bon à rien


The market in Les Arcs-sur-Argens.

une oeillade (euh-yahd) noun, feminine
  a furtive glance, an ogle; a wink, look-over, peep; a sheep's eye

...puis une oeillade au blond, une oeillade au brun, lancée en contrebande...
...then a wink to the blond, a furtive glance at the brunette, delivered like smuggled goods...

                --from "Beautés de la poësie anglaise" by le chevalier de Chatelain

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

(Note: the following story was written in June 2006, before our family moved to the Vaucluse.)

It is a safe practice, unlike looking at the sun. By fixing my gaze on this village and its people I intend to burn their outlines into my memory. Nine years in this town and I haven't looked closely enough. I am sorry to have stolen only furtive glances at the Arcois* and I regret to have not pierced their sometimes solemn shells.

Having once spied these personnages,* I am now staring at them, unabashed, wide-eyed, and with that cloak of the untouchable worn only by a vagabond in a stop-n-go town.

But before I go, my hungry eyes will feast on the French. Like a gourmet who coaxes flavor out of a stick of celery (with a pinch of salt, a squeeze of citron*), I sprinkle recollections over the villagers until their very essence comes forth, to color in the outlines held by my once burning gaze.

I recall a market stand behind which that man (over there in the spandex shorts--do you see him?) once stood. Yes, he was the man at the farmer's market who once wore a halo of garlic over his head. Shoppers, like me, flocked to the stall, charmed by the man in the garlic gloriole, whose sunny disposition seemed fueled by the alliaceous aura above. With a tilt of that ail,* he acknowledged passers-by who stopped in their tracks, turned and ordered his olives fresh from the five-gallon buckets.

Then one day the man at the market reached toward his weary temples, took off his garlic and put on a baseball cap. Next, he donned a pair of sneakers and spandex shorts and took off...walking. He walked out of Les Arcs, through Trans-en-Provence, and, last I saw, he was headed to Draguignan and the hills beyond, where the scented fields of Grasse, like the aroma of hot cherry pie, may have lured him forward until the oranges up the coast, in Menton, motivated him to move on (and on, and on).

Why he hocked his halo, I'll never know. For now, he is the French Forrest Gump and to see him is to feel that itch in your sole, calling you outward and onward.

*     *     *

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~~~~~~~~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~~~~~~~~~
References: un arcois (une arcoise) = one who is from the town of Les Arcs-sur-Argens; un personnage (m) = character; le citron (m) = lemon; l'ail (m) = garlic

:: Audio File ::
Listen to Jean-Marc recite today's word and quote: Download oeillade.wav
...puis une oeillade au blond, une oeillade au brun, lancée en contrebande...

Terms & Expressions:
  jeter une oeillade = to throw a glance
  une oeillade discrète = a discreet glance
  faire signe d'une oeillade = to make eye contact with someone

Books and More:

The Dud Avocado, by Elaine Dundy, follows the romantic and comedic adventures of a young American who heads overseas to conquer Paris in the late 1950s. The Dud Avocado gained instant cult status when it was first published and it remains a timeless portrait of a woman hell-bent on living. Read more about it here.

Le Roi Soleil: The Original French Cast Recording of Very Successful Musical Comedy Le Roi Soleil.
Mustela Sun Cream For kids
Dress up your quiche with an Emile Henry Provencal Pie Dish

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety