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

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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 ::

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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


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Canvas: Toile, carte bancaire, papeterie and belle époque in French

Canvasing St. Tropez
French art and a classic car along the port in St. Tropez

la toile
noun, feminine

Françoise has not changed much in the three years since Mom and I have frequented her art shop. She still has her ballerina-thin figure and still paints cherry-red streaks through her chocolate-brown hair; the contrast is as stark as her customers' paintings, which line the store's entrance hall and make shoppers feel smug about their own art.

At the cash register, when I take out my carte bancaire, Françoise still picks up the phone to call over to the papeterie, shouting for them to bring back the hand-held credit-card processor (the one the two stores have always shared, never mind the inconvenience).

"Moins vingt... moins vingt... moins vingt...." Françoise mumbles, as she tallies up the art supplies. She still gives my mom twenty percent off all items, and then rounds down the total. This morning she even threw in a freebie.
"Those paintbrushes have been discontinued," she said. "I can offer this one to your maman."

To this day, Françoise listens to my mom's English, only to reply in French. Just how the two women can understand each other is high art to me. The paintings which result from their exchanges need not be translated either. They are, like the language barrier the women have overcome, indeed like love itself, transcendent.

*   *   *

Returning a few years later, Mom and I were shocked to discover that Françoise's shop had closed down. Standing out on the sidewalk, we stared sadly at the handwritten sign in the window; it read "A VENDRE". Our eyes caught on a bold reflection in the window; we turned to discover the bigger, fancier, more deluxe store that had opened across the street.... 

Unlike Françoise's window, which displayed tubes of paint, brushes, and even a few modest creations of her customers, the competitor's windows were filled with a new rage: "scrapbooking"... ink pads, stamps, glue and tiny cutouts crowded the window. 

At the back of the glittery new store, a few paint supplies hung, like the end of a belle époque.


Click here to leave an edit or suggestion in the comments box. Thanks for checking the vocab section, below. Note: the story was originally published without the sad post note (about the shop closing). Do you think the postnote should be included in the book? Or leave off the story with the happy ending?

French Vocabulary

la toile = canvas
la carte bancaire = credit/debit card
la papeterie = office/school supply store
moins vingt = minus twenty (percent)
la maman
 = mom
à vendre = for sale
la belle époque
 = beautiful era

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Serre Chevalier 121
A culprit of a cadran. More in today's story....

secourir (seuh-kor-reer) verb
       : to help, aid
       : to rescue

Verb conjugation of secourir:
je secours, tu secours, il secourt, nous secourons, vous secourez, ils secourent (past participle: secouru)

Audio File: coming soon...

We've featured the French word "secours" and learned many examples, in a past edition that was illustrated by a story. Today, we focus on the verb secourir -- because actions continue to speak louder than words...


"Trial by Tire" (Part Three: Final Chapter)
click here for previous chapter

It took me several moments to believe the predicament that our family of four suddenly found ourselves in: there, strapped into our car and all but teetering on a concrete slab that flanked some stairs leading down to the town hall...

Seconds before, the driver (Jean-Marc) and I had been focused on the picturesque sundial painted on a building en face. That is when our car, which had already engaged in a traffic roundabout, wandered a few fateful inches to the side of the road... and "stepped" off.

With a kerPLUNK and a POP! the car came to an abrupt halt... having driven over the concrete slab that separated the road that we had been on from an escalier!

Calm came over the car, but was quickly chased out the window by its foe, PANIC!

"C'est pas vrai! C'EST PAS VRAI!!!" my son complained. "On a crevé un pneu! On a crevé un pneu!!!

I don't know what struck me more: the fact that our car was stuck in a stairwell ...or my son's noisy reaction to that fact. Just where, I wondered, did all that panic and impatience come from? ...Did he learn it from me?

Once again, I was reading too much into things. "He's just worried about missing the snowboard lesson (an hour from now)," Jean-Marc pointed out.

We all got out of the car, and Jean-Marc went to work assessing the damage -- and a plan of action!

Little by little, the quiet village came to life. A retired couple stopped, and the man came over to have a look at our flat tire (the flat was only one of two predicaments, the second being the placement of the flat: on the other side of the barrier!).

The man searched for a big rock and set it in front of the tire, but when Jean-Marc attempted to back up the car... that giant rock spit right out from beneath the tire... missing my head by about two feet!

Thereafter, I joined the kids at the bottom of the stairwell and watched as more help arrived. A woman appeared out of nowhere... in time to share a friendly nod of encouragement: "Ce n'est qu'une voiture. It's only a car!"

Two other men stopped to help free the tire that had hooked itself over the cement guardrail. When a  third man arrived on the scene, the trio attempted to lift the front end of the car... to no avail.

Serre Chevalier 128

When Max continued to worry about missing his snowboard lesson, I pointed out the Alpine Angels that were working on our car.

