pas un chat
Monday, February 27, 2012
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
Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc: Download MP3 or Wav file
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!
Have time for another story about my friend Tess? Read this one or this one
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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When I read the words 'pas un chat' this morning, it reminded me of something that happened during my first half year in France. I made an appointment with the vet to have my cat sterilized. The assistant asked me: 'C'est pour le chat?' and since I knew my dogs were known at the clinic I assumed she wanted to make sure it was not for 'le chien', so I said 'yes' The cat had to be taken there 'a jeune' which she did not like. Halfway through the morning the assistant called, angrily saying: 'C'est pas un chat, c'est une chatte!'Apparently the vet was all set to do a castration, lifted my cat's tail and found nothing to work with!
Thatwas the first I ever heard of the French having many different words for each animal (as do the enlish). In any case, the op could not take place that day since a female sterilisation takes more time, so the poor cat had to stay without food for another day. By that time she was literally spitting mad. The vet commented later:'Oh la la, quel temperament!'
Posted by: Marijcke Jongbloed | Monday, February 27, 2012 at 01:29 PM
I think the phrase "pas un chat" is perfect, and the way you described the emptiness of the town, the absence of goods in the vitrines, the lone three teacups, encapsulated the feeling of abandonment in the winter months.
The photo of the cat on its back is perfect.
Posted by: Janet MacKenzie | Monday, February 27, 2012 at 01:37 PM
Hi Kristin ... your narrative brought back happy memories of several visits with the family to Seguret (in June and September rather than February!).
Its a beautiful village, and we've enjoyed wonderful meals on the terrace at Le Mesclun restaurant - enjoying the shade whilst looking out on the tremendous views towards the Rhone valley ... oh to enjoy a leisurely lunch and feel one's muscles relax in the warmth of a Provencal summer day again!
Posted by: Ian | Monday, February 27, 2012 at 01:37 PM
Je n'ai jamais dressé un chien qui mette tant de temps à apprendre les ordres les plus simples.
I've never trained a dog that took so much time to learn the simplest commands.
Posted by: gail bingenheimer | Monday, February 27, 2012 at 01:41 PM
Au contraire!!! I think your story for "pas un chat" was perfect! It means there wasn't a soul around, and from your description, there wasn't , except for some real "chats." Love your sense of humor...!.I guess they don't have cat spay/neuter programs in those little villages, poor kitties!!!
And I love the photo of the relaxed kitty soaking up the sun too!
Posted by: Suzanne Codi, Washington, DC | Monday, February 27, 2012 at 02:24 PM
Kristin, you captured the mood and manner of the day beautifully. Your descriptions of the villages of France mean so much more because of your heart-inspired talent to bring them alive with people and animals in the telling. Love this pas de chat expression. Do the French have a good expression using dogs? Probably many!
Posted by: Pat, Roanoke, VA | Monday, February 27, 2012 at 03:10 PM
You brought back memories of the October day almost 40 years ago when I visited Séguret. "Pas un chat" that day too.
Posted by: Passante | Monday, February 27, 2012 at 03:19 PM
Your story illustrated your phrase well. Don't worry about us. We follow your story lines wherever you take us, be it France, Italy, Arizona, Mexico, or wherever. We follow better than cats. :o)
Posted by: mhwebb in NM, USA | Monday, February 27, 2012 at 03:22 PM
The picture of the cat in this post looks alot like my sweet Mimi,who came to Paris with us in Oct.(our children are grown,but the grandkids aren't) We are to be here 2 yrs. So far,she has yet to enjoy a real sunny day like this one is.But she does lay on her back that way to get attention.But never to be belly petted!Paris so far,is not at all like your stories of southern France.I know its not been long,and I wasn't the most willing of people to come (I came from the US,and had lived in a 25 mile radius of where I was living,always until then),but it has taken me all this time just to be ok with being here.I have subscribed from you for not quite a year now,and have found alot of useful tips from your posts.Thanks! :)
Posted by: Mechelle | Monday, February 27, 2012 at 03:37 PM
Like Ian, my memories of Séguret involve looking for shade, or sitting by the cool fountain in the heat of the summer, rather than hands in my pockets avoiding the cold wind. And my attempts at photos in this lovely, narrowed "street" village almost always contain an unexpected tourist emerging from a santon shop. To be there when il n'y a pas un chat would be nice now and then.
Posted by: gary | Monday, February 27, 2012 at 03:42 PM
In the Charente Maritime, a holiday destination for the French themselves I am alway amazed how many times you can drive through a small town or village and see nobody, (I am not talking about lunchtime). Maybe they know I am coming.
