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A Happy Ending + "To Fly Away" in French

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One dove, Betty (pictured beside Mama), remained in our care until Sunday...when she successfully took flight. Read on for an update on her brother, Rusty, and his trick on local tourists :-) Your edits to this post are helpful, appreciated, and incorporated as soon as possible. Merci.

TODAY'S FRENCH WORD: "s'envoler"

    : to take flight, to fly away, to fly off

SOUND FILE: Click the link to hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French words in today's post. Then scroll down to the vocabulary section to check your French comprehension.

Click  here for the soundfile


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

The baby birds have successfully flown our makeshift coop. Quel soulagement! But eight days into the doves' rescue we were holding our breath after one of the oisillons took off in an erratic flight, landing above the busy street corner at the edge of our lot. 

As trucks shrieked by and hungry seagulls flew overhead our eyes were trained on the teetering tourterelle, Rusty. How he surprised us when he suddenly took flight after his last feeding in the garden (when I filmed this video). And there we thought his sister, Betty, would be first to fly the nest--Betty with the deep cat stratch along her side and giant gash in her back. "Betty is like those who've had a near-death experience," Mom remarked. "She is determined to live life to its fullest!" Betty was the first to jump up onto the box-nest's edge, first to venture out around the garden, her body scabbed, her wing missing too many feathers to fly straight. How she'd survived that bloody attack still amazes us (she went on to fall into the low-lying fountain, where Jackie scooped her right out. Shivering and wet, our little feathered fighter soldiered on). 

Each day we watched the baby doves grow stronger, thanks to regular feedings by Mama and Papa Dove, and my own Mom's loving care. When sibling, Rusty, took off last week, ending up in the flowering Arbre de Judée (a bad omen?), he remained there past sundown, his head tucked into his fluffy chest. That next morning I feared finding him lying stiff in the garden after a cold, rainy night, but there he was on that flimsy perchoir, same pitiful position. I hoped he'd caught a few of those raindrops in his tiny bec (Mother Nature was kind in sending a misty shower and not the pelting rains we've had in the past). 

That afternoon Rusty changed positions on that branch, assuring us all he was not in some kind of coma. And now, by facing our garden vs. facing the busy street, he seemed better off: he would recognize his nursery, below (the grassy area where he and his sister were placed each day of their weeklong rehabilitation). He could also see and recognize his caregivers as we regularly waved our arms and called to him, "Rusty, Rusty, Rusty!" By day three we were dumbstruck over how the tiny creature could survive without food or water (there were no signs of the parents feeding him). Meantime Mama and Papa Dove continued feeding Betty thanks to all the dog croquettes Jules fed them.

But finally, we were elated to discover Mama and Papa feeding Rusty. No wonder he survived the past 3 days. He was being nurtured all along. We even saw him fly from his branch to the telephone pole higher up, beside the tree, where one of his parents would join him for regular feedings.

By Saturday night, Betty was raring to go. Only her flight pattern (on her brief take-offs a meter above ground) was irregular. It was that maimed wing keeping her grounded. Yet she was determined and all but broke out of my hands when I brought her back inside the last two nights. It was sad to have to leave our little wild bird alone for the night, sans frère, in Mom's  bathroom, not a leaf in sight, but when I discovered the toilet seat open I flipped. Betty was set to be released in the morning, but what if she had a freak accident the night before!

"Mom! You must remember to put the lid down!"  Poor Jules was exhausted after 10 sleepless nights, caring for her fiesty new roommate. Leaving Mom's studio that night, I feared a second twist-of-fate. What if the lid was left up accidentally and Betty flew into the toilet bowl?.... But to remind Mom once more to be cautious would be hurtful. Il fallait lacher prise. It was time to let go and have faith. 

The next morning I hurried to Mom's studio, around the side of our house. Jules was getting ready to feed Betty (oh, thank God!) but Mama Dove was waiting in the garden to feed her, too. "Let's go!" I said. "Are you ready?"
"We are ready," Mom replied, answering for herself and Betty.

Out in the garden Mama and Papa were now feeding both siblings, Rusty (who'd returned to his flimsy branch, just the right size for his little feet?) and Betty there on the grass. After mama bird flew off suggestively, Betty surprised us by flying up to the hammock! Only, when she began eyeing the east end of the yard, beyond which 4 neighbor cats live.... Mom asked me to stand guard. "Mom!" I said, "we can't manipulate the situation. We've got to...."

And just as I stood arguing, Betty flew off the hammock and landed on my head!

How good her little scratchy purple feet felt in my scalp! Mom and I exchanged looks of delight along with smiles as big as the flying leap Betty just took.

I slowly walked my passenger to the nearest perch (our tall table, facing the front of the house). Betty hopped off of my head and onto the table where she carefully thought over her next move. Suddenly, she flew up to the rooftop beside our porch, then up again to the highest toit. A perfect choice! From there she could hop onto the gigantic cedar tree with its endless branches.

Mom and I were clapping and whistling in celebration when next Betty disappeared into the dark green network of branches: How would we find her again and if we did, how would be know which bird she was?

Turns out there are several ways to identify a baby collared dove: 1) they haven't yet developed the black with white trim "half collar" around their necks 2) their feathers are dark but will become a light gray after their first molt 3) their distinct gazouillis or baby chirps set them apart from adults.

It's two weeks now since we found those fledglings in the yard. And just yesterday Betty flew back to our garden to peck the ground alongside her ravenous parents. We guessed she’d be in Paris or Miami by now, such is her adventurous character! Rusty is still up in his same tree, amusing us with his antics, such as his finicky eating...

As Mother and son perch high up on the telephone pole (where Russ sometimes ventures), one feeding the other, a shower of large crumbs rains down on the sidewalk below. 

"Mom," I say, elbowing Jules. "You've got to crush those kibbles before feeding them to Mama! Rusty won't accept them that way."
"Honey, I'm doing the best I can," Jules says, rolling her eyes.
"That's true. And those baby birds would never have made it without you."

Mom is visibly touched by the recognition. And with that, we sit back and enjoy the moment. The sun is beginning to set, Betty’s finding her way around the gigantic Cedar tree, and Rusty is spitting out more of his dinner, showering unsuspecting tourists who are returning to their cars after a day at the beach. This is just the happy ending I was hoping for, and more :-)

***

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Top photo: Betty, not yet ready to fly, only wishing to. Above: Perched on her box beside the artichokes, waiting for a parent to fly down and feed her again. Smokey is lounging over there on the right.

FRENCH VOCABULARY 

s'envoler = to take flight
le soulagement
= relief
un oisillon = baby bird, nestling, fledgling
la tourterelle = collared dove
L'Arbre de Judée = Judas tree
le perchoir
=roost
le bec = beak
sans frère = without brother
lâcher prise = to let go
le toit = rooftop
le gazouillis = chirps

Dove  golden retriever  garden
Mama and Papa, whom Jules has fed for 3 years. And that is the high table (a former, ailing Palm Tree) from where Betty flew. She landed on the roof, left.

A Message from Kristi
Thank you for reading my language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on the creative process of writing. My wish is to continue offering posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation of any amount.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


Les oisillons: baby birds fall into our yard + caring for injured and baby chicks

tourterelle baby doves
These baby doves were discovered in our garden one week ago. Don't miss the story, below. See any mistakes in today's post? Your edits are helpful and appreciated. Merci d'avance.

TODAY’S FRENCH WORD: un oisillon 

: baby bird, chick

SOUND FILE: Click the link to hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French words in today's post. Then scroll down to the vocabulary section to check your French comprehension.

Click here for the soundfile


EXAMPLE SENTENCE
Vous POUVEZ remettre un oisillon dans son nid. Contrairement à un mythe très répandu, les parents ne sentiront pas votre odeur si vous le touchez (l'odorat des oiseaux n'est en général pas très développé).

You CAN put a baby bird back in its nest. Contrary to a common myth, the parents will not smell you if you touch it (birds' sense of smell is usually not very developed). --intra-science.com

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

A week ago, Thursday, Jean-Marc and Jackie found baby birds in our yard, below the 20ft palm tree. My husband was getting ready to BBQ some salmon when he stepped back and almost crushed something under his shoe: a nestling, with all its feathers, scraggly looking and weak. Moments later our daughter discovered a second oisillon, severely injured and bleeding. There were scrapes all along its side, on the wing, and a deep, large gash on its back from un prédateur? Un chat?

I hurried and got a box, set a towel inside, and ran around the side of the house to Mom's studio. Jules shot into action: examining the doves, she began to wash the wounds of the injured one with water and drops of Bétadine. As she cared for them, Mom kept repeating, “They are big, these babies are big,” giving us all hope the lost ones would make it through their ordeal.

These fledglings were tourterelles turques, or Eurasian collared doves–very common in our neighborhood. Lucky little rescapés! To think their life hinged on a banal and flippant decision: earlier there was a question of cooking our lunch (fish) on the BBQ or in the frying pan. I kept hesitating until, oh let Jean-Marc cook outside--less of a mess in the kitchen! We would never have found the struggling oiselets had JM not gone out to the yard. Surely the cats would have come back in that scenario….

After lunch (the little orphans with us on the bench), Jules disappeared, leaving the helpless birds to Jackie… I didn’t understand why Mom would abandon her doves (we voted Jules as Chief Nurse) until she returned a while later having done a crash course via YouTube on how to care for fallen or injured birds. Apparently we had on hand all supplies needed, including dog croquettes… and the human touch, which Mom said was the most important ingredient. As Jules cradled the injured birdling, my thoughts slipped out, “Mom, haven’t you ever heard you’re not supposed to touch a baby bird? The parents will reject it!”

Jules wasted no time arguing. Tearing up her favorite wool nightshirt, she swaddled each chick. Emmitouflés, snug and warm they were carefully fed "un velouté de croquettes" (enough to nourish and hydrate them) before being placed near the heater in Mom’s tiny salle-de-bain.

I didn’t think the injured one would make it through the night, but early the next day I found Mom awake, feeding one of the nestlings, who now had a name: "Betty." I knew right away the other was "Rusty," after Mom’s dear, departed brother.

We took Rusty and Betty outside to the “nursery” (the center of our garden, beside the weeping pepper tree). There on a carpet of delicate white flowers we set the baby birds. The sun and fresh air began to dry Betty’s wounds. If it wasn’t amazing enough to see them alive Day Two, Day Three presented a miracle when a couple of doves landed beside the box and began feeding the baby birds!

It was no other than Mama and Papa, a pair of doves Jules befriended 3 years ago. So tame, they feed right out of Jules' hands and have landed on her head and shoulders dozens of times. Here they were, taking turns feeding Rusty and Betty. But were these fallen chicks their offspring? I didn't think so, but Jules insisted they were!

I noticed the parents opening wide their beaks for the babies to reach in and feed (I always thought it was the other way around, with the mama putting the food into the baby's beak).  "
This is good!" I said to Mom, happy she would have relief from the regular day/night feedings. 

"And the good news is I don’t have to teach them to fly!" Mom smiled. Sacré Jules. I could just see her flapping her wings!

They next days were a treasure, with our family gathered in the garden for the 3 or so daily feedings, in which Mama and Papa flew in to nourish the babies, who began trembling each time they were ready to eat (see video below). If it was awesome to watch the feeding you should have seen these fierce protectors dive bomb any bird that came near our yard (parts of which are now covered in feathers). They even chased the cats away!

Sacré Mama and Papa. I never did understand why Mom named the doves this way (always wished she'd come up with something zippier--Suzette and Fritz, for example. But now I see it clearly. Mama and Papa have come into their names.

