What is the French word for "cantankerous"?


Italian Niche (c) Kristin Espinasse
In Soave Italy, where "museum-worthy" meets mundane. The art of life includes being able to have a cup of coffee, post a letter, and study a sculpture.

robustesse (ro-bus-tess) noun, feminine

    : robustness, sturdiness, strength


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

Sensitive... yet Strong

The highlight of Spring Break was visiting Cousin Audrey (oh-dray) in Verona. Before Jean-Marc and I married, in 1994, Audrey (15 years old at the time) traveled from Toulouse to séjourner with us. Though a duodecennial divide separated the French girl and the American woman, a complicity was born between the two expatriates. (Audrey eventually went on to live in Italy, and I made my nest in France, marrying Audrey's cousin.)

Audrey and I share more than a lightning fast facility for blushing, we've in common a love of language, comedy, and gelato... but when the bill comes we get serious, neither of us willing to accept no.

Witness the following restaurant scene in which two women play tug-oh-war with a poor old porcelain plate... Unable to settle, the bill—or l'addition (delivered to our table via the plate in question) dances over the plate's surface like a feather.

A conversation ensues in which one will win and one will lose...

Audrey: C'est à moi!
Me: Non! C'est à moi!
Audrey: Non! à moi!

The porcelain plate is teetering dangerously between the grips of the two women... Jackie and Max, who are dining with us, are staring with wide-eye excitement, betting that the saucer will soon take flight... Separation is imminent: the plate will either launch, or end up in the sole grips of la plus "staunch".

Moi: Non! (tug, tug, tug...)
Audrey: Si! ... (tug, tug, tug...)
Moi: Non! (tug, tug, etc. etc. and so on...)

Normalement, the idea of breaking a plate belonging to another would have horrified we "WannaPleasers". But a decision had been quickly reached: risk vandalism for victory! All this just goes to illustrate one final commonality or trait: beneath the delicate desire-to-please-all façade, there lies strength...

...power enough to propel a porcelain plate... from Italy, to France... then over the Atlantic to New York State.

Cousin Audrey, right. Kristin, left.

:: Le Coin Commentaires ::

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French Vocabulary

séjourner = to stay, to sojourn
c'est à moi = it is mine (to pay!)
non! = no
si! = yes (after a negative statement)
normalement = normally

:: Urgent: A Call For Help! ::

I received this letter from Rowan and Rhiannon, who volunteer at a local animal shelter:

Dear Kristin,

I am a Brit who lives in Carcassonne and I volunteer at the SPA (dog and cat rescue). We are desperately trying to find homes for our dogs, who are overcrowded and therefore at risk. There are dogs of all ages, shapes and sizes, some who would suit older people or those living in apartments, and others who need lots of space and walks.

BA1 One boy, in particular needs a home, his name is Tigue (pronounced Tiger), who is a beautiful Shepherd/ Bouceron cross. He is 3 years old and good with people and other dogs, and even seemed to be fine when I took him to the cat house. But he is not happy in his kennel and when people pass his box they assume he is aggressive (nothing could be further from the truth). The staff feel that he is unlikely to ever be re-homed and want to send him to the big kennel in the sky. I think this is wrong, as he is a beautiful boy and very good natured.

The adoption fee is €90, which includes tattoo and vaccination. I have two dogs already so can't take him, but in order to save him I would be willing to pay his adoption fee if a home is found. This offer doesn't stand for the other dogs there, by the way, but Tigue is a particular favourite  of mine.

BA2 I have attached a photo in the hope that you may be able to publicize Tigue and the other dogs and cats at the SPA. We are desperately short of money and volunteers, too....

Many thanks in anticipation. I attach a link to the SPA website.




Smokey (left) says... Please help our friend Tigue. Contact this shelter today!!! Braise (right, mud on her face) seconds Smokey's plea.

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