se donner de la peine pour faire quelque chose

Cool Raoul

"Post visit endorphins"  Read on, in today's story-column.

Note: The next word-a-day will go out on Monday! 

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Cool Raoul (khool Rah oohl) expression

(How to translate this well known French *slang* expression , one that has obviously borrowed a bit of English slang ("cool"). Would you agree the one of the following correctly expresses the meaning (the meaning being "don't sweat it!")... so how about this translation for "Cool Raoul": Chill Jill! Relax Max! Zen Gwen!

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

"It is what it is"

Jitters & rain! A *tour bus* will pull up to our home/grape farm this afternoon... and its *47 students* will file into our front yard for a wine-tasting. I hope our visitors are not picturing the set of "A Good Year". Here at our vineyard, we'll need "Beverly Hillbillies" expectations to take off the pressure. We don't do manicured gardens, we don't do tasting rooms. We do have a rickety old picnic table (seats 10).

Need to take a spoonful of my own medicine: "warm affection, not perfection!", now, to find a feather-duster and a pooper-scooper...

The panicked words, above, were posted yesterday at Facebook. (Thank you to everyone who responded with calming thoughts, including my cousin Marc's no-nonsense "two cents": "Kristi you kick a$@!!  fear not just set em on the ground and get em intoxicated").

...And now for the awaited update I promised...

We did not survive the "friendly invasion".... Thrived is the word! We thrived from it! Composure was one of the many issues that arose in the leading-up-to this event (we'll get to logistics in a bit), for I had to keep running back and forth to the bathroom to towl dry the sweat from beneath my arms, this, before the audience arrived [imagine an audience coming to your own flea-bitten home! (OMG--The dogs! we'll get to them later...]). As for the nerve-wracked hostess and the talk she gave...

Like a child rushing home from a thrilling backwood adventure, words running ahead of her spinning legs -- so excited is she to recount every detail to anyone who'll listen -- this is how my own words spilled out in front of the high school students... and their collected ears were as receptive as a grandmother's or grandfather's as I, the thrice-their-age hostess shared the adventure that led me to France.

If I had only known how accepting the group would be, I might have skipped the pre-arrival jitters, which began three some days before the event when I was surprised by the response to a certain email confirmation that I had sent....

On Friday night it occured to me that I might contact the teacher who had written me last winter, and who I eventually insisted come for a visit. "But I will be travelling with my students..." Professor Wrenn explained. "Well, why not bring them too!" I insisted...

And then, last week, in an unusual organizational mood, I had the inspiration to confirm Professor Wrenn's visit. Ah, and wasn't he coming with a few students? it seemed to me.... Figuring I'd need to wash a couple of extra glasses, I sent off a confirmation message to inquire about how many extra goblets to set out.

What happened next was a brilliant test! Either throw in the towel (too late, I'd need it to soak up all that persperation) or simply join the audience and watch it unfold -- "it" being the latest act in this farcical vineyard comedy.... 

When Professor Wrenn wrote back, informing me that 47 students would be joining us, there was a moment of silence there, before my blurring computer screen. Next I shook my head in sincere appreciation and, looking up, I applauded (somewhat sarcastically) the powers that be. This was just another test, wasn't it, Lord? Obviously there are still a lot of kinks to work out in little 'ol meaning-well me. The fact remains: It is one thing to mean well, but action is proof of the heart's intent

That night I tossed and turned. In my dreams troops of students marched up the driveway...

The next night's dreams had the same students overcoming the front gate! They were now looking for seating. Only where? We did not have 47 seats in my dream... not even in reality!

When I wasn't dreaming, I was fretting about logistics: just where will we put everyone if it rains? 

"Under the mulberry tree," was Jean-Marc's non-chalant answer.
"Only if we squeezed together like sardines could we fit under that mere seedling!" Now I was exaggerating, our tree was older than that; still, its leafy branches might cover 25 heads, max. (Note: while the scorching sun was initially an issue--now it was rain that threatened!)

When I wasn't fretting about logistics, I wondered about a few practical points, such as les toilettes! We had one of these "seats" available for guests....

"They can just 'go' behind the grape vines!" Jean-Marc offered another of his outrageously improbable solutions. 
"These are Americans!" I reminded him, as if his own countrymen were "The Barbarians". 

And speaking about going to pot, what about our pot-holed lawn? I imagined so many sprained ankles as students squeezed their way past the bottlenecked courtyard and into our scorched-grass garden.

And the dogs! Our goldens were supposed to be the fluffy 'welcome committee', offering up a sweet-scented bienvenue to our visitors.... As it happened the dogs had run off the night before... only to return one hour before the guests arrival. And what poor dead river rat had they rubbed all over their furry bodies this time? What to do with the stinky, style-cramping dogs?!!!

It was all too late now. The jig was up. One way or another, the tour bus was arriving. It was showtime minus 58 minutes when, standing there with a wet head, I rooted through the medicine cabinet for toothpaste and a comb. Nada. Zip. Scratch. Rien! Our own kids, who had left for camp, had swiped them! Chewing on the bristles of my toothbrush, hoping to capture the essence of mint, I ran my fingers through my hair. I had to give my husband credit - he certainly wasn't worried about appearances -- in fact just where was he this many minutes before he was to appear, wine-bottles in hand, and launch into his welcoming speech? 

The moment passed.... as had all the uncertain moments before it.

And then, there they were, filing in smoothly to the courtyard, over to the mulberry tree, where each student took a mismached seat.... (scavengered seats taken from every kitchen nook and every garden cranny). 

And, there they were, listening to Jean-Marc, listening to me. And there was the rain, falling down softly, hitting the leaves of the mulberry tree. Where was the chaos? Where were the ankle sprains? Where was the kilometer-long line to kitchen bathroom?

Looking over the scene, more than order, there was peace. And when I glanced over to Professor Wrenn, seated in his wheelchair at the foot of the steps, I saw each individual raindrop falling over him, like pennies from heaven. Rich droplets mirroring the moment. The weather didn't seem to bother our teacher. In his clear eyes I saw that it was, afterall, a beautiful day.



Um... logistics!

Jean-Marc, aka "Chief Grape" is a natural!




Professor Wrenn, after the rain, and students.


P.S.: (a bit off topic but...) I forgot to wish everyone a Happy 4th! HAPPY 4TH!!!! In return students wished Chief Grape and me "Happy Anniversary" (celebrated 17 years married on the 4th!)


Postnote: so much more to say about Mr Wrenn's class visit. So many names to mention (I only managed to scribble down the name of one of the student photographers: thank you Max Parriott! I hope to add in the names to the other picture-takers. Where to end this rapid recounting of yesterday's meet-up? How about with Merci beaucoup to the students from St. Helena High, in Napa Valley. It's was such a joy to spend time with you.


Le Coin Commentaires
I'm afraid I could not get in every detail of this memorable visit, but I hope you enjoyed the story of our first tour bus visit! To leave a comment, click here.


Meet-up! If, by great chance, you happen to be near Colmar, France on Thursday, please join Jean-Marc and me for dinner! Click here for more info.

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As soon as the students and the chaperones left, we missed them! "Monsieur Wrenn," Jean-Marc said, "est vraiment sympa!"

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"Five Quarters of the Orange" by Joanne Harris

Has anybody read Five Quarters of the Orange? Would you recommend it?

"When Framboise Simon returns to a small village on the banks of the Loire, the locals do not recognize her as the daughter of the infamous woman they hold responsible for a tragedy during the German occupation years ago. But the past and present are inextricably entwined, particularly in a scrapbook of recipes and memories that Framboise has inherited from her mother. And soon Framboise will realize that the journal also contains the key to the tragedy that indelibly marked that summer of her ninth year. . . ."  See the reviews and order a copy here.


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