Pancarte: A Funny Sign Taped to the wall of our W.C.

Valentines Day in Rome
Valentine's Day is past but an unusual love note lingers in today's story....
Also, a book you might love: Amour: How the French Talk About Love. Find it in the "Books" section" here.

TODAY'S WORD: LA PANCARTE

    : banner, sign

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

The last moments before Jean-Marc flew to New Zealand for his wine mission were spent fixing our plumbing--or trying to. Ever since we moved to this 1960s villa in 2017 we've been walking a fine, crooked line with our abominable système d'évacuation WC. It all boils down to the snaking path of our canalisations, the stubborn corners of which create blockage from a build-up of papier toilette. Repairing the problem could involve ripping out our floors to locate the crooked pipes and reroute them. The demolition involved could be extensive and I don't want to destroy our floors. So we have remained as stuck as our bouchon as we tiptoe around the problem, being soucieux with we put in the toilet. Easy for us, but try getting family and guests to behave...

(While we are here, dear reader, and just to add to your French vocabulary....Here are eight things not to toss in the toilet: lingettes humides, cotons-tiges, serviettes hygiéniques, cheveux, préservatifs, mouchoirs en papier, couches jetables et emballages de produits hygiéniques.) 

"I think one of the kids' friends tossed a tampon in here," Jean-Marc suspects after our pipes become clogged again (as evidenced by water rising unnervingly close to the toilet rim). 

"Well, we don't know that," I say, defending la coupable. I like to think people think before tossing just anything into a toilet, but my husband is right: the truth is many don't! We have discovered everything from plastic Q-tips to chicken bones in our toilet bowl! (Regarding the bones, for years I pinned the blame on a senior family member but, come to think of it, the latter happened when several workers were renovating our house, stopping at noon for lunch...poulet rôti???).

While we know better than to flush feminine products, I was astonished when our plumber advised us not to put le PQ in the cuvette. Well then, what did he expect us to do?
"Prenez une douche," he suggested. "You might take a shower after. It's what I do...."

I tried very hard not to picture our plumber following his own advice. Meantime, our toilet is located in a separate room from our salle de bains, did he really think we were going to hop on over to the shower to rinse off? Honestly! Sometimes I think France is still living in le Moyen Âge.

LE DEPANNAGE/THE REPAIR
What with this non-flushing fiasco, Jean-Marc and I have become part-time plumbers in the 7 years we've been here, with one of us manning the garden hose and the other on standby beside the toilet. Removing a heavy metal grate from the back porch, my husband feeds le tuyau as far into our pipes as possible then releases a jet of water whilst inside the house I listen for the familiar glug, glug, glug of I'm not sure what. Then comes the call, VAS-Y! TIRE! With that, I flush the upstairs toilet. then hurry down the stairs to pull the chain on the other WC. (Ideally, one person is stationed at each toilet, but often there are only two of us here. Even so, I don't like to ask guests for help with this particular chore...)

When my sister and the kids visited last summer, Jean-Marc reminded me to tell my family NOT to put TP in the toilet. “But they'll think we are barbaric!” I argued. (For being so anti-barbaric I was rewarded with a grizzly midnight shift during the family visit as Jean-Marc and I snuck out to the backyard and pumped the pipes when all the toilets became stopped up!)

As the years passed, and our pesky plumbing problem persisted, I began dreaming of one of those Totos or Japanese toilets with the built-in water jets. But at 3000 euros a unit (and not all plumbers know how to install them) I researched other options. As stressful as this situation is, it's brought forth a few discoveries. For one, I've found The HappyPo--a portable douche that allows you to skip toilet paper altogether. And let me tell you, even if we move on to another house and the perfect plumbing system I will forever have my HappyPo with me in the WC! And you should too! This douche à fesses portable is especially helpful for those suffering from petits soucis (such as hemorrhoids).

At D-12 hours until his departure for New Zealand, we hang up the towel and agree, whether we believe it or not, that the plumbing is somewhat fixed again. So while Jean-Marc finished packing his bags, I had a nap. No sooner did my head hit the pillow than I heard my husband ripping piece after piece of tape... a familiar sound! Noooo.... He can't possibly be using duct tape (his solution to everything from broken bumpers to ripped hammocks) to fix our plumbing problem? My mind was alive with images and scenarios of our duct-taped toilet (???) until, exhausted, I fell to sleep.

When I woke up I'd forgotten all about the tape until I entered the bathroom. And there, taped to the wall and also to the door, a handwritten pancarte. (So that's what he was doing...) The first word was giant and in red: "ZERO" and the next words were in his characteristic cursive: ZERO papiers, serviettes...dans le WC. Merci d'utiliser la poupelle. Sorry. Merci." ZERO toilet paper, pads…in the toilet. Sorry. Thanks.

I found the all-caps, red-lettered note jarring (not to mention it riled my aesthetic sensibilities to see a sign like that at home). Finally, deep down, I didn't want this to be the last message I see before my man leaves (to think we once exchanged love notes!). But my emotions were overcome by amusement on noticing a slight error in the text. In the haste to tie up so many loose ends before his departure, my husband had scribbled a "p" instead of a "b"...so that poubelle (garbage can) read "poupelle".

(Pardonnez-moi for all this toilet talk, dear reader, but I can't stop laughing over the accidental exactitude of poupbelle--for isn't that where the plumber was suggesting we put the toilet paper? And didn’t it all add up to that?)

Back to the handwritten pancarte. Ah well, it wasn't the love letter of times past. And though I planned to rip it down as soon as my husband left, I've decided to keep it posted on the bathroom wall, that all-caps plea in Valentine-red ink. After all, it is a lively, caring, and protective sentiment all the same, one I can hold on to. Now if only our WC could learn to let go....  

 

COMMENTS
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Bernard and Jean-Marc bike tour New Zealand
After 48 hours port à port, door to door, Jean-Marc landed in Christchurch. I leave you with a few pictures from his bike tour with longtime pal Bernard. Bernard and Jean-Marc began their biking adventure on the West Coast of New Zealand

REMERCIEMENTS
Mille mercis to readers sending in a donation for the first time, and to those of you who regularly contribute to my journal. Your support means a lot and keeps me on track posting this weekly letter.

Mary S.
Gaby & Steve T.

FRENCH VOCABULARY

Click here to listen to Jean-Marc read the French and English

la pancarte = sign (read a 2008 entry from the healing village of Lourdes, France)
le WC = toilet 
les canalisations = pipes
soucieux, soucieuse = careful, mindful
un bouchon = a blockage
le coupable, la coupable = the guilty party
le PQ (le papier Q) = toilet paper
le poulet rôti = roast chicken
prenez une douche = take a shower
le Moyen Âge = the Middle Ages
le dépannage = fixing, repair
la cuve = tank (of toilet)
la cuvette = toilet bowl
le tuyau = pipe
vas-y, tire (la chasse d'eau)! = go ahead, flush (the toilet)!
la poubelle = the garbage can

REID HALL2

The Paris Writers Workshop 2024, in its 28th year, is a dynamic week-long literary adventure (June 2–7) in the inspiring City of Light—with masterclasses by an award-winning faculty in Fiction/Novel, Creative Nonfiction/Memoir, Travel Writing, Poetry, and Screenwriting. Benefit from small-group masterclasses, individual meetings with instructors & literary agents, practical guidance for work in progress, tools of writing & paths to publishing. Early-bird registration thru March 15.

River in New Zealand
Thanks Bernard and Jean-Marc for these beautiful pictures! This must be the river they swam in.

Mountains
Glorious New Zealand! Do you think Jean-Marc will ever want to return to France? 

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


A Hug in French, Family Reunions and My Break in the States

Dogs in golf cart
Some friendly characters encountered back in the Southwest, USA.

BLOSSOMING IN PROVENCE BOOK REVIEW by PERFECTLY PROVENCE
"The book’s chapters weave through the realities of being a mother, wife, and daughter living in an adopted country with different rules, cultural norms and language nuances." Read Carolyne Kauser-Abbott's review of Blossoming in Provence.

TODAY'S FRENCH WORD: Un câlin

    : a hug

Rien ne vaut le sentiment d'être avec sa famille--et un câlin.
Nothing is worth the feeling of being with one's family--and a hug.


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse


Salut! Ça va? My two-week congé is over and I am home now in France--back to the murmur of French, to the scent of the Mediterranean Sea, to bright yellow mimosa and extended family. Sunday's cousinade, or gathering with the cousins near Aix-en-Provence was a joyous occasion even if I am still queasy with le décalage horaire. Surely jetlag was responsible for the confusion when my aunt-in-law, Annie, said I could set down the dirty dishes dans le potager. Now for me, potager means "vegetable garden," but who am I to question the authority of une véritable countrywoman?

Balancing a stack of dessert plates I was headed to the garden when doubt stopped me in my tracks. This time I consulted Cousin Sabine…
"Dit, Annie tells me the dirty dishes go in the potager???"

"Ah," Sabine laughed, "Maman is referring to le comptoir! We call that le potager. Voilà dear reader, an old-fashioned term for you the next time you're referring to the kitchen counter!

I spent a lot of time at the kitchen counter--er, le potager--back in the States, where my daughter Jackie and I had the chance to spend time with our American family. This short and sweet réunion de famille began with a brief stop in Denver, where my sister Heidi nurtured us back from desynchronosis or time zone syndrome. While filling up on everything from homemade tacos to spaghetti and meatballs, I savored time with my nephew and niece, Payne and Reagan, who came home from college CU Boulder for a visit before Jackie and I ubered back to the airport, direction Californie. I was headed to the desert on a very specific mission: to hug my dad.

From cousinade to "calinade"
While family back home often reassure me the phone is marvelous technology, rien ne vaut une bonne câlinade--nothing compares to holding your loved ones close. So, after, several calins back in Colorado, it was time to hug a few more family members. My little sister, Kelley flew in from Washington State, followed by Heidi, and we spent 4 memorable days in Palm Springs with Dad and belle-mère Marsha, enjoying lots of time at le potager, chatting at the kitchen counter, and lots and lots of hugs! But the best was seeing Dad looking so fit, healthy, and happy, grâce à son épouse, Marsha, who is also a doting hostess to us girls. And it was great to finally enjoy our "coffee with Kristi" as Dad calls our father-daughter chats, in the same room instead of on different continents, technology permitting.

Over breakfast of fruit and Raisin Bran, I watched Dad toss blueberries directly from the carton into his bowl. "Dad, don’t you wash the pesticides off those berries?" My father smiled: “I think the body does a good job sorting these things out.  I'm not worried.” I like Dad's relaxed attitude and realize all the stress of keeping my food clean is more harmful than a handful of unwashed berries. It's these bits of no-nonsense wisdom—and Dad’s endearing presence I miss so much...and the fact I can’t see the blueberries--those little things he does daily that speak of his philosophie de vie. So I soak in as much together time as possible and make a vow with my sisters to visit more often.

While chasing each other in golf carts, accompanying Dad and Jasper to the dog Park, or gathering around the potager/comptoir…we all seized the chance to laugh, shed a few tears, and encourage each other. All of these are important for an expatrié, for anyone living an ocean apart from loved ones. Yes, the telephone is a marvelous invention (and Whatsapp and FaceTime, too) but those warm hugs are vital. Rien ne vaut un bon câlin!

COMMENTS - To read the comments or to leave one, click here. Thank you for taking the time to respond to my story.

Heidi Kristi Kelley Dad Marsha Jackie

Heidi, Me, Kelley, Dad, Marsha, and Jackie.

Kristi Heidi Kelley sisters
A sister sleepover, with Heidi (center) and Kelley (right)

FRENCH VOCABULARY 

First study the French terms below, then click here to listen to them


salut = hi
ça va = how are you?
la cousinade = reunion of cousins
le décalage horaire = time difference, jet lag
le potager = kitchen garden, kitchen counter (in old Provençal)
dit = tell me
la réunion de famille
= family reunion
la câlinade = a made up word for hug fest
le câlin = hug
la belle-mère = stepmother (can also mean mother-in-law)
la Californie = California
grâce à son épouse = thanks to his wife
la philosophie de vie
= life philosophy 
rien ne vaut = nothing equals 

REMERCIEMENTS/ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 
With much appreciation for your donations to my French word journal. Merci beaucoup! 

Odile G.
Dan St G.

Sherry P.
Bill and Mary
Martha and Charles M.

Thanks again for your blog and amazing photos. Odile

I look forward to reading your stories and looking at the beautiful photos, and appreciate the time and care that you put into trying to make everything just right. Be of good courage! Peace and all good, Sherry

Love the blog and stories of life. It's also a good media for Martha & I to keep up with you folks. Thanks again for all the good reads. Charlie and Martha

RELATED POSTS
Don't miss the story about my belle-mère, Marsha.
And a favorite memory "Joie de Vivre" about Dad's visit to La Ciotat

Desert landscape
In addition to seeing my family, the scent of the desert and its familiar landscape brought me back to my roots. This year marks 30 years since I said "I do" and permanently moved to France from the Arizona Desert.

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Pompette: French for “tipsy” or “mildly drunk”

IMG_6746
While this weekly chronique is on break, I’m celebrating a meaningful anniversary. More in this story published recently in France Today magazine.

TODAY’S WORD: POMPETTE
"Pompette" is a colloquial French term that refers to a state of mild intoxication or tipsiness, rather than being fully drunk. It's often used to describe someone who has consumed alcohol and is slightly under the influence.

THE DANCE OF LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

On the terrace of a stately mas outside St-Rémy-de-Provence, amidst fields of lavender, I was sipping sparkling water and chatting with another wedding guest when the band came on. Suddenly, my high-heeled, gold-sequined-wearing interlocutrice set down her second glass of bubbly and shimmied over to the dance floor. “Allez! On danse!” She called, over a bare shoulder.

Oh to have such confidence in my own dancing shoes! But this was no time for wishful thinking. An invitation was dangling in the lavender-scented air and it would be impolite not to respond. Worse, it would dishonor les mariés who, by tradition, were the first on the dance floor and were presently waiting for the wedding party to join in. I watched as les invités set down their champagne glasses and let their bodies catch the rhythm of the beat. Easy for them after a few glasses of champers, but for me, having recently celebrated 20 years of sobriety, I couldn’t be swayed by inebriation. Stone sober, I entered the dance floor, hoping my awkward arm-swinging “deux pas'' went unnoticed.

The problem with the French, or any terpsikhore (there is actually a name for one who loves to dance), is they don’t wait around for weddings to shake their booties. Soccer stadiums, parking lots, and restaurants are all potential dance floors. This reminds me of a hip-shaking night out with friends in St. Tropez years ago. As we perused the menu, one of the women began humming along with the background music, got the urge to Get Down On It, and soon our dinner party of 8 was dancing beside our dinner plates.

While my mind is usually convinced that everyone on la piste de danse is a disco king or queen except me, in reality there are some disco dorks on every dance floor, and it is thanks to those Missing-the-Beat-but-Feelin’-Dynamite types that I am learning to let go. Twirling across the room, my husband is often there to catch me, and my clumsy deux pas is now a near-synchronous pas de deux.

When I stop to think of it, I owe my life in France to dance. For it was here, dans une boîte de nuit in Aix-en-Provence, that I spied my future partner. And by no cosmic coincidence, it was the first time I ever partied sober in a nightclub. As daunting as those first steps to sobriety were, I ventured out onto the dance floor and, this many years later, feel eternally blessed for that mighty move…and the series of steps I continue to perfect “one day at a time.”

FRENCH VOCABULARY 
pompette = tipsy 
un interlocuteur, une interlocutrice = conversation partner 
Allez, on danse! = come on! Let’s dance! 
les mariés = the newlyweds les invités = guests 
deux pas = two step 
la piste de danse = dance floor 
pas de deux = “step of two”, a dance duet
une boîte de nuit = night club 


REMERCIEMENTS/ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Heartfelt thanks to readers sending in a donation to my French word journal. 

Dick F.
Kerry L.
Alice W.
Laurie F.
Renee H.
Rosalie I.
C-Marie P.
Cynthia K.
Marie-Louise L.

I have so enjoyed your books and look forward to your weekly stories and pictures. I have been reading for a couple years now and thought I better send you a little something. God Bless, Renee

IMG_1271Outside the nightclub where we met 33 years ago.

COMMENTS
To leave a comment click here.

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety