poix (pitch) + Night blindness while driving

golden retrievers christmas tree franceBonne Fetes (c) Kristin Espinasse

Braise, Smokey, and family wish you bonne fêtes... "many happy returns"! If Smokey looks a little pained in this picture, it is the photographer that is troubling him: why, he wonders, is her cross-eyed face contorting like that? Wouldn't "Cheese!" or "Ouistiti!" be just as effective in getting us to smile? How she troubles herself!

 poix (pwah) noun, feminine

    : pitch

noir comme poix = pitch black, "black as pitch"
poix sèche = resin
poix liquide = tar
tenir comme poix = to stick like tar
avoir de la poix aux doigts = to have sticky fingers (said of a thief, pickpocket, or clepto) 



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

Night Blindness, or "Moonblink"

Last night I stood stoveside, emptying into our biggest pan two packages of chicken thighs. Normally I am careful to discard all of the fatty peau before roasting. Not this time. 

"Don't you think that will be enough?" Jean-Marc questioned.
"Une douzaine?" Max seconded. 

"I'm hungry!" came the hasty reply. Given all those chicken thighs it seemed I was hungry for life.

I had just been out driving after dark: a quick aller-retour to pick up my daughter from a neighboring village. The pitch-black sky, noir comme poix, was pouring out rain and my windshield wiper was flapping after the rubber blade had broken. I could barely see the road beyond... the headlights were so faint that I wondered whether I had mistaken the lumière for moonshine? 

Testing this theory, I switched off the phares... then switched them on again. Off... then on again... Still, only a breath of brightness.

Next, I put on the high beams... only to wonder: were they, too, in need of replacing?

There are no street lights out in the deep French countryside, where the stars and the moon must oblige. Out walking at night one's eyes eventually stabilize, but a pilot's vision must follow different retinal rules.

"Why has everybody suddenly decided to take this road tonight!" I complain to my daughter, of the half dozen cars we had just passed.
"For the same reason you have..." Jackie points out and there's no arguing there. Besides, I can hardly hear my girl... so loud is the fan whose job it is to free the fog from the window. Though the glass has been cleared, I don't dare turn off the defogger... lest our breath creep back onto the glass, further blurring my range of vision!

I am traveling at a snail's pace, focusing on the faded white line to the right of the road. It is my guide. I don't dare look straight on, or be blinded by the oncoming headlights!

Grumbling and swearing I swerve back to the middle of the road after leaving too much leeway for the oncoming traffic. I don't want to end up in the gutter again. The ditch to our right is hidden in the dark, but I know it is there having traveled this road enough to "navigate it in the dark," so to speak; presently I am speechless at such a blind assumption. 

Each time a car begins to tailgate, blinding me from the back, I pull over, letting the impatient one pass. But on the long narrow stretches, there is no way to let these cars doubler, given the ditch that runs parallel.

It is so hard to see on this pouring pitch-black night! I begin to scold myself for not scheduling an eye exam. Surely it is my glasses--the prescription is prehistoric by now! As for the windshield wipers, I have no excuse. Why didn't I have them changed on a sunny day? Because on a sunny day I must have been busy sunning my cares away! 

Finally, we are almost home and the brightness of a main road lightens things, not the least of which our heartstrings. Just when I breathe out a sigh of relief my heart seizes up again as I become aware of an "overtaker". The angry van jerks past us, but not before its passenger extends a bare arm out of the window... in time to shake a fist. Next, the fist opens and its forefinger circles seethingly in the air.

"Ha! T'as vu ça?!" Did'ya see that? Jackie questions.

"He thinks I am crazy," I explain to my daughter, who is already busy planning a retaliation.

"Laisse tomber," I tell her. He'll be humbled one day... when a little weakening of the eyes and a few more decades gone by... will do away with so much misplaced pride.
. 

French Vocabulary
la peau = skin

une douzaine = a dozen

un aller-retour = round trip

noir comme poix = black as pitch, pitch black

la lumière = light

le phare = headlight

doubler = to pass

laisse tomber = let it go, don't bother with it

DSC_0013
Time now to get ready for Christmas dinner, or le gros souper de Noël! Though we won't be having the famous Treize Desserts there'll be plenty of pastries and clementines... Bon appétit! (pictured: our multi-purpose earthenware tagine. Find one for yourself, in the shopping section below)

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.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


secours + how to say "first aid" in French?

Jackie_paix
My 10-year-old style-conscious daughter. More in today's story... photo taken two years ago, when this edition was first published.

le secours (suh-koor) noun, masculine

 : help, aid, assistance, relief

                                    *     *     *
Viendra au secours de la peine d'autrui celui qui souffre lui-même.
(He) will come to the aid of the suffering other, he who suffers himself.

                        --Faramarz (12th century Persian author)

In French music: "Avec le Temps" by Leo Ferre
.

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

Living out here in the vine boondocks, where high traffic means encountering one lazy tractor on my morning school run, I care less and less about presentation. Having all but worn my bathrobe while chauffeuring the kids into town, I wonder sometimes about risk-taking and ridicule.

Heading out the door to pick up the kids from school, I hesitate before the shoe pile. Forget it! I am not changing out of my slippers this time. The car is right outside the door. I only need to hop from doormat to car mat, risking but a trail of dust in between. As for hopping, that might be hard given the size of these slippers, which gets me thinking...

What IF I have an accident on the way to school? My daughter would kill me for getting caught in cotton "clogs". I look down at the un-dainty slippers, each one the size of a boat and with enough insulation to temper arctic waters.

Silly thought, that of getting caught. The odds of that happening! I shake my head and grab the car keys before stepping into car, lifting one giant slipper after the other, and pulling out of the driveway.

At a country crossroad where one, two, three, four paths meet—two of which are dirt roads—I slow down. With the help of peripheral vision I sense an object speeding forward to my right. I am amazed to encounter another car!

Right, priorité à droite! I remind myself, giddy at the chance to give another driver the right-of-way. Only, given the hairpin turn awaiting the other driver, I have to put the car in reverse in order to make room.

As the car passes, and with a great beaming smile on my face, I am the picture of good manners as I offer to willingly retreat for the hurried French driver. Backing up, it is only when I feel myself sliding to the right, that I realize I've nearly ended up in a ditch!

Back to that unglamorous glitch. I look down to the floorboard, toward the foot pedals hidden behind those gigantic slippers. Time to act quickly before secours arrives! I push in the clutch, put it in first, and all but pole-vault the front end of my car into the ditch. Whereas the back end had only flirted with the fall, it is in forgetting to straighten out the wheel that I dig my own descent.

I quickly put the car into reverse and listen as the engine replies in rip-roarious ridicule. A cloud of dust appears beyond the back window. Each clumsy kick of the clutch sends my slipper-boats sinking into the floorboard until a chilly arctic awareness sets in. I am not going anywhere. I will have to get out of the car and walk to town with those ridiculous "rafts" on my feet.

I look up, as one does for mercy, and notice something in the rearview mirror: two strangers slowly appearing amidst the dust cloud. One man is smoking a pipe, the other has car keys in his hand. I recognize The Right-of-Way driver and co-pilot. I see them jump into the ditch, walk over to the dangling front tire and lift it up—along with the car!

"Avancez," they say, holding the car in the palms of their hands.

The situation is surreal and there, behind the wheel, I feel uplifted by the strangers' secours. I AM uplifted, as is my car! My eyes do a double-take and I see the pipe in one man's mouth, a smile on the other's. Sweat begins to appear on their collective brows.

"Vous voulez que j'avance?" I say, afraid to run them both back into the ditch.
"Oui, Madame," they answer, politely, painfully, sweat now pouring down.

Right. This is no time to second guess. I tried that with the slippers and who knows if that played a part in this mess? Grinding the gearshift into first, I literally peel out of those men's palms.

 *     *     *

Looking back I saw the men waving, unharmed. I had thought it was I the Good Samaritan. Slippers tucked safely now beneath a spared ego, I think again.


:: Le Coin Commentaires ::

This forum is open to your comments about today's word or story. You may also pose questions about France, the French language, and similar topics. By helping each other, we enrich this community, educate, and inspire one another in all things French. Click here to comment.

Have a minute to read another story? Here's one I wrote four years ago... about coloring Easter eggs with the kids. Thanks for checking it out and sharing it with a friend. Click here to read "Tremper". 


French Vocabulary
priorité à droite = priority (goes to the driver) to the right
avancez (avancer) = go forward, advance
le secours (m) = aid
Vous voulez que j'avance = Do you want me to advance?

 

:: Audio File ::
Listen to these French words: Secours.
Viendra au secours de la peine d'autrui celui qui souffre lui-même. Download secours.mp3 or Download secours.wav

 

French Words & Expressions:
  Au secours! = Help!
  appeler au secours = to call/cry for help
  la caisse de secours = relief / charity fund
  les fonds de secours = emergency fund
  porter secours à quelqu'un = to give assistance to someone
  sortie de secours = emergency exit
  le secours moral, mutuel = moral / mutual support
  les premiers secours = first aid

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.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Sans Plomb

Sans Plomb (c) Kristin Espinasse
The sign on the back of the old truck says "(ride) in complete security...with Michelin tires".

sans plomb (sahn plom) noun

    : unleaded


Example Sentence & Audio File follow, below)


A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse
(Note: the following story was written in September 2007)

At the gas station in Camaret I study the menu. I wonder whether to "fill 'er up" with Sans Plomb* 98 (better for the engine?) or Sans Plomb 95 (a few centimes less and just as suitable for my car).

Opening the little door that leads to the gas tank, I pause to re-read the sticker notice which cautions me to use fuel sans plomb. I have yet to make the mistake of filling the tank with another type of essence* (having learned from my husband's mistake); perhaps all that neurotic double-checking has served its purpose?

I look up to verify which pump I am at: "No 2," the sign says. Right, number two. I will remember "pump number two" in time to answer the clerk at the pay booth. (And I will remember, this time, to check that the price matches the total on the screen. OK. Check, check.)

I pull out the nozzle only to return it to its carriage as I always do. "78 euros" are registered on the pump's screen. I am concerned that if I begin pumping, the truck ahead of me will have a surprise tab at the pay booth. I wait until truck rolls past the booth before I pull out the gun once again, heaving a sigh of relief when the screen registers zero.

Next I try, as always, to set the nozzle to automatic. I want to pump as the pros do. I think it has something to do with hitching the nozzle's lever to some mysterious hook inside the handle. As always, the lever snaps back and I quickly give up. I'll never learn the trick, never mind that the other blond, at pump number three, seems to know it. Well, GOOD FOR HER.

When the lever snaps again, this time signaling a full tank, I resist the temptation to force in a few more ounces. Don't take chances; remember from experience that it's not worth the mess. I put the cap on the tank, turn the key and shut the little door. The screen reads 56 euros. (80 percent of that represents tax, as those who think about tax are wont to say. I should think more about tax.)

Pulling up to the pay booth, I can't help but notice the clerk on the other side of the window. She doesn't strike me as someone who checks manufacturer's notices for fuel requirements or recalls the risks of tank overflow--though she does have on a tank top and you might say it overflows. And she doesn't seem to take her job too seriously. (She is filing her toe nails.)

I marvel at her "filing-toe-nails-in-public" attitude which matches her unorthodox approach at manning the gas station pay booth. In the time that she makes me wait (she's finishing her pinkie toe), I think about how I could learn a thing or two from her: she with the hang-loose curls on her head and liberated legs (she's wearing cut-offs). The closest she has ever come to neurotic, I imagine, is in showing up for work every day.


***
Comments, corrections--and stories of your own--are always welcome and appreciated in the comments box.

.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
References: sans plomb (m) = unleaded; l'essence (f) = petrol, gasoline


:: Audio File ::
Listen to my daughter, Jackie, pronounce today's word:
MP3 file: Download sans_plomb.mp3
Wave file: Download sans_plomb.wav

Example Sentence: L’essence sans plomb 98 est plus détergente que l’essence sans plomb 95 et se révèle plus corrosive, en particulier pour les pièces en élastomères (caoutchoucs). Ces deux carburants contiennent de fortes quantités de composants aromatiques qui sont très toxiques. Il faut donc éviter d’en respirer les vapeurs et ne pas s’en servir comme agent de nettoyage ou de dégraissage. (from Wikipedia)
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Would anyone like to help translate the sentence, above? Put your interpretation in the comments box for all to see. Merci!

Cinéma Vérité

Good news: Saturday's photo bouquet has been posted a day early. Here is a sneak preview! If you are a Cinéma Vérité member and have lost the site access information--pas de souci!--just email me and I'll send the link as soon as I can.

Le Bateleur (c) Kristin Espinasse
The theme for this latest collection of CV photos is Vaison la Romaine and Faucon -- after the two villages that Jean-Marc and I visited on our 15th wedding anniversary (see a picture from our romantic dinner). Don't miss these weekly photos -- over a dozen every Saturday. Become a contributing member today!

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.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


parole

 

Courtyard in Rochegude (c) Kristin Espinasse
In the moss-covered village of Rochegude... a courtyard, above, located beside the writer's den that I mentioned in a recent post.. 

 

parole (pah-rol) noun, feminine

 

   : lyrics; word (spoken)
. 
 

 

Audio File: Hear Aunt Marie-Françoise pronounce the French word "parole":Download Parole   Download Parole

À la parole on connaît l'homme.  --PA Manzoli

 

Help translate today's quote? ...or share one of the dozens of French idioms and expressions that go with the word "parole" ("avoir la parole facile", "perdre la parole" "tenir sa parole"...). Thank you for using the comments box.

  

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse
A Photographic Interlude in the town of Rochegude 

Of the many ruelles that wind through the picturesque French town of Rochegude, at least one is carpeted green. "If red stands for royalty," I reflect, snapping a photo of the floor beneath me, "then green must stand for "grace"--and if I were a queen I'd walk on green!"

 

 

DSC_0049

Stepping down some softly sovereign stairs made of stone and thick with moss, I spot a modern day carriage at the end of the path: it is, in fact, a classic car by today's standards. Admiring the shiny new paint on the Renault Quatrelle, I wonder: will the old bagnole be a good subject and, if so, how to best capture it?
. 

"Make room for the lantern," I begin coaching myself, looking through the camera lens to the street light above. "And don't leave out the Town Hall... Oh--and it would be good to include these!" I think, looking down to the path before me, where a line of smooth, round rocks fills in what may have once been an eye-sore of a gutter. I notice how the stones add style to an otherwise ordinary cement landing, one which follows those velvety stairs.

Renault 4 or "4L" or "Quatrelle" (c) Kristin Espinasse

 

Approaching the old Quatrelle, I notice there is writing on the back, just beneath the window, and soon find myself singing the old tune that those words represent....

 

"Baby you can drive my car.... "

DSC_0050  

All but leaning onto the hatchback, I am now chuckling at some Frenchman's tongue-in-cheek finishing touch over that new cherry red paint: "Beep Beep, Yeh!"  Back in the States, it is common to see stickers on the backs of cars (wisdom in under a dozen words) but, here in France, such free philosophy is reserved for friends--and, occasionally, for enemies (during a traffic altercation or, in retail, when a sales clerk smarts back... or even when she doesn't).
. 

I begin snapping several photos of the car when a woman with a stoller passes, only to stop in her tracks. I lower my camera in time to smile at the baby and to answer the woman's inquisitive stare. "C'est rigolo... cette voiture, n'est-ce pas?" I offer.
. 

Like that, Stroller Woman and I strike up a conversation ranging from old cars and collectibles... to joblessness and even weight loss! I learn that Stroller Woman suffers from phlebite and has just returned from Bollène, on foot, as part of her new exercise regime.
"Walking is the best sport!" I offer, cheering her on, happy to think up something to say.
. 

When we have exhausted our repertoire of "Small Talk for Complete Strangers," conversation comes to an abrupt and embarrassing halt.
. 

"Do you have internet?" I ask, the thought crossing my mind to post the photos that I have taken, along with a story, and thereby recruit a new reader--never mind that she can't read English.
. 

"No," Stroller Woman says. "But I will give you my phone number!" I am caught off guard by the stranger's offer and, after an initial hesitation, I search for a pen.

"By the way, what does it say?" she asks.
. 

I follow her gaze, over to the English lyrics on the old Quatrelle.
. 

"Oh, that's a song from the 60s," I answer, taking a clue from the "Sixties" signature on the car.

Stroller Woman looks at me, expectantly, and I so I prepare to translate the song lyrics:
. 

"Chérie, tu peux conduire ma voiture.... Non...  c'est pas ça.... euh..."*

.
I give it another go:

"BEBE, tu peux conduire ma voiture..."
. 

Just then, another villager--and friend of Stroller Woman--appears, greets my one-woman audience, and ignores me. I nod, clear my throat and decide I'm performing for two. Best to start fresh with the lyrics:

 

"Bébé, tu peux conduire ma voiture!" My eyes are now bright and I think I've got the swing of it.

 

"Oui! Je vais être une star!I enthuse, now wiping my lashes, which are soaked with tears due to the cold morning air.
. 

"....ET bébe JE T'AIME!" (This part automatically escapes my mouth and when I look over to the words on the car, I notice these particular lyrics are missing! In my embarrasement I skip quickly to the end):

 

"BEEP BEEP, BEEP BEEP -- YEH!"
. 

By now I have to dry my eyes with a mouchoir, the wind having picked up and, with it, the rate with which my tear ducts pour out their watery, cold air barrier. When next I look up I notice my new friend, Stroller Woman, has disappeared! This, before I have even had the chance to give her my phone number.

 

I see her now, a little further up the street, making what looks to be a getaway--beneath the protective arm of a friend.
. 

The two walk away slowly, cautiously--as one walks away from Insanity, or Madness... or simply a tone-deaf damsel in distress.
.
BEEP BEEP, BEEP BEEP YEAH... YEAH? Hey... HEY!!! REVENEZ! COME BACK!



Le Coin Commentaires

Feedback, corrections--and stories of your own--always welcome in the comments box. Merci beaucoup!


Quatrelle (c) Kristin Espinasse

 

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Renault Quatrelle (Renault 4) = kind of economy car with a hatchback, see it here; la bagnole (f) = slang for "car"; la phlébite (f) = phlebitis; C'est rigolo... cette voiture, n'est-ce pas? = It’s amusing, this car, isn’t it ?; Oui! Je vais être un star! = Yes, I’m gonna be a star!; le mouchoir (m) = handkerchief

 

 

Books & More....

Young Adult reading: Vidalia in Paris  

 

Paris inspired art work sign:  Wall Clock - Café Du Parc
 

Lavender : all natural Provence Imported *Lavandin*

 

Film feature: The French Revolution (History Channel)

 On July 14, 1789, a mob of angry Parisians stormed the Bastille and seized the King's military stores. A decade of idealism, war, murder, and carnage followed, bringing about the end of feudalism and the rise of equality and a new world order. The French Revolution is a definitive feature-length documentary that encapsulates this heady (and often headless) period in Western civilization.


 

 

 

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.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


conduire

Autumn-cabanon
Cruisin' through the Tuscan Vauclusian countryside yesterday... My husband still gives me driving lessons (from the passenger seat). I tell him I've been behind the wheel for 23 years. Apparently, says he, it's time to learn to shift gears.


Conduire

(kohn-dweer)

verb

to drive
.

 

In the winter of 2001, I left work at the vineyard each night to drive myself to driving school, careful to take the back roads and to park several blocks from the Auto-École Rivière. Though I had driven for ten years in the States, and another six in France, I had failed to exchange my Arizona driver's license for a French one, having had two years to do so. Time and again, Jean-Marc assured me that I had the right to drive in France (convinced that my AAA International Driving Permit was enough, never mind the expiration date), until one day he realized that his wife was driving without insurance (!!!); that is, should she get into an accident, the insurance contract would be void ($$$) without her having a French permis de conduire.

Having spent weeknights at driving school, attending class with would-be motorists half my age, and having finally passed l'épreuve théorique, or written exam, in the town of Fréjus, I would soon be navigating the streets of Draguignan... with a stone-faced inspecteur seated beside me.

On exam day, I shared the test vehicle with a wide-eyed eighteen-year-old who had just been ordered to pull over and get out. "Out! You are a danger to yourself and to others!" the inspecteur shouted. Seated in the back of the car, waiting my turn, I tried to understand just what my unfortunate classmate had done wrong, but was jolted out of my pensées when the inspector resumed his tirade.

"FAILED!" the inspecteur barked. He shouted a few more insults before the French kid got into the back of the car, at which point I was ordered into the driver's seat: "A vous, madame!"

"Allez-y!" the inspecteur commanded, checking his watch. I said a prayer to Saint Christopher, patron saint of safe travel (not knowing who the saint was for driver's-exam scoring), put on the left-turn signal, and drove out of the quiet neighborhood into the chaotic streets of Draguignan at rush hour.

"You don't need to be so obvious!" the inspector snapped when I threw my chin left after turn-signaling. Moments ago I'd signaled a right turn and thrown my chin over my right shoulder for good measure. We had been warned in driving school to exaggerate our gestures during testing to show the inspecteur that we were aware of those dangerous "angles morts" or blind spots. "Et les vitesses!" the inspector grumbled after I'd ground the gears once again. "Oh, but aren't cars automatic in America?!" he snickered.

Though I had been stick-shifting for sixteen years, seated next to the inspecteur I felt like I was operating a vehicle for the first time. Having completed the twenty-minute parcours through the center of Draguignan, where the unpredictable French pedestrian is king and capable of jumping from sidewalk to street center in the blink of an eye, I followed the inspecteur's instructions, pulling up in front of the American cemetery, which seemed like a bad omen to me. The inspecteur sat silently, filling out paperwork, before announcing it was time to check my vision. He ordered me to read the sign across the street. Squinting my eyes, I began:

"World War II Rhone American Cemetery and Memor...".

Before I had even finished reading, the inspector scribbled something across the page, tore off the sheet, and mumbled "Félicitations."

Ornery as he was, I had the urge to throw my arms around the inspecteur and plant a kiss beside his angry brow; only, the commandant was no longer facing me, but looking out over the quiet green fields dotted white with courage, lost in another place and time.

*     *     *

Comments, corrections, and suggestions welcome here.


French Vocabulary

 
Auto-École Rivière = Riviera Driving School
le permis (m) de conduire = driver's license
l'inspecteur (l'inspectrice) = inspector
la pensée = thought
A vous, madame = Your turn, Madam
Et les vitesses! = And the gears!
le parcours = driving route
les félicitations (fpl) = congratulations
le commandant = captain


Un critique, c'est un homme qui connaît la route, mais qui ne sait pas conduire.
A critic is a man who knows the way but can't drive the car.
 --Kenneth Tynan


:: Audio File ::
Listen to my daughter (9-years-old at the time of this recording) pronounce the French word for "to drive" in today's quote: Download conduire.wav

Un critique, c'est un homme qui connaît la route, mais qui ne sait pas conduire.

Terms & Expressions:
un permis de conduire (m) = driver's license
conduire un orchestre = to conduct an orchestra
conduire une affaire = to manage a business
se conduire = to behave
se conduire bien / mal = to behave well / badly
se conduire comme un âne = to make an ass of oneself

 

FYI: A remembrance poem was posted yesterday, "Poppy Day", don't miss it. Also: a reminder to UK readers: Jean-Marc and I will be at Barbican Centre in London, next week. We would love to meet you there. Click here for more information about this event.

New book:
I'll Never Be French (no matter what I do): Living in a Small Village in Brittany
Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language
French Demystified...simple enough for a beginner but challenging enough for a more advanced student.
French Country Diary 2009
Voici is a French magazine of popular culture.


.........................................................................................
French Verb Conjugation: conduire
je conduis, tu conduis, il/elle conduit, nous conduisons, vous conduisez, ils/elles conduisent ; past participle: conduit

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.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
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choc

Autumnleavespine2
A wee fender-bender in the neighborhood...  well, that's one way to meet your neighbor! Read on in today's story column.

le choc
(shok) n.m.
    
    : impact, crash, bump; clash; shock

Toute culture naît du mélange, de la rencontre, des chocs. A l'inverse, c'est de l'isolement que meurent les civilisations. All cultures are born out of mingling, meetings and clashes. Conversely, civilizations die from isolation. --Octavio Paz

A_day_in_a_french_life
(February 2006)

"C'était tout bête," as the French say. "It was so stupid," the accident I had at the end of my street. I had pulled up to the crooked T-intersection, slowing my car to a complete stop. Having looked left, then right, then left again, I pulled forward to turn, as I've done hundreds of times before.

I felt the impact before I even saw the car. A soft choc.* Like a bumper-car bump, nothing abrupt--no slammed brakes, no flying glass or screeching metal. I was well into my left turn when the right front-end of my car collided with the left side of the oncoming car.

Hit. No! Safe. Thanks. Neighbor. Mercedes! Insurance... English words running through a stupefied mind in the French countryside.

The victim, or "accidentée," (a neighbor) pulled her black Mercedes to the side of the road, just next to the old, slouching-over-the-lane mulberry tree, across from a field of hibernating vines. I followed, pulling up behind her car and turning off the engine. The neighbor got out of the driver's side. Her daughter got out of the passenger's side. I got out of my car and met them halfway.

I asked if they were okay and said that I was navrée, terribly sorry. They said they were fine, and that is when the woman began complaining about the damage: a shallow dent along the left side of her car, on the back passenger door....

The next day I travelled at a snail's pace down my street, stopping at the crooked T-intersection after putting on my turn-signal three houses back. I looked left, right, left, RIGHT, left again, and once more right, feeling more like a wide-eyed deer about to cross a firing range than a "bonus" driver with 20 years of bonne conduite* under her seat belt.

A few French blocks later, I pulled into the accidentée's driveway, convinced that I would flatten the rosemary bush or crush a garden lamp or even drive right into the swimming pool! I checked my rear-view mirror once again and saw Calamity tailgating me.

I rang the sonnette,* fidgeting with the insurance papers until the door opened. "Entrez," said the accidentée. Laundry--socks, undershirts, tea towels--was drying on an indoor étendoir* just behind the couch, which held stacks of neatly folded clothes. The tile floor invited bare feet to feel its cool, clean surface. Framed portraits of three smiling adolescents lined the hall.

As I followed the woman through the living room to the kitchen table--stopping when she stopped to flip off  "Les Feux d'Amour"*--I slinked back with that intrusive, guilty feeling: she was missing the end of her soap opera (the mouth-dropping, what-will-the-heroine (or hero)-reply-tomorrow? cliffhanger part) because of my moment of inattention the day before.

I followed her to the kitchen table where she sat down. After some hesitation, I pulled out a chair and joined her, uninvited. I looked at the Frenchwoman who wore only a thin painted line of coal beneath each eye, her short, thick auburn hair neatly combed back. I thought about how many times I'd crossed her on the one-lane country road. I always pulled over, letting her and her stone face pass.

Why did I have to hit her? Why couldn't it have been the ever-souriant* hippy mec* in the beat-up truck? Or the shy, retired couple--he who always nods in appreciation and she who enthusiastically waves "Merci!"? I always pull over to let others pass, when I'm not busy denting passenger portes.*

At the kitchen table I notice that her insurance paperwork is complete. I spread out my papers across the table and begin reading through the French: Insurance company name; Address; Client number; Nature of accident... I hesitate before each blank space, mouthing the words to the questions.

"My husband usually does our paperwork," I admit, realizing I sound like one of those ousewives.

"I put this down for that one," the woman says, showing me an example. "Oh, merci," I say, and copy as many of her answers as I can get away with, minus insurance numbers and addresses.
"My daughter speaks English," she says, off the subject.
"Oh, really?" I reply. Looking up, I see her face has softened.
"Does she baby-sit?" I say.
"She loves to!" Before long we are exchanging phone numbers, with a promise to call if I need help with the kids. If I need help...

For a moment, I wonder what a conversation would have been like around the hippy-mec's table, or at the retired couple's. Who knows when destiny will have us crossing paths? (Hopefully for a cup of sugar and not a dented door). For now, I warm to the stone (make that *soft*) face of the accidentée, glad for the chance to get to know my misunderstood neighbor, despite the circumstances.


................................French Vocabulary..............................
le choc = impact; la bonne conduite (f) = good driving (record); la sonnette = doorbell; un étendoir = washing line (here, a free-standing metal rack); Les Feux d'Amour = The Young and the Restless (soap opera); souriant(e) = smiling; le mec = guy; la porte = door

.................................Audio File..........................
Listen: hear the word 'choc' pronounced: Download choc2.wav

Expressions & Terms:
  le pare-chocs = bumper, fender
  les prix chocs = incredible prices
  le choc culturel = culture shock
  le choc septique = toxic shock
  résiste au(x) choc(s) = shock-resistant
  tenir le choc = to cope

Bikenboules
Better stick to cycling. (Photo: The second-to-last vélo my Mom bought me. Sadly, it was left behind in the move... I miss you, Bike!)

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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un klaxon

un klaxon (klak-sohn) noun, masculine
  1. a horn

And the verb klaxonner (klak-soh-nay) = to hoot or sound one's horn, to honk

Expression:
klaxonner quelqu'un = to hoot at someone; to give somebody a hoot

Citation du Jour
La plupart des automobiles du monde marchent à l'essence. Les autos françaises marchent au klaxon. Surtout quand elles sont arrêtées.

Most of the automobiles in this world run on gasoline. The French autos run on horns. Especially when they're stopped. --Pierre Daninos

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

If you want to buy or sell a car in France, a good place to start is with a free publication called "l'Argus". Most people start there. Most.

I woke up Wednesday morning to find a sign taped to the back window of my car. It reads:

             A VENDRE
année 2001 - 1ère main - 35 000 kms
            toutes options
Clim / VE / Airbags / ABS / Radio / CD
            3,900 Euros

My husband must have been busy during the night. Busy taping a notice to the inside rear window of my bagnole.* I knew he was considering selling my car. Just not this soon. Not in this way.

Re-reading the sign, I'm surprised he didn't add, "woman driver, gearshift grinder, (who) occasionally backs into lampposts." That's just how exposed I feel, driving around with a "for sale" sign glaring from the back window.

In Greek mythology, Argus is a giant with one hundred eyes. A clever name for an auto trader publication whose marketing approach must be, "All eyes on your car when you advertise with us."  But when your car isn't listed there, and you drive around with a rainbow-colored sign scotched to the back window (thanks to gigantic strips of packing tape) the effect is the same, just a bit more disconcerting.

I'm learning that there's a little bit of Argus in each villager. Tape a sign on something, and the collective village eyes are redirected. The collective village lips begin to flap. To "faire parler les gens" or give the people something to talk about, all you need is a roll of 4-inch wide duct tape and a colorful message. No use being discreet when you're trying to sell something.

I hope the car will sell, and illico!* or I just might turn into a one hundred-eyed monster and scotch tape my husband's mouth shut while I slowly enunciate each and every word from each and every story in "A Day in a French Life". That ought to make him think twice about peddling my bagnole.*


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
à vendre = for sale; l'année (f) = year; la première main (f) = first hand; la clim (la climatisation) = air-conditioning; VE (vitres électriques) = electric windows; une bagnole (f) = car; illico = pronto

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.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety