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January 2021

Entries from February 2021

Adieu to a beloved Poet + favorite French words, in honor of Herman Meyer

Sospel  France Eglise church french architecture
This photo was taken on February 16th, at 3:21 p.m. in Sospel, France. Marveling at the heavenly ceiling and the mysteries beyond, I was unaware of a friend's passing on the very day.

ADIEU, HERM
I have been carefully collecting a list of interesting French words since the beginning of this month, in hopes of sharing them with you someday. I never imagined I would use them in a eulogy. L
et's learn some vocabulary now while remembering an honored war veteran--and fellow desert rat (from Phoenix) whom many of you know from the comments section of this blog. 

"Une Lubie"
That's "hobby" in French. One of Herman Meyers's passions was la poésie. More than une lubie, poetry was a gift this 90-year-old outdoorsman and electrical engineer shared with the world. Right up to the end, Herm posted his poems on his blog Poems, Photos and Stuff and sent them privately to cheer up friends. He eventually collected his rhythmic verses into an anthology "that may leave you smiling, pull at your heartstrings and/or leave you in tears..."

Herm's book

"Flambant Neuf"
"Brand new"—Herm, who would have turned 91 on May 23, wasn’t flambant neuf. He would have had fun using the brand new term in a stanza. Most of his works were inspired by photos. His book is aptly named "Pic Poems and Stuff". Don't you just love the "and stuff" which hints at the author's way of not taking himself too seriously?


"Le Système D"
"Plan D"--I learned this term in the comments section of this blog (thanks Sheryl!). Jean-Marc tells me the D is for débrouiller which means to deal with it. How would Herm want us to deal with his departure? What is Plan D?!

"Zinguerie"
Plan D rhymes with zinguerie, a word I saw painted over a (plumbing?) shop while passing through Monaco last week. The term has something to do with zinc... which, come to think of it, is sort of the color of Ham Radio (OK, that was a stretch, but I'm determined to share the words, in the order in which I've learned them, into today's tribute. Hang on, it'll get more chanllenging soon!). Just to say Ham radio was an early passion of Herm's that eventually led to extensive radio school training with NATO in Fontainebleu, France!

"Péché Mignon"
Now there's a fun phrase meaning "guilty pleasure" and I have a hunch Herm would have incorporated this phrase in his picture poetry, where he shared his love of hiking, the Southwest, cowboy culture, friendship, family, service to others, and all creatures great and small to name a few. Perhaps one of Herm's guilty pleasures was repetition (mais bien sûr, he was un poète!); his favorite expression, shared now and again in the comments on my blog, was this gem:

C'est la vie, c'est la guere, c'est la pomme de terre!
(Literally: That's life, that's war, that's the potato!)
(Herm's translation: "Stuff happens!” Of course he’d say “stuff”! This poet wasn’t stuffy or smug!)

Herm
"Herm on his daily ride around the park" (title of an email he sent)

"C’est commode"
"It’s convenient"--In one of Herm's last emails of 2020, this passionate outdoorsman announced his hiking days were finito! From then on he rode, et c'était commode! Of course he "poemed" the news:

As time passes by for this aging man
I'll keep doing the exercises that I can
But, instead of the cross-country hiking
I'll stay active with my in-the-park triking

"Se Gâter"
"To take a turn for the worse"--I learned this reflexive verb while out on a walk with Jean-Marc. "Le temps se gâtent" he said, as the bright sky darkened. Returning home, I found an email from my friend Karen in Phoenix, who shared the news of Herm's passing. 

"Sans Déconner"
"No kidding" (Just a cool Southern French phrase you hear--even in Paris! It doesn't really fit in this section. But we're going to make it fit, just as Herm did with his rhyme gift.)

I received a courriel from Herm's wife, Sharron, who shared about Herm's joy reading my blog.  Sharron left me with a compliment as she signed off:

"I always fondly called you his "other girlfriend." Please share this with your mom, he was also a fan of hers too.”

"Frimer"
"To show off"--Because Herm didn't talk a lot about his service to the United States, let's show off for him here.
 In 2018, he was honored as a war veteran, and selected to go on the Honor Flight--an all-expenses-paid trip to see the Korean War Memorial in Washington D.C.

