une échelle

la dalle

The village of Roquebrune-sur-Argens (VAR)

la dalle (dal) noun, feminine
1. paving stone, flagstone; (concrete) slab

que dalle = nothing at all

avoir/crever la dalle = to be starving
n'y piger que dalle = to understand nothing
avoir la dalle en pente = "to have a sloping floor," to be a boozer
Je n'y vois que dalle = I can't see a damn thing

Citation du Jour:
Le sage trouve l'édredon dans la dalle.
The wise man finds eiderdown in concrete.
--Henri Michaux

A Day in a French Life....

Trying to occupy the kids with Papa Poule* away for the weekend was a real épreuve.* In planning a Sunday drive out to Roquebrune-sur-Argens I fought the urge to just stay home, lie on the floor and let the kids run circles around me. You might as well have poured une dalle* and stuck my two feet in it -- I seemed to move forward at such a velocity: a legs-wading-through-wet-cement-pace, struggling to get our trio out the front door.

My husband is a "gets-things-done" type of Frenchman, which is one of the reasons I uttered an emphatic "OUI!" at the église* 10 years ago. I have always been impressed by his verve for life--not that I agree with his mode d'emploi or "how to" in getting from point A to point B. A typical trip to the plage* will have him throwing a BATH towel into the trunk and tapping his feet impatiently while I am knee-deep in preparation for the same outing. Whereas I might 'throw in the towel' and want to collapse into a chaise longue* on the back patio (because I can't find the BEACH towels or the sun cream and it's taking forever to gather sunglasses, snacks, an air-mattress, hats, water...) he'll get us to the beach, even if it means showing up with nothing more than a threadbare IBIS* hand towel.

While you could describe my life as a painting ("Still Life in Provence"?) in which there is quiet beauty and a fair amount of joy in the lavender-packed hills; mystery and an ongoing saga near the midnight-blue sea -- you could describe my husband's as a soccer match: "Marseilles attacks Le Monde"* in which life is a vast green field, the goal, when the work is done, is to have fun, to get a kick out of his friends (whose humor I do not always understand) and to run shouting through the field, head flung back, mouth wide open as if to drink in the rain, arms spread out in victory and in awe of this world. Two different earth dwellers, we are, from two different continents, just beginning to appreciate the other's art de vivre.*

And so it was that over the weekend, and in the spirit of my husband's "get out and live life to the fullest" approach -- I emerged from my comfortable still-life painting to high-tail this homebody out the door. Though I would rather have sipped coffee on the front porch and watched the neighbors amble by, I left my stagnant tableau* and entered the field.

Given that I had adopted my husband's "life's a game" philosophy, if only for the weekend, it was not so surprising to be met by immediate resistance from the opposing team.

"I don't want to visit another village," the kids wailed as I chanted, "Keys, glasses, wallet... camera, kleenex, jackets..." trying to organize our périple.*

"Well, do you want pizza? If you'll visit the village with me, and let mommy snap a few photos, I'll take you for pizza after." I began by bribing and ended by making threats.

I coaxed two grumpy Gauls into the car and we headed down the RN7,* past the parasol pines, past the prostituées,* past my favorite lone cabanon* with the old Pradel sign painted across its facade.

Once in Roquebrune the party poopers perked up. "Look, Jackie," Max said, squealing as he sailed down the arm of an escalier.*

They loved the hilly village with its winding alleys, and they gargled with laughter while running up and down the narrow pedestrian streets. All the chasing and sliding emptied their reserves, and when we finally collapsed into the car to head out of Roquebrune, Max said to his sister:

"T'sais ce que c'est 'd'avoir la dalle,' Jackie?
("Ya know what 'd'avoir la dalle' is, Jackie?")
"C'est d'avoir faim. It's 'to be hungry'."
"J'ai la dalle. I'm hungry!" she said.
"Moi aussi," I added, happy to be in accord, at last.

*References: papa poule = father hen; une épreuve (f) = test, ordeal; la dalle (f) = cement floor; une église (f) = church; la plage (f) = beach; la chaise longue (f) = deckchair; IBIS = a popular budget hotel chain; le monde (m) = world; art de vivre = way of/art of living; le tableau (m) = painting; le périple (m) = trip; RN7 (la route nationale sept) = state highway 7; la prostituée (f) = prostitute; le cabanon (m) = shed (also: country cottage); l'escalier (m) = stairs

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