After 30 years in the computer software industry, Michelle and Paul Caffrey relinquished their careers determined to reinvent themselves. The fifty-something couple sacrificed everything they owned to buy a converted 1906 Dutch barge. Click here for more about their French adventure.
le robinet (ro-bee-nay) noun, masculine
La créativité, ça ne s'ouvre pas comme un robinet, il faut l'humeur adéquate. You can't just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood. --from Bill Watterson's comic book "Calvin and Hobbes"
The dialogue, from which this quote was taken, continues:
Hobbes: "What kind of mood is that?"
Calvin: "Last-minute panic."
Arriving in Avignon, I notice the colorful wooden péniches* lined up "à la queue leu leu"* along the Rhône river. Jean-Marc and I may be on the scenic route, but we are not in France's windy city to see the pont,* or even the Pope's Palace, we are in Avignon for plumbing purposes. And we are plumb lost.
At a stoplight my husband drives over a concrete lane divider and, presto, we join north-bound traffic. I try not to complain about the roller coaster ride when I can't be of much help with the directions. Before long we are in an industrial zone, pulling into the parking lot of a home improvement store. I reach up to the dashboard and take the contractor's estimate sheet where items are listed and priced--items the plumber will choose for us unless we intervene. Intervening we go...
The sales lady, Corinne, stands two heads above me in her spiked heels and tall hair the ends of which mingle with the plunging neckline of her frilly form-fitting frock. It will be Corinne's job to turn my request for "something simple" into something concrete. She wastes no time.
"Simple," she says, "ça ne veut rien dire."* I appreciate her hiding any impatience that she must feel in assisting clueless clients like me. Bon,* specificity is needed. Did I want modern? Classic?
I notice a "retro" theme in one of the displays. The water taps, with their four-prong handles and porcelain tops, read "chaud" and "froid" and are as charming as the delicate scalloped vasque* beneath them. On display alongside the sink is one of those old-fashioned French toilets where the water tank is
located high up above the bowl; to flush the toilet one pulls on a chain. (The French still use the expression " 'tirer' la chasse"* though most modern day toilets require a push and not a "pull".)
I study the retro toilet. What character! How fitting for a farmhouse. With Jean-Marc's approval I believe we are about to tick two items off our shopping list. Then we notice the tiny price sticker in the base of the vasque: "778 euros." I take out our estimate sheet to verify our budget for the powder room sink: "120 euros." Chérot.* It must be those scallops.
The toilet with "character" costs 2,200 euros. For amusement's sake, I compare the sticker price with our plumber's estimate: "219 euros, hors taxe."* We skip the retro throne.
When I mention that the retro line doesn't match our current budget, Corinne, with the clack-clack-clack of her high-heels, tactfully whisks us to the recesses of the store where she is no longer uttering a one-syllabled stylistic sales pitch ("chrome," "mode,"* "chic") but using phrases like "bon rapport qualité prix"* terms that suddenly sing to the word-lover (and wallet-watcher) in me.
References: la péniche (f) = barge (boat); à la queue leu leu = in single file; le pont (m) (d'Avignon) = famous bridge; ça ne veut rien dire = that doesn't mean a thing; bon = okay; la vasque (f) = basin, bowl; tirer la chasse = to flush the toilet; chérot = pricey; hors taxe = not including tax; la mode (f) = style, fashion; le bon rapport qualité prix = good price/quality ratio
In "vine therapy": Caudalie VineGo -- intoxicating indulgences to enjoy sans moderation.
Published by National Geographic and now available for pre-order: How I Learned English: 55 Accomplished Latinos Recall Lessons in Language and Life.
Quench summer thirst with all natural grenadine (pomegranate) syrup
Antique bath faucet with handshower -- oh so French!
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