la question mille francs + French words "le délire", "le plumeau", "la poubelle" and cleaning out my writing den
Monday, March 22, 2010
Balance, order, and sunshine -- essentials for a thriving mind.
la question à mille francs (lah-kest-yon-ah-meel-frahn)
: the sixty-four thousand dollar question (something that is not known, the answer for which wins top prize!)
A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse
It is WONDERFUL to be back in my writing room! So how did I find myself typing in a corner of my bedroom on top of a felt-bare card table? Ça—c'est la question à mille francs!
My dear friend Tessa has her theories. Tess is the one who pried me out of my corner cave, where I fancied myself Writer In Residence for the past twelve months.
"Really, I like it here," I swore to my friend, who pulled me out of my délire, by the ear!
Soon we were knee-deep in the not-so-distant past as I watched the woman with the crate delegate.
"We'll need garbage bags, a broom, a dust-pan, and a plumeau," Tess said, handing me dozens of dusty old books that had been pulled out of a poubelle and given to me by a neighbor.
"Well, they should have STAYED in the bin!" Tess declared, pointing out the bug-infested pages. They will contaminate all of your favorite books!" There was no arguing with the bossy one. And so I followed orders, feather dusted, and filed.
"Why don't we stop for tea?" wondered little ol' me.
"Because we've only just begun!" Tess hummed, naturally. When she wasn't humming she spoke in "theatrical tongue" using many made-up words as we laughed and we purged.
"Is that a real word?" I asked when a favorite came up.
"Oh, I hope not!" Tess replied as we giggled and chucked stuff.
"How did you ever end up in that corner?" Tess wanted to know.
Qui sait? Though I suspect it has something to do... with how fast my office grew!
That is when I wandered off... to the quiet line of a corner and a clutter-free card desk... paring things down to where my mind could finally rest).
This forum is now open for fun and sharing. Talk about today's word or story -- or ask questions about France or the French language. Let's help one another learn or, at the very least, laugh. Click here to leave a comment.
(sound file will return on Wednesday...)
la question à mille francs = the 64 thousand dollar question
le délire = delirium
le plumeau = feather duster
la poubelle = garbage can, bin
But the dear artist brought her tulips...
...and even painted her a watercolor tableau for her renewed writing room! Thanks, Tessa!
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety
Love the pictures of Smokey - so sweet!
Your story today reminds me that I really need to get a writing space of my own soon, too! I've often found myself in cluttered corners. A clean desk made only for writing would be a real delight!
Posted by: paris (im)perfect | Monday, March 22, 2010 at 12:57 PM
mille francs - not even a million... not worth much in today's money ;-)
Posted by: Alicia | Monday, March 22, 2010 at 02:25 PM
J'aime beaucoup des photos de Smokey avec les tulipes. Les compositions sont tres jolie.
Posted by: Deborah | Monday, March 22, 2010 at 02:44 PM
Photos are fabulous! And certainly identify with the post!
Posted by: Claudia | Monday, March 22, 2010 at 02:49 PM
I myself am beginning to wonder just how exactly I got bumped out of my writing room by the two elderly cats we took in. Hmm. I shall have to consider how to insinuate myself back in, without rubbing their fur the wrong way!
Posted by: Elle | Monday, March 22, 2010 at 03:23 PM
The photos of Smokey with the tulips are just wonderful! What a sweetie. Glad you have your "own place" to write now, and the tulips painting adds just the right touch, I'm sure!
Posted by: Patricia Lynn | Monday, March 22, 2010 at 03:24 PM
Everyone needs their own "space". I take over my son's old room when they're not visiting, but I make such a mess of it that when they do come to visit, rather than sort through everything (like I should) I just pile it all up and move it to my "backup" space.
Great pictures of the flower-loving dog.
(I actually used to watch the show that the phrase "the sixty-four thousand dollar question" came from.)
Posted by: Bill in St. Paul | Monday, March 22, 2010 at 03:24 PM
Smokey says "merci beaucoup" for liking his photos!
Elle, good luck not rubbing your cats fur the wrong way ;-)
Bill in St. Paul, many of us are heartened, indeed feeling MUCH better now, knowing we are not the only ones who move our piles from one room to the next.
Posted by: Kristin | Monday, March 22, 2010 at 04:36 PM
Kristin, apparently with me it's a long standing "capability" - when my wife asks me what I'm doing and I reply "cleaning", she corrects me by saying "You mean you're moving your piles around."
Posted by: Bill in St. Paul | Monday, March 22, 2010 at 04:46 PM
Smokey and Braise are SOOO precious! Thank you for sharing, as always!
In Dallas, were Friday was 73F, Saturday was winds of 30mph and 40F, Sunday in the wee hours it snowed and today it will be sunny and 65!
Posted by: Kristine, Dallas | Monday, March 22, 2010 at 04:56 PM
umm, that was supposed to be "where" not "were". grr....
Posted by: Kristine, Dallas | Monday, March 22, 2010 at 04:56 PM
I love the painting Tessa made for you Kristin. If no one objects, I'm going to set that photo as my laptop background!
Posted by: Kathryn in Rockville, Maryland | Monday, March 22, 2010 at 04:59 PM
It reminds me that I need to do some "spring cleaning". I love Tessa's painting!
Posted by: Eileen | Monday, March 22, 2010 at 05:44 PM
Le Jeu de mille euros, weekdays between 12:45 and 1pm, on the radio station: France Inter, might be the modern equivalent to "la question de mille francs", but then the questions posed on the program do have answers. Though the contestants may not always know them. All questions for the program are submitted by listeners and responses often lead to 'se creuser les méninges', an expression I've loved for a rack one's brain.
Posted by: Tom à Annecy | Monday, March 22, 2010 at 06:26 PM
What a delightful story. I think I need a "Tess". I know how my kitchen got bumped to my art room....it's called remodel.
Smokey looks so sweet smelling the tulips...but like any Golden I know there is a little rascal in there. Have a wonderful evening.....
Posted by: joie carmel,ca | Monday, March 22, 2010 at 06:33 PM
Isn't it wonderful to have a friend who will help pull us out of our "corner's"?! I noticed this when I was a girl and would go help my friend with her chores when I finished mine-so we could play sooner :) It still holds true today, it is easier to tackle big cleaning projects, like our Spring cleaning, with a friend. And much more fun!!! What a true friend you have in Tessa-help, flowers and a reminder of the day for your re-newed space!!!
And it looks like Smokey is ready for Spring as well...he look's so content with "his" flowers.
Posted by: Missy | Monday, March 22, 2010 at 06:50 PM
Love your rendition of saturday evenings frolics in the office, with spiders, eggs and nasty things. I am so glad you are back in it.
The Bossy one
Posted by: Tessa Nelson | Monday, March 22, 2010 at 06:56 PM
The dog has taken the time to stop and smell the roses!!
Posted by: Beverley _ Brooklyn, NY | Monday, March 22, 2010 at 07:28 PM
I will be coming to france in August and staying thru for a while, I am a nanny and looking for a livein position. I have many years experience and great references and wonder if I post here I could get any advise or suggestions or even a lead for a job.
Posted by: maureen bober | Monday, March 22, 2010 at 07:32 PM
Mara was making coments on facebook about making lists, to get her work done. I just wanted to share her friend's reply. Note especially point # 3. An excellent idea.
Are you feeling listless....?? Mhhmmm, let me see:
1. Turn off computer
2. Get glass
3. Get hubby to open rouge bleu.... Par exemple
4. Pour Wine... See More
7. Think of planned escape to new appr for models and stars in par-ee
8. Close eyes
9. Open eyes... Hey, open your eyes, hey! Are you sleeping??
10. Ok keep eyes closes and hang in there until The 12th...
Biz biz xxxx
As for a clean work place.. someday. Since the upstairs is now 70% finished, I have begun demolishing the living room.
