Voir un film en VO, Bohemian Rhapsody, and Freddie Mercury's new fan

Movie theater seats in la ciotat cinema lumiere
Because I forgot to mention, in my essay below, what it was that most moved me about the biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody, I'll say it now: Freddie Mercury refused to let anyone, whether a close family member or a hot-in-pursuit suitor, define him. With his bold example he won my heart.

Today's Expression: voir un film en VO (version originale)

    : to see a movie in its original language

Jean-Marc and I have not been on a date in a very long time or, as they say here, depuis un bail. Instead of whining about it, I asked him out....

Let's go on a hike! I growled.

The hike got postponed but our date didn't... after my old man suggested a movie. The story of Freddie Mercury is playing en VO, at the cinéma, he said. I wasn't gripped by the suggestion, but, harrumph, it was that or the statu quo (does that mean same ol' same ol'? Well same ol' was getting old!)

Did you know our seaside town, La Ciotat, is the birthplace of cinéma? Here is where the Lumière Brothers set up camp--eventually building a palace for themselves and their cohorts. It is still there today and, for 250k euros you can buy an apartment within the rundown relic--something that might've appealed to Freddie Mercury who, I learned last night, had a whimsical taste and who might have enjoyed the historic movie theater inside the building.

Long digression over, let me continue about last night's date. Jean-Marc and I entered the Cinéma Lumière movie theater and, after ordering popcorn (they are now offering salted! Incredible, I only ever noticed sugared popcorn at French movie theaters) made our way upstairs to salle deux.

The little room was empty but for 10 rows of retro movie seats. Other moviegoers arrived only to decamp from seat to seat (the fauteuils are ancient and lumpy). I sunk right into mine and when the lights went out we were enraptured for the next 2 hours. So obviously moved was each an every spectator in the room, that nobody moved when the film credits came on at the end. 

He had us at incisors. He being the inimitable Freddie Mercury (played by the amazing Rami Malek). I was born with four additional incisors, Freddie was explaining in the opening to Bohemian Rhapsody, after two dejected bandmembers (who'd just lost their lead singer) made fun of his overbite. More space in my mouth means more range, he added, with flourish (his operatic voice singing to our own artistic genius buried somewhere deep inside, we hope). That is when the French, watching the entire film en VO, laughed out loud and were visibly (or audibly?) smitten by the hero.

Smitten, to say the least! I could not get home fast enough to cram. Determined to make up for lost time and watch and read anything I could find on the internet about Freddie Mercury who, the film enlightened us, was Parsi--born Farrokh Bulsara in Zanzibar, in 1946. He moved from India to England in his teens. Am I the only one who thought he was from Queens?

(No, I didn't really think this. But enough about my ignorance!)

I am currently engrossed in the Daily Mirror article Why Freddie Mercury Never Got His Teeth Fixed. The answer sums up all that I have not put into words about why he is the perfect mentor for a writer like me--and for anyone struggling to express themselves: He chose art over artifice.

This will mean something different to each of us. 
Perhaps the key word here is meaning: Freddie's gift wasn't to define it--but to get us to feel it. He did that with his additional incisors, his glorious voice--its operatic highs and lows reminding us of the path we are all walking. Freddie Mercury was never above us, he was equally one of us. A misfit-come-megastar, he never lost his heart. And he gave his best until the very end.

Carry on, carry on. (
I leave you with the lyrics I was humming on my morning walk. I'm new to Queen, so I've got lots of catching up to do, but a couple of words from Bohemian Rhapsody come back to me, and are all the advice a struggling writer or a struggling human needs: Carry on, carry on.)

Amicalement,

Kristi

P.S. Thank you for your tech empathy and computer help (especially Eric Lester), following the hop the fence post. My laptop is up to speed, after running all the updates which were clogging it!

Hp laptoc

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They hopped the fence: how our ideas (and our chickens) take off

doves and pigeons by Kristi Espinasse
"Writing is for the birds!" Photo taken here in La Ciotat this morning, when things were peaceful....

Today's Word: les guillemets

  : quotation mark

I set out to tell you a story about fugitive hens (no worries, they're back) when every possible distraction known to man or bird befell me. Welcome to a typical beginning to each and every writing session.

If I am currently typing this on my mobile phone, squinting at a tiny screen while hunched over my kitchen counter, it is because I refuse to let them win!

Them are the hurdles I've suffered in the 37 minutes since firing up that godforsaken laptop in order to compose a colorful récit.