"You know, they might have been heading out to the ski slopes, too! But they've taken the time to stop and help us. Isn't that kind of them? Would we have done the same?" The idea initially silenced my son's complaints, and the three of us watched quietly -- but for another hiccup of impatience.

"I wonder where that guy was headed to?" I questioned the kids. "Do you think he'll be late for his appointment? Instead, he's changed his plans in order to assist a stranger. Isn't that wonderful? Aren't they all wonderful for being so flexible with their own schedules?"

Several steps above us the man in blue began stacking wood to the other side of the tire, the idea being to back up over the wood in time to "lift up" over the concrete barrier. Another man used a jack to hike up the car, while the third man changed our tire! 

Jean-Marc returned to the wheel to steer the car back over the barrier, level with the other tires. That's when the Alpine Angels almost disappeared -- but not before returning all of the materials that they had "borrowed" (the wood was returned to the woodpile, the rocks, to a nearby garden) "Wait a minute," we called out, in time for Jean-Marc to hand each man a bottle of wine from a case we had been transporting in the back of our car.

And, just like that, the Alpine Angels disappeared, having gifted us with what these days some consider to be a rarity: charity.


*     *     *
Is this mistletoe? By the way... today's question:

Question: Who is the last person you kissed and why? Share about your last smack, in the comments box. (Here's my answer: last person kissed: my daughter (this morning at the breakfast table). Why? For being brave about sleeping in her room all night (and not coming to wake me up at the first gust of wind that rattled her window shutters... and her scarey bone)!

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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To purchase our book-in-progress, click here.


Serre Chevalier 049
All photos © Kristin Espinasse

crever (kreuh-vay) verb

    : to burst, split; to break
Also: crevé(e) = exhausted

Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc read the following expressions and pronounce the verb conjugations to the French verb crever Download MP3  Download Wav

crever un pneu = to flatten a tire
crever de faim = to be starving
crever d'ennui = to be bored to death

je crève, tu crèves, il crève, nous crevons, vous crevez, ils crèvent

*Thanks for adding additional crever terms and meanings to the comments box. Merci d'avance!


(Note: for part one of this story, click here)

I happened to be staring at an ancient French cemetery (opposite Madame's chalet) when a little voice whispered to me, "Don't push your luck!"

There in the town of Le Rosier, I had been set free for 15 delicious minutes in time to capture one village's Alpine uniqueness. But Jean-Marc and the kids, who were waiting for me back at the village parking lot, needed to return to Serre Chevalier by noon, in time for snowboard lessons. The three had kindly devoted the morning to me, for this photographic-themed family outing (basically, the kids agreed to tag along and play in the snow, while I tip-toed up and down the icy streets snap-shooting; it was Jean-Marc's job to navigate).

Now feeling the pressure to finish up, I took one last photo of a faded flourish, just above an ordinary wooden door -- one that had been hastily replaced. The new style didn't match so well, but then isn't that part of the charm?

On the way back to the car, I passed the wise woman, who was still reading on her porch, and nodded "bonjour". That's when I stole a mental snapshot... to replace the image that I had not dared capture with my camera. Like that "Wise Woman Reading on Deck" will forever be burned into my memory.

Back at the parking lot, at the bottom of the village, I thanked Jean-Marc and the kids for waiting for me and for their patience. With that, we buckled ourselves into the car, and rode up the concrete ramp leading to the main road.

At the top of the ramp, there was an old lion-head fountain (water gushing from its fierce chops), beyond a picturesque building with yet another sundial.

"Did you get that one (on film)?" Jean-Marc inquired, pointing to the colorful cadran.
Did I get that one on film? I, the roving photographer, did I get that one on film?!

And that is all it took... for a zillion zen-like thoughts, thoughts that I had wrangled into one primo philosophical treatise on Peace (just moments before while floating through town, psycho-babble in tow), yes, that is all it took for such noble "nuggets" to dissolve into pathetic pride -- in time for me to revert right back to my usual pre-teen wit:

"Duh!" I thought. "How could he think that I could have missed THAT one?"

Immediately I regretted the sarcastic, unfriendly pensée... but it was too late... for the Powers That Be had another plan for holier-than-thou me: TRIAL BY TIRE !

And, like that, all eyes on the sundial (the sundial that I had indeed photographed and not at all overlooked), the car inched over toward the ramp's edge.... and the next thing we heard was a very loud POP!

(Final chapter on Friday)

Serre Chevalier 050
photo © Kristin Espinasse

What are these two clinking to?  Time now to celebrate achievements: I'll begin: Tchin-tchin to Jean-Marc!, who won a gold medal for his Domaine Rouge-Bleu Mistral wine! and tchin-tchin to Jackie for winning a gold ribbon in Sunday's horse competition (the horse she chose was handicapped, with only one eye (the other permanantly stiched!). Your turn: who are you clinking to today? Say a toast, write a mini (or maxi!) tribute, to someone in your circle who has recently succeeded in something. Share it with us here, in the comments box, where we continue to get to know one another.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

To purchase our book-in-progress, click here.