Seaside in La Ciotat + learn a dozen useful words (and hear some drunk French) in today's edition

La Ciotat beach
Let's jump right into today's narrative and improve our French! The audio and vocabulary list follow...

When I am old and wrinkled—well into the troisième âge—I want to race along the shores of Brittany on my Mobylette, that most groovy of French bikes with an engine!

I want to be an eccentric vieille dame. I don't want to care about what anyone thinks, as long as I am not imposing myself on their philosophie de vie. I'll ride my old bike along the seashore. I'll wear black goggles and wrap a long wool scarf, in orange potiron, around my neck. Off I'll fly, scarf ends flowing in the wind.

I'll let go of the pedals, WHEEEEEEEEE...! and sing a song by Yves Montand—or a tune from Les Misérables—depending on my mood.

I'll pack a picnic with all my favoris. Inside the panier there'll be boiled eggs, anchoïade, Gratin Dauphinois, pungent cheese, a soft baguette, and a flask of Earl Grey. There'll be tangerines to eat and a few squares of dark chocolate.

I'll gather delicate coquilles from the foamy seashore and tie them to my shoes. You'll hear the jingle of seashells when I pedal by.

My voice will be agreeably hoarse, not from les Gauloises or le vin but from whistling all the day long—a habit I'll have picked up at the beginning of the century when a certain Frenchwoman cautioned: "Les femmes ne sifflent pas! Women don't whistle!" That's when I puckered up and blew another tune... and another... and then one more!

I hope to have a dear old friend, one who is much more excentrique than I. She'll dye her white hair rouge vif or aubergine. We'll tchatche about the current generation and how people need to loosen up and 'profiter un peu de la vie,' enjoy life a little, like us.

I'll say, "Pépé—les oursins!" and my old man will return from the rocky pier where he has spent the morning hunting sea urchins. When he cracks open their coquilles, revealing the mousse-like orange roe, I will remember that real treasures don't come with a price tag.

I want to live near the seagulls so that I may slumber beneath their cries and wake up to the whoosh of the sea. I'll push myself to a stand, smooth back my white locks, adjust a faux tortoiseshell comb, and say "Dieu merci!" for another day.

Before I tuck myself into bed at night I will, once again, empty mes coquilles into an old metal cookie tin, a treasure from long ago. Looking over to my seashells, I will give thanks: my cherished, tired tin runneth over.


Kristi and SmokeyThe interesting thing behind today's story, written in 2006, is how the various details have almost all come true! While we do not live in Brittany, we do live near the beach, where my husband enjoys catching sea urchins. Missing from this story is my dog (born 6 years after I wrote the piece). I could not have imagined the joy Smokey would bring!

Click here to listen to all the vocabulary below

le troisième âge = retirement
Mobylette = a particular model of moped, a vintage Mobylette
une vieille dame = a venerable lady
une philosophie (f) de vie = a life philosophy
orange potiron = pumpkin orange
favori(te) = favorite
un panier = a basket
l'anchoïade (m) = anchovy purée mixed with olive oil
un Gratin Dauphinois = a potato casserole with milk, butter and cheese
une coquille = a shell
la Gauloise = brand of cigarettes
le vin = wine
excentrique = eccentric
rouge vif = bright red
aubergine = eggplant purple
tchatcher = to chat (away)
le pépé = grandpa
un oursin = a sea urchin
Dieu merci = Thank God

Now for some "Drunk French"-just for fun, see the video below (click on the image or the arrow, center, to view it. Turn up the volumn).

Walking in the sea in winter wetsuitCan you see the locals braving these icy waters? Wearing wetsuits they walk through the sea daily.

Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.

To Cope in French + Waking up in France to an attempted coup d'état back home

Coastline in la ciotatAs upsetting as it is to wake up to news of an insurrection, most concerning is the effect it could have on our personal relationships. That is, at least, the biggest thing on my mind this morning. The following thoughts began as a pep talk to myself. 

Firstly, hang in there! Tenir bon = tenir le coup
What if the antidote to un coup is to tenir le coup? Such is the definition for tenir bon: to endure, withstand, weather the storm, stay the course. To tenir bon means simply to cope. Nous devons tenir bon!

Tears flowing, a fast-growing knot in the throat, sudden sadness/despair...followed by anger. Did you have a similar reaction when you watched a mob storming our capitol several hours ago? Here again are two words that may help during destabilizing or upsetting times: Tenez bon!

Weather The Storm
The worst possible outcome of this political storming is its power to divide us. No matter which side you are on you won’t be able to win over the other, already entrenched in his or her beliefs. So what can you do? Until you find a peaceful answer, tenez bon! Weather the storm in love and dignity.

I leave you with a cheerful photo taken last Sunday. The dog's tilted head speaks volumes. Tell me what he is saying in the comments.


Dog in front of barber
Both photos in today's edition were taken here in La Ciotat. Please share this blog with someone who loves France. Merci d'avance!

Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.

Rendre l'Ame: My Laptop Died + Christmas lights in the Old Port of La Ciotat

Christmas lights wooden boat pointu
Read to the end of the story for a helpful relationship tip ♥.

Today's Word: rendre l'âme

    1. to breathe one's last breath (person)
    2. to stop working forever, to give up the ghost (object)

Click here to listen to the following sentence in French
Mon ordinateur portable HP a soudainement rendu l'âme.
My laptop suddenly gave up the ghost.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

My computer died the day after Christmas. Thankfully I had finished composing my blog post, and as the next billet was due in a week, I could remain (somewhat) calm in time to trouver une solution!

Mais tout d'abord, why had my laptop suddenly gone kaput? Had the foot of my chair crushed the cord? Had the grid finally shut down (a government-issued "blackout" as rumored by les complotistes... It sure began to seem so when a day later my iPad a rendu l'âme! Rest assured, I am not a conspiracy theorist (not unless, as someone once said, there is a conspiracy!)

Thinking it over, I recalled a string of unusual activity beginning when my husband bought me the HP (this, after my PC died). The new laptop never did work properly. After several glitches, I began to suspect there was some sort of magouille behind it all. Had the revendeur sold us the computer equivalent of a lemon?

To begin with, the laptop took at least  20 minutes to start up. Early on, I had to work around this issue. I'd fire up the machine in the morning, then go downstairs and pull some weeds, feed the chickens, make some tea and hopefully return to a ready screen. By then any writing I had composed in my head was lost. To say this loss was not unpainful is, to put it frenchly, une litote!

(une litote = an understatement)

In the next two years, as I updated my blog, typed up our memoir, and wrote articles for a bi-monthly magazine...the clavier began to disfunction, making it more and more "challenging" (litote! litote!) to write.    

--les guillemets ont laché (the quotes key no longer worked)
--pareille pour l'arobase (same for the @ symbol)
--et le pavé tactile ne marchait plus (and the touchpad stopped working). I resorted, instead, to a very old souris. At least it worked!

Then, this past week the numbers pad began to act up, and a few chiffres were now unavailable. Just as for the quote key and the arobase, in order to write (especially dialogue, which called for quotes) I had to copy and paste certain characters from another document, which entailed googling the letter or number, (i.e. writing the words "italics" or "arobase") and then manually transferring (copy-paste) the needed character. I also memorized several Alt combinations that would produce the needed punctuation (again, the most often needed were those " " and @, or Alt 34 , Alt64).  Imagine working this way! All the while trying to focus on the story you are trying to write. What is the definition of insanity?:

La folie, c'est de faire toujours la même chose et de s'attendre à un résultat différent. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. --Albert Einstein

I did try to solve the problem, spending time in online forums or googling "mes guillemets ne fonctionnent plus!" But none of the tips to recover the keys worked for me or my (contreband?) HP. After periodic efforts to solve the issue, I gave up, and because I am a pathetic fencesitter and will suffer obstacles rather than remove them, it took a complete computer breakdown to resolve this worsening situation.

As bad as it was to have a laptop gone kaput, it forced a change of circumstances. 

It was time to find a new ordinateur portable but just which one? L'embarras du choix! There began two days of torture for me and for my husband. Jean-Marc tried to help and in no time at all had narrowed things down to a Huawei Matebook d15, but I had my doubts as to how he came to this ultra-rapid decision. Price? The fact I could use my Paypal to purchase it? or did he simply choose the first thing he found?!!!

When I accused him of this much, let's just say he didn't take it well (litote! litote! litote!)!

It really wasn't fair to expect him to help me only to criticize his help (we've run into this issue before in our 26-year marriage: If left to do so, my husband is willing to make choices for me--where to eat, where to vacation, what color to paint the bathroom) as long as I do not complain about those choices! I finally understand his side, now that I am in a similar situation with another family member. Just like Jean-Marc, I find myself reminding my loved one:

I will help, but don't complain about my choices for you if you won't make your own! 

It was time to make my own choices. So why the resistance? Why not get a MacBook?! After all, writing has been my full-time job for 18 years. (Why the need to justify?) A high-end computer was certainly justifiable--as it was the main investment needed for my business. Now, on the other hand, looking at my husband's business...his beloved wine seemed he needed thousands of items and art on his walls!

Tu fais comme tu veux! my husband reminded me. You do as you want (and leave me to do what I want!)  

So, after a short-lived fight, the two of us swallowed our pride and went to DARTY--France's popular electronics store. As complicated as I could make this computer-choosing quest, and in desperation to get back to work ASAP, I pared things all the way down to the essential. I needed:

--un bon clavier (a good keyboard)
--un grand écran (a large screen)
--quelque chose performant et fluide (something efficient and rapid)
...or whatever was in stock! 

And we had 19.5 minutes in which to choose if I was to take my husband up on his offer to shop with me! (He needed to be at work by 10.) I walked out with a Lenovo ideapad L340, a laptop that may be better suited for video gamers, but the salesman assured me, c'est vite! Hopefully it would be quick enough to catch the Muse, or Inspiration, before she flew off once again!

Later, when I got home, my son pointed out the bright electric blue backlighting beneath the keyboard... Oh well, the fluorescent lumière adds a bit of disco to my writing routine. And my fingers have certainly danced across this keyboard while writing today's missive. Yippee, and thanks to my husband or I might still be on the fence instead of back in the saddle.

As for "what is the best computer for a writer journalist novelist" (a phrase I typed into google several times during my laptop search), let me give you the answer from my personal experience: the best computer is the one you use, whether or not all of the keys work! 

In the comments, I would love to know what computer you use and if you would recommend it. Also, have you made the transition to a MacBook and was the learning curve ok? I see Google has come out with a laptop, any thoughts? What about Dell? Finally, do you have those special computer glasses? Because, even with this big screen, my eyes are blurring. See any mistakes in this post? I thank you for your edits.

rendre l'âme = to give up the ghost, to die
le billet = column, blog post, missive
trouver une solution = to find a solution
mais tout d'abord = but first off
un complotiste = conspiracy theorist
la magouille = scheming
le revendeur = reseller
une litote = understatement
la souris = computer mouse
le chiffre = number
lâcher =  give up
les guillemets = quotes, quotation marks
l'embarras du choix = so many choices
My new computer le vin sobre
From Darty, I headed to Le Vin Sobre, Jean-Marc's wine shop, where he offered to help me set up my new laptop. Notice those disco keys on the clavier! (Also, that's one of Mom's paintings in the background)

Christmas wooden  boat pointu
That evening, computer problems now behind us, we had a relaxing and romantic stroll at the Old Port here in La Ciotat. 

City lights christmas la ciotat port
All's well that ends well. Tout est bien qui finit bien.

Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.