"La Pénurie"
"Shortage"--Now Herm has passed to the other side, the mysterious Ever After. Let us all make sure there are no shortage of words for our word wrangler to work with, as he writes his poetry from the hereafter, l'Au-delà.

Help honor Herm by sharing a favorite French word in the comments section just below. And share what town you are writing in from. Merci beaucoup (I have a feeling Herm would say Merci buckets.  He was comfortable enough with words to have fun with them :-) 

"La Houle"
Swell--That's "swell" as in "ocean waves" but it may as well mean swelled or swollen hearts. To Herm's wife, Sharron, his 3 adult boys, Brien, Craig, and Neal, and to all who love him, our collective hearts go out to you. May the favorite French words that follow in the comments, send waves of comfort your way.

Tu vas me manquer. I am going to miss you, Herman Meyer! Sans déconner!

Signed, 
"Your Other Girlfriend"

 

Herm hike in the desert
Read more about Herm on his blog and his book of "pic poetry" Photo: Herm leads a group of Francophiles at a meetup in Phoenix, in 2011. That story here.

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you regularly enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am commited to sharing a sunny update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France, while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.


Kicked out of Monaco + On the road to the Riviera in our electric car + 22, v'là les flics + pictures from Sospel, Menton, Nice

Sospel
Sospel, France. February 2021. What with La Crise Sanitaire, it has been over a year since Jean-Marc and I traveled and courted adventure. Recently, we hit the road in our electric blue ZOE and were pleasantly surprised at how far it took us--all the way to the Italian border from La Ciotat--on one full "tank". (Jean-Marc had une borne de recharge installed at his wine shop, where he and his clients may charge their electric cars. C'est commode!).

For our 4-day escapade, we considered France's "Island of Beauty" (an overnight voyage via ferry) but were dissuaded when the Corsican getaway called for a PCR test for Covid. That is when Jean-Marc mentioned Menton, only a two-hour drive from our home. The moment my husband suggested it, visions of bright yellow citrons danced in my head. Bonne idée! I agreed and, fast as you can say Vingt deux, v'là les flics! we were on the road, heading toward a needed change of scenery just a stone's throw from the Italian border.

Any fantasies of traversing that frontière (for a meal in Badalucco or a stroll in St Rémo...) were soon nixed when, on day two at the bustling farmers market in Menton, a few locals relayed the latest government orders. "Il ne vaut mieux pas. Vous serez arrêtés et détournés," warned the octogénaire, handing me my change along with her homemade "confiture 3 agrumes," and bay leaf branches from the riviera hinterland.

Jean-Marc quickly offered a Plan B: A visit to Sainte Agnès. Allez, chiche! I agreed, sharing that my artist friend Tessa lived there many years, and it would be good to finally see the perched village and hike up to the chateau ruins above it (Jean-Marc's idea, nevermind it was freezing outside). But with cafés closed because of Covid, the next best way to warm ourselves would be a brisk hike. As we climbed the medieval stone steps I noticed the ground was covered with le verglas...it looked like somebody had dumped a giant snowcone over the hillside. Mittens and wool bonnets would have been good to bring along, but who packs those for a trip to the sunny Riviera?

Jean-Marc and Kristi at Allez Hops beer shop and brewery in Nice

The rest of our séjour was warm, cozy and colorful! (photos of Sospel, below), including a trip to see our friends who run Allez Hops! a boutique beer shop and micro-brewery in Nice. Dan, Julie, and their daughter, Gab, thoughtfully welcomed us with a cheeky--make that chalky--message on the ardoise outside their shop--and even had delicious rootbeer waiting for the abstème in our group! It was wonderful to catch up with our friends, and we were set to see one more copain the next day.... 

Every trip has a misadventure or two and for us that came on the last day, at the border of Monaco, after a couple of flics ordered us off the road. I rolled down the passenger's seat window and fumbled for my mask. "Vous venez d'où?" the policeman with salt-n-pepper hair asked, beginning his interrogation.

"Menton." Jean-Marc replied, from the driver's seat.
"Vous habitez en France?" The officer asked, noticing our license plate, with its two-digit area designation (13 for Marseille, where we bought our car).
As the two wrangled in French, I was about to elbow my husband to just answer the policeman, and quit with all the explanations! but that would not be very French of him, would it? Every Frenchman (mine, at least) must have their say! 

"Je vous ai demandé où est-ce que vous habitez?" The policeman persisted.

"La Ciotat," I replied. "On vie à La Ciotat!"

"But we are here to have lunch with our friend--un Monégasque." Jean-Marc insisted.

"You'll need an affidavit from your friend." The police responded. Zut! Only one day ago we could have wandered aimlessly through Monaco, the rules had changed overnight! After a little more wrangling, Jean-Marc relented, or so it seemed. Taking the next exit, he phoned his friend, who arranged a clandestine rendez-vous, and so smuggled us back to his place for calamari... Everything happened so fast, it was only after I took another bite of octopus that I realized I had once again gone against my gut in order to go with the flow!

"Is it good? Do you like it?" Our smuggler Monégasque asked.

"I do, but... Have you seen My Octopus Teacher?"

If that sounded like an obscure question, dear reader, you haven't seen this documentary, but back to our ethical dilemma involving cops and calamari, because I know what some of you are thinking: Shame on you, Kristi, for sneaking back to your friend's house! How irresponsible of you! What do you have to say for yourself?! We are waiting for an answer!

All I can say is Thank you for waiting! From here on out, I will listen to my conscience, whether it tells me to skip the octopus or skip town! Or skip the comments section of this blog which has taken a slight turn since the new year, with just enough negativity to have me weigh every single word for fear of offending someone, somewhere, somehow. And that makes for a lot of stress in writing and sharing my stories. 

One step forward, two back. Just like you, I am doing the best I can. And the best I can do is to get out of bed each day and go to work, avec ou sans peur. I am extremely grateful for this job as a full-time writer. Thank you for your understanding, for your trust, and for your support. It keeps me writing in an era where speaking to a friend (let alone an audience!) is akin to walking in a minefield. Watch your step! 22 v'la les flics! (Watch out!)

Amicalement,

Kristi 

Room with a view in Menton
Room with a view in Menton

FRENCH VOCABULARY
la crise santitaire = health crisis
une borne de recharge
= charging station, charge port for electric car
c'est commode = it's convenient
dépayser = to experience a change of surroundings (more here)
bienvenue = welcome
une escapade = getaway (travel)
le citron = lemon
une bonne idée = good idea
Il ne vaut mieux pas = better not to
Vous serez arrêtés et détournés = you'll be stopped and turned away
Vingt deux, v'là les flics! = a slang expression for "watch out!", literally Twenty-two, here are the cops!
la frontière = border between countries
la confiture = jam
l'agrume (m)
= citrus fruit
allez chiche!
= you're on! let's do it!
un périple = trek, journey
le verglas = ice
une ardoise = slate, blackboard, chalkboard
l'abstème (m,f) = person who doesn't drink alcohol for one reason or another
le copain (la copine) = friend
le (la) flic = cop
le carrefour
= roundabout, intersection
le séjour
= stay
monégasque = resident of Monaco
zut! = darn!
avec ou sans peur = with or without fear

Sospel balcony
Colorful patina in Sospel
The colorful town of Sospel. Not a lot of tourists, plenty of local characters.

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you regularly enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am commited to sharing a sunny update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France, while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.


Quinzomadaire (our secret to finishing a book) + Some news to share--all in French!

Jean-Marc coastline in la ciotat
I have something to share with you--entirely in French--at the end of the online post: click here for the full edition.

Today's Word: quinzomadaire

    : fortnightly, every two weeks, bi-monthly

Audio File: Click here to listen to the following sentence
Quinzomadaire: mot-valise et monstre lexical formé sur quinze et hebdomadaire, était censé se substituer à bimensuel. -Alain Rey
Quinzomadaire: portmanteau word and lexical monster formed by quinze [fifteen] and hebdomadaire [weekly] [the term] was supposed to be a substitute for bimonthly.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

It feels so good to make progress. Whatever is on your To-Do list today just make a little progress. And then be sure to pat yourself on the back (loud enough to muffle the self-critic, who will never be satisfied, no matter the effort).  Whatever the goal, whatever the project, the end will be in sight if only you will take the first step-le premier pas--and persevere! We all know this, and whether or not we do what we need to do may boil down to timing, trust, and sometimes dumb luck.

All this to say that Jean-Marc and I are at the 85 percent mark regarding the vineyard memoir we are writing together.  A few months after beginning the manuscript, I imposed a draconian deadline: publish one segment every two weeks (there's even a French term for "every two weeks": quinzomadaire)...

Quinzomadaire. I'd better stop there, with that very cool word. Not so cool is the noise outside on the street, where someone has been batting a metal object (a heavy chain?) against a metal fence (or pole?) and I think I am now at cracking point! And while my inner critic is shouting FAIL! for not having more of a story to tell you today, I am going to pat myself on the back ("m'envoyer des fleurs") for working through the noise, the chaos, and the nagging doubts, to bring you this blog hebdomadaire. I wish you bonne chance et bon courage with your day--remember to keep the self-critic at bay! 

Amicalement,

Kristi 
P.S. Given our vineyard memoir delves into the struggles of our 30-year inter-cultural relationship... I am thinking that our next book could be a marriage guide. (You should have seen the look on Jean-Marc's face when I suggested "next book" and "marriage guide" :-)  One thing's sure: writing this book has been good couples therapy! Maybe we'll leave it at that?

FRENCH VOCABULARY
le premier pas = the first step
quinzomadaire = every two weeks
s'envoyer des fleurs = literally: to send oneself flowers, to pat oneself on the back
hebdomadaire = weekly
bonne chance = good luck
bon courage = good luck (be strong!)
amicalement = yours truly

The following article came out in our regional newspaper La Provence, January 27th, 2021 edition. Click on the article below to read it.

News article

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you regularly enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am commited to sharing a sunny update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France, while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.


New French words, including "chamaillerie" and A Dieu to one of our chickens...

La ciotat shore
I am going to bookend this edition with beautiful photos, to help balance a sad topic today. Here is a picture of our beautiful shoreline in La Ciotat, the city we live in--with Grandma, our our golden retriever, Smokey, and our chickens. You will learn many new French words at the end of today's story, so please read to the finish.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Yesterday afternoon when our plumbing backed up and all our toilets were en panne, I had this ominous feeling that the coming week would be un cauchemar

Then, at 4 am, ce lundi matin, my hens woke me. It wasn't un cri de détresse, more of a chamaillerie. Jealous by nature--especially when it comes to food--the chickens push each other around for the best spot on the fence, where they prefer to sleep each night. Once in a while one of them gets knocked off and wanders around the garden clucking until found and helped back up on the fence. 

Suddenly I heard my Mom, who was calling for me from the porch below. I threw open my bedroom shutters to find Mom in her slippers and pajamas. "One of your chickens is loose," Jules said. "I'll get my shoes and see you outside."

I met Mom in the garden and by then she'd collected the errant poule--the rusty brown one. We put her safely back in the pen, but, the next morning when I went to feed the chickens, I saw white feathers everywhere. Des plumes partout!

Mama, my white hen, was on the ground! At that terrible moment, my own Mama ran up, sparing me of having to look too closely at our 3-year-old hen. Mom held our hen, examining her from head to talon. C'était étrange. There was not one mark on her entire snow-white body, meaning an animal hadn't gotten to her. And we do not have hawks here on our city block, though we do have hungry goélands (but seagulls are not known to attack hens). Could she have been poisoned? ...Yet all those feathers hinted at some sort of struggle.

We may never know exactly what happened to our hen, and I am very sorry to share this sad tale today. But the alternative was to crawl under the bed covers and let the heavy blanket of sadness do its thing. After the stress of our plumbing situation (now fixed, merci Jean-Marc!) it seemed the best thing to do was to keep things flowing, including these tears. 

I want to end with un grand remerciement to our snow white chicken, Mama--you brought us so much more than eggs! We called you Colette when we got you, but you quickly became "Mama"--first in pecking order and forever in our hearts.

Mama chicken hen

FRENCH VOCABULARY
en panne = out of order, broken
un cauchemar = a nightmare
un lundi matin = a Monday morning
un cri de détresse = a cry for help
une chamaillerie = squabble, quarrel
c'était étrange = it was strange
la poule = chicken
des plumes partout = feathers everywhere
le goéland = seagull

Kristi and hens

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you regularly enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am commited to sharing a sunny update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France, while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.