une girouette - weather vane in French
Wednesday, March 06, 2013
"Cat on a hot tin wire." Girouettes are a works of art and if you look closely you will discover characters, even dramas! Photo taken a few years back in Pernes-les-Fontaines.
une girouette (zshee-roo-et)
: weather vane, wind indicator
être une vraie girouette = to be capricious, fickle; to be a weather vane (as changeable as the weather)
une girouette d'affichage = destination indicator. (You know those digital tapes or screens that run along the front of a bus, telling which direction the vehicle is headed? Those are called girouettes, too! girouettes d'affichage)
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse
Yesterday morning I waffled back and forth like a rooster beneath a falling sky. My hair flew up, twirling around me, as I retrieved fallen laundry from the clothesline. I snatched a dried sock from the rosemary bush, some underwear dangling on an olive branch, and a T-shirt that had flattened the patch of newly-bloomed anemones. As my eyes scanned the countryside I was thankful the wind hadn't carried off the laundry any farther. I looked down into the muddy dog run, no towels had ended up there this time (it was vacant. Braise and Smokey were safe inside the house.)
The girouettes are spinning this morning as a violent wind continues to sweep through the Mediterranean. Residents in Marseilles have been asked to empty their balconies, lest objects fly off landing on the streets (and the citizens) below. Certain roads along the littoral are closed because of the risque de submersion, or threat posed by the giant waves coming in off the coast. Even the scenic route des Crêtes, (taken last week, when I went to collect my bodyguard) is off limits.
"C'est infernal ce vent!" Jean-Marc grumbles as he gets out of bed to batten down the hatches. I watch my husband pull the wooden shutters closed locking them with a metal latch. Certain volets are old and warped and won't shut completely, as evidenced by the darkening patch of sky peeking in.
Jean-Marc isn't sure his gesture will make a difference. "C'était peut-être pas la peine."
"Yes, it's good, it's good," I assure him, a little spooked by the wind after an exceptionally creaky night. Earlier, when Jean-Marc got up in the middle of the night, he left our bedroom door open. I listened as it creaked back and forth, eventually slamming shut on its own. The windy rafales are so strong they are blowing right through the tiny spaces between the window and door frames.
"What kind of wind is it?" I ask Jean-Marc.
"Un vent d'est," he answers.
"Yes, but what is it called?"
"Un vent d'est..."
I was hoping for a colorful name--like a Tramontane or a Sirocco or even the ubiquitous Mistral. But with or without a name, my mind could still conjure up a colorful memory.
I thought about the times the cold Mistral was replaced by a warm vent d'est, how it would blow through Sainte Cécile, where we lived in a 300-year-old house with loose roof tiles. When the windy Sirocco blew through I would tell the kids to put their hands over their heads as we entered or exited the mas. I was always so afraid one of those tiles would come crashing down on our heads, after hearing about flying-tiles, or tuiles-volantes.
We eventually had the loose tiles refixed, but I never lost the habit of throwing up my hand to cover my head. It's a handy tip to keep in mind when navigating the windy corridors of France, where the charming old buildings are the slightest bit menacing on a day like today.
Oh dear, I hadn't meant to leave you on a discouraging note, so I'll end with a new term I learned this morning, a synonym for "au revoir"--and a welcome addition to our list of ways to say goodbye in French:
c'est infernal = it's hell
le vent = wind
C'était peut-être pas la peine = maybe it wasn't worth the trouble
une rafale = gust of wind
le vent d'est = east wind
le mas = old Provençal farmhouse
bon vent = goodbye (literally "good wind" - a term used by sailors, to wish someone a safe journey) Note: when expressed with an agressive tone, Bon vent changes meaning (instead of goodbye it means good riddance!)
I'm still sans ordi--or computerless--after my PC bit the dust Monday morning. Without any photo archives to illustrate this post, I had to swipe a few pictures from Google (no copyright worries--I photographed these pictures and used them in a post about a French cheese shop. Not that a girouette or a dog have anything to do with that, either. Read the short, cheesy story here.)
Max, our 17-year-old, will have two grains de beauté suspects, or "suspicious moles" removed today. The dark spots on his back and side appeared "smeared" or "shadowed". The doctor is not worried, but prefers to err on the safe side. How about you -- have you had your spots, moles, and questionable growths checked lately? What's keeping you? Maybe it is time for a prise de conscience.
A Message from Kristi: Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal week after week. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, I kindly ask for your support by making a donation today. Thank you very much for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.
Ways to contribute:
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety
Not only am I learning english when I read your papers, but I'm learning french as well:
""une girouette d'affichage = destination indicator. (You know those digital tapes or screens that run along the front of a bus, telling which direction the vehicle is headed? Those are called girouettes, too! girouettes d'affichage)""
This is new to me! I wonder how many french people know the proper name for those tapes or screens?
Posted by: Françoise Pierron-Mathevet | Wednesday, March 06, 2013 at 01:25 PM
On s'entend bien, toi et moi, n'est-ce pas?
We get along well, you and I, don't we?
Venez nous voir n'importe quand, vous serez toujours le bienvenu.
Some see us whenever (any time) you like; you will always be welcome.
Posted by: gail bingenheimer | Wednesday, March 06, 2013 at 01:26 PM
Fran, i am so happy to hear that! Thank you!
Posted by: Kristin Espinasse | Wednesday, March 06, 2013 at 01:28 PM
"Bon vent!" Je l'aime bien.
La liste—ways to say goodbye in French—sera très utile.
Posted by: David Simmons | Wednesday, March 06, 2013 at 01:34 PM
In Toulouse we had the Vent d'autan - per Wikipedia it means an easterly wind from the high seas. On my "crête" (ridge), facing the Pyrénées, it peaked around 110 kmPH! "Ça décoiffe!" It will really mess up your hair. We had to sleep with the rolling shutters open so they wouldn't shake violently in the wind. The high winds lasted 36 hours and really got on our nerves. It's not like a hurricane from home in Houston which passes in a few hours. As is predicted with these types of winds in this region, the rain has arrived and brought calm.
Posted by: Nackey | Wednesday, March 06, 2013 at 01:34 PM
For a change, I'm reading FWAD really early. I was astonished that the federal government is closed today - a winter storm coming - when we've had to go to work in the past when the weather was worse. I think folks are overreacting. When I was a child, we went to school every day, regardless of how much snow there was, and there were no snow days. I suppose it's because the D.C. area now has three times the population, and probably five times the car population, that it used to have. We also are having some ice, and the same kind of wind as you. It's from the northwest instead of the east, but 20-30 miles an hour. Does Marseilles get much snow?
Your whole family is so attractive. Thanks for the picture of Max. The doctor is right to remove anything that has the potential to be a problem. I've not had to have moles, etc. removed, but I keep an eye on my skin, just in case, and go swimming late in the day to avoid too much sun exposure.
Apparently you don't have a dryer for your clothes? I grew up hanging clothes on the line, and they smell good when dried in the sun and fresh air. When the weather was bad, we either had to put off doing the wash, or spread the clothes around the house to dry slowly.
We appreciate your sending the posts, even if not from your own computer.
Posted by: Marianne Rankin | Wednesday, March 06, 2013 at 01:35 PM
When we were in Marseille several years ago, the winds up at the Basilica of Notre Dame were so strong that you had to pull yourself along the side of the building to move into the wind. I was afraid any child under 30 pounds would be swept away.! I had a mole on my back that my wife noticed was looking "ugly". It was cancerous, but it was removed with clean margins. Every year (and I'm due again) I have a body scan by a dermatologist who always seems to find something suspicious on my head/face to burn off with liquid nitrogen.
Posted by: Bill in St. Paul | Wednesday, March 06, 2013 at 01:46 PM
Nackey, thanks for the fun terms and for the interesting additions. Re nerves, this unrelenting wind really gets on ours!
Marianne, bon courage for the storm, even though you are not worried about it. Re the dryer, we do not have one. On rainy days we do as you once did, draping items around the house. Now that we are in a new (old) house, we are using the cellar, which already had a few laundry lines installed.
Bill in St Paul, i remember those child-gripping winds in Marseilles! Also, thanks for sharing your mole story. Good to read about the yearly check-ups, which are a needed reminder for many.
Posted by: Kristin Espinasse | Wednesday, March 06, 2013 at 01:53 PM
Good morning, Kristin. I love your piece this morning. Very descriptive writing. As the saying goes: Way to go girl!
Priscilla in La Nouvelle Orleans
Posted by: Priscilla Fleming Vayda | Wednesday, March 06, 2013 at 02:09 PM
bonjour ! avec le vent des LOMBARDS yes from
ITALIA ! from LOMBARDIA ...comme ils l'appellent ici à APT .et cela veut dire
qu'il pleuvra et beaucoup .
Posted by: pierre maisonneuve | Wednesday, March 06, 2013 at 02:24 PM
I think the east wind is called le vent levant in your area. In Catalan the term is llevant and in Spanish levante. It's a strong humid wind that usually brings rain. You can Google Rose des Vents for the names of all the winds of the Mediterranean. Have a great day in spite of the wind!
Posted by: Jan R. | Wednesday, March 06, 2013 at 02:40 PM
Thanks for a very fun read.
Posted by: Jackie | Wednesday, March 06, 2013 at 02:57 PM
Wow- being lazy this morning- still in bed with my cup of tea, listening to the howling wind as I read your story; nothing like apt sound effects! Somehow, the wind is also getting through a crack in the window frame, and is making my inside wooden shutters into a very loud kazoo! Waiting for the storm to leave Marianne's area, and continue north.
Posted by: Nancy, Cambridge | Wednesday, March 06, 2013 at 03:14 PM
Max will be just fine-you and I know that, Kristin. I had two moles taken off my back many years ago when a doctor suspected they were pre- cancerous. Better safe then sorry, you know, right?
Posted by: Alyssa Ross Eppich | Wednesday, March 06, 2013 at 03:26 PM
I had a wonderful postcard with a drawing of all the winds & their names (can't find it!) I wonder if the open wrought iron steeple tops in the south are so the winds can pass through. They are works of art. Kiss to Smokey & Braise.
Posted by: Jean(ne) in MN | Wednesday, March 06, 2013 at 03:30 PM
We lived in Santa Barbara, California for many years, and the strong winds that came through the mountains towards the sea were called 'Santa Ana' winds. They were especially strong at sunset sometimes, and were then called 'Sun-downers'. But now I see why we see so many shutters on the windows of French homes - you actually use them! Many home in North America have shutters that are merely decorative. Aren't we funny! I, too, love to hang clothes on the line! I've ordered and begun reading your books, Kristin, and am sharing them with my sisters-in-law. We are all coming to St. Remy in May. Martin and I are spending a few days in Paris on the way, so are really enjoying the tips on that area. Thank you for this wonderful circle of friends that you have created online!
Posted by: Pennie in Canada | Wednesday, March 06, 2013 at 03:52 PM
Every year on my birthday I let my dermatologist check my "birthday suit". This is something recommended to me by my wife several years ago. It's a good way to maintain a regular check on those would-be "suspicious" spots.
Posted by: Tom from Detroit | Wednesday, March 06, 2013 at 04:00 PM
Thank you, Priscilla and Jackie. The wind may have been the muse in disguise :-)
Pierre, thank you for identifyng the Lombards wind! I had seen the rose chart that Jan (thanks Jan) mentioned, but had ruled out that particular wind.
Nancy, kazoo! What a perfect sound description. As i read your comment i literally heard that kazoo--yes, that is the exact sound!
Thanks for the reassurance, Alyssa. Max is home now, a liitle sore but A-OK. We will have results back soon. Meantime he can show off those stitches to his new girlfriend. Wait a minute--he had better keep his top on!
Pennie, many thanks for buying the books!
Posted by: Kristin Espinasse | Wednesday, March 06, 2013 at 04:03 PM
Your post reminds me of this rhyme, one I used to read to my Sam when he was little, from the beloved Tomie de Paola's Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes:
Blow wind, blow
And go, mill, go:
That the miller
May grind his corn;
That the baker may take it,
And into rolls make it
And bring us some
Hot in the morn.
Blow wind, Blow
Nursery Rhyme lyrics, origins and history at:
Tells about the early beginnings/economic history, of wind power - once again being utilized and not without its opponents today. The circle of life!
Posted by: Pat Cargill | Wednesday, March 06, 2013 at 04:03 PM
In Montana along the eastern front of the Rockies, we have the dry, warming Chinook wind that can make a ton of snow disappear in no time at all. In Loma, Montana, January 15, 1972, the temperature rose from -54 to 49°F. in 24 hours, a 103 degree change. January 11, 1980, Great Falls International airport recorded a change from -32 to 15 degrees in just seven minutes time. Those Chinook winds, they'll do it to you every time. Bon vent indeed.
A friend who had taken several photos of the beautiful girouettes in Provence said the reason they were the intricate wrought iron was so the forceful winds could blow through them, thus leaving the structure intact - hearing your story, it certainly makes sense.
Posted by: Linda R. | Wednesday, March 06, 2013 at 04:18 PM
Our wind'infernal' is the Tramontana which sometimes reaches 100 kilometres an hour . The good thing about it is ,as the locals say 'Il chasse les nuages', which is the case usually !
What a good looking son you have !
Posted by: Audrey Wilson | Wednesday, March 06, 2013 at 05:03 PM
Check check check! After years of having random sots removed, next week I go in to have a cancer removed that's no larger than large pea. Caught it early.
Posted by: julie Farrar | Wednesday, March 06, 2013 at 05:06 PM
At least it isn't the worry of tornadoes that we have in Alabama. I hate the warning sirens since there is little we can do except hope for no damage.
Posted by: Debbie Ambrous - www.AFrenchOpportunity.com | Wednesday, March 06, 2013 at 06:28 PM
As I started reading your post today I thought I was in store for a great novel! You know, "it was a dark and dreary night" type. The visual was wonderful.
V'la l'bon vent, v'la l'jolie vent.
V'la l'bon vent, ma mie m'appelle--
(from a book I just read...Peaches for Father Francis) She talks about the Black Autan and the White Autan(calming wind).
Posted by: joie blair | Wednesday, March 06, 2013 at 06:47 PM
Il fait du vent ici a Jacksonville aujourd'hui. Eh bien, c'est Mars, n'est-ce pas? Ce matin il etait 40 deg F a huit heures mais avec le vent, j'ai pensee qu'il etait 30 deg. J'ai des linges sur des plantes mais c'est dificile a cause du vent. Max a un bon visage and les yeux de son pere. C'est dificile de croire qu'il a dix-sept ans maintenant. Ou va le temps? Dimanche sera Daylight Savings Time ici. Je ne veux pas perdre cette heure! Merci toujours pour FWAD.
Posted by: Diane Young | Wednesday, March 06, 2013 at 06:59 PM
Thankfully, no suspicious spots here, but I'm always on guard, after having had one removed in the past. Bon vent, Kristin! Hopefully, that menacing eastern wind will settle down soon.
Posted by: Katia | Wednesday, March 06, 2013 at 07:01 PM
That's a beautiful Campanile. I bought a beautiful book about them when I was in Provence one year. With the help of the Larousse, I was able to understand some of the French, that the lacey designs are so the Mistral can follow through without damage.
Expecting our second big snow storm.
It was three feet several weeks ago.
Posted by: mimi.cigalechanta | Wednesday, March 06, 2013 at 07:20 PM
Isn't is true ..
winds not only blow ..
they can "suck" too!
:-) Aloha, Bill
Posted by: Bill Facker | Wednesday, March 06, 2013 at 07:21 PM
Great story --- loved it. You have a very handsome son Kristin! Yes, since I was raised in San Diego and was a redhead -- I am always checking.
Thanks! Stay well!
Posted by: Faye Stampe, Gleneden Beach, OR | Wednesday, March 06, 2013 at 07:30 PM
This blog post almost exactly mirrors a conversation I had yesterday! I'm studying abroad in Aix-en-Provence this semester and I asked my host mother if the terribly strong wind was the Mistral, but like Jean-Marc, she said it was "un vent d'est." Elle a dit, "Le vent d'est amène la pluie, mais le mistral fait s'envoler les nuages et amène le soleil." We've had to brace the volets with rocks when we open them in the morning so they don't rattle throughout the day. Thanks for the tip on covering your head: it looks like this wind will last until the weekend at least!
Posted by: Adelaide Cole | Wednesday, March 06, 2013 at 08:03 PM
This post is so timely for me. My husband and I have just talked about the many moles that have appeared on my back in the last five years. They appear to be a result of hormonal changes which can happen in your sixties as well as your teenage years. They are usually harmless according to Cleveland Clinic and the University of Maryland, but still I worry about leaving them. My son had a large congenital mole which are the ones that usually become melanomas (according to the Cleveland Clinic). We had it removed when he was three or four years old - no problem. He is fair skinned like Max. I agree with having the moles removed. Better safe than sorry.
Posted by: Sharon | Wednesday, March 06, 2013 at 08:43 PM
Your son is gorgeous- he looks just like both of you!
Posted by: barbara lynch | Wednesday, March 06, 2013 at 08:43 PM
Our dear Kristi,
First of all, we're praying for Max today!Always(!) asking God to bless you all with wonderful health!
We have very strong winds,too. There is something alittle frightening about creaking and banging--something about Mother Nature's strength and how small we are in comparison.
Love, Natalia XO
Posted by: Natalia | Wednesday, March 06, 2013 at 08:55 PM
When I was in Marseilles in 2004, I had hoped to take a boat to Chateau d'If, but that violent wind was blowing so strong and Chateau d'If has no natural harbor for the boats to dock, the ferries wouldn't go there. We were able to take the boat to Iles des Friouls, and what a ride it was. I kept my eyes peeled for the nearest shoreline and which boats were where because I was sure we would capsize in those huge waves and I'd need to swim for it! We made it, finally, and had a lovely hike out to the old battlements on the island, and after a few hours, my stomach settled enough to eat a little lunch. I asked the waiter for the name of the wind, he called it "souffle" (breath).
I was terrified to get back on the ferry; thankfully the ride back was not so bad. I'll never forget that wind and that first boat ride, though.
Posted by: ElizaSF | Wednesday, March 06, 2013 at 09:02 PM
Long ago I travelled much between Chicago and D.C.. One meeting in my nation's capital was cut short because the locals left early in fear of the big snow storm. The same storm had dropped the same amount of snow in Chicago some hours earlier. When I got back, I asked the cab driver about the big storm. He was perplexed. After much thought he said, well there were a few inches, but no one noticed that.
I imagine the schools stayed open, as children are sturdier! Marianne, I think that nothing has changed in D.C., just that the government realizes its employees will react like that to a few inches of snow now.
Posted by: Sarah LaBelle near Chicago | Wednesday, March 06, 2013 at 10:20 PM
What a wonderful "girouette" with the cat stalking the unsuspecting mouse. And Max: "Comme il est beau!"
It seems we are all unsettled by the wind. Here on the Eastern Shore it is "blowin' a gale" with heavy rains. Maybe we'll escape the snow since we are warmed by the Atlantic and the Chesapeake Bay. I hope others will not suffer too much. Bien amicalement. (Now, thanks to you, I have a great choice of endings to notes,etc.)
Posted by: Cynthia Lewis (Eastern Shore of Maryland) | Wednesday, March 06, 2013 at 10:31 PM
What a handsome son who looks so much like his mom!
Posted by: Wanda Decker | Thursday, March 07, 2013 at 12:25 AM
I'm reading your post late because our power has been out after we got 10 inches of snow and a blowing wind that blew down trees and power lines. I heard people go crazy from the Mistral, have you heard that? Max is a cutie and I hope all goes well at the dermatologist.
Posted by: Eileen - Charlottesville, VA | Thursday, March 07, 2013 at 02:02 AM
Loved your essay on wind...I've always loved Seneca the philosopher's quote "No wind blows fair for a ship that has no port". We need direction in our lives, purpose. Get that mole removed...they can be deadly, especially for the fair skinned. It was providential that my pre-melanoma was removed from my back last year!
Posted by: Wells Edmundson | Thursday, March 07, 2013 at 03:32 AM
Interesting about the winds. I heard that there is an old French law states that any one who claims to have gone mad on account of the sound of the Mistral may be pardoned of their crime. Wonder if it still current.
Winds of depression
In certain regions of the world, the seasonal winds that blow have become legendary, bringing little short of misery and chaos to many of the local inhabitants. In these places it has been known for generations that the winds bring feelings of anxiety, stress, depression and sleepless nights. In fact winds like these are surprisingly common across the world:
The Foehn is a dry southerly wind which blows from the Alps across Switzerland and southern Germany. The Sirocco blows in Italy and the Mistral in southern France. (It is said that Winston Churchill avoided visiting the Mediterranean coast when the Mistral was blowing). The Middle East has Sharav - also known to the Arabs as Hamsin (the fifty days wind).
Western Canada and USA have the Chinook - and in the area around California blow the Santa-Ana and winds known in Indian mythology as "The Bitter Winds". ....
Posted by: Francesca | Thursday, March 07, 2013 at 03:32 AM
Speaking of word formation in linguistics, I wonder now if those two are related: Le Mistral and Minstrel/Ménestrel (from Wiki - "..A minstrel was a medieval European bard who performed songs whose lyrics told stories of distant places or of existing or imaginary historical events. .. "
Posted by: Francesca | Thursday, March 07, 2013 at 03:55 AM
Sitting in a cafe in Avignon three years ago during a mistral, I thought the waiter was trying to hold my hand, he was only demonstrating how to hold on to my wine glass - didn't work for some customers, though. As for going to school in winter (in the UK), we used to struggle through the snow uphill, in both directions!
From Vancouver, BC where the first blossoms are starting to come out.
Posted by: Peter Bull | Thursday, March 07, 2013 at 04:48 AM
Yay, Kristin, for you and Max taking action on his skin-health; a topic which you've mastered the hard way. Long ago, I saw an episode of an terrific American medical drama called "Quincy" about a cranky coroner (Jack Klugman played him) who got very riled up about people not getting their moles removed in their youth. It became a mission for me to spread the word, and my young daughter had several large moles removed (her back). So did several relatives and friends. It's still a sensible info-mission, tho' so many people are now well-informed. Bravo to all who heed your hint.
Posted by: Kitty Wilson | Thursday, March 07, 2013 at 05:05 AM
Bonjour Kristin, your son is so good looking just like his parents..praying for him that his moles are benign.
Posted by: Irene Tanedo | Thursday, March 07, 2013 at 01:17 PM
Somewhere between the time when my old computer decided to retire (after 12 years) and my new one got plugged-in to the Internet, you must have moved from your idyllic country home to who-knows-where. Why the move, and where are you now?
Posted by: Leighton Smith | Friday, March 08, 2013 at 05:05 AM
Word also used for the destination blind on the front of a bus.
Posted by: John Nelson | Monday, March 11, 2013 at 07:24 PM