This morning I went to get Rusty and Betty from Mom's, to put them out in the "nursery." Mama and Papa flew in immediately and began feeding their kids. Jackie and I sat chatting on the edge of the little pond/fountain, Smokey beside us, as usual. (Mama and Papa practically walk over his paws to get to where they're going and the baby doves find it normal to have a giant golden retriever looking over them.) This morning was one of the loveliest and when it came time to put the baby birds back into the box.... Rusty flew up to a branch!

I ran to get Mom, who hurried out. Jules's reflex was to get Rusty down off that branch (a rainstorm was coming in...) but as she approached the parents flew in and Rusty took off in a spectacular arc over our yard landing in the tree on the corner of our lot (above the busy crossroads in our neighborhood). He's been there now 8 hours, his parents looking on from the telephone pole beside the tree. 

Should we get a ladder? Toss a ball near the branch? Will he survive the night? He must be getting cold. What will happen to little Rusty? The overall feeling (beside helplessness) is to leave the parents to take over from here on. But why aren't the stealth dive bombers moving him along, steering their young one back to the nest? 

Please send good wishes Rusty's way. Meantime Betty is back with Mom. Ever a fighter with those battle scars, she's ready to fly too. But with the rain coming in we want to keep her dry and warm a little while longer.

I worry about Jules as much as the nestlings. She's put her everything into nursing them back to life, and she didn't get to say goodbye to one of the little ragamuffins, as she called them. I want this story to have a happy ending for the birds and for my Mom, but will have to stop here and cross fingers. Bonne chance, Rusty and à demain, j'éspère.

Click the arrow in the screen below to start the video, or view directly on my Instagram

 

FRENCH VOCABULARY 

un oisillon = chick, baby bird
un petit oiseau baby bird
tomber = to fall
blessé = hurt, injured
le prédateur = predator
le chat = cat
le nid = nest
la Bétadine = Povidone-iodine, a popular antiseptic 
la tourterelle = dove, see "lovebirds" in French
l'orphelin, l'orpheline = orphan
un (une) rescapé(e)
= survivor
un oiselet = baby bird, chick
la croquette = dog biscuit, kibble, dry food
emmitoufler = to wrap up warmly, to swaddle
un velouté de croquettes = cream of kibble soup
la salle de bain = bathroom
sautiller
= to bounce, jump
voler = to fly
soigner = to care for
à demain, j'éspère = see you tomorrow, I hope
IMG_3407
The blossoming tree where Rusty landed. See him camouflaged there in the center? 

A Message from Kristi
Thank you for reading my language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on the creative process of writing. My wish is to continue offering posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation of any amount.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


Slang in French for "to have a bite to eat" & La Loco (a delicious Italian restaurant in Cassis)

L'ardoise French menu at La Loco italian restaurant in Cassis France
A sympathique place to eat in Cassis. That's Max's pal, Antoine, and a couple of furry customers trying to get into "La Loco"--an Italian Restaurant facing the train station 1.9 miles above the Cassidian Port.

FRENCH EXPRESSION
: “casser la dalle”

    : to have a bite to eat (slang)

SOUND FILE: Click the link to hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French words in today's post. Then scroll down to the vocabulary section to check your French comprehension.

Click here to access the sound file



A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

"Casser La Dalle à Cassis"

"J'adore cette route!" my son, Max says as we zoom up and down the backroads of Cassis in our electric, blue bagnole. On our right a tiny vineyard cradled in a slope, looking left, a chalky white cottage perched above the road.

Windows down, inhaling a pine-scented breeze, it’s refreshing to break free from restrictive planning (moments ago I had been trying to figure out how to divide yesterday's salmon miettes with my son who unexpectedly returned home for lunch. And now here we were, immersed in the Cassidian countryside, after Max suggested we eat out.

A call rang in via the car's bluetooth connection and with it a stream of argot tickled my ears as I listened to Max and Yann's conversation (selected phrases follow):

"Ça va, Gâtée?" How’s it going, Bro*? (Max responding to his close friend).
Je suis avec ma mère, on va casser la dalle à Cassis.” I'm with my mom, we're going to get a bite to eat in Cassis.
T’es toujours à ton taf?” Are you still at work?
"Oui, on vote cet aprèm. Tu vas voter blanc?" Yes, we're voting this afternoon. Are you turning in a blank ballot?

