Feuilleton: Meeting Monsieur Farjon "The Plant Whisperer"

Monsieur Farjon (hand in the air, ever ready to participate in "plant talk". Notice what the other man is holding: a gift from Monsieur? More in today's column).

"Feuilletons et Frères"

"Oh, wasn't that sweet!" I say to my daughter after her brother called from summer camp, anxious to talk to her. "He misses you!"
"No," Jackie insists. "He just wanted to know what happened next on "Plus Belle La Vie" after Monday night's cliffhanger!

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Plus Belle La Vie is a French soap opera that is all the rage around here (it takes place in my son's birthplace, Marseilles). Today, learn the French word "feuilleton", and follow a less dramatic "soap" (feuillotte? savonette?) in today's column.

feuilleton (fuhy-tohn) noun, masculine
    : serial (program), soap opera

Listen to the French word feuilleton and to today's quote, below. Download feuilleton.mp3 . Download feuilleton.wav

Les feuilletons doivent être lus par petits bouts, aux cabinets.
Serials should be read little by little, in the loo.
--Jules Renard

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This is no feuilleton,* in the modern sense of the word, but a story about a folkloric friendship: ours (his and mine).

Only, I don't know exactly where to begin... that is, with him. I should tell you how we first met: how my car careened off the side of a road and screeched to a stop, before its driver scrambled across two lanes to reach the unknown man that looked like a gardener (spotted working in his potager*). As it was, I had a question for him, an inquiry about a flower called "valerian". Tugging on that trademark wool cap, "Bonjour, Madame," he released his grip from a beat-up brouette.* Monsieur looked like someone that knew flowers... What an understatement!: for there, before me, stood a veritable plant savant.

I might tell you about the first time I ever saw him.... at the Saturday farmers' market, where I spied him from my cachette* (behind the salad stand salt-and-peppered with roquette). I admit to having profited from this leafy vantage point, where, camouflaged by the mixed greens, I secretly snapped Monsieur's picture as he stood beside his bicentennial bike.

When we were still strangers, I noticed him once or twice at the supermarket, his old-fashioned aura already entrancing me. I watched as he ordered dinner for one: a meager tranche de jambon,* and I looked the other way when he added the lonely item to an empty basket, my own cart posed to feed a family of four.

Skipping back and forth in our history, I'll mention that after the grocery-store meet, I had the pleasure of running into him again and again on the street. "Bonjour, Monsieur Farjon!" I sang. "Bonjour Madame," he answered (I did have to remind Monsieur that it was I, the flower girl, that had run my car off the road... before running up to him on a whim).

I've already told you about how he showed up at my book stand, botanical cuttings in hand. But I didn't mention how I took his gift to heart, as a mother does a newborn, how I felt certain that all those "baby" boutures* would hold a place, somewhere, in my future.

And though I have only ever received flowering "weeds" from the little ones closest to me (my children, who gather them from the Provençal prairie), I had yet to receive wildflowers from a man on the eve of eighty.

le feuilleton (m) = soap opera; la brouette (f) = wheelbarrow; la cachette (f) = hiding place; le potager (m) = kitchen, vegetable garden; une tranche (f) de jambon = slice of ham; la bouture (f) = cutting (plant)

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