Them are different or the same every time. This morning thems a mind-numbingly slow computer (this binary slug no longer allows me to type guillemets, so I have to use italics instead--in fact none of the numbers or characters on my laptop's numeric keypad work. Type the small c-with its cedilla-and I get an empty space. A blank!).

Earlier, d'un seul coup, my lazy HP switched keyboards on me, from AZERTY to QWERTY, meaning every time I type m I get a point-virgule (or something--who can possibly recall details at a time like this?).

Ça rame! Ça rame! Waiting 37 minutes for my (relatively new) PC to warm up, an opening line to this story is thrumming on my mind (or was). But as fresh new computer glitches arise and test me, I've lost my story's delivery along with bits of my memory.

Extremely frustrated I want to slam something (not my laptop! How 'bout a pastis?) Instead, I stomp on over to the kitchen counter, where my smartphone is charging...and where I am now reduced to typing with two thumbs, which feels dumber than bad grammar. Au fait...

Them may have stolen a lot this morning–-nerves and nearly my sanity--but thems still haven't taken away my tenacity! I leave you with an unexpected vocabulary section (how different the words would be had all gone smoothly). 

Amicalement,

Kristi

 

FRENCH VOCABULARY

un récit = story

les guillemets = quotation marks

un point-virgule = semi-colon

Ça rame = it's chugging along (literally, it's paddling)

d'un seul coup = all at once

un pastis = anis-flavored alcohol

au fait = by the way

amicalement = cheers, fondly, yours...


REVERSE DICTIONARY

keyboard = le clavier

computer = un ordinateur

QWERTY = a standard English-language typewriter or computer keyboard on which the first six letters of the second row are q, w, e, r, t, and y --https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/QWERTYAZERTYkeyMerriam-Webster

AZERTY - The AZERTY keyboard first appeared within the last decades of the 19th century in France as an alternative layout to the American QWERTY version of typewriters -Technopedia.com

MVIMG_20181115_075520

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Mise-en-Scène: A funny thing happened before the camera got rolling!

View from chateau de pibarnon
Today, photos and a bêtise or gaffe or no-no during Saturday's filming at Château de Pibarnon. (I hope this compte-rendu isn't a further no-no--as I don't want to end up on the cutting room floor!).

Today's Word: La mise-en-scène

    : staging

 

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE

When you gotta go, you gotta go! by Kristi Espinasse

Recently, Jean-Marc and I had the chance to help out with a French documentary about how France is seen abroad by the ones who love that country. A journalist was interested in hearing my story, after learning about our Franco-American life on a vineyard. There was one little pépin--we no longer live on a vineyard; thankfully this part was worked out when a kindly châtelain agreed to let us film chez lui.

We arrived at Château de Pibarnon after sunrise Saturday morning, to meet up with Eric de Saint Victor and the film crew. As Eric had a flight leaving in the next few hours, we quickly got to work...

Eric chateau de pibarnon
Eric de Saint Victor and the film crew


There is so much about filmmaking that I did not know. Naively, I figured we would stay an hour or so at the vineyard, then return home to La Ciotat to shoot the segment about blogging. (I had a bunch of cookies, madeleines, and other pick-me-ups waiting at home, but we would not get to those any time soon...)

Jean-marc talks wine
Jean-Marc, sharing about the difficult decision to sell our vineyard

After 5 hours at the vineyard, we peeled out of the vines in time for lunch--and not before I had made a few cringe-worthy gaffes. Gaffe number one occurred after we were fitted with microphones and instructed to drive up to the caveau de vente, or sales room. As we reshot that scene several times, I noticed a few things about the film crew, and shared my flippant thoughts with Jean-Marc as we waited in our car for the next Action! call.

They are such a nice team, I began, buckling my seatbelt and chatting with Jean-Marc who was at the wheel. Everyone is so friendly! But I don't think the journalist and the cameraman are getting along... I grinned. 

That's when Jean-Marc looked over at me, matched my grin, and pointed to my microphone. The one I'd forgotten all about....

No time to die of embarrassment, the cameraman and the journalist (wearing headphones...) signaled in unison now for us to drive, and the filming began again, only this time my face was flushed red. Creeping out of the car after the scene was over, I rejoined the film crew. The soundman (wearing headphones...) discreetly pointed out to me: You have a mute button on that little box (in your pocket) if you need it....

I smiled profusely at him and the other two professionals (my eyes pleading forgiveness). Thankfully punishment came quickly enough and I could pay for my chatty sin with the following humiliation, which garnered from the others, I hope, a good inward laugh...at my expense this time.

This happened after I finally got to the restroom after holding it all morning. Once inside the WC, I tore off half my outfit only to discover the dreaded microphone in full volume recording...

