Thank you for the fun and delightful Favorite French Expressions you sent in last week! Today, learn about another favorite French expression, "pas un chat".
il n'y a pas un chat (see sound file, below)
: there is not a cat (in the street); there is no one
Le village de Séguret dort en hiver. On dirait que personne n' y demeure. Il n'y a pas un chat en février! The village of Séguret sleeps in wintertime. You would think that no one lurks there. There is no one around in February!
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse
Tess came to visit for the weekend. It had been two years since we last saw each other, but that didn't seem to put one speck of "strangerliness" between us: our conversation easily picked up right where it had left off, almost a dozen saisons ago.
We chatted and chatted and chatted, and when our words filled the house to bursting, we burst out of the house, for a change of scene.
"Have you ever been to Séguret?" I asked my longtime friend, who replied that No, she hadn't been...
There was plenty of room for conversation in the old village of Séguret. Our words ricocheted off the cobbled streets, which were empty as our pockets, until we stuffed our hands inside of them.
"It's so cold!" I wish I had brought my gloves, Tessa said.
I pulled down my woolen bonnet, and let the wind carry me forward, through the arched stone entryway to the quiet town.
As we strolled through the deserted village, we looked into village windows, which may as well have been movie sets--abandoned in mid-activity...
In the tea shop's window Tess spied three teacups which were left intact... as if the persons who had last sipped from them had just gotten up and walked away. The only thing alerting the viewer to the passing of time... were the Christmas decorations which were still hanging, this side of March!
The eery ghost town feeling continued, but for a few pregnant cats, who followed us around as if we wore kibbles pinned to our backs.
I noticed all of the dusty flower pots, sticks in the places of stems, hardened dirt cracked across the surface. There was no one at the lavoir this time, no buckets of just-washed socks, no sudsy water, no withering wizened woman. There was no yappy dog in the doorwell facing the souvenir shop, either. The door was closed; the shop, locked. On the stone slabs facing the fountain, there were a few seat cushions, which blew off the moment we passed by.
No matter how dead the town felt, our conversation remained vivant as we noted the sweeping view or turned to check on the pregnant cats, which followed us, having nothing better to do.
I was sorry to not be able to show my friend a more exciting time, especially as we had set out hoping for a change after months of being holed up inside.
"Soon enough things will pick up!" I whispered to the full-bellied cats. "Enjoy the peace while it lasts!" The same could be said to the empty-bellied pedestrians, who carried on walking through the peaceful perched town, noting the "clock-stopped" window scenes and chatting about everything and nothing.
Post note: I don't think this story did much to illustrate today's French expression: pas un chat. On the other hand, they say the French language is all about exceptions to the rules!
la saison = season
le lavoir = an outdoor communal wash (laundry) basin, usually made of stone (click here for a picture and a story!)
vivant = living
In Séguret: a curtained door and a bird cage.
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety