ouvrier

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What is remarkable, or kind of funny, about this sign above the window? Your guesses in the comments box. Photo taken in Toulon, where today's story takes place.

ouvrier (ew-vree-ay)

    : worker

Example Sentence:

Je ne suis qu'un simple ouvrier. I am but an ordinary working man.

  

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

Mom and I were in Toulon, yesterday, looking up at a giant monument when a man suddenly appeared, like a phantom.

"Do you know the story?" he quizzed, motioning to the statue above us.

I looked back at the plaque, to the dates, which corresponded to WWII. "Were you there?" I asked.

When he didn't answer right away, I worried about placing the man in the wrong generation (and over-guessing his age). Casually, I rephrased things:  "I mean, are you from here?"

A smile lit up his wrinkled face, and he had to hold onto his woolen hat as if to contain himself. Once acknowledged, his voice hushed a notch. "There is another memorial plaque, on the other side..." he pointed out. "For the men who lost their lives in 1911...."

Mom and I listened, one of us translating as the stranger told his story.

"The battleship was called "Liberté"..." he began. "It was a brand-new vessel and it was carrying explosives. But almost as soon as Liberté left the port, the cargo detonated.  The accident caused several hundred men to lose their lives."

As the stranger spoke, his light blue eyes shone through my own, the warmth carrying with it a tangible sense of that dramatic moment in time. So transported, we listened to the waves crashing against the burning boat, the cries of the matelots, and to our own beating hearts, we frozen bystanders, one hundred years in the future.

After the stranger finished his story, my eyes were gently released from the grip of his regard, and I found my vision wandering from the man's peaceful face, to his worn-out coat, to his scuffed purse and shoes. In his hand he held a feuille des soins, or receipt from a recent medical visit. 

Around his neckline there was a layer of debris. Discreetly, I tried to identify it. It was the kind of dust that could collect after a long cold night on the streets of Toulon... poussière from an industrial city shedding itself on the unfortunates, or sans domicile fixes, including schizophrenics, runaways, and drunkards.

I observed the stranger's eyes, which were bright--sober as a newborn. His mind was just as sharp, and we listened, Mom and I, as he began to tell us about his beloved Toulon, this time in verse.

Les arbres qui l'entourent... la mer qui l'embrasse....

Mom listened as I tried to translate the poetic words as fast as the poet spoke them, but I could not keep up. 

I couldn't help wondering if the beautiful rhymes were his own. "Verlaine?" I questioned. 

He shook his head, surprised. "Now, where was I... oh yes! Les arbres qui l'entourent... Toulon, ville de fleurs... Toulon..."

After the poetry came a bit of trivia: do you know about les Farons?

I nodded my head dumbly (really not knowing a thing; in fact, when he said "Faron", I thought I heard "Pharaoh", and was soon lost in Egypt... when Monsieur interrupted my daydream, offering that le Faron was a hill. Pointing to it, he added: "There is a zoo up there." ). 

Just then, I felt a poke to my side. "Ask him if he is a professor!" Mom elbowed me.

"Vous êtes un prof?"

"No, I am a simple worker," came the modest answer. "Juste un ouvrier."

His statement set my imagination on fire again, and I pictured everything from giant cranes to coal mines to dock maintenance.

But before we could find out his story, il a disparu. We watched the simple ouvrier walk away--until he reached the edge of the place de la liberté, at which point he disappeared—poof!—like a ghost. All that was left was the uncanny feeling... of having just received a privileged visit from a drowned Liberté sailor, or ancient matelot.

 

 

French Vocabulary

(Je sais, je sais... I know, I know... this story needs a vocab section. Meantime, feel free to define some of the words in today's story. Click here to add a definition to the comments box. Merci d'avance!)

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In other stories: this stranger's words, "I am but a simple ouvrier," reminded me of another character we met in the town of Buis-les-Baronnies. Do you remember the last peasant?

 

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We celebrated Jackie's 15th with my mother-in-law Michèle-France's chocolate cake. Uncle Jacques joined us, too.

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If you are new to this blog, you might enjoy this mother-daughter story le frisson written last spring. You don't have to be a mom to enjoy it; if you've ever wanted desperately to connect with someone, you'll relate! Click here to read it.

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In other news, Jean-Marc received a very big package yesterday. He has once again chosen the maritime shipping container as a solution to our storage needs! The large unit is not visible from the front porch (ouf!) and the wine color almost fades into the scenery... where grapes will soon compete with the colorful horizon! To add a comment, click here.

For more stories of Jean-Marc's original solutions to life's dilemmas, read Words in a French Life or Blossoming in Provence. Your book purchase is a great support to this journal. Thanks.

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I have enjoyed this blog for years and watched your children grow up. You are staying strong through all the changes. Merci pour tout."
--Betty D.


le pavillon

Rue Pourquoi Pas = Why Not Street (c) Kristin Espinasse
le pavillon (pah-vee-ohn) noun, masculine
  1. small house; lodge; ward, pavilion
  2. flag

Also:
un pavillon de banlieue = a suburban house
un pavillon de jardin = a summer house, pavilion
un pavillon de chasse = a hunting lodge
un pavillon de détresse =  a distress flag

Expressions:
amener son pavillon/baisser pavillon = to surrender
montrer son pavillon = to fight boldly
couler pavillon haut = to founder but not give up, to lose with elegance
se ranger sous le pavillon de quelqu'un = to put oneself under another's protection

Synonyms: villa, abri, cottage, chalet, bungalow

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Citation du Jour:
Une fortune est plus à l'abri dans une tête que dans un sac.
A fortune is safer in a head than in a purse.
--Félix Leclerc

........................................
A Day in a French Life...

(The story that originally appeared here and included the French vocabulary, below, is now a part of this book!)

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References: l'imprimante (f) = printer; l"itinéraire (m) = itinerary, route; le Mourillon = beach in Toulon; l' arrachement d'une dent = the pulling of a tooth; les gencives (fpl) = gums; l'autoroute (f) = turnpike; au cas où = in case; la glycine (f) = wisteria; le goéland (m) = gull; la plage (f) = beach; la cigaloinette (from "cigale" = cicada; "cicada house"); le muguet (m) = lily of the valley; le voisinage (m) = neighborhood; pourquoi pas? = why not?; la rue (f) = street; quelle image = what a sight; le calme absolu (m) = absolute calm; pourquoi pas moi? = why not me?

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I have enjoyed this blog for years and watched your children grow up. You are staying strong through all the changes. Merci pour tout."
--Betty D.


grignoter

French sea = mer (c) Kristin Espinasse  
Wisteria and the deep blue sea off Toulon...

Yesterday I had the chance to "grignoter une salade" with a friend along the seashore in Toulon... more about that adventure in the next edition.

grignoter (gree-nyoh-tay) verb
  1.  to nibble at one's food
  2.  to eat away at (savings, natural resources...)

Expressions:
grignoter une place = to obtain a seat (coucil, court, board)
grignoter du terrain = to gain ground
grignoter entre les repas = to snack between meals
grignoter son adversaire = to gain ground on one's opponent

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Citation du Jour
Le bonheur est une petite chose que l'on grignote, assis par terre, au soleil.
Happiness is a little thing that we nibble, seated on the ground, in the sun.         --Jean Giraudoux

................................................
A Day in a French Life...

(Don't miss the story that originally appeared here, along with the vocabulary below--now a part of this book!)

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*References: un petit creux (m) = a little hunger; un gouter (m) = a snack; une mauvaise conscience (f) = a guilty conscience; le frigo (m) = the fridge; la gêne (f) = embarrassment; Pâques (m) = Easter; debout (adv) = standing; un pois chiche (m) = a chickpea; tu as une petite faim, cherie? = are you a little hungry, darling?; une cachette (f) = a hiding place; une frite (f) = a french fry; le niveau social (m) = social standing; bon appétit = enjoy your meal; rouge-tomate =
tomato-red

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I have enjoyed this blog for years and watched your children grow up. You are staying strong through all the changes. Merci pour tout."
--Betty D.