How to say "cleaning frenzy" in French! + photo vocabulary!
how to say "from the bottom of the heart" and "shooting star" in French?

How to say searchlight and intruder in French?

Brebis, mouton, sheep, olive trees, south of France (c) Jean-Marc Espinasse,
In addition to the visitors we invite (read about these guys, above), we had some unwelcome guests recently. A story about a prowler, or un rôdeur de nuit, in today's column.

 faisceau de lumière (fay-so-deuh-loo-myer)

    : light beam 


Example sentence (and handy retort!):

Still smarting from a recent disagreement? Why not forward the following quote (mwah ha ha ha! That'll get 'em!) est plus facile de reconnaître les erreurs chez les autres, mais dirigeons vers nous le faisceau de lumière ! It is easier to recognise failure in others, but let's turn the search light on ourselves.

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

A Prowler Appears

While refilling Smokey's and Braise's gamelles on a scorching hot day, I was pleasantly surprised by our neighbor.

"Oh, bonjour Annie! Quel plaisir de vous voir!"

There beneath the parasol pine trees, Annie walked slowly up our gravel driveway, her every step hindered by an enthusiastic welcoming crew: our golden retrievers.

"Smokey. Braise. Poussez-vous!" (No matter how bad my accent is these days--or that skedaddle is more fun to say!--all dog commands are still issued in French. Our bilingual dogs respond to it.) 

Annie waved her finger in a gesture of "not to worry," and I remembered that she is used to animal herding. She walks her feisty goat and her sheep each evening, keeping those two in line, whether in French or in Provençal (a sheep's second language).

"I have something to ask you," Annie said as she gently patted the welcoming crew.

"Bien sûr!" I emptied the dogs' water bowls next to the sunflowers which now tower beside the front door. After refilling the gamelles with fresh water, I encouraged Annie to come inside. It was too hot to chat here on the patio and, besides, I had a question of my own for our next-door voisine.

We sat down at the kitchen table, a pile of freshly-picked roma tomatoes between us. I'd get to my question soon.... First, I was curious to know what Annie had to say.

"Did you hear all the commotion last night?" she began.

Having no idea what Annie was talking about, I guessed I hadn't. Quel bruit? I hadn't even heard her goose honk. Ever since the second goose passed away, last month, things were sadly quiet in the field above our house, where Annie lives.

"My dogs went crazy--barking like mad around 1 a.m.," Annie explained, adding that last night she was all alone (her grown children, my age, were away). 

I was on my own too, I told Annie, anxious to know why her dogs were barking. 

Annie continued, "I got out of bed and headed toward the kitchen, where my chien-loup was going mad. That's when I saw a faisceau de lumière out in the field..."

The words faisceau de lumière were puzzling. I could picture the "lumière"... but wasn't a faisceau a kind of dessert? I jogged my brain, trying to eliminate the image of a villain dessert traipsing through the countryside. But then, just what was it Annie had seen lurking out there?

Annie kept mentioning the faisceau de lumière until I understood from context that it was a beam of light she had witnessed--and not a creamy dessert (or "faisselle"). The faisceau was shining across the field between our homes. Yikes! It seems we had an unwelcome visitor last night! 

"What did you do?" I quizzed Annie, anxious to know la suite.

"I stuck my head out the front door," Annie said, illustrating her gesture.  I could just see her brave face poking out the cracked door. "It's not something I would normally do..." she said of her courageous peekaboo, "but I just had to know what was out there!"

Next, she said the light faded away as the intruder disappeared.... That's when Annie asked if I'd noticed the light from my end of the field... Whoever was lurking was now lurking in my yard!

Just then, Max appeared in the kitchen door well startling me. But the sight of my son in his bright-colored boxer shorts was unmenacing.

"Good morning, Max!" I said. "Listen. Annie says someone was lurking around here last night. Someone with some sort of lantern...."