Posted by: Peggy | Monday, March 22, 2010 at 08:30 PM
It is so funny that you mentioned cleaning today. That is exactly what I am doing as well. It is time to start fresh along with the signs of Spring outside. Though it is raining, it is still a beautiful day! Enjoy having your space back, and happy writing. I think we are all excited to see what comes out of your creative mind next.
Posted by: Buffy | Monday, March 22, 2010 at 08:35 PM
Wonderful story! I’d love to have you and Tess here to help me clear out my home office mess (and perhaps leave me with tulips and an exquisite painting?)!
Such sweet motivation and a great way to enjoy time with a good friend --- while giving your writing its own space to grow again.
Posted by: Stacy, Applegate, Oregon | Monday, March 22, 2010 at 08:42 PM
There is an ideal place in the house for my 'Laptop & Co' -> it's a little room on the ground floor, facing the front garden and the street (and facing North...). No TV, three proper bookshelves right up to the height of the picture rail, with a sort of half circular (folding) table in the lower part of one of them - a perfect spot for typing. There is a good size coffee table with an under section full of compartments of various sizes - and a radiator warms up the room in the winter - Perfect isn't it? So, why did I move my stuff somewhere else? Where did I go?
My laptop is now on a long and narrow console table in the spacious recess created by a bay window between the living room and the conservatory. In the living room, there is a radiator plus a woodburner, no bookshelf and no compartments under the coffee table! The light and bright conservatory on the other side of the bay window leads to a south-west facing back garden.
Where did the 'bits and pieces' go to? -> all along the window sill of the large bay window and also on and under the right handside of the console table (my laptop and chair occupying the left side)!
When I've got to tidy up from time to time, I simply make 'things' disappear - but all reappears whenever I can re-occupy the recess of my bay window (I think I use a system similar to the one described by Bill!)
Kristin, your report is lovely and funny! Thanks for sharing such a wonderful transformation of your writing 'space'! What a joy to know you have reintegrated your 'writing ROOM', now pleasantly unclattered! How does it feel?
Big thanks for the photo of "l'aquarelle".
Posted by: Newforest | Monday, March 22, 2010 at 09:21 PM
Tasks like yours are always easier when shared. One always needs a Tess to push you to through out what you don't need, will never use, but somehow convince yourself to hang on to! It sounds like you had a wonderful and a productive time. The tulips are lovely and the painting will be a terrific souvenir to remember the day and Tess.
Posted by: Suzanne, Monroe Township, NJ | Monday, March 22, 2010 at 11:03 PM
Love the photos and Tessa's painting.I sure related to today's post. I've spent a lot of the winter dusting at my mom's, so poussière is the word! However it will be nice when finished. She's 88 and can't do it herself anymore. One of the things I found which delighted me was a photo of her smiling up at my dad (no longer in this world) in the forties. Then... I found the coat she was wearing in the picture. Cool! She saves everything , like many in the generation that went through the Great Depression (la Crise). Heading for France Apr 8 with students. Can't wait. One of these days I'm going by myself again. That's my promise to myself.
Posted by: carol | Monday, March 22, 2010 at 11:46 PM
I feel I should use your no-nonsense and radical approach, to clear up a large junk room upstairs --> job highlighted on my "to do" list for the last 2 years. So far, the junk has simply been pushed back and piled up along the walls!
Via your attitude and help to Kristin, you have stirred up the battle of my own good and bad excuses regarding that junk room and reminded me of the job I need to do.
I think that, "un de ces jours" (= one of these days), “je vais me retrousser les manches “ (= I'm going to roll up my sleeves) and proceed to a radical "nettoyage de printemps" (= Spring cleaning).
I find your “aquarelle” (= watercolour) very appealing because of its fresh, light and spontaneous qualities. What a delightful present to remind Kristin of that happy day when she recovered the perfect place for her thriving mind!
Posted by: Newforest | Tuesday, March 23, 2010 at 03:42 AM
Hoping Jean-Marc had a good journey back home!
