisked away all too soon, by an equally strong and colorful friend who'd come to take her home, to Carpentras.

That left me to consider the image of Beryl the cat and his sensational radio stunt. And though I regretted the lovely woman's absence, and not having learned more about her, I realized that you can know so much about a person, can't you, by the way their animals behave? And though I couldn't imagine Madame with her teeth sunk into a radio knob, I could easily picture her breaking all "assumed limits", in time to show some of us that all things are possible to she who has grit and good teeth!

 

 Le Coin Commentaires
Did you enjoy meeting "Simone"? I need to go back into my story and replace all the "she"'s with the name of this lovely lady. But I've quickly painted her portrait, in time to share it with you before it fades. Then again, could such a character ever fade? Thank you for sharing your response to the story, here in the comments box.

The nurses here in town continue to change the bandage on my forehead. I have no idea what the mark looks like and will think about that later! If you missed the post-op picture, be warned--you can see it here. Meantime don't forget to wear sunscreen - even this fall and winter!)

 Selected French Vocabulary

le volet = window shutter

vous avez une camarade de chambre = you have a roommate

infirmier, infirmière = nurse

la douche = shower

glisse (glisser) = to slip

la poubelle = garbage, or trash can, or bin

le bloc opératoire = operating room

le front = forehead, brow

la lumière = light

plus tard = later

la salle de bain = bathroom 

ce n'est pas la peine = it's not necessary

vous êtes ravissante = you are ravishingly beautiful

les talons (m) = heels

IMG_6011
Have a minute to read about another French character? Click here to meet Camille, who lives at the end of Marseilles... where the sea sparkles as do the souls that live near it.

What are you currently reading? Here's a book I've yet to dig into

The Greater Journey : Americans in Paris

The Greater Journey is the enthralling, inspiring—and until now, untold—story of the adventurous American artists, writers, doctors, politicians, architects, and others of high aspiration who set off for Paris in the years between 1830 and 1900, ambitious to excel in their work. Order The Greater Journey here.

French shopping bag I Heart Paris Shopper: made of recycled material. 1-Percent of the sale of this bag will support the conservation work of the nature conservancy. Order the I Heart Paris bag here.

Thank you for the time you've just spent reading this French word story. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next letter, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving these posts. Your support is vivement apprécié. Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I’m a high school French teacher, and I love how your blog gives me everyday vocabulary and glimpses of French character and tradition. Your gentle expression of your faith and rare transparency of emotion inspire me."
--Melanie


mouchard

Trompe-l'oeil (c) Kristin Espinasse
Are you an extrovert or an introvert? Casanière, or a "homebody"... like me? How do you feel when you finally venture out? Read on, in today's missive. As for today's word, look carefully: it's not a mouchoir, or a handkerchief! Not even a Kleenex, sniff! (Photo taken in Saint-Roman-de-Malegarde, a village or two away from where today's story takes place.)

mouchard (moo shar) noun, masculine

    :  informer, police spy; sneak, stool pigeon

Synonym: un espion (une espionne) = a spy 

le mouchardage = spying, informing, sneaking
moucharder = to sneak on, to inform on 
une moucharde = female spy, sneak, informer 

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc read this sentence: Download MP3 or Wav file

Dans tous les cafés à Paris, pendant la guerre, il y avait des mouchards qui écoutaient...
In all the cafés in Paris, during the war, there were spies who listened... 

  Exercises in French Phonics Exercises in French Phonics is... 
" a great book for learning French pronunciation"
"useful and practical"
"high quality material, good value for your money" --from Amazon customer reviews. Order your copy here.
. 

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

Spying on La Maraîchère

Not too far from our vineyard, just past a blue-gray oliveraie and a modest truffle orchard, beyond which a lovelorn donkey brays through the night, its woeful calls answered by the cranky aboiements of the neighbor dogs (who'd like to get some sleep, thank you very much!) there stands a fruits-and-vegetables shack.

It would be tempting to call the small structure une paillote--but paillotes are normally found near la plage, and are little freestanding structures with roofs en paille, or straw; not this hutch, c'est tout en bois, or all in wood, from its head to its "toes", which might, for the sake of art, be represented as so many stubby wooden crates that litter the edge of the little maraîchère hut.

Each time I go to the produce stand, which is found on private property, opposite the owner's mas, just up the road from le poulailler, I mumble to myself (and sometimes aloud, within ear reach of the proprietress), je dois venir ici plus souvent. Instead, I have the shameful habitude of buying our produce at the supermarket drive-through (and in all my pre-moving-to-France-dreams, I would never have imagined shopping in France's fast lane! Hélas...)

Because la vendange is just around the corner (phase one, or the picking of red grapes for our rosé wines, begins Saturday!), I'm making an effort with my shopping list, where farm-fresh vegetables are on the menu. Part of that effort involves getting out and rubbing elbows, or coudes, with the locals--always a challenge for a homebody, or casanière, who feels more comfortable among books and slobbering dogs--but who secretly thrives on society, where real characters are to be found (no offense, Braise and Smokey, and no offence Oliver Twist).

Pulling up to the paillote (we'll go ahead and call the stand by the more charming term, again, for art's sake!), I felt those familiar inner tormentors urging me to "rentre!", or "turn back!". "It's been so long since your last visit to the stand," the inner voices menaced. "You're not welcome here among the clients fidels.

With a little effort, I managed to brush off the mind's ramblings in time to hear the greeting coming from behind the wooden comptoir.

"Bonjour, Madame!" Looking up, I noticed two women. The one, middle-aged, looked a little familiar, the other, twice the age of the first, I had never seen before.

I eagerly returned the warm greeting, then, deciding it best not to linger, looked casually around the stand, my mind more on the women than on the crates of vegetables. Being the only client, I felt even more conspicuous than I was acting, loitering like that among the wooden crates, sending surreptitious glances, now and again, to the women behind the fig-flanked register (I selected a few pieces of fruit, there, and threw in a pot of basilic, so as to look busy).

But who can concentrate on homegrown vegetables when real French characters are in the environs? I wanted to meet these personnages, to know what they had for breakfast... and what were their dreams for tomorrow? 

But how to break the ice, or briser la glace? And then it hit me: with a word that looks a lot like "love", or "amour"... and that would be "humour": aMOUR / huMOUR!

And so I gave it my best shot, this stepping-out-of-one's-cozy-shell, using humour as the ice-breaker:

"I haven't seen you here before..." I ventured. With that, one of the women shook her head.

"I am the mother of the proprietor," the one answered.
"And I am the sister," the other offered. 

"We are taking care of the stand while my daughter is away on vacation," the mother explained. She studied me through her bifocals, concluding her examination with an inviting sourire.

I felt those familiar butterflies inside, but pushed past any apprehension. 

"Aha... yes... just as I suspected!" I said, remembering my amour/humour antidote to timidity. "Vous voyez... on m'a envoyé ici pour vous moucharder! I am a spy, you see... sent here by the vacationing proprietaire!" I informed the ladies. "I'm here to make sure that you are indeed doing your work... and I see that you are! I shall now know what to report back to the proprietor!"

Following my mock confession, the women smiled at each other, and at me, while making an animated effort to straighten up, and put on their best impression of Industrious Workers.

 "Voilà," I winked. C'est bien comme ça! Continuez! Continuez!"

With that, I collected the brown paper sacks in which the women had placed the figs and the basilique, and I was off, following quickly in the wake of my nerves, which were already back at the car, ready to go home after this latest venturing out. It seems that no matter how many times I get out, I must still encounter that stifling feeling of awkwardness, before even encountering the locals.

Reaching for the car door, I looked down and noticed a large stone. It was shaped like a great imperfect heart and, although it had no words etched onto its surface, it murmured a clear message -- the echo of which I could hear, even as I stood there: Venture out! Venture out! It whispered. Never fear! Just a bunch of us heavy hearts lying around out here, waiting to be lifted up.....

I looked back at the "hearts" over at the stand, and the women who owned them smiled back at me. Whether their spirits needed a lift, I can't be sure. Meantime, my own soul felt lighter, confirming the maxim that quand on donne on reçoit, when you give you receive.

 

Le Coin Commentaires

Comments, corrections, or stories of your own are welcome here, in the comments box. You may also add any vocabulary translations that I may have missed (in the section below). Thanks in advance!

 

French Vocabulary

la maraîchère (le maraîcher) = market gardener, one who sells produce

une oliveraie = olive grove

un aboiement = bark (dog)

une paillote = straw

la paille = straw

c'est tout en bois = it's entirely in wood

le mas = a type of house in Provence

le poulailler = henhouse

une habitude = habit

je dois venir ici plus souvent = I should come here more often

le personnage = character

briser la glace = to break the ice

la vendange = wine harvest, or grape picking

le coude = elbow

rentre! = return!

les clients fidels = faithful clients

le sourire = smile

Voilà = there you are!

C'est bien comme ça = very good like that

continuez! = continue on!

 

Thank you for visiting today's sponsors:

Provence Dreamin'? Maison des Pelerins, Sablet. A Vacation Rental Dream in the heart of the Côte du Rhone.

HOTELS IN FRANCE. Visit EasyToBook.com to find the cheapest hotels in almost all France cities.

 

DSC_0087
I didn't get a picture of the vegetable stand (in today's story), but here is a photo of a homemade-jams-and-eggs stand, to tide you over! The picture was taken a few years ago, in Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. And here is a story that takes place there! I hope you have a minute to read about my stroll there with my belle-tante. You'll see a saintly detail of our house... and read about my sharing an English expression ("He's in the dog house!") with my French aunt-in-law. Click here to read the "Niche" post, written before we moved to this vineyard.

Shopping:

Herbs de Provence - for cooking of all kinds of meat: beef, veal, pork, lamb and for all types of fish to which they contribute a zest of tatse. This mixture of Provençal herbs may be used also in sauces and for seasoning pizzas. Order here.

 France Magazine subscription

Easy French Reader
: A fun and easy new way to quickly acquire or enhance basic reading skills

In film:  Paris Je T'aime Paris I love You.

Thank you for the time you've just spent reading this French word story. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next letter, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving these posts. Your support is vivement apprécié. Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I’m a high school French teacher, and I love how your blog gives me everyday vocabulary and glimpses of French character and tradition. Your gentle expression of your faith and rare transparency of emotion inspire me."
--Melanie


rendre service

Life in Colmar (c) Kristin Espinasse

Whatever you do today, venture out just a bit... un tout petit peu... from your comfort zone. If you're not up to venturing out, then cuddle up with this book (I'm in love with it!... but I fear being let down by the ending... zut! that's the last time I'll read book reviews.) Order "The Summer of Katya" here.

rendre service (rahndr sair veese)

    : to help out

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc (check back to the blog...):

Je travaille encore pour leur rendre service. I continue to work in order to help them out. 

 

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

One cannot organize an adventure any more than one can rehearse spontaneity. 
                                                                         --Trevanian

I am hopping up and down beside a pile of clothes, hurrying to get into a pair of faded jeans. I have removed my gypsy skirt and my camisole (hand-me-overs from the Dirt Divas), never mind how exotic or "novel" they make me feel; I will not be writing this morning....

....I'm heading out to a nearby field to photograph a venerable vigneron! Now to build up some courage. The flouncy skirt and sleeveless top suddenly make me feel more bare than bold. Besides, alone out there on a country road I wouldn't want to be taken for a promiscuous poule (though it wouldn't be the first time.... In all fairness, it isn't difficult to be taken for a loosey-goosey here, in the land of love, home of Pépé Le Pew. Frenchmen! Better stop here... or the lead in to this story will mislead the reader from the wholesome histoire that follows). 

Poule or no poule, floozy or no floozy, I won't be found loitering beyond our front gate without a little maquillage. Quickly, I cover my blotchy cheeks with fond de teint and put on some rimmel.

Even with the wardrobe pause (strategically designed to buy time... for I am still doubtful about my mission) it takes no more than ten minutes from the moment my husband calls to alert me to the photo opportunity--for me to seize the occasion. En verité, my first reaction was to reject Jean-Marc's suggestion ("You know I'm very uncomfortable taking photos of people!" I objected. "Alors, tant pis. It would have been a great picture!" My husband was disappointed).

(And isn't that just his way: to pressure his wife into doing what is best for her! It works everytime and, illico presto!, I find myself grabbing my keys, my pocket camera, and hurrying out to the car before I can talk myself out of the adventure.)

I am now motoring up the country road flanked by vines and roof-bare stone cabanons. When the leafy field begins to rise up into the horizon, I begin searching for the elderly farmer. I make a concentrated effort to quit drawing up in my mind the scene that I will soon wander into. Besides, I always get it wrong and things are never as I imagine them to be (in this case, a crew of farmers pointing fingers, laughing).

When I see an old remorque parked alongside a ditch, I feel a slight soulagement. He must have driven off, leaving the equipment behind for his afternoon round. I'll catch up with him another time, I lie to myself.

Just as I am about to turn around, I glimpse a tractor heading down the leafy path to my left. Squinting my eyes I can't make out if it is the man that Jean-Marc saw earlier. Does he look ancient? No, he is younger than my husband made him out to be!

I get out of my car and cross the road beside the flower-lined ditch. Inside, the wild teasel, or cardère, is turning whisper purple this time of year. Standing there admiring the elegant flowers, I become aware of my own appearance: in jeans and a sweatshirt, my hair is tied back. I am wearing my new glasses, the ones I picked out last week, not minding the salesgirl who warned I had selected frames from the menswear display. I saw myself as the unsuspecting farmer might: and I could no longer be confused with a poule, or hussy, though I might now be mistaken for male farmhand.

Too late now the farmer has seen me and I sense that I am not unwelcome. I decide to walk up the vine row. I begin with a timid coucou/wave of the hand. I'll ask his permission for a picture and then have time to run to the end of the row and take an action photo....

Halfway up the rangée I greet the vigneron who stops his tractor, leaving the motor running. I approach, so close now that I can put my hand on the machine for balance (I am standing in the newly turned ground, the uneven earth beneath my feet).

I smile. "Je vous embête? I'm bugging you?," I question, having heard it said before by the French.
He smiles warmly, shakes his head, "Non".

"Je voulais savoir... Would you mind if I take your photo?" One hesitation of mine had been the risk of mocking the farmer. After all, what sort of novel attraction had drawn out this curious tourist to his field? He must wonder just what it is about him that makes him prey to my camera. Could it be his age? I did not want him to feel old. I decided to cut to the point.

"How old are you?"

"Quatre-Vingt cinq ans," he smiled.

"Eighty five... Shouldn't you be retired?" I smiled back, resting my arm on the tractor.

"But then what would I do? I don't play boules or cartes." The farmer's eyes became half-moons, so great was his grin.

"Do you enjoy your work?"

He shrugged his shoulders. "It's all I know...."

P1040050

"What is the hardest part about farming. Is it the Mistral?"

"Without the Mistral there would be no vines. Without the wind, there would be no way to dry the grapes and keep them from becoming diseased." Monsieur, who went by André, punctuated every thought with a smile.

I learned that the hardest part about farming is driving a tractor with limited vision (André has sight in only one eye). 

"I am very fortunate to have the other eye," he added, with another of his punctuated sourires.

"Vous êtes très positif, vous savez?" I informed him, "You are so positive, you know?"

(Smiles)

P1040046

And when I feared I was taking up too much of his time, I listened as the motor went silent. André had shut it off, and in so doing, made it clear that I was no bother.

Without all the engine racket I was free to listen to the lovely accent of the Provençal who sat in his tractor politely answering my questions. "I'm so sorry," I said, more than once, "I'm not the best interviewer! Thank you for the practice!"

I learned that the venerable vigneron quit school at 14 to work in the fields. Work at that time consisted of the same job, plowing the earth -- only back then it was horses and not tractors that were steered down the leafy vine paths.

"With the horses, it took eight passages," André explained, his hands waving up and down the vinerows. With the tractor, he only makes one run to upend the weeds.

P1040048
                      All photos taken with this handy pocket camera.

As André spoke I relished his rich Provençal accent. I had to lend my oreille on more than one occasion, signaling with my hand behind my ear, inviting him to repeat a word each time I did not grasp it. I noticed André spoke with a slight bégaiement, or stutter. And I had remarked his resemblance to another villager... That's when it hit me:

"You are not, by chance, the brother of..."

Yes, indeed, he was le frère of The Plant Whisperer! I looked back to the ditch full of wild teasel. It was thanks to the plant man that I could identify the prickly cardère. 

André shared with me that his brother was suffering in his legs, but that did not keep the younger man (at 83, he was two years André's junior) from riding that rickety old bicycle to town each day. I told him that I enjoyed a recent article in the local paper written by the unofficial doctor of plants. "Yes, he still writes on the subject," he said, championing his younger brother, who might have helped with the family vineyard--but chose to follow his own passion of botany, instead.

Each moment that passed I was aware of the risk of holding up the busy grape farmer until finally, despite his inviting nature, I let him get back to his field work.  

He was such a dear, unassuming man. I found myself inching closer and closer to the light of his pure presence. If only I had wings, I might have flown up and landed on the hub of the tractor to be nearer....

Poule indeed! It's no wonder, now, how we wandering women are sometimes mistaken by as "hens"!

                                                                  *** 

  P1040052

André says he continues to work to rendre service or "help out" his daughter and son-in-law, who now run the farm).

Le Coin Commentaires/Comments Corner

Share a story of your own, or leave a message here, in the comments box.

And check out Les Grands Bois - André's family vineyard, here in our village

 

 Related Stories

"Love in a Cage" - a special friendship with The Plant Whisperer

"The Last Peasant": about asking permission to photograph another French native -- and getting much more than a picture in return.

  P1040056-1

 Close-up of André. Forever young at 85. Is it his positive attitude? or his humble gratitude? Comment on what keeps a person young at heart.

French Vocabulary

un vigneron = wine farmer

une poule = hen (synonym, in French, for prostitute)

une histoire = story

le fond de teint = base makeup

le rimmel = mascara

alors, tant pis = well then, too bad

illico presto = right away

la remorque = trailor (to tow a tractor)

le soulagement = relief

cardère sauvage = wild teasel (see it here!)

Je vous embete! = I'm bugging you, perhaps?

le sourire = smile

une oreille = ear

 DSC_0026

Those seductive French plants! Oh so coquette in their polka-dotted casseroles!

French shopping bag I Heart Paris Shopper: made of recycled material. 1-Percent of the sale of this bag will support the conservation work of the nature conservancy. Order the I Heart Paris bag here.

Easy French Reader: A fun and easy new way to quickly acquire or enhance basic reading skills

 

Thank you for the time you've just spent reading this French word story. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next letter, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving these posts. Your support is vivement apprécié. Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I’m a high school French teacher, and I love how your blog gives me everyday vocabulary and glimpses of French character and tradition. Your gentle expression of your faith and rare transparency of emotion inspire me."
--Melanie


paysan

Le Paysan (C) Kristin Espinasse
Read about "the last peasant" -- in today's story column, then forward to a friend.

le paysan (pay ee zahn)

    : farmer, peasant

la paysanne = woman peasant
. 

 Audio File & Example SentenceDownload MP3 or Wav File

Un paysan est une personne tirant des ressources de la nature proche de son habitat. Il peut adopter ou subir une économie de subsistance. A paysan is a person who makes a living from the natural resources near his dwelling. He can adopt or suffer an economy of subsistence. -from Wikipedia

  Exercises in French Phonics Exercises in French Phonics is... 
" a great book for learning French pronunciation"
"useful and practical"
"high quality material, good value for your money" --from Amazon customer reviews. Order your copy here.

 

 A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

"The Last Peasant": Endangered People, Endangered Values

Walking through the town of Buis-les-Baronnies, I experienced what long-distance runners feel: that endorphin high that comes from steady exertion. It didn't take a marathon for the feel-good chemicals to kick in: the rush came from picking up my camera again.

Salon de The (c) Kristin Espinasse

Sabot (c) Kristin Espinasse

(see the full picture of this window, here)

Wheelbarrow (c) Kristin Espinasse

How long had it been--six months? one year?--since I set out to capture the endangered beauty of a village and the timeless character of its people?

Ah yes, its people. This last detail explains the recent bout of camera shyness from which I have suffered. I had had a few run-ins with the French -- only two, to be exact (once while photographing a pot of geraniums and once while zooming in on an old wooden shop sign. I hadn't seen the woman seated deep in a leafy courtyard, behind the potted flowers... and I hadn't seen the grand-mère in the window above the artful wooden shop sign. I didn't see them because my lens was not trained on others, but on objects. I knew better than to point my camera's objectif at a person, but I couldn't help what transpired when all my attention focused in on an object, blurring every detail around it. It wasn't until the blurry "detail" began jumping and wagging an angry finger (in the periphery of my lens!) that I noticed the angry, accidental models!

In the town of Buis, I re-experienced the drug of photography. Holding a heavy appareil photo felt so good: curling one's fingers around the body, pulling the unit up to one's eye, peering through the viewfinder... seeing life through the narrow lens helps one focus on the intricate details that are so often missed. I love the feel of my hands twisting the zoom lens... my finger pushing down on the release button. Finally, there's nothing like the sound, or déclic, of a capture! The comforting click that records Here and Now, while Father Time spins his heels beyond the lens.

Zigzagging along the streets of the mountain community, I lowered my lens each time I was eyed by a curious citoyen or shopkeeper. There was that feeling that at any moment I'd be caught. But it isn't illegal to take pictures! I reminded myself, pressing forward in my photo journey. I remained discreet, snapping pictures quickly.

Rounding a bend I ran into a living monument. That Frenchman who encompasses the past--its traditions, its romanticism... while living and breathing in the present! 

I knew I had to have a picture of this man (with his neck-scarf and beret... his débardeur and cane!), but the angry women's voices (from behind the geranium pot and, again, from above the wooden sign) came back to haunt me, "Pas de photo! PAS DE PHOTO!"

I stalled at the corner, eyeing le monsieur. He was as charming as any potted geranium, with as much character as any chipped and peeling shop sign. I would have traded any photo in my camera's archive -- all of them!... pour lui....

I thought about stealing away with his photo! I could do the ol' "snap-n-run" technique... or the "pretend to be photographing the horizon" scheme (only to zoom in on the subject). But I did not have the energy for deceit, and so I quit plotting. 

I began to turn on my heels, when something inside said: Just ask his permission, Dummy! And, fast as that, I beelined it over to the bench!

"Pardonnez-moi, Monsieur.... Would you mind if I took your photo?" And then, not wanting him to feel like the object of some elder scam, I introduced myself. "I live nearby... I am just on my way home from the horse camp, where I left my daughter for the week".

The man recognized the name of the centre équestre and, voilà, we had a contact in common. I told Monsieur that I loved to take photos of France, especially because it is changing so quickly. "Sometimes," I explained, "I return to a village, only to find fresh paint over a perfectly charming publicité -- the old painted advertisement gone forever."

Monsieur shook his head. "Everything's changing." With these words, he introduced himself: "Je suis le dernier paysan".

"I am the last peasant." His words struck me as I sat listening to his story. In the old days, he walked eight kilometers to the field and back. Work, as a child, consisted of harvesting gladiolas, "un travail d'esclave"...  As a teenager, he would work in the olive orchards, in the verger (picking abricots), and he would harvest grapes ("pour la maison").

His brothers and his sisters worked just as hard, lest his mother remind them of their standing. "Elle ne nous a pas gardés pour notre haleine!" he explained.

"She didn't keep you for your breath"? I had never heard such an expression but it didn't take a dictionary of idioms to understand the harsh reality behind it: the mother had mouths to feed! All members of the household were required to be industrious. She wasn't keeping the kids "for their breath", or for her amusement. She had work to do!

I thanked Monsieur for his story and for his photo. It was time to move on (besides, I noticed a shopkeeper, up the way, who seemed to have a protective eye on the venerable villager). I didn't want to cause anyone concern. And so our conversation came to a close.

But Monsieur seemed so alone... I wished I would have asked him what became of his siblings, the ones that worked as hard as he did as a child. I only learned that, after he retired, rest would not be his reward. He left the fields to begin caring for his mother. "It is the hardest job of all to take care of another," Monsieur admitted. His words had me thinking about the old Eastern values concerning caring for our parents. A friend once reminded me:

We care for our parents until they cannot walk anymore, at which point we carry them over our shoulder. We don't question it. More than our duty it is our honor to care for the elderly.


But the mental and physical testing of our strength often blurs our vision and our very values. Monsieur and I sat side by side in the silence, lost in thought. Only a deep, long sigh reminded me of Monsieur's presence.

I thought about the sad irony. Monsieur's mother did not have the luxury of keeping her son "for his breath". But he did keep her... until her very last.

*** 

  DSC_0116

Post note: I was surprised that Monsieur called himself a "paysan" as I have heard that the term can be pejorative. Not only did Monsieur refer to himself as a paysan, but he said, more than once, will all sincerity, that he was no more than "un petit paysan".

Le Coin Commentaires

Comment on this edition or answer the following question: What are some endangered things that you'll regret one day no longer seeing (in architecture... in local characters... wildlife? Endangered traditions or valtues?) Click here to leave a comment.


Related stories:

"Tricoter" (To Knit): Meet the woman who was keeping a protective eye on "the last peasant". Click here to read or review the story and to see the photos.

Capture plein écran 22072011 104134
An an all-time favorite book--one I highly recommend! I hope you'll order a copy of The Life of a Simple Man and enjoy it this summer! Click here to read the reviews

 

Thank you for visiting our sponsors!

LES PORTES TORDUES (The Twisted Doors): The Scariest Way in the World to Learn and Listen to French! Check it out (if you dare). 

 

French Vocabulary

la grand-mère = grandmother

un objectif = camera lens

un appareil photo = camera

le déclic = click

le citoyen (la citoyenne) = citizen

le débardeur = sleeveless T-shirt, tank top (sometimes called "un Marcel")

pour lui = for him

le centre équestre = riding school

le verger = orchard

un travail = work

esclave (m/f) = slave

l'abricot (m) = apricot


Trenet One way I learned French was by listening to the classics (check out songs by Charles Trenet). Or you might prefer something more modern, like  Tour de Charme by Patricia Kaas

 

DSC_0165
 I Heart French mailboxes... and French Script! Photo taken in Buis-les-Baronnies. Never miss a picture, sign up yourself--or a friend--for the free emailed version of French Word-A-Day.

 

Thank you for the time you've just spent reading this French word story. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next letter, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving these posts. Your support is vivement apprécié. Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I’m a high school French teacher, and I love how your blog gives me everyday vocabulary and glimpses of French character and tradition. Your gentle expression of your faith and rare transparency of emotion inspire me."
--Melanie