Max mentioned that when he returned home from a party, after midnight, he had used his telephone screen to light the path to our front door.

Annie and I perked up... until Max added he had arrived home after 1:30 am. Annie was certain, having looked at her clock, that the prowler was in the field at 1 a.m. Max would have arrived a half hour later. That meant Annie and I were all alone at the time of the mysterious visit!

"You have my phone number," Annie assured me. 

"Thanks," I said. "And don't hesitate to call me, either. I'm right next door--not far at all!" We would look out for each other, the one a middle-aged housewife, the other a gentle-spirited widow.

It was a comforting thought. However, one had to face the facts. I studied Annie in her dainty débardeur with its lace bretelles. And there I sat in my T-shirt dress. Both of us had our hair tied back with bobby pins. Should we encounter the prowler tonight, would we be the picture of intimidation and ferocity?

There was no use fearing. I shared with Annie that I was croyante, unsure of whether she might be an atheist, like my belle-mère. If that were the case, perhaps these non-religious words could comfort her: the old adage "nothing to fear but fear itself!"

I sat there fumbling through a personal translation of Franklin D. Roosevelt's famous words... rien a craindre sauf la crainte... I couldn't be sure if Annie was getting the gist of the idea, but her next comment eased my troubled mind in the same way the holy scriptures do:

"Don't worry," Annie chuckled. "Come to think of it, the visitor we had last night was probably no more than a lost soul who had wandered up the hill after the town's "summer night" festivities. "He probably had a pretty girl on his arm," Annie smiled. "Just a couple of lovers who had snuck up to the forest."

 I liked that idea much better than a torch-bearing psychopath. Speaking of unstable types, Annie shook her head and pushed a carton across the table.  "My hens are not themselves these days," she admitted. "But here are a few to enjoy."

"Freshly-laid eggs! Thank you, Annie!"

With that, I remembered the roma tomatoes I had for my neighbor. Filling a bag I handed them to her and then picked her brain about canning this year's harvest. And, just like that, we put a lid on the big bad prowler!

Post note: Remember the men who came to prune all our olive trees? There in the orchard they found many lost items--including a blue satin g-string. Ah là là! It seems this wasn't the first time lovers have lurked in the surrounding fields!

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 French Vocabulary 

 la gamelle = water bowl

quel plaisir de vous voir = what a pleasure to see you

poussez-vous! = beat it! (move out of the way!)

bien sûr = of course

la voisine (le voisin) = neighbor

quel bruit? = what noise?

le débardeur = sleeveless T-shirt

les bretelles = spaghetti straps

un croyant (une croyante) = one who believes in God

Help answer this reader's question:

Melissa is anxious to find a novel to read that takes place in Avignon or nearby, to enhance her connection to the area. (She does already have your first book....)

If you've not already written about a favorite roman, then perhaps you could post to poll ideas from your readers? 

Answer Dave's question and share your favorite books that take place in or near Avignon. Comment here.
Cassis, Var, France, Mediterranean sea (c)
We had such a touching visit with my sister Heidi (to the left) and Brian, her first husband... more about the reunited amoureux soon! 

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

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


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Suzanne Dunaway

In Los Angeles we rented our canyon house to a quite famous person with new kids and the family was convinced there was a prowler/stalker/whathaveyou in our yard....
only canyon dwellers get used to coyotes, bobcats and HUGE deer who wend their way through the brush, sounding like an army of invaders....
I think the g-string tells all; or he wanted a new sheep!

Dana Wilson

Your writing and photographs are superb.

So why can't I get this vision out of my mind: someone trimming your oliviers in a blue satin g-string!

Argggggh! ;-)

Jonathan Loesberg

Two books for Melissa, both of them historical.

Alexandre Dumas, The Companions of Jehu--set in the late 1790s, thus the time of the French Revolution and Napoleon (who is a character in the novel)>

Iain Pears The Dream of Scipio--set in three time periods from the early middle ages to WWII. Also, in addition to Avignon, in Vaison de la Romaine.

Grace McKee

Really interesting post as usual.
Sorry, not being rude but I think you meant 'widow' not 'widower'?

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristin,
Hopefully it was someone just lost trying to see in the darkness. Great photo of you all!

john h abeles md

Kristin... always love reading your vignettes.. A little English lesson in return -- it is "whoever" not "whomever" where it was used.. To much time in the bucolic climes of la France du Sud?.. Look forward to meeting you both one day..Amitiés.. John Abeles

Julie Farrar

Thanks for the thriller. Your mystery made me think of another Provençal mystery (is the Luberon in Provence?) to suggest to your reader. It's Deborah Lawrenson's The Lantern

And I would like to suggest that you are NOT middle-aged. Since I don't consider myself so and I'm older than you, you can't possibly have reached that point in life. I may be mid-life (you can't be there if your kids haven't graduated high school, by the way), but middle age is definitely a state of mind. And that's one place I'm not ready to visit.


I don't want to alarm you, but it wouldn't hurt to have all your doors and windows checked to make sure they lock securely. And it makes more sense, if one is unsure of what's outside, to call the police rather than going out to investigate, as Annie did. I'd recommend getting motion-sensor security lights to alert you if someone gets too close to the house, but I suppose animals (and late-returning sons!) would activate them.

C Cannon, CA

L'amour est un ile, by Claude Gallay is a contemporary novel set in Avignon during a summer theater festival.

Gordon Lyman

Kristin, thanks for another beautiful description of your life's adventures. You have a gift, you are a gift.

Faye Stampe, Gleneden Beach, OR

I agree with Passante: locked doors, motion sensor lights and I would add: a 12 gauge rifle. Viola!

Stay well.

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you for the very, very kind words! And I appreciate the edits--so helpful! I look forward to sharing many more stories and I just want to thank you for reading and for all the encouragement. On my way out to walk the dogs. Will check back in a little bit....

Trina, St. Petersburg, Florida, USA

Ah, Gordon said it so well :)

Kathy en Californie

Yes, Gordon nailed it about you and your talent!

N, San Antonio, Texas

Thank you for your posting and reminding me that a little prevention goes a long way. Having experienced a home robbery, please check and use the locks on your windows and doors. You really do not want to experience the horrible feeling of knowing someone else was in your house, to say nothing of missing treasured possessions. Even though I now live in a gated community and have deep sense of safety your story reminds me to use the locks, thank you.

Did you see the 222 Golden Retrievers conference on the internet? Have a beautiful day, N

Tish Tyler

Bonjour Kristi,

Comme d'habitude, I enjoyed today's story. I would have been petrified if I'd seen a light in the field!

I am curious about one thing: un "chien-loup".

Is that the same as a "loup-chien"? Seveal years ago in France, I saw a Keeshond (dog)and the kind French gentleman told me it was a "loup-chien". P.S. I have a Keeshond!

I will be in Avignon in 3 weeks and love seeing the book suggestions.



Barbara Corrado Pope has written three French historical novels which are very entertaining. The first one, Cezanne's Quarry, takes place in Aix-en-Provence.


I love your stories and I hate to be a nit picker of a grammarian, but in the interest of good writing, I have to point out that adverbs ending in -ly do not require a hyphen between it and the adjective it modifies. E.g. "freshly picked tomatoes" and "freshly laid eggs". The adverb "freshly" cannot modify the following noun, so the hyphen is unnecessary. Also, it should have been "Whoever was lurking..." I hope you'll forgive me...

Leslie in Oregon

If it's any comfort, I doubt that a thief would advertise his or her presence by using a light. At least that's what I told myself when, after midnight one recent night, I saw a beam of light coming down the hill on one side of our property. No harm was done. I do feel secure knowing that our two dogs will raise the alarm if anyone they don't know is anywhere near the house, and every stranger is intimidated by my male Golden's basso profondo barking. With Braise and Smokey, I imagine you have the same security.

Leslie in Oregon

P.S. Bill, thank you for the grammar reminders, particularly about the non-use of hyphens.


Oh Bill -
I'll bet you grind your teeth when you read my comments...I am happy you are watching Kristi's back, keeping her on her toes.




Our dear Kristi,
Once again, your gifted writing has kept us laughing with your descriptions (a dessert prowler traipsing through your yard!) but also reminded us(again!) of your kindness in watching out for your neighbor while she(he) watches out for you in return.What a wonderful lesson;we must care for one another.
Love, Natalia XO

nadine goodban

Sooo, Kristin, what was your question to your neighbor Annie, after she 'd posed hers ??? Je suis curieuse ...... nadine, Napa

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Bill! I had gotten all the previous edits in, updating the blog--but no one caught this one. The grammar lesson you shared has been very helpful too! Will see if I remember it the nexttime. Meantime, edits are always welcome and appreciated!

Nadine, I asked Annie a question about how to can or put up tomatoes. Between those that are coming up in our garden--and the others another neighbor gave us--we've got tomatoes coming out of our oreilles!


Hi Kristin

As one or two others have been offering edit suggestions today, may I offer a few?

As 'bruit' is a masculine noun, shouldn't it be 'quel bruit' rather than 'quelle bruit?'

'spagetti straps.' Should be 'spaghetti'.

'her grown children ... we're away.' Should be 'were'.

'Goodmorning, Max.' Should be 'Good morning, Max.'

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Nick. Gad to have these! Will update the story at the next chance. Happy weekend to all.

Diane Young

Chere Kristi,
Think a lot of the errors are the bain of typing on the computer and your hope to get the column done in a reasonable amount of time. You are so gracious to accept our well-meaning editing. I'm not sure if the preceding was supposed to be hyphenated.
I'm looking forward to hearing about the reunited amoureux, Heidi and Brian.

Kristin Espinasse

Aw, thank you, Diane! I do rush to get the stories out. I have not yet found the patience to begin a story the day before. I need that deadline pressure in order to eke out a post. The downside is typos and errors. Thanks for your interest in the reunion story :-)


Mais c'est un grand plaisir de te relire, Kristin. Souviens-toi encore de moi? I have eye problems that prevent me to read long texts. The Dr is still observing my (eyes) progress or non progress. Mais vraiment I missed your usual funny anecdotes. J’ai loupé tant d’épisodes.
Je suis curieuse de lire la suite du roman Brian-Heidi. :-)
Your sister Heidi est aussi belle que toi. You both got good genes from your dear mom.

Judi Miller, Lake Balboa, CA

I, of course, loved your story, but I must admit I cannot tear myself away from the photo of the sheep and the glorious, glorious color of the trees behind them. That photo should win a prize!


I am also (as Judi was) mesmerized by this sheep photo! I even saved it to my comp (without knowing that somebody else has been also hypnotized by it) hoping maybe some day I could catch in paint the beauty of content and color together. PURE PEACE it conveys. Thank you.


What is on the side of the partially caught first sheep on the right side of the picture?! Is it just randomly splashed paint to mark the ship? Or a number, or some letters? I wish I could see the bigger size of the picture. Thanks.

Kristin Espinasse

Millie! Great to have you back! May your eye sight improve--thinking of you.

Judi and those who mentionned the sheep picture... it was taken by Jean-Marc :-) He will be happy to know you are enjoying it! Thanks.


Spelling being the bane (not bain, dear Diane Young)of computer writing...!
A couple of French edits for you:
bruit and plaisir are masculin, so it is Quel plaisir, quel bruit (rather that Quelle).
Sheep photo is a classic.. so Atmosphère (to channel Arletty in Quai de Brumes).
Jacqueline in cold but sunny Brisbane

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