une girouette - weather vane in French
Wednesday, March 06, 2013
"Cat on a hot tin wire." Girouettes are a works of art and if you look closely you will discover characters, even dramas! Photo taken a few years back in Pernes-les-Fontaines.
une girouette (zshee-roo-et)
: weather vane, wind indicator
être une vraie girouette = to be capricious, fickle; to be a weather vane (as changeable as the weather)
une girouette d'affichage = destination indicator. (You know those digital tapes or screens that run along the front of a bus, telling which direction the vehicle is headed? Those are called girouettes, too! girouettes d'affichage)
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse
Yesterday morning I waffled back and forth like a rooster beneath a falling sky. My hair flew up, twirling around me, as I retrieved fallen laundry from the clothesline. I snatched a dried sock from the rosemary bush, some underwear dangling on an olive branch, and a T-shirt that had flattened the patch of newly-bloomed anemones. As my eyes scanned the countryside I was thankful the wind hadn't carried off the laundry any farther. I looked down into the muddy dog run, no towels had ended up there this time (it was vacant. Braise and Smokey were safe inside the house.)
The girouettes are spinning this morning as a violent wind continues to sweep through the Mediterranean. Residents in Marseilles have been asked to empty their balconies, lest objects fly off landing on the streets (and the citizens) below. Certain roads along the littoral are closed because of the risque de submersion, or threat posed by the giant waves coming in off the coast. Even the scenic route des Crêtes, (taken last week, when I went to collect my bodyguard) is off limits.
"C'est infernal ce vent!" Jean-Marc grumbles as he gets out of bed to batten down the hatches. I watch my husband pull the wooden shutters closed locking them with a metal latch. Certain volets are old and warped and won't shut completely, as evidenced by the darkening patch of sky peeking in.
Jean-Marc isn't sure his gesture will make a difference. "C'était peut-être pas la peine."
"Yes, it's good, it's good," I assure him, a little spooked by the wind after an exceptionally creaky night. Earlier, when Jean-Marc got up in the middle of the night, he left our bedroom door open. I listened as it creaked back and forth, eventually slamming shut on its own. The windy rafales are so strong they are blowing right through the tiny spaces between the window and door frames.
"What kind of wind is it?" I ask Jean-Marc.
"Un vent d'est," he answers.
"Yes, but what is it called?"
"Un vent d'est..."
I was hoping for a colorful name--like a Tramontane or a Sirocco or even the ubiquitous Mistral. But with or without a name, my mind could still conjure up a colorful memory.
I thought about the times the cold Mistral was replaced by a warm vent d'est, how it would blow through Sainte Cécile, where we lived in a 300-year-old house with loose roof tiles. When the windy Sirocco blew through I would tell the kids to put their hands over their heads as we entered or exited the mas. I was always so afraid one of those tiles would come crashing down on our heads, after hearing about flying-tiles, or tuiles-volantes.
We eventually had the loose tiles refixed, but I never lost the habit of throwing up my hand to cover my head. It's a handy tip to keep in mind when navigating the windy corridors of France, where the charming old buildings are the slightest bit menacing on a day like today.
Oh dear, I hadn't meant to leave you on a discouraging note, so I'll end with a new term I learned this morning, a synonym for "au revoir"--and a welcome addition to our list of ways to say goodbye in French:
c'est infernal = it's hell
le vent = wind
C'était peut-être pas la peine = maybe it wasn't worth the trouble
une rafale = gust of wind
le vent d'est = east wind
le mas = old Provençal farmhouse
bon vent = goodbye (literally "good wind" - a term used by sailors, to wish someone a safe journey) Note: when expressed with an agressive tone, Bon vent changes meaning (instead of goodbye it means good riddance!)
I'm still sans ordi--or computerless--after my PC bit the dust Monday morning. Without any photo archives to illustrate this post, I had to swipe a few pictures from Google (no copyright worries--I photographed these pictures and used them in a post about a French cheese shop. Not that a girouette or a dog have anything to do with that, either. Read the short, cheesy story here.)
Max, our 17-year-old, will have two grains de beauté suspects, or "suspicious moles" removed today. The dark spots on his back and side appeared "smeared" or "shadowed". The doctor is not worried, but prefers to err on the safe side. How about you -- have you had your spots, moles, and questionable growths checked lately? What's keeping you? Maybe it is time for a prise de conscience.
A Message from Kristi: For 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.
Ways to contribute:
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety