bon sang


all photos © Kristin Espinasse

Bonjour from the internet cafe here in Sainte Cécile-Les-Vignes. Too bad it takes a small catastrophe to drive one outdoors and into the neighborly streets... The good news is I've met two new friends, Carole and Abdallah (here at the tourist office); many thanks to these two for allowing me to use the web facilities! More about the Where, When, and Why of our recent (electrical) catastophe, "Le BIG FRY," in today's story column.

cramer (krah-may) verb

    : to burn down; to go up in flames/smoke

Expression: Ça crame! = It's roasting!

"Le Big Fry"

The French word cramer does not mean "to study intensively for an exam" -- although one could argue that "to cram" is to be put to the TEST. And, it should be pointed out that the French verb cramer is used informally... never mind any formal apologies from EDF (the French electric company). Also, though cramer is the opposite of keeping cool, keep cool one must when the power and the appliances go bust!


Cramer is to burn... as in our family computer that went bust after a power burst.

Cramer is to go up in smoke, as in our telephones--all three--this, following an electric spree!

Cramer = kaput, as in my brother-in-law's coffee machine, yet one more victim of excess power turned "steam"!

Cramer is to go up in flames... as in all of those candles, quickly scavenged and lit, in time to see one's dinner sandwich (no more stove top on which to cook!).  

Cramer is not to cry, but to remain cool while, one by one, all those modern day appliances twist, spit, and drool: up to you, now, to get by with the most basic tools (candlelight and one's own might).

Update: After our recent power SURGE! (I guess that's what you'd call it) and shut down, the electricity has returned to the farm! So much for the good news. Meantime, I'll be doing some home inventory for all that's been cuit, cooked, and cramé (including the computer modem... For this reason, delivery of the "thrice-weekly" French Word-A-Day newsletter... may be sketchy). Thank you for using the comments box (click here) to respond to this post or to share a story of your own.


Chasing Matisse: A Year in France Living My Dream

I'll Never Be French (no matter what I do): Living in a Small Village in Brittany

In French music: Serge Lama

Songs in French for Children including Alouette, Sur le Pont d'Avignon, Claire Fontaine, Prom'non Nous dans les Bois...

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It is good to hear from you Kristin, as you can see from my last post...good luck w/sorting out the electronic puzzle. Je te pense, avec ma coeur. (I know the French would say it differently! but I am on a deadline and can't "look it up" today!)


Oi veh! What is the French word for major bummer?! Sorry about your troubles. I admire your humor through it all. Bon courage.


I too applaud your humor, Kristin! May gadgets & wires be humming with harmony again tout de suite.

Jackie Sand

J'en suis navrée. So sorry about it all. Bon courage and keep up your irreplaceable humor.


We will wait for you. No worries. I do miss it when the electricity goes down in the summers here in Cali due to overloads. With it happening rather often you'd think I'd be used to it. Btw, took one of those quizzes on Facebook re: where best place to live, of course it was Paris.


The bathroom light bulb kept on burning out... I kept on replacing it diligently. Gwen started to connect replacing with costs and I kept on claiming that this 150 year old house has been recently totally rewired, till we called an electrician, just to be sure. The nice redhead man measured the “jus” in the kitchen, 230 volts, within the norm of a 220 French system. 240 to 250 volts in the living room, well, what the heck? “… Hey, you have 280 volts in the bathroom, shut everything down and call EdF, the local elect. Co. as you said. On a Saturday afternoon they were here within 20 minutes: the old “service” (feed line) was loose and creating this excess surge of power. Fortunately, unlike you, bulbs are all that we lost. We gained a new connection from the street and a new meter, whohooot!!! Vive les back-ups (en Français dans le text).


I remember one power outage we had back in Victoria. It was just before Christmas and because the season is naturally busy, I was way behind schedule in the holiday prep. So I made cookie dough by candlelight that evening. It was magical! And all I had to do the next evening was shape and pop them in the oven. Sometimes it takes a power outage to bring the back the joy in living simply and to redirect our priorities!! So here I am, wishing you found some peace amongst all of the inconvenience.