Gâtée, casser la dalle, taf...I burned that slang into my memory as we fired up the hill and the train station came into view. And there, tucked into the south side of the street behind the hedges, was the eatery. “It's called ‘La Loco’,” Max explained, “after ‘locomotive’." Well, choo! choo! that made sense. Less clear was why the name of the restaurant was nowhere to be seen. Hmm. A secret-private insider address?

To be sure, La Loco had a lot of locals. Not a foreign accent to be heard and at least three of the diners had a dog.
"Salut Zoé! Salut Antoine!" We kissed Max's friends, working there, and met "Francesco" (François) the owner and chef, before settling at a table beneath un arbre on the sunny terrace. The plane tree's leaves were just coming out, but the thick trunk and branches were enough to shade us from the midday soleil.

A solo diner arrived. Antoine showed Mademoiselle to the table behind us. "You can sit by Jean-Luc. Il est beau, n'est-ce pas?" A middle-aged Jean-Luc flashed a toothy smile before returning to nurse his beer, and the young woman with the green nail polish, Doc Martins, tattoos on her neck, graciously accepted the seat, which meant the two strangers would dine face to face after the awkward introduction. I was already feeling anxious for them when, in reality the two characters managed just fine, without my own awkward projections and assumptions. Oh, to feel that free! I need to get out more. 

"Salut!" Max shouted to a friend who walked in. We now chatted with Luca, who'd just finished "son taf." Taf! That’s the third time in one week this unfamiliar word came up. I wonder how many other words fly in and out of my ears, never to be registered. 

We paused to study the ardoise as Antoine went over the menu. Max recommended the Macaronnade: giant rings of pasta with meatballs made with fennel seeds, and Antoine suggested we share les blettes anchoïade —a swiss chard-anchovy-mozzarrela entree. What sounded un peu dégeu turned out to be délicieux. Max and I took turns soaking up the anchovy sauce, with some crispy baguette, until the plate was dry.

In the interlude between le plat and le dessert (a delicious tarte tatin) we soaked in more rays.“What do you call someone with no body and no nose?” My son challenged.
“Um, uh...I give up.”
Nobody knows!”

With that Max cracked up as only a francophone who understood English could (later, when I shared the corny joke with Grandma Jules, who got a kick out of it too. And you?)

Luca (not to be confused with toothy Jean-Luc) reappeared and we realized he'd been missing a while. "La plonge? Did they have you doing dishes," Max guessed.
"Every time," Luca laughed, raising his beer, before heading to Jean-Luc's table to pour some into his cup. 

This time Max disappeared behind the bar, returning with two grand crèmes. “I made a heart for you,” he said, pointing to the design in my coffee. Appetite satisfied, my cup full, the sun stretching its rays down on us, we were a long way from those cold, indivisible leftovers in our frigo. In two hours my world went from calculated and reduced...to expanded like the open heart floating in my cup.

Just when it seemed things couldn't get any better, I reached into my purse to pay. “Ça y est. C'est fait. It’s all taken care of,” my son smiled, having treated me to lunch.

  ***  

IMG_0718
Anoine, Max, and Jean-Luc (who also disappeared from his table...to lend a hand drying glasses). 

I hope you enjoyed today's tasty entry. Be sure to eat at La Loco if ever you are in Cassis. You won't have to fight for parking (as you do by the port) and you'll surely find good company in which to casser la dalle. Be ready to help with the dishes :-)

Address: La Loco, 29 Av. des Albizzi, Cassis (right across from the Cassis train station)




FRENCH VOCABULARY
casser la dalle = to have a bite eat
une route = road
une bagnole = slang for “car”
une miette = crumbs, scraps, leftovers
l'argot = slang
*ma gâtée = term of endearment, "bro", "dear" (not easy to translate...) This expression is now back in vogue after a certain rapper popularized it. 
un taf = job, work(slang)
l’aprèm = short for l’après-midi, afternoon
le vote blanc = blank vote, blank ballot paper
un arbre = tree
le soleil = sun
un casque = helmet 
salut = hi
l'ardoise = blackboard, menu
la blette = Swiss chard 
un peu dégeu (déguelasse) = a little disgusting 
la tarte tatin = upside down apple pie 
la plonge = wash dishes
un grand crème (un café crème) = coffee with milk
le frigo = fridge
Ça y est. C’est fait = it’s been taken care of

D4145DDB-075C-44EF-BA67-D8BAEE4B4AA9Max, bringing the café crème he made for me 

IMG_0719 (1)
Seated beside the beautiful plane tree. Max posted this photo on his Instagram, which explains the "Mom" and heart emoji on the tree.

Do you have time for one more story? "Cuellir", written in Les Arcs-sur-Argens when Max was  10-years-old, is a small window into our family life at that time. Though it paints the story of an organized, harmonious "team", we are most often trying to find that elusive balance et c'est la vie.

A Message from Kristi
Thank you for reading my language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on the creative process of writing. My wish is to continue offering posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation of any amount.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


What are "les patins à roulettes"? + Embarrassment is the Thief of Joy

vintage retro quad roller skates les rollers patin roulettes four wheel
Colorful, vintage "quad" roller skates. Je les adore! How about you? And do you rollerskate? Also, if today's word doesn't interest you, there are a dozen more useful terms to discover in the story below.

FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY: les patins à roulettes

     : roller skates
 
 
FRENCH AUDIO: Click the link below to hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French words in today's post. Then scroll down to the vocabulary section to check your French comprehension.

Click here to open the audio file



A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

"Embarrassment is the Thief of Joy"

Vintage roller skates are back, making me nostalgic for the good ol' days when I'd fly out of bed and lace up my patins à roulettes. Off I'd glide round and round our trailer park, freer and happier than I've ever been.

I've wanted to skate for years now, but there never was a suitable place pour patiner (cobblestone paths when we lived in the village, then gravel driveways at our vineyard). Now that we're in a neighborhood paved with smooth chaussées, I admit something else's been keeping me from donning skates: self-consciousness.  I'm too embarrassed to wobble around on wheels in front of my neighbors.

Jackie and Braise roller skate skating in Frejus South of France
A 9-year-old Jackie rollerblading with Breizh (Smokey's mom) in the seaside town of Fréjus.

All that changed when my daughter drove us to Roller'n Co skate store in Marseilles last week. Chihab, a professional skater with a stylish afro and a cool name (Chihab means étoile filante, or shooting star) assisted us, recommending inline skates with heel brakes for more balance. Turns out those retro quads with toe stops are conducive to backward falls. Houlà! With that, we added protective gear--un casque, wrist, elbow, and knee pads--to our achat

With so much paraphernalia to tack on, it took a while to get ready our first time out. I remembered Chihab's advice to wear jeans for extra protection, and cautiously descended our front stairs, sur mon derrière....

Jackie and I began on the narrow trottoir in front of our house. Just like riding a bike, skating came right back to us as, knees and posture slightly bent, we glided down the wide boulevards of our voisinage, on our way to La Voie Douce. Having good quality gear and a professional bootfitting by a skate tech made all the difference: these Rollerblades fit like paws! (Did you know the French word for skate--"patin"--comes from the word "patte" or paw?). Even with our new paws, we had a few close calls, mostly while navigating multi-level surfaces (sidewalk endings were the worst!).

Finally, we were on the smooth, wide pedestrian strip known here as La Voie Douce ("The Gentle Path"). This ancient railroad track, now a repaved sentier, runs from the town center all the way out to the train station here in La Ciotat. It's an ideal piste on which to practice le patinage. We joined (and sometimes dodged) walkers, runners, bikers, wheelchairs, and mothers with strollers, along the path, flanked by blooming wildflowers and nice grassy patches to land on, si nécessaire. When it came time to turn back we noticed the downward slope. "Attention, Maman!" my 24-year-old coach called out. Pumping the back brakes of our skates, it was smooth sailing most of the way, until we reached the turn-off for our neighborhood and encountered a road full of potholes (the French call these "hens' nests" or nids-de-poule). Cautiously "walking" down the street we eventually lost our balance and had to hold on to a fence the rest of the way.

Ouf! Back safe in our neighborhood, we encountered one last obstacle: another downward slope or pente. For some reason (fatigue?), I wasn't having the same luck with my freins as before, and began to lose control until I "caught" a telephone pole.  "Mom! Take my hands," Jackie said, skating towards me.

"I can't!" 

"Yes, you can."

"We'll both fall down!"

"Mom, let go of that telephone pole and take my hands!"

There was no taking no for an answer. I let go of the pole and grabbed onto Jackie's hands. "Tu vois," my daughter said, smiling as we advanced in an awkward dance, swooping, swerving, laughing, and teetering. As we got closer to home a few of the neighbors looked on and, funnily, it didn't matter anymore. We were too caught up in our joy ride to care.

*    *    *

VIDEOS
Jackie recorded a few short, funny videos of my first time back on rollerskates. Hit the arrow in the center to start the clip. Then hit the arrow on the right to see the other short clips. Can you see the footage, above? If not, visit my Instagram and swipe left to see the 3 videos.

FRENCH VOCABULARY
le patin à roulettes = roller skate
patiner =
to skate, to ice-skate, roller-skate
une chaussée
= road
houlà! = yikes!
un casque = helmet
un achat = purchase
sur mon derrière = on my behind
le trottoir = sidewalk
le voisinage = neighborhood
La Voie Douce = The Gentle Path
la patte = paw
le sentier = path, way
la piste = strip (of land), runway
le patinage = skating
attention, Maman = careful, Mom
le nid-de-poule = pothole 
une pente = slope, incline
le frein
= brake

Improve your French via these vocabulary roundups from Spring 2017. You'll discover colorful words and stories you may have missed.

Roller skating across the French RivieraFrench Roll: Misadventures in Love, Life, and Rollerskating Across the French Riviera. From the icy peaks of Germany to the steamy beaches of France, this coming-of-age story begins when Michael, 19, gets a letter from his girlfriend asking him to meet her in Barcelona. He quits his daredevil job at the top of the German Alps and plots a risky two-month trek across the coast of southern France — alone, on roller skates. He leaves his alpine friends behind to follow his heart with only a backpack, ski poles, and roller skates. Order the book.




MVIMG_20200622_084930
La Voie Douce in La Ciotat. Have time for another story? Learn the French word for "objective", "goal "or "aim"  here.

A Message from Kristi
Thank you for reading my language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on the creative process of writing. My wish is to continue offering posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation of any amount.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


La Cotisation: How much money I earn blogging $$ + a retirement pension for Americans in France?

boucherie butcher shop french typography shopfront
“La Boucherie” in Pélissanne—Notice the lettering on this shopfront (can you translate the French?). I love typography and have always loved language even if I am still capable of butchering French. In today’s story, you’ll understand why... 

The Butcher of Paris by Stephanie Phillips fiction about FranceFor our True Crime readers: The Butcher of Paris  I've not read the book (read at your own risk) but the title goes along with today's story :-)

Today's Word: la cotisation

    : subscriptions, dues; contributions (social security)

French Audio: Click the link below to hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French words in today's post. Then scroll down to the vocabulary section to practice your French comprehension.

Click here to listen to the French vocabulary


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

After completing my tax return early this year it was time to celebrate at the beach with my husband and our dog in nearby Bandol. But the festive feeling dampened when, shortly after submitting ma déclaration d’impôt, I received a registered letter from the French IRS informing me my 2021 earnings were insuffisant.