Posted by: Newforest | Tuesday, March 23, 2010 at 02:18 PM
Haven't been of FWAD awhile - always seem to be 'behind' - or 'catching up'. Peonies and Siberian irises are poking their heads through the soil and beckoning for help before the deer wander by and have a snack. Without a backward glance, I grab gloves and rake and head to the garden and the early spring warmth. Next week, I tell myself, workmen will be running the last of new electrical wiring, constructing, sanding and painting - spring cleaning can wait until they're gone. Then, to the "piles". A friend of my husband's used to chide that the reason my husband's offices (work and home) were so filled with 'piles' is because that is what PILOTS do - they make PILES! Pausing in his doorway, I would see a 'no fly zone' and continue on by. (If you'd like your office vacuumed, you'll have to move the piles off the floor) I never quite reconciled how such a seemingly ordered mind could produce such a seemingly disordered world - and yet,he could tell you exactly where any particular item of interest was in any one of his many piles (even those on top of the large filing cabinet). His reign was exercised over the skies, mechanical things and the unseen and often unforgiving; landing a jet on the pitching deck of an aircraft carrier at night, in the rain, at the end of another long day. Maybe the piles were his way of letting go during those times he walked on land. In contrast, my world encompassed all the chaos one could want: children, animals, house and job. (A typical one-way radio conversation patched through: what do you mean the lawnmower manual is locked in your desk drawer at the office? The lawnmower is broken now and it won't fit in our VW bug to take to the repair shop) or (Just transmit that the car died; he'll understand) My spare moments were spent trying to be more organized, more efficient. What strange bedfellows we turned out to be.
Posted by: Merrie Dail, Annapolis, MD | Tuesday, March 23, 2010 at 04:14 PM
Loved your story!
Thanks, everyone, for all your words and stories here. Keep them coming. They are a joy to read. P.S.: Jules (my Mom) computer is down, but she sends here XOXOs!
Posted by: Kristin Espinasse | Tuesday, March 23, 2010 at 04:55 PM
Now that one room is cleaned, decluttered, and organized, you can move on to the next! Now that my tax return is done, I hope to have more time to work on projects in the house, and certainly my home office, which we call the "study," needs an overhaul. Things have a way of floating around the house and landing where they don't belong. The best way to keep a place (room, closet, or whole dwelling) in order is to have a "home" for everything, whether it's a pair of scissors, a book, a file, or a frying pan. If you can't find a home for something, it's a clue it's either in the wrong spot, or maybe you have a bit more than you need. I know this feeling well, because our house isn't very big, with no basement or garage.
The painting will be a great addition to the writing space. I have a painting in the study that was originally my mother's (a gift from me to her), so when she passed away, I kept it, since it has colors that go well with the room. I also have a couple of other decorations I've picked up here and there, and my son's high-school graduation photo in a frame.
It's good to have a few things to make the space comfortable, without so much that it gets in the way.
I'll be the farm is beautiful as plants and vines come into bloom.
Posted by: Marianne Rankin | Tuesday, March 23, 2010 at 05:20 PM
I have finally started going on some of your sponsor sites. An amazing plethora of information and just fun places to visit. Thank you and your sponsors. Tess's site with the photos then the paintings was delightful.
Posted by: joie carmel,ca | Tuesday, March 23, 2010 at 06:17 PM
Marianne, I really like your idea of a "home" for everything! I had never thought of it this way. That's an excellent tip that I will be trying out very soon.
Joie in Carmel, so glad to have your feedback about our sponsors!
Time to hit the sack, which reminds me of an idiom that I learned in the dictionary today (we'll see if Newforest can tell us if it is used or not): time to turn in or time hit the hay (and sleep) = aller au plumard...
Posted by: Judith | Tuesday, March 23, 2010 at 09:51 PM
Note: that last comment, to Marianne and to Joie, was from Kristin... and not from Judith (who had asked me to post her latest comment after having difficulty signing in! I forgot to type my own name back into the box for my message. Sorry, Judith :-)
Posted by: Kristin Espinasse | Tuesday, March 23, 2010 at 10:23 PM
I need a Tessa chez moi! Especially one who would leave such a beautiful painting behind....
Enjoy your serene new space.
Posted by: Ophelia Paine | Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 12:25 PM
Marianne's theory of "a home for everything".
So true, Marianne...
When my children were young, I used to attach a little tag or a piece of white cotton ribbon -to scissors for ex- and write with black Bic biro the place where the object had to be returned to. Same idea with little brush and dustpan (I ended up with 3 sets, each one with name of the place they must to go back to). With rolls of cellotape, I still write with black marker inside each roll the place it must be returned to! It's fun and it works...
The French for:
"A place for everything, and everything in its place" is:
---> "Une place pour chaque chose et chaque chose à sa place".
Posted by: Newforest | Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 12:43 PM
I love it, Newforest. And thanks again, Marianne! I will try the those little tags and permanent marker or tape! My kitchen scissors, my mop, my spagetti strainer... will no longer end up in the wine cellar (one can always hope...)
Posted by: Kristin Espinasse | Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 12:52 PM
Oh, I am so pleased Kristin.
I still have in my sewing box a roll of white cotton tape I bought years ago for that purpose... getting a bit yellow now. The good thing about it is that you can also use the loop to hang the scissors, (if you've got a hook!)
These days, 'Nail scissors', 'Mum's best scissors' ... are still in full use and easy to find... and rolls of cellotape still get marked with: 'back to pine desk' or 'belongs to dad' ...
I'll reply to your note about "plumard"...
Posted by: Newforest | Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 01:31 PM
to hit the sack = to hit the hay --> slang for to go to bed, to turn in (informal)
Yes Kristin, in an informal way, the French equivalent is: "aller au plumard".
-> “le plumard” is slang for 'bed' - “plumard” comes from the word “plumes” = feathers
-> aller au plumard = se coucher / aller au lit
-> sauter du plumard = se lever / to get out of bed
-> (Pour moi,) c'est l'heure du plumard = it's bedtime (for me)
-> Je m'en vais retrouver mon plumard = I'm going to get to (my) bed.
“plumard” implies a feeling of coziness.
By the way, there is another informal word for 'bed' --> “la paillasse”.
The word "paillasse" comes from “la paille” = 'straw'.
"La paillasse" is a sack full of straw, a straw mattress, fairly rough, so... no feeling of coziness here!
In an informal way, you can say: "aller au plumard", but you never say “aller à la paillasse”...
Posted by: Newforest | Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 01:46 PM
My sister Amelia is the Tessa in my life. She periodically whirls through my life and clears out the clutter and cobwebs. How lucky we are to have these catalyst companions!
Posted by: mary | Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 06:23 PM
I know how it is with the messy desk, too many books piling over, etc. I just spent a good chunk of my weekend cleaning off my writing and work desk! Thanks for sharing the story. Tessa sounds like a good friend. (:
Posted by: Rachel Rossos Gallant | Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 08:49 PM
The room where I write is a study with windows facing south and west, so there's always plenty of light. Bookshelves line two walls, the books double-shelved in most places.
But alas, this room has slowly turned into something like Newforest's "junk room," with papers of every sort piled on the desk and sofa: computer print-outs, various scribbled notes, newspaper clippings, travel information, lists of interesting words from Kristin... It's out of control!
I'm continually intending to do something about it, but personally I find it difficult to get rid of written matter. So many interesting bits of information! I might want to refer to them later!
Maybe what I need to do is call in a Tessa who can objectively get rid of the junk. But I couldn't be in the room myself; I'd be needing to read every piece of paper. Better not to see it go out the door...
Posted by: Christine | Friday, March 26, 2010 at 01:38 AM
You always have such lovely stories from France! You can tell that you are enjoying your trip very much! The tulips are amazing, and so is the commenting dog :)
Posted by: holy land tours | Monday, August 30, 2010 at 03:03 PM
They will contaminate all of your favorite books
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