Posted by: Gus | Monday, February 27, 2012 at 04:19 PM
What a great picture! Perfect shot and great light and shadow. Nice one!
Posted by: Reba from San Francisco | Monday, February 27, 2012 at 04:41 PM
Thanks, Kristin for another beautifully descriptive story.
So, this is something like the English, "not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse."
53 degrees, partly cloudy and ready to rain in Los Angeles
Posted by: Kathy | Monday, February 27, 2012 at 04:42 PM
You remark that "the French language is all about exceptions to rules," and indeed that leads me to a question after listening to the audio recording: I would have expected liaison between the words "dort en" and "chat en". Are there exceptions with liaison and "en"?
Secondly, your description of Seguret was wonderfully evocative since we stayed in a "mas" quite close to Seguret in July of 2010 (when we also had the pleasure of meeting you and Jean-Marc!). We visited the village a few times. So charming! The first time we were teased by the delicious smells coming from the teashop/cafe. Unfortunately we hadn't brought any money with us! We made up for it that evening with dinner at "Le Mesclun," sitting outside on the terrace overlooking the valley. On our next day visit we brought money and enjoyed lavender ice cream at "Les Glaces d'Eglantine." And at the little giftshop quite close to the entrance to the village I found some santons to add to my collection: 3 ladies dressed Arlesian-style, dancing the farandole.
I hope to be back sometime soon!
Posted by: Christine | Monday, February 27, 2012 at 05:08 PM
I really enjoyed this evocative description of Seguret en plein hiver for two reasons. First, it reminded me of the fat cat that lounged languidly in a crevice in an old wall near the house we rented in Murs two years ago, keeping watch over the village and giving the eye to anyone it didn't recognize. Second, we'll be in Provence in exactly three months; we've rented a house in a village tout pres de Seguret and expect to be part of the reawakened village in the spring. Je l'attend avec impatience!
Posted by: Jeri | Monday, February 27, 2012 at 05:09 PM
I am so glad that I have found your blog. I want to go to France so badly and fear it may never happen! But I can "visit" through your wonderful posts. I love reading about the every day life. Like you, no matter how mundane, I find it fascinating!
Posted by: Tina Hall - Indiana US | Monday, February 27, 2012 at 06:03 PM
The photo made me smile and giggle out loud! C'est chouette, le chat!
Posted by: Candy in CO | Monday, February 27, 2012 at 06:07 PM
That's a great expression! And your story was perfect - there wasn't a cat in the street except for, oh yeah, all those cats...ha!
I have THREE feline monsters so there's always a cat in my path at home.
Posted by: Amy Kortuem - Mankato, Minnesota | Monday, February 27, 2012 at 06:57 PM
I LOVED TODAY'S POST...I FELT LIKE I WAS WALKING ALONG WITH YOU IN ONE OF MY FAVORITE VILLAGES. YOUR RELAXED AND INVITING STYLE OF WRITING TODAY SHOULD CONTINUE ON, ONLY I SHOULD BE THE FRIEND WALKING ALONG WITH YOU.
OF COURSE I WOULD HAVE KNOCKED ON THE WONDERFUL DOOR WITH THE CLOSED CURTAINS AND LITTLE BIRD-CAGE GRACING THE FRONT ENTRY. I LOVED THE COLD BARE BRANCH YOU INCLUDED IN THE PHOTO.
YOUR CAT PHOTO IS A CHARMER....WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN HIDING ALL OF THESE WONDERFUL FOTO'S?
I LOVE YOU HONEY - HOPE YOU ARE STARTING TO FEEL A LITTLE BETTER....DON'T ALL OF THESE PRECIOUS COMMENTS JUST HEAL YOUR HEART AND BODY...I JUST LOVE ALL OF YOUR FRIENDS HERE IN THE COMMENTS BOX.
Posted by: JULES GREER - PUERTO VALLARTA, MEXICO | Monday, February 27, 2012 at 07:01 PM
I smiled so big when I saw your cat photo!! Awwww...I want another one some day soon. Cats are so comforting, playful and clean up after themselves. hehehehehe ;)
Posted by: Lisa A.,Los Angeles, CA | Monday, February 27, 2012 at 07:42 PM
A few years ago, I was showing a French woman in town around downtown KC before its recent revival when she commented "il n'y a pas un rat". Did I mishear her, or does this expression exist with "rat" as well?
Posted by: Julia | Monday, February 27, 2012 at 08:06 PM
I thought today's expressiion was great. I had a wonderful visual of everything. Is there an expression for "alley Cat"?
Also when one has a friend such as Tessa it makes no difference if the village is empty or full...it the company that counts.
Another question. If I order one of the books that are on the website here through the website from Amazon, do you get something? If yes, could I order virtually anything that way?
Posted by: joie/carmel,ca | Monday, February 27, 2012 at 08:19 PM
What a life .. lying on its' back, enjoying a natural solar belly warming. No doubt watching blue skies for the next meal .. fly birdies, fly!
Posted by: Bill Facker | Monday, February 27, 2012 at 08:32 PM
IT WOULD BE GREAT IF YOU DID ALL OF YOUR SHOPPING AT AMAZON BY CLICKING ON AMAZON THROUGH KRISTI'S SITE....THIS WOULD LITERALLY HELP KRISTI IN SO MANY WAYS....ONE IS WHICH SHE USES THE MONEY SHE MAKES OFF OF YOUR PURCHASES ON AMAZON TO BUY MY AIRLINE TICKETS TO FRANCE. OF COURSE YOU WOULD HAVE TO BUY ALOT OF BOOKS TO HELP WITH THAT TICKET NOWADAYS - BUT JUST THINK HOW MANY TIMES I COULD VISIT KRISTI IF ALL OF HER READERS STARTED BUYING BICYCLES, BARBECUES AND BOATS.
ANYTHING YOU BUY ON AMAZON THROUGH KRISTI'S SITE WILL BE CREDITED TO HER ACCOUNT, SHE RECEIVES A FEW PENNIES ON EACH PURCHASE YOU MAKE - ACTUALLY I DON'T REALLY KNOW THOSE PARTICULARS - BUT I SURE DO LOVE TO VISIT KRISTI...THANKS FOR ASKING JOIE....MAYBE OTHERS WILL FOLLOW YOUR LEAD.
Posted by: JULES GREER - PUERTO VALLARTA, MEXICO | Monday, February 27, 2012 at 08:53 PM
This post and the one about the man at the lavoir are lovely.
I knew a cat in France named Pachate. First it was pacha(or Pasha in English), but then it turned out to be a she. So the name is a pun and a feminization!
Posted by: Martine NYC | Tuesday, February 28, 2012 at 04:55 AM
Hopefully this post and audio file mean that your whole family is feeling better. Lovely photos thank you.
Posted by: Janet Daniels | Tuesday, February 28, 2012 at 10:03 AM
Jules and Kristi,
It is a done deal....anything I buy on Amazon will go through the website. It is so simple. Hopefully others will follow. Today it is two books and earphones for my French Rosetta Stone that my neighbor downloaded for me......
Posted by: joie/carmel,ca | Tuesday, February 28, 2012 at 09:01 PM
It took a very loooooong time to respond in French, only to lose the whole thing!!! I think the next time it happens I know how to retrieve it. Let's hope so.
If you shared your last surgery, I missed that, too. Hope you are satisfied with the results.
Presently, getting around is no problem. Next month a cat scan will tell if a surgery is recommended for my abdominal aortic aneurysm. However, there is no pain and your friend is feeling quite well as he approaches his 85th in two months. A ta sante!
Posted by: Fred Caswell | Wednesday, February 29, 2012 at 01:14 AM
I SO enjoyed this entire post…from the opening photo which tickled me, to the beautifully-written story which toured me through the quiet, winter-dressed village at your side. So glad that you and Tess found time to enjoy together. So good for the heart and soul!
Posted by: Stacy ~ Sweet Life Farm ~ Applegate, Oregon | Wednesday, February 29, 2012 at 04:44 AM
Beautiful! And thanks for posting about Seguret. I'm renting a house which is about a 15 minute walk from there this coming July.
Posted by: Liza in Ann Arbor | Wednesday, February 29, 2012 at 04:19 PM
A visit from a "forever" friend is one of the best things in life. I'm so glad that you are out and about again! Thanks for sharing your ramble through shuttered Séguret.....really enjoyed it. Just two evenings ago, I thought of your story of the man washing his shirt in the "lavoir" when a friend described a similar scene in El Salvador where he volunteers his medical services. Best wishes for all.
Posted by: Cynthia Lewis in Salisbury, Eastern Shore of Maryland | Thursday, March 01, 2012 at 12:35 AM
Last Tuesday, the 21st, I saw this exact interestingly draped door in Séguret which you have photographed.....Denise
Posted by: Denise | Thursday, March 01, 2012 at 05:23 AM