Ah, technological power -- our greatest AND weakest link. Our lover and our tormenter! Like any marriage, we have to take it in sickness and in health. I, personally, would like to take an ax to it!

Lisa Kiely

hi kristin, my friend, deodat delfendahl lives close by and just tried calling your house. He said he will try again. He can possibly help you get hooked back up again.
his number: 04 90 66 11 90

My dad and I enjoyed Jean Marc's lunch in Houston yesterday :-)

I know how crazy one can become w/the lack of internet. keep breathing!

Betty Bailey

Condolences, Kristin. I wonder if a surge protector would help in future? We've had one since our first "blast" some years ago.

Franklin Levin

Yow! What a tale of woe. It occured to me that a "surge" of 240 volt French juice can really do some harm as compared to 120 volts here. It also occurred to me that this would be a god time to Pay-Pal up for Cinema Verite since some technology was going to need replacing chez Kristin. The good news is that the new stuff will probably be an upgrade from the old. A bunch of surge protectors is usually in the future of anyone who has gone through this. Thanks for keeping the info flowing via internet cafe. When we are in France i keep up with you via my Ipod Touch and the free wi-fi at McDonalds. A very handy gadget for traveling in France. Here wi-fi at McDonalds is not universal yet.
Good luck on recovery from the meltdown.

Carmen Clarke

My husband and I attended Jean-Marc's wine dinner in Houston last night, and he told us about the big fry chez vous. Bon Courage!
PS J-M is even more handsome in person!! And le Mistral is fabulous.

Lynette Simser

Oh, Kristin - I'm sorry. I'm thinking of this happening while Jean-Marc is here, in the U.S. My husband travels a lot for his work and I always say that when something bad happens (kids sick, car trouble, hail storms creating holes in our house) my husband is where he always is - not home. Alas, we smile and make it through. Good luck. I'll be seeing Jean-Marc in Minneapolis next Saturday!


I've got a surge protector on my house to prevent problems, should cost about 200 euros, check with an electrician, will save the cost of replacement of lots of electronics in the future.

poppy fields

We had a similar problem caused by a lightening strike last year, but there wasn't any of that did that happen? Hope you get things up and running soon.

Tim (de la floride,eu)

Comme c´est si belle, ton photo de la voiture! L´art a l´arrière de la voiture ressemblent l´art de le livre ¨Le Petite Prince¨, de Saint Exupéry. Un livre tres sympa (est assez difficile de lire pour moi) et plein de jolies dessins en coleur comme ca. Ahhh, ma pauvre francais! Tes enfants probablement le connais bien, ce livre. C´est un livre pour les jeunnes de toutes les âges. J´ai fini ton (premiere) livre et il m´amusé bien. Merveilleux, bravo! Amities, et bon semaine. -Tim


OUCH! Been there, done that. Smart cookie that you are, I know you will figure things out with grace. Here's hoping that the restoration of normalcy will go smoothly. Mike and I saw Jean-Marc In NYC. All the wines were delightful, the Mistral sublime! Don't worry about the newsletter. We'll still be here when you get up and running again.:-) Until then, here's wishing you All Good Things!

Alvin Solomon

As someone who lives in the south of France near Aix en Provence half time, (anyone ever hear of Eguilles?) on a practical level did you use surge protectors that didn't work? Alvin

Kathie Dior

Salut Kristin,

This misadventure is already serving as really funny material for your writings! We're all waiting with baited breath for your next installment of the panne de courant saga!

P J Luckey

Kristin, you absolutely have to get the biggest transient voltage surge protector! I do not know how to translate that into French, but it is what we use both in the office and at my computer at home to protect from power surges and lightening surges here in Florida where these things are a big problem. It's your best investment. Here the power company can be cajoled into accepting part of the cost of burned-out appliances, if you know how to discuss the matter with them. I don't know how it goes in France, but it is really worth a try. I did some years back when our power was intermittent and much lower than necessary for the proper running of all our appliances. That caused them each to burn out and I had called during the problem many times to warn them that if it continued, the motors would all burn out and they would have to cover the damages in a credit to my bill.... They did.

Bob Haine

Chere Kristin
Tant pis pour vous! We have a home in Idyllwild in the San Jacinto Mountains of southern California where we get the occasional power outage, usually due to the "Santa Ana winds" blowing down trees into power lines. This winter we had unusually wet and heavy snowfall the week before Christmas that resulted in several days without power. Fortunately, the only loss was a few items in the fridge.
Thanks to "Tim de la Floride" for noticing the lovely picture of "Le Petit Prince" on the back of the Citroen 2CV. Tim, I share your sentiments about the book, one for the young of all ages--a children's book for adults! It has a prominent place in my classroom. To quote The Little Prince's friend the fox, "Voici mon secret. Il est tres simple: On ne voit bien qu'avec le coeur. L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux." (It is only with the heart that one sees rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eyes.)
Bob de la Californie


Oh, non!

What a mess. Usually our power difficulties only run to outages. It would be extremely annoying if various appliances fizzed out as well.

I feel for you. Hope you get it all sorted out fairly soon. Take care.

Susan Strick

how odd to read this particular bit of news as i enjoy one of the only still-functioning electrical devices in my home (the computer), the others suffering from a mysterious anti-surge, in which switches produce only intermittent and then very weak current. nothing is 'crame' but the fridge has no cold, the water-heater no heat, the lamps flicker like candles guttering out their last wisp of light, etc. the electrician will be coming tomorrow; meanwhile one is very conscious of being (but not wishing to be) very spoiled and electrodependent......


Sorry to hear of your electrical problems. We learned the hard way that "loose neutrals" will cause the same problem. It is corrected at the main terminal box in your house. Good luck, I hope it was all the electric company's fault and any home owners insurance will cover the loss.

Barbara Pickens

OOOOO-la la! Quel dommage! Thank goodness your electricity is fixed. We live in Georgia where it gets unreasonably hot in the summers....need less to say my story involves, lightening, a burned out transformer, an air conditioner crame and 98 degree heat. We were without power for four days and had to make do with a camp stove, ice chest and propane lantern. These are items everyone needs even if you are not into "camping" We did spend one blissful night at an air-conditioned motel on day 4. We spent the rest of the days in our little creek floating on inner tubes, trying to stay cool with the cows. Jean Marc told us about your disaster at the wine tasting in Tampa. Loved the Rose....
Take heart, you are a trooper.

Michael Armstrong

Oui, quel dommage! Comme ici en Floride dans la saison des cyclones. J'aime beaucoup la photo de la "deuch", la deux chevaux classique--quelle voiture, et très bien décorée!


Turning to a happier subject, Kristin, I was very happy to find the article about you and Jean Marc in the latest issue of France magazine, which arrived in my mail yesterday. I had wondered why they hadn't found you yet!

P.S. Bonne chance with the electrical mess!

Martin Overstreet

I've noticed that today's word appears in the email and on the website spelled variously with both one and two Ms. Having checked several dictionaries, I can only find it spelled with one M.

Christine Dashper

Oh Kristin, what a bummer! We feel so vulnerable when our 'electronic stability' is threatened. May it be restored a toute vitesse, (I probably got that one wrong, but have to try :).

Hang in there



Looks like "Earth Hour" came early for you!
On a serious note I hope that all is well and nothing important is lost...suprising how much we rely on our gadgets!
Kindest regards

Jeff C.

J'ai aussi juste lu l'article dans le magazine "France". Évidemment j'ai immédiatement reconnu ces visages souriants. Quelle bonne publicité, quoi!

Du Courage avec ton électroménager!

Jeff C.


Kristin, yikes! Of course such an event must happen when ton homme n'est pas chez vous! Previous posters have given you some good advice. Hope you are able to get everything fixed without too much difficulty.
We just arrived in our rental house in Languedoc after 5 hotelling days without internet,amazing how we rely on it!
We hope to see you on the 7th...we can eat out! All the best, Annabelle & Bill


Quel horreur!!!

I remember when our electric box a cramme on christmas morning our second year in France. We called the landlord, under the delusion that, like US landlords, it was his responsibility to help us swiftly fix it. He, not so kindly, informed us that it was not. He didn't even have the name of a recommended electrician to call! Of course, this being France, there were no electricians working at that time. Mais, c'est les vacances, madame! (What? Things don't crammer during vacations in France???)

So, we had a most "romantic" christmas and new year's season that year, with candles scattered all over the apartment. (Good thing it didn't crammer!) And we got to know our neighborhood brasseries very well... That is, those that were open!

Bon Courage!

Elisabeth Petit

Hello Kristi,
I'm afraid there is one "m" too many in the word "crammer"

M Warchol

Nous grosse crammer.

Pardon the grammer.

This January we found our last large tree sheared in half by high winds when we came home after a short vacation. Come to find out the area had been w/o power and water for four days. Not to worry we so smartly had installed a whole house gererator to protect us from such events. Not so smart.... the voltage regulator on the generator failed putting very high voltage to the house and everything electrical in the house c'est cramer. Nous "Le Big Fry"

Two and a half months and $20,000 USD to put everything back together.

M Warchol
Grosse Ile, MI USA


Cramer reminds me of "burning the candle at both ends," or desperate attempts to prepare ("cram") for exams. I remember the night before our final exam in organic friend and I looked at each other around 6 p.m. threw up our hands and agreed it was way too late and "what the heck," we tossed our texts into the trunk of my car, bought a six pack of beer and stopped by for a visit with our botany prof, Dr. Jann. She was most welcoming and we spent a couple of pleasant hours w/her family. I passed organic but I am quite sure it was not with "flying colors." Some subjects - like organic chem - don't lend themselves to night-before cramming sessions. Or at least that is what WE thought!



I also was very happy to see the wonderful article about you and Jean Marc in the latest France magazine.
Yes, I agree with everyone who suggested that you should invest in surge protectors for your computer,(if you haven't all ready) and when I travel to France with my computer I might invest in a surge protector.... 240 V vs 120V is very different. I'd had to "fry " my Macbook Pro.
Love the photo of the Deux Cheveux with Le Petit Prince. It is such a wonderful book for all ages and with the Euro being the currency of France we don't get to see him on the French Francs any more. C'est domage!

Jennifer in OR

I'm so sorry to hear of the big fry! But what a wonderfully fun post you were able to extract from it! Hope all's well. I'm just in a fit that Jean-Marc will be in Portland this Tuesday and I can't go. It's just a couple hours away and I can't get the day off from teaching--we just had our spring break last week--a week too soon! I'm desperately trying to get my friends who live in Portland to go and see him and bring me some Mistral!! I must have some. :-)

Jean L. Stewart

Dear Kristin, Please tell me why my French Word of the Day messages give me a big A and some strange characters where the a and e vowels with accents should be. I have Outlook Express on Windows XP. I am sure it has to do with accents, but I don't know how to correct the problem.

Robin Marrs

In 2004 when my wife and I lived in St. Martin de Castillon, lighting struck the iron provencale cross on our house. A fireball came through the living room and fried the computer. Or so I thought. The next day it would not turn on and I went to the bar (where else?) to inquire about service. No luck. Later in the afternoon we tried the computer again, it worked perfectly and continues in service. I think we dodged the fireball.

joanne nixon

c'est horrible ! i look so forward to your french word of the day messages... je te pense and hope that you will soon be "up and running" bon chance, kristin.....

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