prise de bec


Salt marsh
Le marais salant: salt marsh in the Camargue.

chômer (sho-may) verb
    : to lie idle; to be idle, inactive
    : to be unemployed, out of work

[from the Latin "caumare": "to rest during the heat"]

Listen to the French definition* of chômer (that's my daughter speaking): 
"Célébrer une fête par le repos, en ne travaillant pas."
(To celebrate an occasion by rest, by not working.)

* Download chomer.wav. Download chomer.mp3

Below a Mediterranean sky emblazoned with a rainbow of kites... there in the turquoise sea, beneath the swooping cerfs-volants,* a half-kilometer out from the coastline (or so it seemed, for it took a thousand steps before the water hit waist-level), je flottais.*

Now and then I glanced back to the shoreline, where my extended French family salt-and-peppered the sandy beach: the aunts collected pretty jackknife clams or "couteaux," the cousins worked on their tans, the uncles played pétanque,* and the kids ran circles around the portable picnic tables, which were lopsided from the weight of French gastronomy: there were fresh-baked olive cakes, home-grown canary melons, grilled sardines, chocolate cake, et encore!*

At a safe distance from the kitesurfers and floating peacefully, I thought about our gathering. Hadn't we all returned from vacation last week--so why were we taking another day off work? Just what public holiday was this one? I wondered, too embarrassed to ask. What did August 21st represent? Surely some historical event in French history took place on this day. Or maybe we are commemorating something saintly? Then again, does Grandmother's Day exist in France ("La Fête de Mémé" perhaps)?

Reaching our destination was an event in itself: we had driven past several rice factories, a few salt museums, a field of lethargic Camargue bulls, rambling rice pastures, plenty of pampas grass, hot-dog shaped "cattails" and those knobby-kneed and long-legged flamants roses*... before reaching this, the tipping point of the continent (all those home-baked goods piled high on one French picnic table).

Retracing that same scenic path on the way home last night, fed, full, and facing another workday, I asked my brother-in-law, Jacques, just what public holiday we had been so patriotically observing.

"Ce n'était pas un jour férié,"* Jacques answered, and I noticed his guilty grin.
"I managed to get off work," he added, as if an explanation was needed. Well, it looked like the rest of our French clan, all thirtysomething of us, had "managed" the same.

Comment on today's post, translate the French word for chômer into another language... or share your own language savoir-faire, here.

le cerf-volant
(m) = kite;  je flottais = I floated; la pétanque (f) = a popular French game played with metal balls a.k.a. "boules"; et encore = and more; le flamant (m) rose = pink flamingo; ce n'était pas un jour férié = it wasn't a public holiday

Vacances Provence & The Cote D'Azur: Including The Camargue: The French on France

Related Words and expressions:
le chomage = unemployment, joblessness
une période de chômage = layoff
l'allocation de chômage = dole, unemployment compensation
chômable = non-working
un jour chômé = public holiday
un chômeur = unemployed worker
les chômeurs = the unemployed


Ultimate French Beginner-Intermediate (CD/Book) 
Fleur De Sel De Camargue French Sea Salt
Red Camargue rice - a.k.a "riz rouge"
Horses of the Camargue
Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language...

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