A big dilemma ensued: to go or not to go? But oh! oh! I had to go!

Not wanting so much as one tinkle to be recorded (and imagining the upcoming remix or montage), I searched desperately for the mute button--and could not find it! I tried ripping the cord out of the unit, but became confused by technology (so bad I had to faire pipi). In a last-ditch effort, I gagged the little microphone from hell, the little tattletale, with the help of my wool blazer.

And I promise to pull the wool over my own lips, next time I get the urge to gossip!! 

 

--
Many thanks to the very kind (and good-humored!) film crew. I will share more about the production and team members when the documentary comes out. Jean-Marc and I are one of many to participate in it...at least I hope to appear in it...after today's little story!

FRENCH VOCABULARY

une bêtise = a stupid thing
une gaffe = a blunder
compte-rendu = an account of something, a report
la mise-en-scène = staging
pépin = snag
chatelain = chateau owner
le caveau de vente = wine salesroom
le WC = toilet, lavatory
le montage = editing session

REVERSE DICTIONARY
to tinkle = faire pipi

Kristi in cdp vines
Tinkle tinkle little star. After posting this picture on social media, I did get told not to let this experience go to my head. Rest assured that before anything has the chance to go to my head, life will always intervene (as in today's story of the latrine!)

But if I ever get out of line--just call me Tinkle Tinkle Little Star.

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Caviar d'Aubergine: An easy, delicious family recipe for you

Eggplant aubergine raindrops gouttes pluie potager garden france
Merci beaucoup for the sweet messages, encouragements, and support you left following the anniversary post. I am fired up for another 16 years of writing and will read your bonne continuations whenever I need a motivational pick-up!

Fun fact: this post will take you 2 minutes and 38 seconds to read to the end. If you were to read it out loud, that would take 4 minutes and one second (stats from wordcounter.net, which I use to check my article drafts).

Today's word: la chair


    : flesh, meat, body

avoir la chair de poule = to have goosebumps


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

With so much wind under my wings (thank you again for your notes regarding the 17th year of this journal!), I thought I would simply share (funny, I typed *chair* first time around--the word of the day was on my mind and that is how the French pronounce it!), yes I thought I'd chair or flesh-out the story of a simple meal.

This impromptu dinner happened last night, after Mom and I sat down to déguster a few of the vegetables I'd prepared during the day: some patates douces that needed attention, as well as aubergines that were getting so big and ripe in the potager they would soon go to seed! Fearing sabotage--that weird emotional trance that has us ignoring our opportunities--I grabbed my shears and went to collect the two giant eggplants. A very dear golden retriever, our Smokey, followed along to help....

Smokey golden retriever and eggplant aubergine raindrops france

Cutting open the giant berries (unbelievably eggplant are classified this way!), I was amazed to see how beautiful they were: la chair was firm and bright--only some small seeds that were easily removed with a handy jagged-edged grapefruit spoon. I had in mind to make my mother-in-law's caviar d'aubergine dish, only, skimming her handwritten cahier, I could not find la recette (I did bump into Michèle-France's delicious bananes flambées, and her instructions very much as in the au pif recipe I gave you last week!).

So I did a google search, combining the gist of a few French websites to get exact ingredients for the most basic recipe of eggplant caviar. Here's my simple version, and it was simply delicious over toast--and as an accompaniment to les cuisses de canard (canned, talk about an easy dinner!), and the roasted sweet potatoes (simply halve the patates and sprinkle on olive oil, herbes de provence and salt and pepper on top, then into the four at 350F for 30 minutes).

CAVIAR D'AUBERGINES
 Eggplant Caviar

- 2 large eggplants, halved and scored
-2 garlic cloves
- sprigs of rosemary (optional)
- swirls of olive oil, sprinkles of salt, pepper, herbs
- half a lemon
- olive oil to taste (a few tablespoons to a half cup!)

After topping the eggplant halves with olive oil, salt, pepper, and herbs, tuck a few sprigs of rosemary and some quartered garlic cloves into the cuts of the scored eggplant. Now turn the eggplant halves face down on a cooking sheet and bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until the eggplant is soft enough to crush inside.

Once cooked, remove only the rosemary, then scoop out the flesh and add to a mixing bowl. I do not have a food processor, but a simple fork was enough to crush and blend the eggplant flesh. Add the juice from half a lemon and olive oil (and more salt and pepper) to taste.

Oh, and what taste! My Mom absolutely loved it, and she is not a fan of eggplant! She actually had seconds and thirds--so you must tenter la recette--give this recipe a shot--and share it with your friends and loved ones. It is wonderful comfort food, too.

It's lunchtime here in France, and so I'm off to reheat and repeat last night's meal. I will try to take a picture and add it to this post. So please check back, and thanks, as always, for reading. I'm so glad you are here. 

Amicalement,

Kristi

P.S. Vocab section coming soon. I'm reheating lunch now for Mom and me..... Update: here's the photo. That's the caviar d'aubergine, on a piece of toast smothered in pan juices (fat) from the duck!:
Eggplant caviar sweet potatoes duck
FRENCH VOCABULARY
la chair = flesh
déguster = to taste, savor, eat
la patate douce = sweet potato
une aubergine = eggplant
le cahier = notebook
la recette = recipe
au pif = by guesswork (or by eye-balling it)
tenter = to attempt something

Kristi and jules christmas lights
Photo and caption from my Instagram: I know it is early, and I don't want to stress anybody out...but it was Mom's idea to get a Christmas tree today. Then again, Mom keeps a Christmas tree all year round--dazzling with lights, because, she says, Light is everything! Amen!

Aubergines poivrons pommes slate ardoise
I fell in love with mousse before caviar. In the first case "mousse" was a charming street in Marseilles... and "caviar" was what was waiting for me at the end of that winding road, just a French football field from the sea. (Read the rest of this tender story, from the archives here).

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A Bundle of Joy: Celebrating The 17th year of this journal!

Bundle of oy

The anniversary of this French word journal passed quietly by last month, unbeknownst even to me. But now that I've put two-and-two together, I'm not letting this milestone go unfêted (another lapse into franglais?). In keeping this brief, I will share the one thing that comes to mind when I think about writing this newsletter to you, and that is "Bundle of joy."

Now here's the part that is étonnante: the act of writing does not = "bundle of joy" to me--nonpas du tout! (For a very long time that fact alone made me believe I was a writing imposter and not un écrivain...) Neither does putting together these blog posts--does HTML rhyme with "joie" in your universe? Heavens no!--unless you're a hacker or "pirate informatique" and btw don't you love French?! 

No, this "bundle of joy" of which I speak comes after delivery (just like a baby!)--after the uncertainty, after the effort, after the still-to-this-day doubt that maybe I've made a mistake in my delivery?

I read somewhere early on--or was it a friend who warned me...: Once the story is out there it is no longer your own. It belongs to the reader who will interpret it as only he or she can--based on each and every experience, good or bad, he or she has ever had.

Sacrebleu! 
That might have put me off writing then and there, except it didn't and now I look up from my computer screen and here I am in my 17th year of sending you these missives (I learned that word--along with a host of others and lots of grammar and geography too--from you. Your readership has been an education to me!).

As I pause today to mark this milepost in under 370 words, je tiens à vous dire, I have to tell you how deeply grateful I am for your "just show up and we've got your back" audience attitude. It reminds me we are on this creative journey together and this is why I write: for the connection and for the joy it brings.

Amicalement,

Kristi

Stone building with autumn leaves in france

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Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue doing what I love most: sharing vocabulary and cultural insights via these personal stories from France. Your contribution is vivement appréciée! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
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"Bonjour, Kristin, I have enjoyed your blog now for a great number of years, watching your children grow up, your moves from house to house, enjoying your stories and photos and your development as a writer. It's way past time for me to say MERCI with a donation to your blog...which I've done today. Bien amicalement!"--Gabrielle


Grrr! Grumpy and grouchy and broody in French! (Plus a fiery recipe...)

Hen house poulailler chickens 
"Broody" is less useful to you than the French word for grumpy (unless you're a hen), so we'll feature the second term--in verb form--today. Two mini columns follow: the first is a response to Audrey, who lives near the Spanish border, and the second is an update on our moody poule.

Today's Word: ronchonner

     : to grumble, growl, grouse

Voici des verbs similaires à ronchonner : rouspéter, râler, grogner
Here are some similar verbs to grumpy: to complain, to moan, to grumble. 

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE  by Kristi Espinasse

Following the Recipe for Disaster post, Audrey wrote in asking for the bananes flambées recette (everyone else wanted the banana tart instructions, which I'll get to eventually). Meantime, Audrey wrote:

"Yes please, the recipe, as I have to follow a gluten-free diet it would be perfect for me & one I could do for guests...."

Voici, Audrey, here's the au pif recipe for an easy, and apparently gluten-free dessert--one Jean-Marc made recently for our friends Kathleen and Dean. Just look at that blue flame! Dean, watch your hand!

Jean-Marc making bananas foster

BANANES FLAMBEES

One ripe banana per person
Sugar to taste
Butter
Rum
Ice cream (we use vanilla or salt caramel!)

 
Melt the butter and begin turning the whole bananas in the pan, until slightly golden or seared. Sprinkle sugar over the bananas and add a half cup of rum (just enough to cover the bottom of the pan by roughly an inch) to the poêle. When heated, very carefully--at arm's length and away from curtains or dishcloths or billowy shirts!--ignite the pan liquids (the rum) with a match or un briquet. When fire subsides, transfer the bananas and a little of the butter rum sauce to a plate or bowl, beside a scoop of vanilla or salted caramel ice cream.
 
The deliciousness of this simple dessert will give you an amazed look similar to this one...  

Broody hen
Now, changing subjects, a little story from my Instagram about her (our hen, Edie). After sitting on her colocataire's unfertilized eggs, and brooding for one month (she would not leave her nest, quit laying eggs, and had to be plucked out--via the roof!--of her nest box each day for fresh air and exercise), now she spends all her time out of the henhouse. Each night I find her roosting on the rooftop (of said hen house). So, after dark, I have to grab the broom by our front door and head over to her. I place the end of the broom beneath her feet until she steps up onto the broom handle...at which point I deliver her like a pizza back into the hen house for the night). It is quite a scene! And it's entirely lost on the two of us.

FRENCH VOCABULARY
la poule = hen
ronchonner = to grumble
la recette = recipe
voici = here you are
au pif = by guesswork, by eyeballing it (recipe)
une poêle = frying pan
la poule = hen, chicken, chick
colocataire = joint tenant, roommate

IN BOOKS: PARIS POSTCARDS by Guy Thomas Hibbert
The unique sights, smells and sounds of the famous city are the luminous backdrop to these eleven tales whose colorful characters are lured to the City of Light and Love. Order a copy here.

Paris postcards Guy Hibbert

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Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue doing what I love most: sharing vocabulary and cultural insights via these personal stories from France. Your contribution is vivement appréciée! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
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"Bonjour, Kristin, I have enjoyed your blog now for a great number of years, watching your children grow up, your moves from house to house, enjoying your stories and photos and your development as a writer. It's way past time for me to say MERCI with a donation to your blog...which I've done today. Bien amicalement!"--Gabrielle


My story: Political elections + friendship: The stakes are high (L'enjeu est de taille)

Smokey lettuces
Random photo of Smokey and some lettuce as I don't have a politically-themed image for you!

On November 6, 250 million Americans are called to the polls. A portion of the senators, the totality of the representatives, a group of governors and local elected representatives will be renewed: the stakes are high. (translated from the French, below)

Today's phrase: être appelé aux urnes

     = to be called to vote, called to the polls

Click here to listen to the following sentence:
Le 6 novembre, 250 millions d'Américains sont appelés aux urnes. Une partie des sénateurs, la totalité des représentants, une palanquée de gouverneurs et d'élus locaux seront renouvelés : l'enjeu est de taille. --Grazia


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

The day before yesterday, while Jean-Marc and the neighbor were felling a few fire-hazardous pines near our new house, I began to think about some longtime friends and to puzzle, once again, over our unexpected estrangement.

It happened over politics, though I suspect the break-up began with the tree we cut down in our backyard. I never wanted that tree to be felled, but when it was declared a hazard ("If a branch broke off of that tree," another neighbor warned, "it could kill a kid!"), that is all it took for me to agree to have the tree taken down.

My dear friends, a married couple, were physically ill over the tree-felling episode, which they witnessed from their back porch. A tree is a sacred entity, and it must have been heart-wrenching for them to see that one come crashing down. But it would have been even more traumatic to me to see one of its heavy branches come down on my children who played beneath it each day.

Around this time the French elections were underway and my dear friends, who are a married couple, were busy rallying for Ségolène Royal. These expats had even drafted a letter to the politician in which they proposed a detailed strategy that, should Mme. Royal heed the instructions, would help her win the upcoming election. When my friends forwarded me the letter via email, I read it, surprised by their moxie to go telling a French president-elect what to do! Next I thought, good on them! for exercising their freedom of expression and for believing that they had the ability to effect a change in this world. I should exercise such precious freedoms too!

Newly inspired, I tried to respond to their forwarded letter, only it was hard for me to put my thoughts to words. The truth was, I knew so little about politics, in spite of getting an earful each day from my husband (anti-Ségolène) and again from my friends (super-pro-Ségolène!).

I thought to keep my reply simple, hoping both to encourage my neighbor to exercise his rights (and his wife's)... while not drawing too much attention to my own ignorance vis-à-vis the political debate). Here's the entire word-for-word response that I wrote:

Dear A,

I think your letter was helpful to Madame Royal and you have given some very good ideas. (Next I quickly changed the subject...):

It was nice bumping into you the other day while out on a walk. I will miss walking along that scenic path and the scent of the garrigue here in the Var!

My best to Z.

Love,
Kristi 


A few days later I received a surprising and disturbing response:

Dear Kristi,

I have received your email in which you try to give the impression that you support Ségolène.

Whom you support is your business. It is not my concern.
But when your daughter told us yesterday, when she and [name withheld] visited us, that both you and Jean-Marc support Sarkozy, it showed a certain double-faced nature, which didn’t come as a surprise.

What really disappointed me greatly is when the two girls started arguing the case for waging wars. “Having wars is good, so long as it does not take place in France.” That is what my ears heard. When I heard that my heart fell. That someone so young can make such a statement shows that they have been badly brought up, lacking any ethical and moral sense, showing no lack of respect for life.

With kind regards,

 

Reading the letter I was amazed. So many strange accusations and untruths. No! My 9-year-old daughter was not out touting war! (She happened to be out looking for candy, which these neighbors and good friends took delight in giving her.) No, she would not have said both my husband and I were for Sarkozy (an impossibility!).

No, no! no! Rereading the letter I was struck by the sentence "that is what my ears heard..." Could it be that my neighbor was so caught up in current politics that when a couple of 9-year-olds stopped by... they sounded to him like a team of warmongers?

I had to respond to the accusations, but I could hardly type the first word, and the second word is completely missing as you'll see...

Dear A,

I disheartened by your email.

As for the other harsh words, I am speechless.

I am not a Sarkozy supporter, for the record.

Reading your email and the accusations, my heart has fallen as you say yours has.

Kristi

 

But the final words from my dear friend took my breath away:

Dear Kristi,

Please understand that I’m not angry with you.

The reason why I’m writing again is out of concern for your mental health and welfare generally.

Honestly, I don’t see one Kristi. There are two Kristis in one physical body, one Kristi who is totally unaware of what the other Kristi is thinking, feeling and doing. In medical jargon this condition is called schizophrenia. It affects thousands of people in varying degrees. If you don’t put the matter right now, it might get aggravated in the years to come. So I suggest you consulting with a reliable English-speaking psychoanalyst, I say English-speaking because that’s your parental language, not French, and all your earliest impressions are tied up with your first language. I realise that such psychoanalysts would be difficult to find in France, so you can try elsewhere.

Kind regards

A

 

No matter how many times I tried to find the words, I could not respond to my friend's letter. Sadly, I never spoke to the couple ever again. 

The letter left me deeply thoughtful and somewhat agitated. Were there several Kristis? A tree-felling Lumberjack Kristi? A two-faced Sarkozy-Segolène Kristi? Or a multiple-mugged People-Pleaser Kristi? 

I don't know that I know who I am any more than the next person does. Just who am I to know? I am both a very open and expressive public persona... and I am a fiercely private likes-to-live-in-her-own-room person, too.  I leave off, ironically, with a well-known aphorism: Know thyself. Some say it means "to pay no attention to the multitude". This brings me a certain peace when it comes to hurtful name-calling. 

          *    *    * 
(End photo: a sea urchin from our magnificent Mediterranean coastline. The interior of this "oursin" is protected by a delicate-yet-protective shell...a sea creatures version of "thick skin"! 

Oursin Sea Urchin (c) Kristin Espinasse

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Recipe for Disaster & "To return the kindness" in French

Moonlight over le castellet
The perched village of Le Castellet, level with the moon


My website is experiencing technical difficulties... Let's get straight to the story before the lights go out!

Bananes flambées
bananes flambées
bananes flambées
bananes flambées

...that's how many times we ate the rum-drenched dessert last week (and tomorrow's guests are getting more of the same--or du pareil au même).

Now, I can hear of few of you chattering: "Rum-drenched bananas? Kristi's fallen off the wagon"...but I can assure you I am sober as a stick over here in La Ciotat--we've just had a very social week, and everyone knows that social in French rhymes with la bouffe. So when, last Tuesday, we invited two couples over for dinner, I needed to come up with a menu. Because our guests are excellent cooks (story here and also here), I was beginning to sweat it out, this tradition of "rendering the pareille" (very bad franglais. We'll straighten things out in the vocab section below....) So, I decided to knock two items off my side of the menu--and let Jean-Marc tackle those. One was le plat principal, the other was dessert! That left me to worry about an apéro, a salad, and a cheese plate--fastoche!

But, back when I was going to be responsible for dessert, I thought up a "tarte à la banane" in honor (or, in the necessity of using all) those bananas on our countertop. That is when, on second thought, a banana tart sounded terribly fade (and by that, I don't mean the dessert is "all the rage"--by fade I mean BLAND).

Then I remembered that one of the things my husband is good at (besides hunting for sea urchins, finding hidden beaches, and moving us to a new location every 5 years) is making bananes flambées. Ça y est! That is how Jean-Marc became in charge of dessert Tuesday night...and Thursday night (when we ate at Kathleen and Dean's--and offered to bring dessert), and Sunday (when my belle-soeur came for lunch) and again on Tuesday when we ate at Pascale and Patrick's--and again offered to take care of dessert...).

Now that we are (almost) done with an unusually social week, I can lower my hostess blinds and begin to reflect on all that cooked rum. What was I thinking? The only answer that comes to mind is one the French offer when admitting that dinner has "un tout petit peu d'alcool" in it: "...mais l'alcool s'évapore lorsqu'il est chauffé! But alcohol evaporates when it's heated" They always say!

Bref, that's the story of how things went bananas this past week. Maybe I should have stuck to tarts.
 

FRENCH VOCABULARY
les bananes flambées = bananas foster
du pareil au même = more of the same
la bouffe = food, grub (slang)
rendre la pareille = to return the kindness
plat principal = main course
un apéro = aperitif, drink (often with snacks)
fastoche = easy
la tarte = tart
fade = bland
la belle-soeur = sister-in-law
bref = anyhow

Banana tart

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Sans plomb, essence, caoutchouc, and a gas station story on French nonchalance

Sansplomb
The sign on the back of the old truck says "(ride) in complete security...with Michelin tires". And in today's column, an oldie but goody from the archives--beefed up with extra vocabulary. Please share this post with someone who would like to learn French.

 
Today's word: "caoutchouc"


    : rubber
 

Audio File: Listen to french word for rubber, via the following sentence

L’essence sans plomb 98 est plus détergente que l’essence sans plomb 95 et se révèle plus corrosive, en particulier pour les pièces en élastomères (caoutchoucs). Ces deux carburants contiennent de fortes quantités de composants aromatiques qui sont très toxiques. Il faut donc éviter d’en respirer les vapeurs et ne pas s’en servir comme agent de nettoyage ou de dégraissage. (from Wikipedia)

Unleaded gasoline 98 is more detergent than unleaded gasoline 95 and is more corrosive, especially for elastomeric parts (rubber). Both of these fuels contain high amounts of aromatic components that are very toxic. Therefore, avoid breathing vapors and do not use as a cleaning agent or degreaser.


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE...back in 2007

"La Station d'Essence" by Kristi Espinasse

At the gas station in Camaret-sur-Aigues I study the menu. I wonder whether to "fill 'er up" (faire le plein) with Sans Plomb 98 (better for the engine?) or Sans Plomb 95 (a few centimes less and just as suitable for my bagnole).

Opening the little door that leads to the réservoir à essence, I pause to re-read the sticker notice which cautions me to use fuel sans plomb. I have yet to make the mistake of filling the tank with another type of essence (having learned from my husband's mistake); perhaps all my neurotic double-checking has served its purpose?

I look up to verify which pump I am at: "No 2," the sign says. Right, number two. I will remember "pump number two" in time to answer the clerk at the pay booth. (And I will remember, this time, to check that the price matches the total on the screen. OK. Check, check.)

I pull out the nozzle only to return it to its carriage as I always do. "78 euros" are registered on the pump's screen. I am concerned that if I begin pumping, the truck ahead of me will have a surprise tab at the pay booth. I wait until the camion rolls past the booth before I pull out the gun once again, heaving a sigh of relief when the screen registers zero.

Next I try, as always, to set the nozzle to automatic. I want to pump as the pros do. I think it has something to do with hitching the nozzle's lever to some mysterious hook inside the handle. As always, the lever snaps back and I quickly give up. I'll never learn the trick, never mind that the other blond (at pump number three) seems to know it. Well, GOOD FOR HER.

When the lever snaps again, this time signaling a full tank, I resist the temptation to force in a few more liters. Don't take chances. Remember from experience that it's not worth the mess. I put the cap on the tank, turn the key and shut the little door. The screen reads 56 euros. (80 percent of that represents tax, as those who think about tax are wont to say. I should think more about tax.)

Pulling up to the pay booth I notice the attendant on the other side of the window. She doesn't strike me as someone who checks manufacturer's notices for fuel requirements or recalls the risks of tank overflow--though she does have on a tank top and you might say it overflows. And she doesn't seem to take her job too seriously. (Presently, she's filing her toenails.)

I marvel at her "filing-toe-nails-in-public" attitude which matches her unorthodox approach at manning the gas station pay booth. In the time that she makes me wait (she's finishing her pinkie toe), I think about how I could learn a thing or two from her: she with the hang-loose curls on her head and liberated legs (she's wearing cut-offs). The closest she has ever come to neurotic, I imagine, is in showing up for work every day.

FRENCH VOCABULARY
la station d'essence = gas station
faire le plein =
to fill up (gas)
sans plomb
(m) = unleaded
un centime = cent, penny
la bagnole = (slang) car
réservoir à essence = gas tank
le camion = truck
l'essence (f) = petrol, gasoline

Embryolisse
A French must: Embryolisse cream. I am down to the last drop (or squeeze) of this handy cream! My daughter and I both use Embryolisse (my twisted tube, left, hers, right) and it was extra utile for our recent trip--as one tube serves many purposes: makeup remover, face lotion (hydrating lotion seems misleading as it will not put moisture in your skin, but will help keep it there), and primer. Men, it makes a good aftershave! Order a tube here.

Also, I found this little wonder gadget "tube wringer" to help squeeze the last bits of cream (or toothpaste or you-name-it) from your favorite product. Check it out, or buy it here--it may well be the perfect gift for that hard-to-buy-for one on your list! 

DSC_0018-1
Snapshot from Vaison la Romaine 

This next picture (Jean-Marc, his elbow broken, surveys the land where he would plant his grapes) was taken a year before we decided to sell our 2nd vineyard near Bandol...

Jean-marc broken elbow

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Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue doing what I love most: sharing vocabulary and cultural insights via these personal stories from France. Your contribution is vivement appréciée! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
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"Bonjour, Kristin, I have enjoyed your blog now for a great number of years, watching your children grow up, your moves from house to house, enjoying your stories and photos and your development as a writer. It's way past time for me to say MERCI with a donation to your blog...which I've done today. Bien amicalement!"--Gabrielle


Tout rikiki, fastoche, and the unexpected French word for "good luck" + my would-be 15 seconds of fame

Jean-Marc and Kristi Espinasse
There was just one eensy-weensy--tout rikiki--detail that would prevent a documentary film crew from interviewing an American about her French vineyard life: we no longer live on a vineyard. This logistical pépin was quickly patched up (filming will take place elsewhere...) only for another oops-a-daisy to arise: "Parlons-en," the journalist began, "de vin."

Normally, at this point, I would've thrust my trusty side-kick, Chief Grape, in front of me, but the story, part of a bigger compilation to air on France's Canal+, is from an American's vie-en-rosé perspective....

Just when it seemed this interview had bitten the dust (I admitted to the production team that months before my husband began shopping around for a vineyard, I quit drinking...)--so just when I was waiting on a "thanks but no thanks" email response from the interviewer, she came back with"ça ira!"

So now here I sit, at my kitchen table, practicing being filmed working at my ordinateur while blogging (that part, so feared when the interviewer suggested it, will be fastoche compared to talking about wine, comme si de rien n'était! As if there weren't a giant white elephant in the room, slurping on a mug of rosé)....

Wish me Merde! (That's "good luck" in French.) I'm going to need it. That or a giant mug of rosé. Oh gosh no. That's the last thing I need!


FRENCH VOCABULARY

tout rikiki = eensy weensy
un pépin = snag
parlons-en = talk about
le vin = wine
vie en rosé (a play on vie en rose) = life in rosé, life's view from behind rose-colored glasses
ça ira = that'll work
un ordinateur = computer
fastoche = easy peasy
comme si de rien n'était = as if nothing were amiss
merde! = good luck!

Our former vineyard and sunflowers

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Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue doing what I love most: sharing vocabulary and cultural insights via these personal stories from France. Your contribution is vivement appréciée! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
♥ Send $10    
♥ Send $25    
♥Send the amount of your choice

"Bonjour, Kristin, I have enjoyed your blog now for a great number of years, watching your children grow up, your moves from house to house, enjoying your stories and photos and your development as a writer. It's way past time for me to say MERCI with a donation to your blog...which I've done today. Bien amicalement!"--Gabrielle