Just a goofy tale at the beach (in Bandol!) for you today... and a little rush, which happens while trying to write on a deadline! Thanks for overlooking some of the "missing things" in this edition, not the least of which my husband's pants!!!
(Sound file and example sentence will return on Wednesday. Sorry!)
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse
Lying face down on the beach, on top of my raincoat, I am wearing jeans, a long-sleeved shirt, sunglasses, a hat, and a thick layer of sunscreen for protection. The woman down the way may be sporting a bikini, but that is no reason, I decide, for me to feel awkward or self-conscious. Après tout, it is mid April and most of the people on the beach are fully dressed, enjoying a midday picnic.
Because I can no longer tolerate the sun, I decide to enjoy the pebbly view in front of me, beneath my shadow. In addition to the smooth cailloux, the beach is host to a zillion other fascinating sea remnants including little "brushy" bits (one could make a darling broom for a doll), beer caps (not so darling), pearly-bottomed shells, dried seaweed, tiny crab claws, sea glass, and driftwood, or bois flotté.
My eyes lock on a small piece of bleached bois, one that is smooth and shapely. A collection of the wooden sticks would look neat in a tall glass vase, wouldn't it? I begin hunting for another baton de bois, using the first one as a model. It turns out that this particular size (smaller than a french fry, with a nob here or there) is rare... and it becomes a challenge to locate another. I give up, returning two sticks to the ground.
Next, I see a beautiful green pebble with spots! The color seems rare... I begin hunting for another, to test the theory. It takes some searching, but soon my efforts pay off and there, in the palm of my hand is a modest collection of 7 jade-colored pebbles ranging in size from "split-pea" to "no bigger than a dried navy bean". I picture that tall glass vase, only this time it is filled with the precious pebbles. It will take many trips to the beach to fill it!
As I stare admiringly into my green palm, a moral dilemma presents itself. I begin to wonder: what if everyone on the beach has the same inkling... to gather bits of pretty things? Suddenly, in my mind's eye, there are no more shapely sticks of driftwood, no more verre de mer, or jade-colored cailloux...
Would my 7-pebbled pillage disrupt this natural setting?
Before I can feel any more criminal—or any more suspicious (no wonder I couldn't find any more of those lovely sticks—someone else beat me to it!) my husband appears, putting an end to the current philosophical conundrum.... and in so doing, introducing another one!
How, I wonder, did Jean-Marc manage to change into his bathing suit? Last I knew he was fully dressed (his swim trunks were in the sack beside me).... Because we were sitting on coats (no towels to use for the "wrap-and-switch", in which one can manage to pull on one's swimsuit whilst wearing a "modesty towel" around the waist), there was no explanation.
The mystery quickly solves itself when, oblivious to the crowd, my husband begins to change out of his swim trunks en plein air! (Actually, he is doing this seated, as if altitude has anything to do with discretion!)
"Jean-Marc! You can't do that here! Oh-my-gosh. Oh-my-gosh!"
"Oh my gauche? or oh my droit?" my husband laughs. I almost miss his joke, so busy am I dying of embarrassment.
I don't dare look left or right, for fear that all eyes are on us! When there is nothing left to do but laisser faire, I squeeze my own eyes shut and endure the "cultural" moment. Yes, that is all it is after all, isn't it? A matter of culture.
Regarding the feared or imagined gawkers (was the beach crowd watching?), The Paris Metro Rule swiftly came to mind. The Paris Metro Rule that states Thou shalt not stare at a fellow passenger!
Granted, these were not passengers, but beach bums... who were hopefully more rule-abiding than you or I when riding the subway—hopefully they weren't peeking!
Le Coin Commentaires
Comments, corrections, and stories of your own are welcome here, in the comments box. You might also share your observations of those "immodest French moments"... or answer the question: how many treasure can one take home from the beach (are 7 pebbles too many? Your thoughts here, in the comments box.
après tout = after all
le caillou = stone, pebble
le bois flotté = driftwood
le bâton de bois = stick of wood
le verre de mer = sea glass
en plein air = outside (in nature)
le gauche = left
le droit = right
laisser faire = to let be
Chief Grape. The only one to swim in the sea yesterday... at a calanque in Bandol.
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