Haphazardly in French + Serendipitous Meeting with a Stranger, Part 1

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Today's Phrase: au petit bonheur

    : haphazardly, randomly

Le bonheur, c'est de continuer à désirer ce qu'on possède. -Saint Augustin
Happiness is wanting what you already have.

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January book-a-thon. Your purchase supports my writing and helps new readers find their way here. Merci! Available in ebook/Kindle or paperback.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

It was serendipity. How else to explain Saturday's meeting with un inconnu?...It was, as Madame said, not par hasard the way we ended up walking, one in front of the other on a cobblestone path at the same point in time....

Time! One minute more, one minute less and we'd never have met. Earlier at home, on our way to the car, Mom had said, Do you have any Kleenex? No? I'll go back and get some. Pockets stuffed with mouchoirs, and in town now, we were stalled another 5 minutes admiring the giant seed pods on a tree we could not name. Lolling about we approached le centre ville on our way to the art supply store, when a gothic church caught my eye. Let's go look! 
 
To think all of these accidental adjustments in our schedule were not accidents, but were serving to line us up at an exact point on a geographical line of happenstance. There we were, meandering down a narrow street when Mom paused, colliding with the stranger behind her... 

Oh, pardon, Madame! Mom said. Apologizing, she motioned toward the historical buildings surrounding us. 

Ah, oui! C'est magnifique, Madame smiled. At this point she might have nodded and walked off. But she stayed...

Je suis
d'ici... she offered, her raspberry red lipstick drawing us in to such glamour: silver-white hair (I don't have a lot of it, she insisted) in a lovely twist, held up with a barrette. She wore wool pants, a jazzy, printed vest, black boots (they are hand-sewn, I got them at the farmers market!) a long foulard wrapped around her neck and big dark glasses.  She reminded me of one of those characters in Advanced Style.

Mom could not help herself: Look at you! You are so beautiful! The three of us huddled closer, and a conversation ranging from hair loss to the horrors of war ensued.  

(Stranger to Mom): Ah, you were born in '46, and I in '44--when bombs were falling over France. They placed my 4 siblings in various homes, but I was still nursing. The soldiers did not believe it so they squeezed my mother's enormous... (here Madame held out her cupped hands for effect...). To this day I am a skinny little thing, Madame concluded. When the Mistral blows through town it carries me away! But I'm out today... no wind! 

Mom was getting cold feet--not from the war story--no, it was the frozen cobblestones beneath her Converse hightops that were making her antsy. But before we moved on, Jules really wanted a photo of Madame ...
 
Je ne suis pas photogenic....Madame insisted--only to jump into my outstretched arm! Locking elbows, I marveled at the natural affection coursing through our hearts. Ce n'est pas par hasard...Madame repeated, as she looked up and flashed that heavenly smile.
 
PART TWO coming up next...
 
*    *    *
 
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The photo in the opening of this post, and this one, are from Beth. I have personally experienced her hospitality during one of her organized trips in Provence. Do check it out, it may be just the adventure you are looking for in 2019! 

FRENCH VOCABULARY
le bonheur = happiness
un inconnu = stranger
par hasard = by accident
le mouchoir (en papier) = tissue, Kleenex
le centre ville = town center
le foulard = scarf, neckerchief
Kristi jules max in kitchen
Recent Instagram post: Three generations, with my Mom, Jules, and my son, Max.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue doing what I love most: sharing vocabulary and cultural insights via these personal stories from France. Your contribution is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
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"Bonjour, Kristin, I have enjoyed your blog now for a great number of years, watching your children grow up, your moves from house to house, enjoying your stories and photos and your development as a writer. It's way past time for me to say MERCI with a donation to your blog...which I've done today. Bien amicalement!"--Gabrielle

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Tabouret, fouet, penderie, bonnes idées - and a glimpse into the writing life

Tabouret de bar bar stool
It is not enough to have good ideas, you have to act. If you need milk, do not sit on a stool in the middle of a field in the hope that a cow will pass by. -Curtis Grant (don't miss the French translation below)

Today's word: un tabouret

    : stool, footstool

un tabouret de bar = bar stool
un tabouret de cuisine = kitchen stool
un tabouret de piano = piano bench

Il ne suffit pas d'avoir de bonnes idées, il faut agir. Si vous avez besoin de lait, ne vous installez pas sur un tabouret au milieu d'un champs dans l'espoir qu'une vache y passe.

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Hemingway's Paris: A Writer's City in Words and Images. Order it here.

My backpack sac a dosA DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
by Kristi Espinasse

The following paragraph was posted with the picture above at  Instagram....

A bar stool with a lot of memories and, sur son dos, a backpack with a lot of souvenirs. It is comforting to have familiar things out. I wore that sac à dos on the plane, in '92, when I moved to France. It somehow got shoved in the back of the closet. Lately, now that I keep it on the chair by the kitchen, I've been taking it out with me, using it for shopping. Today it brought good luck via a touching and meaningful encounter with a stranger. I think that meeting must've swept all the energy out of me (in a good way) and I'm afraid I'll be lazy and not sit down and write about it all. At times like this is good to rest, let the doubts pass, and then exercise a bit of violence with yourself (French for "give yourself a kick in the butt"!). We all need a handy whip when it comes to realizing our dreams....

 

FRENCH VOCABULARY
sur son dos = on it's back
le sac à dos = backpack
un souvenir = memory

REVERSE DICTIONARY
closet = la penderie
to go shopping = faire les courses
lazy = parasseux (euse)
stranger = un inconnu
whip = un fouet


My writing space
This is my writing desk. My computer and paperwork is hidden under that scarf--because this is also my bedroom and in order to sleep I don't want to be thinking about work. Yet, I think about work all the time. Because writing this blog is my life.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue doing what I love most: sharing vocabulary and cultural insights via these personal stories from France. Your contribution is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
♥ Send $10    
♥ Send $25    
♥Send the amount of your choice

"Bonjour, Kristin, I have enjoyed your blog now for a great number of years, watching your children grow up, your moves from house to house, enjoying your stories and photos and your development as a writer. It's way past time for me to say MERCI with a donation to your blog...which I've done today. Bien amicalement!"--Gabrielle

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Cussing, swear word: You've heard of gros mot, but what's a juron?

Park in la ciotat provence France
Today's crime story (or tale of your choice...) takes place here, at our local park in La Ciotat....

French Word of the Day: un juron

    : swearword, curse word, cuss

lâcher des jurons = to use strong language
un chapelet de jurons = a string of expletives

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U.S. Taxes for Worldly Americans--A fascinating topic if you're an expat or wish to become one. Click here for additional info i.e. ever heard about the unlucky Accidental American? Find out more in the book!)

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Often, all it takes to come up with a story is one good line. Take, for example, the following snippet overheard at the park earlier today: 

Allez les enfants. Plus de gros mots. Je filme pour votre maman.

Let me translate that one for you: Come on, kids, no more cussing. I'm filming for your mom! With a gem like this--spoken by a camera-wielding grand-mère to two little tikes on bikes--you could pen an essay about public vs. private personas. But who wants to get all philosophical at this time of the day (it's evening now, and I've got to put my hens to bed).

Then again, with a bit of one-sided dialogue like the above, a short piece could be written about cussing in France, specifically, all the little gosses who do it. You do hear the terms merde and putain issuing right out of the mouths of babes! If you don't believe me, spend a day at the beach, sit beside some stressed-out sand-castle engineers. Or go to the city park, right before l'heure de goûter when everyone's as edgy as a Parisian waiter. But back to badmouthed kids...

Allez les enfants. Plus de gros mots. Je filme pour votre maman...

Squeezing that line like an orange
, you could eke out an article on grandparents who care for their grandchildren (I see so many at the park on Wednesdays). But this is a French word journal, not a bilingual abstract in Droit et Société. Besides, it would require research and, well, it's time to think about dinner.

One thing's sure, in literature...the need for a jumping off point! The aforementioned snippet, or bribe, could serve in an argumentative piece about how the French are more sloppy than you think they are (conversely we get etiquette from them... From the Online Etymology Dictionary:

etiquette (n.) 1750, from French étiquette "prescribed behavior," from Old French estiquette "label, ticket"

Oh well, we don't want to label anybody (least of which a let-rules-slide septuagénaire!). All we want to do today is marvel, for a moment, at so many possibilities in writing and in life and, especially, to take note of one grandmother's gusto as she lovingly, creatively goes with the flow....

 
FRENCH VOCABULARY
l'enfant = child
le gros mot = swear word
la maman = mom, mommy
la grand-mère = grandmother
la/la gosse =kid
merde = sh....
putain = f...
bribe = snippet
l'heure de goûter = snack time
septuagénaire = person in their seventies, septuagenarian
Locals say la Ciotat is where petanque or boules began
You're likely to hear some colorful jurons at a pétanque tournament...and they're not saying saperlipopette!

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue doing what I love most: sharing vocabulary and cultural insights via these personal stories from France. Your contribution is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
♥ Send $10    
♥ Send $25    
♥Send the amount of your choice

"Bonjour, Kristin, I have enjoyed your blog now for a great number of years, watching your children grow up, your moves from house to house, enjoying your stories and photos and your development as a writer. It's way past time for me to say MERCI with a donation to your blog...which I've done today. Bien amicalement!"--Gabrielle

NEWSLETTER SIGN-UP: Has a friend forwarded you this post? Receive your own free subscription to French Word-A-Day. Click here