chambre d'amis


The lavender is deep in bloom. This field was spotted yesterday, on the way home from Malou's garden.

aléa (al ay ah) noun, masculine

    : risk, hazard, chance

les aléas du métier = the risks of the trade
les aléas de la vie = the vagaries of life
après bien des aléas = after many ups and downs
les aléas thérapeutiques = unforeseeable medical complications

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's word and expressions: Download MP3 or Wav file


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A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

New Life for an Old Hive

"Your mailman must love you!" Mom snickered, a few weeks back, on discovering our homemade bôite aux lettres. 

I laughed at Jules' comment, then quickly returned one item to the top of my Worry List: our mailbox! We really needed to find another solution! My husband had had one of his inspirations, this time to repurpose an old beehive into a postbox. All Jean-Marc needed to do was empty out the inside of an abandoned ruche and then block the entrance (to discourage any stinging "squatters"!). The mail could then be distributed via the top of the wooden box. A rough metal lid was salvaged and, voilà!, our new mailbox was good to go. Chief Grape added yet another of his no-nonsense touches by taping a computer print-out (with our family and vineyard name) across the front. Presto!, we were now legitimate letter candidates.


Still and all, or tout compte fait, I had my doubts. It wasn't that the paper address "plate" faded (running off in great blue and red rivulets, following the first tempête de pluie...). It was, among other inconvénients, the metal top, which was awkward and ill-fitting. One needed to wriggle it and pull (as one does a well-rooted tooth) to access the letters inside. And returning the couvercle back to the wooden box entailed a few slams of the fist.

I was doubtful this approach would please the busy facteur, but we carried on with our new courrier-system and the letters did arrive....

Then one day I looked inside an empty box. The top had flown off! I searched around only to discover that our mail had been distributed not by the facteur -- but by le Mistral! The northern wind had swooped in and carried off with it the ill-fitted lid-top along with the contents inside the mailbox. I ran around the vineyard, up and down the vine rows--hair flying in the wicked wind--hoping to collect all the letters. As for the bills....

The mailbox artisan (Chief Grape) was not one bit ruffled by the wind's shenanigans. He simply added a no-nonsense safeguard: stones! All we were to do now was to wrestle the lid back onto the box, slam it a few times with our fists, then set two giant stones across the flat metal top.

       (One of the stones. It sometimes takes three, depending on the wind!)

"Stone" rhymes with "groan"...

Most normal people experience that tickle of hope each time they reach for their mailbox--never mind that it is usually bills on the other side of the slot. There's always the chance that a real letter awaits -- or a winning voucher of some sort (one can always dream!). Often, family members will argue about who will have the honor of checking the mailbox. Not our brood. All you hear is groans:

"A toi de le chercher (You get it!)"
"But I got it last time! (C'était moi la dernière fois!")"
"Bon, j'y vais! (Alright. I'll get it, then!)"

As for our unlucky mailman, he has no one to argue with. It is his chore to remove the mailbox "weights", set the stones on the ground, wriggle open the stubborn metal lid, drop the mail into the box (brave any stinging squatters), return the lid--with a few pounds of the fist), bend over and pick up the heavy galets, and return them to the box-top.... 

Oh, well, Chief Grape Mailbox Artisan might say, c'est ce qu'on appèle les aléas du métier! 


Le Coin Commentaires

Have you ever "repurposed" or given new life to an ol' something and been pleased with the results? Are you a DIY person or do you have the luck (or bad luck...) to have a determined inventor at home? Do you like to check the mail and do you still feel hopeful (or dread-filled) each time you do? Comments and anecdotes welcome here.


DSC_0036 French Vocabulary

la boîte aux lettres = mailbox

la ruche = (bee) hive

voilà! = and there you have it!

presto! = 'voilà!)

tout compte fait = still and all

la tempête de pluie = rainstorm 

un inconvénient = drawback, disadvantage

le couvercle = lid

le facteur = mailman, postman

c'est ce qu'on appèle les aléas du métier! = it's what we call the ups and downs of the trade!



Sara midda's South of France: a sketchbook Sara Midda's South of France is a place of ripening lemons and worn espadrilles, ochre walls and olive groves, and everything born of the sun. It lies between the Mediterranean and the Maritime Alps, and most of all in the artist's eye and passion. Read the glowing reviews, click here.

In film:  Paris Je T'aime Paris I love You.

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Keep your camaras in your pockets, on your belts, and in your purses! Here's another tip: PULL OVER! The biggest mistake I make, time and again, is to let the scenes pass me by. As I drive on, now 100 meters, now one kilometer past the image, I am kicking myself for not reacting quickly enough - by pulling over or doing a U-turn in time to capture a scene. Yesterday, on the way to Malou's house, I let this scene go (another car was tail-gaiting me, besides!)... but I caught up with the image on the way home! Never be a danger to another driver, but do search for a large enough shoulder on which to pull over. This time I had my Nikon D60 (for a better price check out this one), but any camera can take a good photo... with a scene like this!


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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety