Friday, February 27, 2009
Today's story continues from Châteauneuf-du-Pape ("New Castle of the Pope"), the ruins are pictured here.
Bestselling books on/about France:
1. The Ultimate French Verb Review and Practice
2. Buying a Piece of Paris: A Memoir
3. Exercises in French Phonics
en-tête (on-tet) noun, masculine
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Cet en-tête évoque à coup sûr pour les connaisseurs les fameuses "Lettres de Mon Moulin" d'Alphonse DAUDET. (see the translation in paragraph 1, line 2, below).
Letters from my Terrace
by Marie-Françoise Vidal
Isn't it a bit presumptuous to choose this title for the little series of articles that I promised myself to write from my Provençal village? This column title definitely calls to mind, for those connoisseurs, the famous "Lettres de mon moulin" by Alphonse Daudet. He wrote the charming pages for his Parisian friends, after making himself at home in an authentic Provençal mill near Les Baux-de-Provence.
More modestly, of course, I would like to share what I observe from my little terrace. It is a balcony from a village home that is nothing like a classic terrace overlooking a garden. No! It's just a little observation post, nested in between houses terraced beneath the ruins of our (village's) medieval château. I go and sit there during the good season, from April to September and provided that the tempestuous Mistral isn't blowing.
My terrace is, at most, 10 square meters and opens onto a landscape that enchants me. In the foreground, the old, irregular rooftops of houses that we overlook, pile up one over the other. Then, the view overflows... rising up to the hills that are covered with vines. Finally, in the background, a long musical line designs itself, making up the asymmetric curbs of Mont Ventoux. These three visual strips each have their own graphism and color. That (strip) which designs the rooftops is like a rug of uneven clay tiles, clear, and accentuated by a few chimneys. That which designs the vines offers geometric lines of parallel vineyard rows, which follow the curves of the field. It is a faux checkerboard effect, now austere and scrubbed in winter, green in summer, then blazing red in autumn. The last relief strip, far away, always colors itself with a note of blue or mauve. The mineral scales, of the Dentelles de Montmirail, and the ever white summit of our "Giant of Provence" add light to the ensemble.
Facing this landscape, I am facing east; therefore, it is the occasion to take part in the sunrise and also the full moon. The show moves from left to right then in the other direction at every solstice, permitting me to witness the ballet of the seasons.
From my terrace, therefore, I hang over my neighborhood. It is an old (in our home a beam is engraved "1311") and modest quarter in our village. The residents are, for the most part, descended from old families owning small amounts of land, the newcomers are agricultural workers and, recently, young couples have moved in, fleeing the city.
The population of this neighborhood changes inexorably, therefore, with the departure of the "ancients". I hardly ever hear the patois that is the Provençale language, tinged with local character.
Village life follows the general evolution of the customs and habits of life: each his work, his hours, his car, his sports, his leisure... which changes the social interaction, leaving, of course, the good times of village community but nothing that can equal what I knew when I came to move here, as a young married woman, in 1968.
From my perch the stones talk to me, for they keep the memories. Thinking about my village, I see it again as it was with its slowness, its security; there's that feeling of oneness that I have with it, that feeling of being in a big family.
So there you are, the stage has now been set. I'll meet you here again, and we'll share these memories, little anecdotes or other little modern-day narratives.
Tante Marie-Françoise works as a speech therapist (orthophoniste) and enjoys helping children who have special needs.
Note: The original French version of this story is posted here. Enjoy it! Meantime, thanks for saying "bonjour" to Marie-Françoise in the comments box. I know she will enjoy "meeting" you! She'll be back in a week or so with a very funny story called ("La Routine").
PS: Re today's translation (by me...): beg to differ? Honey, you don't even have to beg (I believe you!). Just add your own translation to one or more of the beautifully poetic lines written by my French aunt. Thanks for using the comments box, so that all might enjoy the update. (...and thanks for your help!)
French Word-A-Day archives:
Care to read some more stories? Here's a bilingual column from my son, written 5 years ago...
End photo: "Birds of a French Feather". Read the message, below.
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety