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Entries from June 2007

douillet

Douillet
Looks cozy, no?

douillet, douillette (do-yay; do-yet) adjective
  cozy, snug

"Douillette" is also a feminine noun for "quilted coat or robe" and, in both masculine and feminine forms, has a second meaning: one sensitive to pain (a wimp). There is also the verb "douiller" which means "to pay through the nose" (never a "cozy" feeling).

                                   *     *     *

L'amour est un coussin douillet et une épée posée sur la gorge.
Love is a soft cushion and a sword against the throat.
--Shan Sa
.

                                                      Column
There used to be a book on one of my bookshelves (back when books were actually mis en place* and not packed in boxes) called "Charms for the Easy Life," by Kaye Gibbons. I haven't yet read the novel, which was left behind--as have been many of the books in our collection--by a houseguest about to board a restrictive transcontinental flight.

Charms for the Easy Life... the title comes to me now and again, especially when reminded, by a well-meaning stranger, of just how lucky I am to be in France, and what a dream it must be to live at a vineyard. On such occasions, I lose myself in a picture-perfect image of a cozy farmhouse, broom at the front door and chicory-laced coffee on the wood burning stove (as a real French farmwoman keeps it, I imagine). Outside, along the window sill, are terracotta boxes full of geraniums and the wood shutters are painted just the right shade of green. Beside the front door, there is a cozy bench, a radassier* to be exact, where one can chat with a neighbor or stare out over the field of vines beyond.

Below, off to the side of an iris-flanked stream--yellow irises, mind you--there is a potager* from where I have gathered haricots* (which, in my dream, I am shelling beneath the shady plane tree) for a savory soupe au pistou.* It is a rosy rêve*: soft, cozy, douillet* and one that has been reeling through my
mind (plus or minus the yellow irises) for some twenty years now, ever since I first imagined life in France. In 1985, back in Des Moines, Washington, where my father and I shared the turning of a page in our lives, I spent a post high school summer taking long aimless drives in Dad's sunshine yellow VW bug, Claude Bristol's "The Magic of Believing"* in the tape deck. By August's end, now 18 summers old myself, I would return to Phoenix, Arizona, driving the VW across the country, eventually to enroll at Phoenix Community College, the future still a film, the dream intact.

                              *     *     *

My, oh my! Like the uneven dresser drawer in my bathroom, I have gotten off track. I had set out today to tell you about the not always picture-perfect reality of this French dream come true. I meant to write about the demolition crew (which, as I type this, is still giving the walls around us a good shake), and to fill you in on the enigma of French plumbing. I wanted to point out the inch thick fissure that runs along the wall at the west end of the house and the crooked doorless frames beneath. Then there are those unfinished cement block stairs (minus a needed guard rail!) that the kids and I run up and down several times a day, as we head out of the building, across the patio, and beyond a stack of plasterboard to access the make-shift kitchen (which even has running water, albeit cold). And, speaking of placoplâtre,* there is the wet plaster that we tip-toe over on our way in and out of the rooms (living areas that I have just vacuumed in vain). I should mention that while many southern French women hang delightful beaded cords or colorful ropes in front of their front doors (to keep the flies out) I have just parted a curtain of electrical cords and tubing which hangs in a lonely threshold that will one day house our front door. And--whew!--looking out a duct-taped French window, I am startled by the proximity of a heavy metal monster--a tractopelle* (the "pelle" or "hoe" of which looks as if it will add another crack, or ten, to the fragile window). I hope we have more duct tape handy...

My eyes leave the pit outside, where the tractopelle is digging a waste canal, to refocus on the pretty green window frame. It may one day match those "just the right shade of green" shutters--and wouldn't that be charming? In the meantime, I will continue to believe; for believing, in my experience, is being.

...............................................................................................................
References: mis (mettre) en place = shelved, arranged; le radassier (m) = (type of) bench; le potager (m) = vegetable garden; le haricot (m) = bean; la soupe (f) au pistou = vegetable soup with basil and garlic; le rêve (m) = dream; douillet = cozy; The Magic of Believing (order it here); le placoplâtre (m) = plasterboard; le tractopelle (m) = backhoe

:: Audio File ::
French pronunciation: Hear my son, Max, recite today's word & quote: Download douillet.wav
Douillet. L'amour est un coussin douillet et une épée posée sur la gorge.

