Monday, 11 September 2017

French Faux Pas - an excerpt from a transitory life in rural France


The French language and I have been antagonists since our first introduction. I vandalised the language - according to my Father and teachers, and the language tortured me. Despite the many long hours I spent trying to make friends with The Language of Love, it was not to be , until I hit my mid-life crisis and spontaneously bought a house in France off the internet , in a region where English is infrequently spoken or understood.


With the aid of the Alliance Française, a truce with cette langue was conceded toute de suite and I recommenced French lessons in 2011.


Now I hold the dubious honour of taking the longest time of any Alliance Française student in Melbourne (or perhaps the world) to successfully complete Beginners Level French.  And it's not for lack of trying - it's just that my efforts have been sporadic and the hearing in my left ear has prematurely ceased.

There are words I can understand and spell, but not pronounce. Then there’re words I can pronounce and verbs I can conjugate, but fail to be able to put them into coherent sentences, unless I have preplanned and rehearsed what I want to say.  A killer for spontaneous conversation.  However, the greatest language mistakes I’ve made are with false friends – French words that look and sound like English words, but have a very different meaning.

A further barrier to my communication is the spit-fire speed at which the French speak and the plethora of silent letters that can make a sentence sound like one, very long, indistinguishable word. My comprehension, when it exists, lags at least few paragraphs behind the conversation making me look like a village idiot: my facial expression is blank as the flight or fight mechanism musters the energy needed to decipher what I'm hearing.  Definitely not a time to multitask.

Our first foray into a hardware store (un bricomarche) was met with puzzled looks when I asked the carefully rehearsed question "Est-que vous avez des planchers de chien s'il vous plait?"  Have you (floor) boards (made) of dog please? “Ahhh chêne – oui, oui “ was the relieved response of the shop assistant when I produced the piece of paper on which I had correctly written my question.

Excité(e) is a French word that I can pronounce clearly and confidently. In the past I’ve told quite a few French people (including officials) that I was très excitée to be in France, only to get a reaction which ranged from a smirk to a look of indignation. With such responses, a prudent person would have referred to their dictionary. Not me. Unfortunately excité(e) remained in my oral vocabulary until last year. 

It was the retort of our close French friend, Guillame, that finally goaded me into checking on the translation of excitée.

After a 6 am start on a day in July, in order to make as much possible progress with our renovating before the expected 400 C heat arrived, a trip to the le bricomarché and le supermarché were necessary. As I was leaving My French Folly, clutching a shopping list, Guillame (artisan extraordinaire) appeared - just in time to advise me on what type and brand of wood preservative I should buy.

"Bonjour Guillame " I exclaimed, before kissing him on each cheek, “Je suis 
très excitée parce que tu es arrivé et je vais faire les courses . Quel préservatif, je dois acheter s'il vous plaît ?”

Loosely translated I said "Hello Guillame, I am sexually aroused because you had arrived and I'm going shopping. What type of condom do I need to buy please?"  

Note to self: excité = sexual excitement or arousal (not thrilled or excited); un préservatif = condom; chêne is not pronounced chien.



Saturday, 10 June 2017

Adieu Printemps - Weekend Reflections

We've just received photos of our French garden from our dear neighbours who keep a watchful eye over My French Folly. According to their report................

Spring is about to bid us farewell as the sun stretches high into the sky.


The promise of new life has been delivered.


Fledglings dessert their nests.


The breeze plants a warm kiss in the shadows


 Now, the sweetness of the air barely lingers.


Leaves discard their verdant, juvenile greens for more mature hues.


Nature's rhythms continue to invoke feelings of wonder and security.


Printemps  by Victor Hugo
Voici donc les longs jours, lumière, amour, délire!  

Voici le printemps ! mars, avril au doux sourire,  
Mai fleuri, juin brûlant, tous les beaux mois amis!  
Les peupliers, au bord des fleuves endormis,  

Se courbent mollement comme de grandes palmes;  
L’oiseau palpite au fond des bois tièdes et calmes;  
Il semble que tout rit, et que les arbres verts  
Sont joyeux d’être ensemble et se disent des vers.  

Le jour naît couronné d’une aube fraîche et tendre;  

Le soir est plein d’amour ; la nuit, on croit entendre,  
À travers l’ombre immense et sous le ciel béni,  
Quelque chose d’heureux chanter dans l’infini.


Springtime by Victor Hugo
Here are the long days, light, love, delirium!
This is the Spring! March, April with a sweet smile,
May flowery, June blazing, all the beautiful friendly months!
The poplars, asleep by the riverside,
Bow gently like great palms
.
The bird quivers at the far end of the calm, tepid woods
.
It seems that everything laughs, and that the green trees
Are joyful to be together and say verses to each other.
The day comes crowned with a fresh and tender dawn.
The evening is full of love, the night, one can almost hear
Through the immense shadow and under the sacred sky,
Something happy singing in the infinity.

Recording: Monique Palomares  

English Translation: Lisa Yannucci 


Linking to Outdoor Wednesday

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Sunday, 28 May 2017

Words fail me.

The recent events in Manchester are numbing.
Words fail. 
Efforts of comfort appear incredibly hollow.


Change, like sunshine, can be a friend or a foe, a blessing or a curse, a dawn or a dusk. William Arthur Ward

There are 2 early birds in flight across this dawn sky. France 2016

Faith is the bird that feels the light when the dawn is still dark. Rabindranath Tagore

Wild poppies growing amongst the remains of Roman built baths in north eastern France. France 2016

A sorrow's crown of sorrow is remembering happier times. Alfred Lord Tennyson


Participating in Black and White Weekend
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Saturday, 20 May 2017

Just around the corner - there's a fork in the road.

"…..sometimes, when you take a great risk, life rewards you ten-fold" Heather Robinson

Champagne-Ardenne, France

Have you ever been at a fork in the road on life's journey and not known which path to take? One seems comfortable or familiar, the other foreign - perhaps challenging or fraught with difficulties; real or perceived. Which path do you tend to take? Which path is the better option? Dale Carnegie would emphatically state that "it's the road less travelled". But maybe the answer is "it depends": it depends on your "age or stage" in life, especially when  health issues are involved. 

Despite the path chosen, there should be no regrets. Continue to dream big, ask the seemingly unanswerable questions, add to your bucket list, and review the course you've taken. There is no escaping the fact that life is risky and will present us all with challenges. It is the degree of these challenges and risks and how we respond to them that sets us apart. 
As for me, I'm standing at the fork in my road..................procrastinating!

Linking with Black and White Weekends.

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Saturday, 13 May 2017

Vintage French in B and W


Apologies – some of the details of the image have been reduced for the sake of its uploading speed.
Is this just me?

French + vintage  = bliss


The radiator cap of this vintage French automobile was designed to be sitting proud on top of the car's bonnet.

Linking up with Black and White Weekend

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Lavoirs - a snippet of social history for visitors of France


The village in which this washhouse (lavoir) is located, is devoid of a bakery and any shops, but it boasts a castle and a charming lavoir. The domed roof covering the spring, is particularly attractive.

It was a recent post from Fabously French that had me scouring my poorly archived photos for some images of lavoirs* – sign posts of a now fragile heritage.

Adjacent to the 13th century church that sits at the bottom of a steep incline in our village, is this colourfully decorated lavoir. The flowers are voluntarily grown and nurtured by the surrounding neighbours.

The quaintness and charm of surviving lavoirs, that can still be seen in many French villages today, usually belie the often gruelling demands of laundering in bygone eras. More than just a place of work, a lavoir also provided a place where women could meet and chat while attending to an extremely time consuming, and often arduous domestic chore. 

A quaint washhouse can just be seen to the right of this stream that runs through Beaune. 

Household laundry consisted mainly  of rags, cloths and the inner garments worn close to one’s skin. Bed linen and outer garments were washed sparingly.

This lavoir is located under the private home, shown below, and is constantly fed by a spring just a few metres uphill. There was no available information about the history the building. 



Scrubbing, thrashing and wringing out the sodden fabrics involved physical strength, mental stamina and having one’s hands constantly wet - despite the ambient temperature.

Adjacent to notre maison, is a set of stone stairs that descends to the foot of our village, where there is a wash house that would have served the past inhabitants of My French Folly.  The garden is the result of the generosity of the lady who lives opposite the perennial spring on which this washhouse is built.
This stray cat can usually be seen basking in the sun on the leaver walls.

Of course there was also the task of carting the laundry to and from the lavoir on roads that were often unpaved and not necessarily flat. The 3 lavoirs in our French village are located at the bottom of the hills - on which most houses are perched - where water continuously flows from underground springs.


*Lavoirs were communal spaces - often roofed -  in which the public could wash clothes. They were commonly used throughout Europe for hundreds of years before the advent of household laundries.  

Stepping into the cool dampness of this washhouse provided a welcomed relief from the heat outside.
A private washing "sink" located in an isolated hamlet in eastern France.

There is a school of carp of varying sizes that inhabits the waters under this roof.

The 2 images above are of a washhouse in an un named hamlet nestled in the hills around Louhans. 

Each time I descend this set of steps that winds downhill from My French Folly, and pass the lavoir that sits at its feet, my mind drifts to the past inhabitants of our French home. Water and sanitation had never been connected to our house when we purchased it.  The installation of these modern amenities was a costly exercise, fraught with unforeseen complications.



Twilight as we walked past the nearest lavoir to commence our climb  home, after a delightful
apero with some local friends.

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Saturday, 15 April 2017

Joyeuses Pâques




The  familiar, rich tones of church bells,blanketing our village and scattering into the surrounding fields and forests, are absent today. It's disorientating as their recurring presence signposts every quarter hour of my life in France. However, come Easter Sunday, their comforting chimes will be restored once more.  


People respond when you tell them there is a great future in front of you, you can leave your past behind. Joel Osteen

The significance and traditions of this time of year very greatly around the world, but what cobbles them together, is an atmosphere of gratitude and renewal.



For me personally, it is a time to give thanks as well as a time of love, hope, and rebirth. The traditions that I observe at this time of year, both religious and non religious, help to anchor my life. 


Passover affirms the great truth that liberty is the inalienable right of every human being. Morris Joseph

Joyeuses Pâques

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Monday, 3 April 2017

A New Chapter Begins

A new chapter in our family history has just begun with the recent marriage of our daughter.

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage
Lao Tzu 

May God be with you and bless you.
May you see your children's children.
May you be poor in misfortunes and rich in blessings. 
May you know nothing but happiness from this day forward.
An Irish Blessing