Insufficient earnings? "What does the French government care if my earnings are lower than usual?" I asked my husband. Jean-Marc was perplexed, too, until he remembered our tête-à-tête last year when we sat down to figure out how I might be eligible for retirement benefits in France. (Turns out, I could use the points accrued in the States, adding them to the points I am finally accruing in France. But that was not all...).

"When you registered for French social security, one stipulation was that you earn no less than the SMIC (minimum wage) in order for your quarterly cotisations to be worthy of your future pension. According to les règles, if you do not earn the equivalent of the minimum wage you are either suspended from the pension points program or assigned another job.”

Assigned another job? But that’s crazy! For one, how am I to fit into a French workplace when I practically butcher the language? And two, I like working from home in my pajamas (teaching French...).

As for insufficient earnings, last summer’s sabbatical was to blame. Back then I justified the break: “most teachers have summer off...” Only I’m not a teacher, but a professional blogger "in the educational sector." Writing, like teaching, is a low-paying job, but for years I have managed to make a wage from blogging and, added to my husband’s, it was enough for us...but apparently it was not enough for the Powers That Be.

Speaking of The Powers That Be, isn’t it eerily Orwellian how the government in France gets to decide what job a future social security recipient will do from here on out? Then again, after so many government directives these past two years, it isn’t surprising.

WHERE’S THE BEEF?
A breakdown of my income shows that in 2021 I earned 15,140 euros (roughly 1400 less than French minimum wage) from my job as un écrivain. This amount includes my earnings from blogging, income from freelance writing, and author royalties (sounds impressive but for 2021 book sales I received a check from Simon and Schuster for a grand total of $138). As you can imagine, any plans to retire and live off royalties are as absurd as the government reassignment scheme I will attempt to explain next:

As per the 1999 "rematch program" the government reassigns workers to more gainful employment, as such, postal workers are becoming hairdressers (making for a choppy outcome if you’re the customer..), gas station attendants are now boulangères (bringing in more bread for a living...), and now a blogger is being reassigned as...drum roll...

“Une Bouchère.”

Blinking my eyes I reread the registered letter, which underscored my transformation from blogger to butcher as “the opportunity to carve out a better retirement.”

“Just who makes these bizarre ‘rematches’?” I asked my husband

“I don’t know,” Jean-Marc snickered. “Artificial Intelligence?” 

That’s it! Artificial Intelligence- or A1 (like the famous steak sauce...) Oh là, my mind is already preparing...to prepare meat. But how can AI justify my not-so-meaty qualifications? I mean, apart from butchering la langue (tongue—an edible delicacy in France) aren’t I under qualified to work as a butcher? Come to think of it, as one who turns 55 this year...I join the ranks of older workers who are neither over- or under-qualified, but disqualified for most jobs.

But back to butchering, is this the French government’s idea of une blague? I mean, the only thing I could possibly butcher is an April Fool’s joke.

***
Voilà, dear reader. On this 1st day of April, did you fall hook, line, and sinker for the story? Or, as my husband said, was this one too far-fetched to believe, trop gros à croire? Let me know in the comments. And many thanks for reading and sharing this post.

Jules in La Ciotat boucherie butcher shop
As a final twist to today's tall tale, here's a local butcher shop that was transformed into an art supply store here in La Ciotat. (That's my mom, on her way out of the store with more paintbrushes.)

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FRENCH VOCABULARY
la boucherie = butcher’s
la cotisation
= contributions to social security 
la déclaration d’impôts = tax return 
insuffisant(e) = insufficient, inadequate =
tête-à-tête = one-to-one discussion
le SMIC “salaire minimum interprofessionnel de croissance” = minimum wage
les règles = rules
un écrivain = writer
la boulangère = baker
la bouchère = butcher
la langue = (double meaning: tongue and language 
une blague = a joke
trop gros à croire = too far fetched to believe

Boucherie in provence
I leave you with one last boucherie photo, taken while strolling with Mom in Brignoles, years ago. Corrections to this post are always welcome and appreciated. Merci d'avance.

A Message from Kristi
Thank you for reading my language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on the creative process of writing. My wish is to continue offering posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation of any amount.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens