How to say "life vest" in French: bouée de sauvetage

poix (pitch) + Night blindness while driving

golden retrievers christmas tree franceBonne Fetes (c) Kristin Espinasse

Braise, Smokey, and family wish you bonne fêtes... "many happy returns"! If Smokey looks a little pained in this picture, it is the photographer that is troubling him: why, he wonders, is her cross-eyed face contorting like that? Wouldn't "Cheese!" or "Ouistiti!" be just as effective in getting us to smile? How she troubles herself!

 poix (pwah) noun, feminine

    : pitch

noir comme poix = pitch black, "black as pitch"
poix sèche = resin
poix liquide = tar
tenir comme poix = to stick like tar
avoir de la poix aux doigts = to have sticky fingers (said of a thief, pickpocket, or clepto) 

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

Night Blindness, or "Moonblink"

Last night I stood stoveside, emptying into our biggest pan two packages of chicken thighs. Normally I am careful to discard all of the fatty peau before roasting. Not this time. 

"Don't you think that will be enough?" Jean-Marc questioned.
"Une douzaine?" Max seconded. 

"I'm hungry!" came the hasty reply. Given all those chicken thighs it seemed I was hungry for life.

I had just been out driving after dark: a quick aller-retour to pick up my daughter from a neighboring village. The pitch-black sky, noir comme poix, was pouring out rain and my windshield wiper was flapping after the rubber blade had broken. I could barely see the road beyond... the headlights were so faint that I wondered whether I had mistaken the lumière for moonshine? 

Testing this theory, I switched off the phares... then switched them on again. Off... then on again... Still, only a breath of brightness.

Next, I put on the high beams... only to wonder: were they, too, in need of replacing?

There are no street lights out in the deep French countryside, where the stars and the moon must oblige. Out walking at night one's eyes eventually stabilize, but a pilot's vision must follow different retinal rules.

"Why has everybody suddenly decided to take this road tonight!" I complain to my daughter, of the half dozen cars we had just passed.
"For the same reason you have..." Jackie points out and there's no arguing there. Besides, I can hardly hear my girl... so loud is the fan whose job it is to free the fog from the window. Though the glass has been cleared, I don't dare turn off the defogger... lest our breath creep back onto the glass, further blurring my range of vision!

I am traveling at a snail's pace, focusing on the faded white line to the right of the road. It is my guide. I don't dare look straight on, or be blinded by the oncoming headlights!

Grumbling and swearing I swerve back to the middle of the road after leaving too much leeway for the oncoming traffic. I don't want to end up in the gutter again. The ditch to our right is hidden in the dark, but I know it is there having traveled this road enough to "navigate it in the dark," so to speak; presently I am speechless at such a blind assumption. 

Each time a car begins to tailgate, blinding me from the back, I pull over, letting the impatient one pass. But on the long narrow stretches, there is no way to let these cars doubler, given the ditch that runs parallel.

It is so hard to see on this pouring pitch-black night! I begin to scold myself for not scheduling an eye exam. Surely it is my glasses--the prescription is prehistoric by now! As for the windshield wipers, I have no excuse. Why didn't I have them changed on a sunny day? Because on a sunny day I must have been busy sunning my cares away! 

Finally, we are almost home and the brightness of a main road lightens things, not the least of which our heartstrings. Just when I breathe out a sigh of relief my heart seizes up again as I become aware of an "overtaker". The angry van jerks past us, but not before its passenger extends a bare arm out of the window... in time to shake a fist. Next, the fist opens and its forefinger circles seethingly in the air.

"Ha! T'as vu ça?!" Did'ya see that? Jackie questions.

"He thinks I am crazy," I explain to my daughter, who is already busy planning a retaliation.

"Laisse tomber," I tell her. He'll be humbled one day... when a little weakening of the eyes and a few more decades gone by... will do away with so much misplaced pride.

French Vocabulary
la peau = skin

une douzaine = a dozen

un aller-retour = round trip

noir comme poix = black as pitch, pitch black

la lumière = light

le phare = headlight

doubler = to pass

laisse tomber = let it go, don't bother with it

Time now to get ready for Christmas dinner, or le gros souper de Noël! Though we won't be having the famous Treize Desserts there'll be plenty of pastries and clementines... Bon appétit! (pictured: our multi-purpose earthenware tagine. Find one for yourself, in the shopping section below)

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