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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 to continue writing and publishing these educational missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
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"I’ve really enjoyed reading your stories over the years & hope you will continue to delight us with your beautiful photos and thoughtful & charming antidotes of life in the beautiful south of France."
--Jacqueline

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jeu de mots

Michel_2
A pastiche of roof tiles & our pastis-loving roofer, Michel.

Rosetta Stone French - the award-winning method used by NASA and the Peace Corps. Learn more here.

jeu de mots (zhuh duh moh) noun, masculine
  a play on words, a pun

Meilleur que mille mots privés de sens est un seul mot raisonnable, qui peut amener le calme chez celui qui l'écoute. Better than a thousand words void of meaning, is one sensible word that can bring calm to the one listening. --Bouddha
.

Column
On the second night we ate out. Forget leftovers, oubliez* the piles of packing boxes, and never mind the fact that we could not properly lock up our new nest (what with half the farmhouse missing doors and windows). Braise, who recently turned seven (in dog years), would have to step up to the plate (or portail,* however cracked and in need of repair) to play the guetteuse.* And I do mean "play" as it is not in her golden retriever nature to stand guard over anything but a meaty os.*

Perfumed, neatly parted, and no longer sporting la poussière,* our entourage (including brother-in-law, Jacques, and Michel, our friend/builder from Les Arcs) piled into the Citroën before the latter snaked through a vine-flanked country road leading to town.

When we passed a baba cool* pedestrian (long scraggly hair, flip-flops, tie-dye trunks), Michel shouted, "Hé-oh!* You're a long way from the beach!" before dissolving into Gallic guffaws.

Jean-Marc found parking along Portalet Street just across from l'Angelus restaurant. Inside, tables were arranged around a stone fireplace. A pottery vase, just beside the entrance, doubled as a wishing well (providing precious entertainment for the kids who pitched solicited centimes* into its coppery
depths).

I read the menu to Michel, who is a bit dyslexic. Accustomed to reading French menus to Anglophone visitors, this is the first time I've read one to a Frenchman.
"Tiens, est-ce qu'ils ont un banana slip?"* Michel wondered.
Banana split? These were surely the first two English words that I had ever heard Michel speak.
"You mean they have banana splits in France?" I questioned, never having noticed before. I skipped past the pizza section to the list of desserts, looking for a childhood favorite. That's when visions of chocolate syrup and diced peanuts brought me back, back, back....

For a moment, I was no longer in a tiny French village, but a bustling desert metropolis, eyes wide open before a gigantic "boat" of ice cream. The year was 1976; the place, Phoenix, Arizona where Farrell's Ice Cream Parlor at Metrocenter mall offered an all-you-can-eat sundae decorated with red, white and blue paper flags and whipped cream à gogo.* After an afternoon spent skating in the ice rink below the ice cream parlor, I would head upstairs to test the capacity of my 9-year-old stomach.

The French waitress arrived and, poof, I was back in France, back to the present moment.
"Vous avez un banana slip?" Michel was inquiring.
"Split," the young woman corrected, confirming that they did.
"Alors, un banana slip, s'il vous plaît," Michel ordered, politely.
"SPLEET," my brother-in-law pointed out, to the best of his limited English knowledge.

When Michel kept repeating what in French amounted to "banana pants" (slip, a masculine noun, means "underwear") I got the clue that he was only pulling the waitress's leg. It looked, too, as if someone had been pulling on her cheeks which by now were the color of the cherries that would eventually top our
Frenchified spleet.

.........................................................................................................
References: oubliez (oublier) = to forget; le portail (m) = gate; la guetteuse (le guetteur) = watchman; l'os (m) = bone; la poussière (f) = dust; le (la) baba cool (mf) = hippy; hé-oh! = hey there!; le centime (m) = cent; Tiens, est-ce qu'ils ont un banana slip? = Hey, do they have a banana [split]?; à gogo = galore

:: Audio File ::
French pronunciation: Listen to my son, Max, recite today's French quote: Download mots.wav
Meilleur que mille mots privés de sens est un seul mot raisonnable, qui peut amener le calme chez celui qui l'écoute.

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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 to continue writing and publishing these educational missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
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--Jacqueline

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déballer

Deballer
Perhaps we can know the word origin for "déballer" by studying this photo? When the French arrive at a new location, one of the first things they "unpack" are the "boules": "de-ball-er". (In the background, the vine horizon. From left to right: Andre, Braise, Jean-Marc, "Uncle Jacques" and cousin Pierre.)

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déballer (day-bal-ay) verb
  to unpack
  to display, to lay out (merchandise)

                                    *     *     *

Chaque jour apporte ses cadeaux. Il ne vous reste qu'à les déballer.
Each day brings with it its gifts. All you have to do is unwrap them.

                                                      --Ann Ruth Schabacker
.

Column

Well, we made it!

...To a new department, a new town, and a new occupation (apart from wine and writing): le déballage.* While there may be an art to unpacking, Necessity is no poet and one mustn't wait for inspiration to strike from the French heavens when six hungry campers are crying to be fed.

(Now, where did I pack the nonstick spatula? And why don't those leaning box towers in the makeshift kitchen list contents other than "cuisine"* or "cuisine - fragile" or "cuisine - verres"*?)

I proceed by deduction (the nonstick spatula is not in the box marked "verres" or "fragile") and go digging through the other cartons only to give up and use a metal spoon on my favorite nonstick pan.)

"Everybody to the table!" I shout, advancing sideways along the obstacle course that is our front yard, ignoring the piles of taped boxes, stacked chairs, orphaned shoes, and general chaos all around. There is even an uprooted toilet (which the demolition workers salvaged) with a pink plastic seat should our dining experience lack ambiance.

I make my way over to the picnic table where my brother-in-law, Jacques, and the roofer, Michel (two temporary boarders during the renovation stage of this project) are rubbing their hands together as if trying to keep warm when they're really just hungry. I hope they will like fajitas (the menu was decided when I realized that all those carefully kept tortillas, frozen in the freezer, would thaw out during the move north).

As I spoon boeuf aux olives* and emmenthal cheese (French substitutes) into a flour jacket, I explain to Michel-the-roofer the difference between a Mexican tortilla and a French crêpe so that he doesn't go jumping to conclusions (namely, that a tortilla is a failed crêpe...). If the French aren't keen on Tex-Mex, part of it has to do with this floury detail.

According to my calculation, Michel, who burns calories faster than I can burn bread, should be able to put away several fajitas. So why is he pushing the food back and forth on his paper plate? Michel, as if hearing my thoughts, answers with a blush. "I have an appetite like a petit oiseau*..." he apologizes.

I look the other way when Michel fills up on French fries (another perishable that got unthawed during the move), for who can blame a Frenchman for making room for fries?

I'd best leave the culinary arts on the back burner for the moment. With dinner behind me, I now have time to practice the gentle art of unpacking. And somewhere, I trust, deep down in one of those boxes (beneath the nonstick spatula?) is a good cookbook.

..................................................................................................................
References: le déballage (m) = unpacking; la cuisine (f) = kitchen; le verre (m) = glass; le boeuf (m) aux olives = beef with olives; le petit oiseau (m) = little bird

:: Audio File::
Listen to my daughter, Jackie, pronounce the French word "déballer" and today's quote: Download deballer.wav
Chaque jour apporte ses cadeaux. Il ne vous reste qu'à les déballer.

Terms & Expressions:
  le déballage = unpacking; confession, revelation
  déballer son linge sale = to air one's dirty laundry
  déballer la marchandise = "to unwrap the merchandise" (to undress)
il a tout déballé = he poured out his heart

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Verb Conjugation:
je déballe, tu déballes, il/elle déballe, nous déballons, vous déballez, ils/elles déballent => past participle = déballé

"501 French Verbs" includes a bilingual list of more than 1,250 additional French verbs, helpful expressions and idioms for travelers, and verb drills.

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 to continue writing and publishing these educational missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
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"I’ve really enjoyed reading your stories over the years & hope you will continue to delight us with your beautiful photos and thoughtful & charming antidotes of life in the beautiful south of France."
--Jacqueline

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flou

Flou
The town of Les Arcs-sur-Argens.


flou (flew) adjective
  blurred, hazy, vague, fuzzy

Il y a des régions qui doivent rester obscures. Ni floues ni ignorées mais simplement privées de la mémoire des mots. There are areas that must remain obscure. Neither fuzzy nor ignored but simply disallowed from the memory of words. --Hammerklavier
.

Column
-- Au revoir Les Arcs --

On the freeway of life my car took exit number thirty-six and coasted into an obscure French town until the blur that was the countryside was no longer flou.* As a medieval village came into focus, so did its villageois,* whom I have come to know in a personal way, if not personally.

There is the grandma with the ketchup-colored hair and the jardinier* in the electric blue pantalons.* I wonder, do they know each other?

Everyone knows the camera-shy centenarian who walks his bike to the market each day. He was riding when I first came to town. Wobble, wobble, wobble. Either way, he still makes it in time to court the ladies at the superette.

I never did meet the Maghrébine* bride with swank in her stride, to whom the cobblestones are a catwalk. She is a black-eyed beauty with bleached blond locks who made it to motherhood before she made it to Milan.

So long to the man with the pointed black beard, tattoos from head to heel. You reminded me of hypocrisy: my own--as I longed to change sidewalks at your approach. I blame it on the alchemy of haze, in which recollections, preconceptions, and rejections cloud my thinking and cause me to doubt what I cannot properly see. Forgive me.

Nine years later and I'm back on the freeway, leaving another French town. From my rearview mirror I can't help watching the village return to the blur of the countryside, and with it, its people. I do not know their surnames, only their surfaces: ketchup red, electric blue, black-eyed and -inked. I think of the familiar faces that I may never see again and my heart laments the passing of strangers. Will they notice that the fair-haired woman with the fixed gaze doesn't live here anymore?

                                      *     *     *
...................................................................................................................
References: flou = fuzzy; un villageois (une villageoise) = villager; un jardinier (une jardinière) = gardener; le pantalon (m) = (pair of) trousers, pants; Maghrébin, Maghrébine = North African

:: Audio File ::
Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's word and read the quote: Download flou.wav
Il y a des régions qui doivent rester obscures. Ni floues ni ignorées mais simplement privées de la mémoire des mots.
June 2007 - sainte cécile renovation - cari's party 007
The front yard of our home in Les Arcs-sur-Argens, where we lived from 1998-2007. We moved to this home in 2001.

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 to continue writing and publishing these educational missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
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"I’ve really enjoyed reading your stories over the years & hope you will continue to delight us with your beautiful photos and thoughtful & charming antidotes of life in the beautiful south of France."
--Jacqueline

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déborder

Deborder
My daughter playing the role of Camille in this year's school play "Le défi des défis". Read a very different play in today's column, below.

Summer reading: Mediterranean Summer: A Season on France's Cote d'Azur and Italy's Costa Bella

déborder (day-bor-day) verb
  to overflow, brim over, run over; to burst; to boil over

French proverb:
C'est la goutte qui fait déborder le vase.
It is the [last] drop that makes the vase overflow.
.

                                                       Column
If I step off the scene of this French life, and look back on our current transition, through a spectator's eyes, then I am able to find comic relief during a tumultuous time. This so-called play, wherein the Franco-American actors are busy preparing to trade their quiet user-friendly home in the Var for farm life--and the unknown--in the valley of the Rhone, will just need a name before we proceed:

"Cracking up: Trying to Laugh Under Stress."

I like the play on words in that title, where "cracking up" is synonymous with laughing, yet hints at the goings on behind the scenes: where Tumult is about to exit, stage left, after giving our actors--who are poised to move to the not-so-fictional town of Sainte Cécile-Les-Vignes (in Scene Two)--a good mental lashing.

Back in Scene One, the stage set included an empty beehive, an upended tractor and, in the leafy background, a 17th century French mas* (minus windows, doors, and nary a roof tile). The farm, to where our so-called actors will be moving and where the hero has lived for three months now, is where the action took place; that is to say: where the bees went bust, the tractor got stuck in a muddy rut, and the rock hard grêle* sought out more vines to fell (and failed, to the relief of our hero who you are about to meet).

By the end of act one Mr. Espinasse (the newbie wine farmer and almost beekeeper) fled to the family fold (back in  Les Arcs-sur-Argens) where that villain, Tumult, had beaten him to the front gate. Beyond the iron portail,* the pool, now clean and free of algae, was completely day-bor-day* and, by
consequence, the yard was flooded, the pool pump, dead, and the American housewife about to lose her silly rhyming head.

This brings us back to today's title: "Cracking up: Trying to Laugh Under Stress," which, it turns out is also the American heroine's cue to rush in, before the curtain comes down, with a hearty, hand-on-the-belly response to evil Tumult's latest assault:

(Heroine): Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

                                             *     *     *

The heroine, in one of those theatrical encores, would like to add that, due to technical difficulties (read: Tumult), this word column did not go out on Friday when she, the housewife-écrivaine,* prepared to launch another vase at our hero (newly arrived from the north) who had sent a letter to France
Telecom instructing them to end the heroine's internet connection (and very life support) due to the family's impending relocation. The phone company followed orders (two weeks too soon). The housewife-écrivaine would have given the phone company a piece of her mind, but the lines weren't working so well and, in between time, the sky fell... (Scene One, Act Two: when the buyers, to whom our hero and heroine sold their soon-to-be-former home, arrived unannounced to measure, meander, and begin to move in!)

...............................................................................................
References: le mas (m) = house or farm in Provence; la grêle (f) = hail; le portail (m) = gate; day-bor-day (pronunciation for débordé = flooded); écrivaine (écrivain) = writer

:: Audio File ::
Listen to Jean-Marc recite today's quote in French: Download deborder.wav
C'est la goutte qui fait déborder le vase.
.
Terms & Expressions:
  plein à déborder = full to overflowing (glass)
  déborder de santé = brimming with health
  déborder de joie = bubbling with joy
  déborder de vie = bursting with vitality

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Verb conjugation:
je déborde, tu débordes, il/elle déborde, nous débordons, vous débordez, ils/elles débordent => past participle: débordé

Complete Guide to Conjugating 12000 French Verbs

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 to continue writing and publishing these educational missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
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"I’ve really enjoyed reading your stories over the years & hope you will continue to delight us with your beautiful photos and thoughtful & charming antidotes of life in the beautiful south of France."
--Jacqueline

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tisane

      Tisane
      Max, three years ago, in front of the field from today's story.

Why not listen to a musical while improving your French at the same time? Check out Notre Dame de Paris here.

la tisane (tee-zan) noun, feminine
  1. herbal tea, infusion

Les feuilles sèches préparent la tisane de l'automne.
Dry leaves make autumn's herbal tea.
--Ramon Gomez de la Serna
.

                                                   Column
Thanks to an herb wizard from our medieval village, my husband will soon be able to chase the devil out of his vines up north, in Saint-Cécile. Now all we need are a few hundred devil chasers.

Turns out the "chasers" don't even need legs to run down a vine hungry diable.* Instead, they stand powerfully rooted to the ground, as I can plainly see, when I cross paths with the herb wizard who is out on another witch hazel hunt.

"What are you looking for today?" I ask the timid wizard, who startles, causing the patch of knee-high weeds that surround her to tremble.
"Les herbes..." the she-wizard stammers, nearly dropping a bouquet of flowering weeds, as if caught stealing gold from a bijoutier.*

"Golden flowers," I answer unaccusingly, when Jean-Marc appears in time to ask, "What are those?"
"C'est du millepertuis,"* the wizard offers. "Or 'l'herbe de Saint-Jean',* if you prefer." 

The auburn-haired wizard with the gray roots, who stands no taller than the fennel which she collected last season, begins chuckling to herself.
"Some call it 'le chasse-diable'!' she says.
"The devil chaser..." Jean-Marc mumbles. "Je peux?" Can I take a look?
"Oui," agrees the wizard, handing over the bunch of wimpy looking weeds, touted as being "fierce enough" to scare away the evilest spirit. The wizard explains that the five-petaled flower has leaves riddled with trous*--making it easy to identify the medicinal plant.

Jean-Marc and I stood, arms in the air, eyes squinted toward the flower's holy leaf where the sun's rays escaped through "mille pertuis*" or "thousand holes".

"Where can I find more of these?" Jean-Marc demanded, causing the wizard's body to stutter from head to toe. Next she clammed up, sealing her secret within.

"I need to prepare tisane* for my vines!" my husband pleaded, adding that he is a farmer using organic methods to treat his fields. The wizard's ears began to bend as she listened sympathetically, visions of a steamy caldron of holy warts, the warts of a saint no less, igniting her creative soul, a soul grown so full that the fear fled from her in time to share her faded treasure map of herbal hideouts, warts and all.

..........................................................................................................
References: le diable (m) = devil; c'est du millepertuis (m) = it's St. John's wort; le bijoutier (la bijoutière) = jeweler; l'herbe (f) de Saint-Jean = St. John's Wort; le trou (m) = hole; mille = one
thousand; le pertuis (m) [from old French "pertucer" (percer / to pierce)] = hole; la tisane (f) = herbal curative/preventative tea, treatment

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.
:: Audio File ::
Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's word and recite the quote: Download Tisane.wav
Les feuilles sèches préparent la tisane de l'automne.

Related Terms:
  tisane de camomille = camomile tea
  tisane de verveine, de tilleul = vervain (verbena), lime-blossom tea
  tisane d'orge = barley water
  tisane de champagne = light champagne
  une tisanière = teapot (or large teacup) for making (brewing) herbal tea

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 to continue writing and publishing these educational missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
♥ Send $10    
♥ Send $25    
♥♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I’ve really enjoyed reading your stories over the years & hope you will continue to delight us with your beautiful photos and thoughtful & charming antidotes of life in the beautiful south of France."
--Jacqueline

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angoisse

Redvine
A certain redhead wowed him and that is how the love affair began. Read about my rival, below.

From a farm in California to one in France... Divisadero: a new book by Michael Ondaatje. Read more here.

angoisse (ahn-gwace) noun, feminine
  anxiety; fear

Toute angoisse est imaginaire; le réel est son antidote.
All fear is imaginary, reality is its antidote.

                                  --André Comte-Sponville
.

Column
Roland Garros* is underway here in France and my husband, a former tennis teacher, should be glued to the tube cheering Amélie Mauresmo to a victory and screaming insults at the screen after Sébastien Grosjean lost. So why is he outside talking to himself?

I let the curtain fall to a close before slipping out to the front porch across from where Jean-Marc is emptying his garage cellar, transferring cases of wine to the back of his car and muttering something about "ce con de vent!"*

"Everything OK?" I ask, for the third time since he returned to Les Arcs to visit the kids and me for the weekend and to help pack another load for our imminent move north.

"Oui, ça ira,"* he assures me. He is just concerned about our vines back in the Rhone Valley. Apart from the diabolic wind, which is breaking vine limbs left and right, certain grapevines are stricken with mildew, Jean-Marc explains, while others are in need of an immune system boost.

Though I have a hard time picturing the immune system of a grapevine, it doesn't take a magnifying glass to reveal the stress written across a new farmer's face. Since I last saw my husband, five days ago in Sainte Cécile, vertical lines have appeared across his weatherworn cheeks giving the impression that he has suffered a coup de vieux.* The deep facial lines, like fissures after an earthquake, hint at the turmoil beneath the surface. As for the weight loss, I had chalked that one up to the maladie d'amour* which is exactly what befell Jean-Marc last November when he first laid eyes on her. Or "them" I should say--all 30,000 fluttery-leafed Céciliennes,* vines which he later agreed to love and to cherish in sickness and in health.

It is the wind and the breakage that obsesses Jean-Marc the most. All those fragile broken limbs left in the wake of a méchant* Mistral. It feels as if each vine is a child and each child has fallen out of a tree to lie helpless on the ground. Jean-Marc cannot bear the silent screams any longer.

"Don't worry about the wind!" I tell him. "Grapevines have been whipped around like that for thousands of years! Besides, there is nothing you can do about it--short of attaching a splint to each and every vine!" Jean-Marc can't deny that. Instead he nods, sighs, and waits as I search the bathroom for facial moisturizer. The cabinets are almost empty now, but there under the sink, lying on its side, is a near-empty tube of emollient cream. I pound the plastic container against my palm and collect enough of its contents to fashion a thick mask across my husband's wind- and worry-ravaged face.

The mini spa soin* seems to work and Jean-Marc begins to forget about the stresses up north: the needy vines as well as the farmhouse renovation which he is supervising.

I put the finishing touches on the mask, assuring him that those deep lines will be gone in no time. I only wish I could say the same about his worries.

......................................................................................................
References: le Roland Garros (the French Open) = tennis tournament held in Paris; ce con de vent = this damn wind; oui, ça ira = yes, it will be OK; (donner) un coup de vieux = to put years on/to age someone; la maladie (f) d'amour = love sickness; un cécilien, une cécilienne = one who lives in the town of Sainte Cécile-Les-Vignes; méchant = mean; le soin (m) = treatment

:: Audio File ::
Listen to Jean-Marc recite today's quote: Download Angoisse.wav ...link not working? Try this one: Download Angoisse.mp3 Toute angoisse est imaginaire; le réel est son antidote.

Terms & Expressions:
  une crise d'angoisse = an anxiety attack
  l'angoisse métaphysique = angst
  avoir des angoisses = to feel as if one is suffocating

French items:
Speaking of tennis...have you ever listened to former French Open winner Yannick Noah sing?  check out Métisse(s) for songs in French
French Music of the 20th Century: Poulenc/Milhaud/Messiaen
And speaking of stress... Bach's Rescue Remedy
The Jet Lag Bag
- Anti-Stress Travel Pack

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 to continue writing and publishing these educational missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
♥ Send $10    
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"I’ve really enjoyed reading your stories over the years & hope you will continue to delight us with your beautiful photos and thoughtful & charming antidotes of life in the beautiful south of France."
--Jacqueline

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flagorneur

Mouton
Our (current...) village of Les Arcs-sur-Argens and a few of its cud-chewing residents.

flagorneur, flagorneuse (flah-gorh-ner / flah-gorh-nuhz) noun
  flatterer, sycophant, toady, courtier

flagorneur/flagorneuse (adjective): fawning

J'ai déployé tour à tour, pour me pousser au premier rang, la brutalité d'une acheteuse de grands magasins aux jours de solde et la gentillesse flagorneuse. In order to push myself to the front row, I displayed, alternately, the brutality of a department store shopper during sales season, and fawning
kindness.
--Colette, Ouvres complètes


                                                               Column
Pulling to a stop in the parking lot at Collège Jacques Prévert, I throw open the passenger door in time to catch my son who lands smack in front of the glove compartment. "Ouf!" he exclaims, pulling the door closed behind him, shutting out the rain.

It is midday and the rain and running leap have put an edge on Max's appetite.
"Mom, can I eat at Momo's today?" Max asks, trying his luck.
"I don't know. Let me think about it," I answer. "I mean, if you can't remember to wear the raincoat that I set out for you this morning, then I'm not sure I can remember the way to Momo's snack bar..." I point out, adding a smirk for good measure.

I put on my turn signal and check the rearview mirror to see if the coast is clear before pulling out of the parking lot. That's when I notice something in my hair...

Une boucle!*

A curl! The weather is humid and this means that luck is on my side (as Babette, my hairdresser, used to say while squirting an extra dose of volumnizer into her magic hands, "We are going to put ALL chance* on your side today!").

Like an oiled up haltérophile* flexing before a mirror, I turn to admire the firm boucle from different angles.
"Look! Did you see that curl?" I ask my son, who is silently plotting how he will get to eat a kebab for lunch and not another tomato sandwich--featuring another of my creations (or abominations) from the bread machine).

"See it? Does my hair look curly to you?"
"Ben..."*
"Curly, don't you think?"
When Max looks doubtful my face falls flat as my hair used to be and, seeing the frown, my son remembers that he wants that kebab sandwich and that his fate will soon be decided.

"Je veux dire, oui!"* Max says, trying to flatter me. "Your hair...c'est comme un mouton!"
"Like a sheep"?

Sheep's wool? That doesn't sound like flattery to me. But then again you know the rule: effective flattery should not sound like flattery. Still, I wonder: am I flattered?

"Can I go to Momo's now?" Max asks, impatiently.
"No!" I snap, rolling down the window to let in more hair-curling humidity, never mind the rain.

I make a pit-stop in front of Momo's for the pleasure of seeing my son's face light up. I had only been pulling a little bit of that sheep's wool over his eyes when I said no. Frizzy hair should be good for something.
.
.
...............................................................................................................
References: ouf! = whew!; une boucle (f) = curl; la chance (f) = luck; un(e) haltérophile (mf) = weightlifter; ben = well, er; Je veux dire, oui! = I mean, yes!

:: Audio File ::
Listen to Jean-Marc pronouce today's word and recite the quote: Download flagorneuse.wav
J'ai déployé tour à tour, pour me pousser au premier rang, la brutalité d'une acheteuse de grands magasins aux jours de solde et la gentillesse flagorneuse.
.
Shopping:
Amuse-Bouche: Little Bites That Delight Before the Meal Begins
In Music: L' Ecole du Micro D'Argent by I Am
French vinotherapy for the hands: Caudalie Hand And Nail Cream
SmartFrench: CD-rom for Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced French learning

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 to continue writing and publishing these educational missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
♥ Send $10    
♥ Send $25    
♥♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I’ve really enjoyed reading your stories over the years & hope you will continue to delight us with your beautiful photos and thoughtful & charming antidotes of life in the beautiful south of France."
--Jacqueline

NEWSLETTER SIGN-UP: Has a friend forwarded you this post? Sign-up to receive your own free subscription to French Word-A-Day. Click here