parler en public: video of my talk + bribing Shakespeare and Company bookshop
Chapter 1: Positano, Italy - Summer 2002

mener a la baguette

New roommates in 1993. We are eating in Place Thiers, just off the Vieux Port, in Marseilles
Courtship at La Cloche à Fromages restaurant in Marseilles. The year was 1993 (the handwriting is my husband's). Little did I know the adoring Frenchman, was really the authoritaire Frenchman! But that is only my side of the story. According to him, I'm the bossy one. What's sure, is neither of us has a lot of patience. Read on.

mener à la baguette (meuh-nay-ah-lah-bah-get)

    : to boss somebody around

Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc read the example sentence, below, in French: Download MP3 or Wav file

La femme qui porte la culotte mène sa famille à la baguette. 
The woman who wears the pants bosses her family around.

Improve your French pronunciation with Exercises in French Phonetics. Click here. 

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

The Taming of the Shrew

A nice, hot cup of tea was calling me Friday evening at the end of a busy week. I had just put the kettle on the burner when Jean-Marc rang, asking me to come film him at the newly-cleared terrain down the road, where he will plant his mourvedre vines next year.

Reluctantly, I switched off the gas burner and went searching for the caméscope my husband gave me for my 45th. Finding  it with Jean-Marc's affairs, I shook my head. Some birthday present!  Next I searched for my keys, the ones my husband is always displacing after borrowing my car. Having shot through the house, upturning every nook and cranny, I finally found the keys but was now boiling like the tea kettle should have been, the one that would not be filling my cup anytime soon!

Coming to a screeching stop at the foot of the future vineyard, I saw my husband through the cloud of dust I'd  just kicked up. He was at the end of the muddy field, sowing soil-amending cereal. It occurred to me that before I put on my galoches, and slopped all the way over there, I better double check the camcorder. 

Zut de zut! The memory chip was not in its place, just like my car keys weren't, earlier. The frustration of it all! It was enough to make a wife ... write!

"More grist for the writing mill," I grumbled, burning my tires on the way back out of the field. An attitude adjustment was on the horizon but, busy spinning my wheels, I just hadn't caught up to it yet. 

The next time I returned to the parcel, I had the caméscope, the inconvenient chip, and my daughter (who I collected in the interim, as school was letting out at the same time).

Jackie was now ducking in the passenger seat, horrified as busloads of her peers streamed past our roadside parcel, where a man and a women stood flapping their arms.

Jean-Marc (flap! flap!): No! You need to stand over there and aim at this way!
Me (flap! flap! flap!) : YOU are telling me how to take a picture? But I know how to make a video!

Our daughter wasn't embarrassed so much about her expressive parents as she was about word getting out that she lives on a farm. No matter how many times I tell her that people in Paris and London and New York--along with all the stylish kids at her school--dream of swapping fashion and design for mud and chickens, she won't believe it.

Looking around at the mud and the arm-flapper facing me, I'm beginning to wonder if I still believe it? 

"Stand over there!" Jean-Marc clucked out his orders.
"What? You want a busy street for the background of your video?" I huffed. "Well HAVE IT YOUR WAY! If it were me," I sniffed, "I'd MUCH rather see a field of ancient olive trees in the back ground!" 

As I stomped across the muddy field, following my husband instructions, Jackie shouted from the passenger seat, "Can we please go?! J'ai honte!

"Tais-toi!" Jean-Marc and I clucked, flapping our arms at each other, and now at our daughter, who ducked as yet another school bus passed. I was just as embarrassed as Jackie was, for aside from the buses, carloads of locals drove by, gawking as they got a closer look at the new, spirited landowners.

Back home, I put the tea kettle on the burner and was on my way to change into my pj's when the phone rang.

"Chérie..." Jean-Marc began, in his sweetest voice. "You are right, the video would be much nicer with the olive trees in the background... "

Back at the parcel, I waited for the wall of dust I'd once again kicked up to clear.... when it occurred to me that I ought to check my camcorder. Had I put the chip back in after uploading the previous video?

Zut de ZUT!!!! 


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My It girl, 15-year-old Jackie, whose plan is to lose her French accent and sound more like a ricaine. Click here if you missed that story.

French Vocabulary:

le terrain = ground, field
le caméscope = camcorder
zut de zut = well if that doesn't beat all!
j'ai honte = I'll die of embarrassment! 
les galoches = mud boots
tais-toi! = shut up!
chérie = darling 


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Exercises in French PhonicsExercises in French Phonics is... 
" a great book for learning French pronunciation" 


The cherry or almond blossoms are budding here in Bandol... though this photo was taken back in Ste Cecile, some time ago...
In 1989 I quit selling girdles and came to France, mistakingly thinking I was at least as strong as the "drawers" i once sold. Click here to read the story (and to see the "before" picture of this kitchen!)

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

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