la frangine


Le Bateau Ivre (c) Kristin Espinasse
A little bar/restaurant in the bay of Locmaria, on the island of Groix.



noun, masculine


Just off the coast of Brittany, on a small island habitée by Groisillons and teeming with French tourists on wobbly bicyclettes, there is a quaint port called Locmaria, where The Drunk Boat overlooks the bay at high tide (and low, for that matter, but for the purpose of this conte the marée shall be high, high as the curious individual bathing in its shallow waters)....

"Ah, nature fresh and free. Yes, freeeeeeeeeeeeee!"

I can just hear his French words echoing across the sandy beach, translating themselves in midair before reaching The Drunk Boat bar on the boardwalk above, near to which a red-faced tourist stands hesitant. Red-faced, not because she is a native of the desert, which she is, but because her Frenchman (he who bathes in shallow waters) has been caught, once again, en flagrant délit with Dame Nature. Yes, caught red-handed (and mud-in-the-hand) as you will soon discover.

It isn't the first time he has been found courting La Dame; take him to the powdery depths of the canyon at Roussillon, and he'll brush red and yellow ochre across his stubbled face. "A tradition," he explains (the earth-smearing, not the stubble). Bring him to a crowded beach in his beloved Marseilles, and he will inhale the salty waters beyond (via a noisy nose gargle). "Good for the sinuses," he exclaims. Cart him off to the wild garrigue and he will begin chewing on the local herbs (good for the gums, I wonder?). Go where he may, and he will find a way to press the earth unto himself. He's Monsieur Nature.

Back at the bay in Locmaria, it is another day in Paradise for Monsieur Nature, who can be found applying mud—sloshing it on from neck to knee—only, he calls it vase (pronouncing it "vaz," as if a neat word would render his act less, well, filthy).

Standing knee-deep in the ocean, he scoops up the smelly vase, slops it on his arms and across his chest before a vigorous scrub-down, oblivious to the audience now gathering before him: there are the seagulls, beady eyes bulging, and the little crabs looking on, astonished, and even the mussels—clinging to a nearby rock—have opened their shells for a look-see. "Get a load of this," they clatter, their long, salmon-colored tongues wagging.

This, dear reader, is my mud-faced conjoint and that curious behavior of his, in a clamshell, is the difference between him and me; the difference, I now realize, between really living life and poetically lusting after it from the boardwalk above.

*     *     *
 EDITS HERE PLEASE. Click the previous link to point out any typos or obvious ambiguities in this story. Thanks!

French Vocabulary

habitée (habiter) = inhabited
les Groisillons = inhabitants of the Island of Groix
la bicyclette = bicycle
The Drunk Boat (Le Bateau Ivre) = the name of a bar along the boardwalk
le conte = tale, story
la marée = tide
pris en flagrant délit = caught in the act
la Dame Nature = Mother Nature
la garrigue = wild Mediterranean scrubland
la vase = slime, mud, mire
le conjoint, la conjointe = spouse

French Pronunciation:
Listen to the word "conjoint" in the following sentence: Je vous presente mon conjoint. Please meet my wife (or husband). Download conjoint.wav.

Missing a little French in your weekend? Love photos of France? Check out Cinéma Vérité.

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Oh wow, I LOVE the photo, the colours. :-)


Tu connais le poème "Bateau Ivre" de Rimbaud (écrit quand il avait seulement 17 ans) qui commence "Comme je descendais des Fleuves impassible ..."?

Jim in RI

Very lovely and evocative, Kristin. I'm reminded of an Edgar Lee Masters poem, found here:


A question on current usage--would it be more common, today, to hear, "je vous présente mon conjoint" or, "je vous présente ma femme"? The former feels a big legal!

Linda R.

Votre mari est bien dans sa peau, non? Le mien aussi. Your descriptive narrative brought a smile to my heart and made me laugh out loud - a lovely way to begin my day. Merci, Krisin. p.s. - the photo is divine as always.

Linda R.

whoops - that should have been, "Merci, Kristin" <3

Jim D.

Perhaps some of your readers would enjoy the Wikipedia entry on "Le Bateau Ivre."



What a joy to read the picturesque description of your beloved Jean-Marc, "pris en flagrant délit, à marée basse", covering himself with Mother Earth's natural gifts -here, sea mud- with such energy and enthusiasm!
I love the great scrubbing down scene - brilliant description, oozing with smiling subtlety and delightful pinch of humour.

It is a known fact that elephants, rhinos, warthogs, etc, enjoy mud baths, and that sick domestic animals can regain health and fitness with clay, rolling in it, licking it. Great natural animal instinct, here translated into a public mud scrubbing performance by your very own "Monsieur Nature".

I get the impression Jean-Marc would approve of the use of "argile verte"(´green clay´). I can't find any in England, so, when I was in Biarritz a month ago, I bought some "argile verte illite", in powder. You can find it in pharmacies and "Magasins Bio" ('Health food shop')

Today is supposed to be "La Fête du Travail" (Labour Day) but it is also "La Fête du Muguet", a very French tradition, to wish everyone good luck and happiness. A very Happy 1st of May to "les conjoints" Espinasse and their family, with lots of traditional "brins de muguet" (´twigs of lily-of-the-valley´) "porte-bonheur" (for good luck).

Cynthia in France

I love the imagery this story brought up for me. Great writing and a beautiful photo!


Passant & Jim D.: Thanks for the info on Le Bateau Ivre. Great to have the link.

...à l'autre Jim: I liked the other poem too!

Marshall: I think "Je vous présente ma femme" is the one. Newforest, is this correct? Help us out!

Linda: keep that smile in your heart.

Newforest: Glad you mentioned "La Fête du Muguet". Peggy, who sometimes comments here, brought me a pot of Muguet day before yesterday (bonjour Peggy & George!). I'm going to plant it in the garden!


Quelle marvelous histoire...vous avez un mari qui comprends comment one is, vraiment, a part of Mother Earth. When I come in the house hot, soaking wet and a general dirty MESS after rooting around in my bit of earth, my husband shrinks away from me...ugh-ing out at my earthiness. I pretend to chase him and have him think I'll get "some" on him!

We are all wired differently creating this goofy sometimes curious and frustrating mix of people who try to live together; and best of all--!!!--perhaps share in each other's strangeness and make it part of ourselves. Last night I came in after a little walk around the yard. My mari hugged me but pulled back and said eww, you're wet! No, I explained, my skin is only cool from the evening air..."oh." (him grateful for being safe from my earthy self) Screech (the laughter kind)! (Me, now, remembering) Mr. Persnikety, I reckon!

So, our tango continues. We mark our 25 wedding anniversary this summer. I think I'll suggest renewing our vows...down by the river! Hee, hee.


I had to chuckle Dear Kristin...wonderful tale of conjoints and I cannot top it unfortunately. Love the photo as usual. Happy May Day, and I will check out the poem by Rimbaud.



Here is my reply to your vocab question + added 'bits'....

In every day language, when talking about your ´spouse´, it is more common / conventional / familiar to say:
-> "mon mari" (my husband),
-> "ma femme" (my wife).
As the word "femme" also means "woman", some men, when talking about their wife, prefer to say: "mon épouse".
In the above text, your choice of the legal and dull term "conjoint" can be considered as a word you deliberately wanted to pronounce more lightly, with "un petit sourire au coin des lèvres" (a little smile flickering around your mouth), because in fact, Jean-Marc is exactly the opposite of dull and formal!

-> The verb "marier" (to marry) is present in the noun -> le mari.
-> The verb "épouser" (to marry, to wed) is present in the noun -> "l´époux" (masculine for spouse) & "l'épouse" (feminine).
-> No verb reminiscent of ceremony, marriage, wedding, in the noun "conjoint", (which simply comes from the verb "joindre" = to join)

In the 'legal' vocabulary:
-> le conjoint = spouse, l'époux
-> la conjointe = spouse, l´épouse
In the plural:
-> les époux = le mari et la femme = the husband & wife, the (married) couple.
-> les conjoints = same meaning as les époux
Nowadays, non married couples who have lived together for years are called, in the legal vocabulary, "conjoints non mariés".


Very interesting to see more width to "Le Bateau Ivre" façade. The photo you gave us on Jan 21st 09 has got more height. Thank you for both of them.

I love the black bike against the rendered white wall (picture above) and I am looking forward to your Cinéma Vérité photos tomorrow!

Happy weekend to you and your family!

Marianne Rankin

I love nature, too, but like you, am a bit inhibited at times. Good for us that many others are less so.

I think living with Jean-Marc would be lots of fun!


Newforest: Thanks for mentioning the other "Le Bateau Ivre" photo.... and for noting the date! I had been looking all through the archives for it. Glad to know where it is:

Fred Caswell

Jim in R.I. -- there is pleasure learning that another male from our state has joined Kristin's literary family. Fred in R.I.

Kristi, there had to be another situation when Monsieur Nature was pris en flagrant delit -- when he first held you in his arms and when you shared your first warm dance together. (Best to stop there!)

When I read or re-read your stories comme ca I feel a warm joy followed by a sadness from missing the company of you and ta famille.

Much love to all the Espinasse famille.

dorothy dufour

Dear Kristin,

Cinema Verite sounds great but I have tried to subscibe without success. I will gladly send you a cheque for $30 if you will tell me the address please. Enjoying French Word A Day as

Jennifer in OR

I love the visual imagery, I can just imagine seeing such a sight as Jean-Marc in the midst of a mudbath! I think he knows a thing or two! Vive la difference. :-)


Does camping in the bush with four other families (and a total of about 16 kids between us) the pouring rain...for three nights before we gave up...count as communing with nature? I swear we were all washing dirt from behind our ears not to mention the laundry and cars for weeks after!!


PS...all our kids were a little like your Jean-Marc in their glee to find themselves surrounded by mud and no better fun other than go wild!!


Gretel: oh, yes, that counts!

Dorothy: many thanks for trying to sign-up. Sorry about the Paypal hassel. I'll email you with another alternative.

Larry R

Yesterday under the hot sun, we were throwing the ball around for our 13-year old jack russell terrier in the shallow, spring-fed Bull Creek in northwest Austin. She loves to splash and dash after the ball that always lands ahead in the middle of the creek. Instead of bringing it back to us, she dropped it along the banks of the muddy shore. Wallowing in that warm boggy mud, she simply tuned out our commands to come back. So, being more than just a little miffed at our carefree, disobedient little terrier (doesn't she know there are water mocassins lurking on the shores?), we headed up there to collect her. About three yards away, we were overcome with the smell of fresh mint. All those bright spring green plants thriving everywhere in the warm mud were mint! She naturally wanted to be part of it! As the warm minty mud oozed between my toes, I started wondering how did that mint get started here? Did Mother Nature have a helper or could it really be native to Bull Creek? Jean-Marc has now inspired me to go ahead and get a little more than my feet muddy next time! Thanks for your story!


Thanks, Larry. I loved your story!

Jules Greer

Hi Larry,

I second Kristi's observation: I LOVE YOUR STORY. Next time JM is in your neighborhood, watch out, he will be dragging you and your wonderful dog (what is her name?) down to the




I think Drunk Boat should read Drunken Boat - it needs to be an adjective. Good story. Sandra

Bill in St. Paul

As I mentioned before, for consistency I'd change all the asterisked words to italics since italics seems to be the standard to indicate words translated below. I'd leave the name of the bar as Drunk Boat, since that's the translation of the French. "Drunken" would be "ivrogne".

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks, Bill. Re those asterisks -- I didnt have the time to change them before asking for edits. Ill work on getting them changed soon! Thanks for catching any I miss...


There's always the "Inebriated Boat" or even better, the "Tipsy Boat".

Charles Orr in Flat Rock, NC

Another excellent story. Suggested edits:

1. "vase" should be italicized wherever used and added to the Vocab list.
2. Consider using a dash in the following phrase instead of a semi-colon since what follows is not a complete clause with subject and verb: "...difference between him and me-the difference...".

Olga Brown

This is a great story!
Lots of points to Jean-Marc!
Well done!


Kristin Espinasse

Thank you Olga! And Charles, just saw your edits -- merci! Off to fix these points now.

Sarah LaBelle

The title words are not centered -- the layout of conjoint(kon-zhwan)noun, masculine
spouse .

Perhaps you could add
la vase nf silt, river or ocean bottom
to the vocabulary list?

I did not know vase has two very different meanings in French, depending on the gender.
Le vase pour les fleurs, et la vase comme la boue sous la mer.

My French vocabulary is never as good as I think it is!

Another point of format, which I hope does not conflict with your style. You are using the italics for a French word that will be defined later. Italics are also used for emphasis in English. Moast of the time, I think the latter use can be skipped, because your phrase & your story make clear the emphasis. That aside, the English phrase 'nose gargle' in italics was confusing. Was I to learn another faux ami, français - anglais, in the vocabulary list?

Instead I learned of someone who uses the ocean, and not a netti pot with salted water for this ritual.

I love this story, how your husband connects directly with the natural world. I hope the photo stays with this story, so Le Bateau Ivre is in clear view.

Bettye Dew

A well-written, vivid picture of J-M, and a wonderful moment in time. Good selection.

Cynthia Lewis

....another wonderfully expressive story. My favorite part is the next to the last paragraph with the critters of the sea watching Jean-Marc in amazement. Could the "salmon-colored tongues" of the mussels be "wagging" instead of "rumbling" since we usually think of wagging tongues as those which are sharing some news or gossip....just a thought. Many thanks for the enjoyment your stories bring to me.

Bruce T. Paddock

Good morning, Kristin –

Love this one. How nice that you can accept the difference(s) between the two of you. Not everyone can.

In the first sentence, you still have the asterisk after “Drunk Boat.”

You need a comma after the introductory “for the purpose of this conte,” because it contains more than one prepositional phrase.

I think you need a comma after “nature,” but you can probably drop the one before it (i.e., after “Ah”).

Is “echoing” the right word here? Sounds echo in the mountains, but not so often at the shore. And if you can “just hear” them, then they probably aren’t loud enough to echo. But then, I wasn’t there.

Consider a comma between “stands” and “hesitant.”

The closing parenthesis should come after “soon discover”

Given that the fourth paragraph contains three examples of J-M’s … enthusiasm, the semicolon before the first one (after “courting La Dame”) should probably be a period instead.

You need a comma after “wild garrigue” — both because you need one (what follows “and” is a complete sentence) and in order to match the structure of the previous two intros (“Take him…” and “Bring him…”).

“Paradise” is not usually capitalized.

In this paragraph, I think the closing parenthesis should come after “’vaz.’” That way, the main sentence reads:
he calls it vase, as if a neat word would render his act less, well, filthy.
and the parenthetical is
(pronouncing it "vaz”)
Of course, if that’s not how you want to say it, don’t do it.

You don’t need the em-dashes around “clinging to a nearby rock.” You don’t need to remove them, but you can.

“Rumbling” seems like an odd choice. I can’t picture tiny little mussels rumbling. But you’ve spent more time with them than I have, and I’m sure you know what you’re describing.

You need a comma after “conjoint,” because what follows “and” is a complete sentence.

Betty Gleason

You have some wonderful editors here.

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks, Cynthia. Wagging is just what is needed here!

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)