moquette

Pêle mêle ( = confused, rushed, disorderly) shop in French Alps (c) Kristin Espinasse

Photo taken in Barcelonnette

Pêle-Mêle

(pel-mel)

higgledy-piggledy, any old how

  


Jean-Marc pulled into the snow-n-slush parking lot behind l'Equipe Hotel, got out and searched for the entrance. Ignoring the two-foot-tall board marked ENTREE, he side-trekked around the back of the building. I think he purposely misses these "how-to" signs and, in so doing, he turns life into one man's perpetual back-to-nature quest (and French boot camp for his prissy American bride).

Max, Jackie and Miss Priss followed, dragging our bags up the steel-grated stairs reserved for employees; we hiked around the brasserie to find ourselves back on track with the normal guests who approached the hotel in a conventional fashion.

Three hours earlier, just before heading out for the French Alps, I'd talked my style-unconscious husband out of his Glad Bag valise so that this time we were not stealing past other hotel guests—me with a duct-taped suitcase, the kids with a plastic laundry basket "drawer-for-the-weekend" and my husband with two hefty garbage bags (the deluxe kind with built-in handles, and not the cheap ones with the detachable plastic yellow string), contents thrown in pêle-mêle.

In the Ubaye valley, where the village of Enchastrayes is nestled, the nearest town being Barcelonnette, we were greeted by three French mutts—which explained the surprise-on-ice we'd sidestepped out on the Path Less Traveled. The dogs' owner stubbed out her cigarette before checking the reservations book.

"Chambres 15 and 16," she said, pulling two keys from a wallboard of 23 hooks.

Max pointed to the keychain and quizzed his sister: Did she know what the small, abstract wooden carving represented?

"Un castor!" she correctly guessed.

We climbed four levels of moquette-covered stairs, pausing to catch our breath in front of a needlepoint wall hanging, its thick yarn ...in mustard, orange and black... looped loosely across a cotton canvas. Plastic flowers, now faded, punctuated each landing.

Two floors up, Jean-Marc pushed the long metal key into the keyhole at room 15. He had to tug the door forward as he turned the key to the right and to the left (this tugging and key jiggling was in response to an indice he was discovering in real time—as he watched a demonstration given by the young woman standing next to a vacuum cleaner and cart two doors down.

No framed needlepoint art in the rooms, just more plastic flowers and more synthetic-carpet tile. Each side of the bed in room 15 had candle lighting—except a plastic flame stood in for a fiery one. Behind a vinyl accordion door, the bathroom, which included a plastic flamingo pink shower head draped over decades old robinetterie, smelled like a porta-potty.

"No, it doesn't smell like that," Jean-Marc retorted. "It smells like a hospital."

"Oh," I said, encouraged. The kids' room was a repeat of our own, except that it had twin beds.

The stringy sound of a violoncello filtered in from chambre 14, the cellist's glorious musical notes almost canceling out the infant's cries from the room above; such wailing from deep in the icy French woods, along with the bow and string (sans arrow) next door, seemed in keeping with one Frenchman's return to the Land Before Time, and the hotel decor, though not prehistoric, had that barbaric feel with just the right dose of vulgar to temper Miss Priss's great expectations.

I watched my husband unpack his bags with gusto, and it occurred to me to face our circumstances with a similar verve or joie de vivre.

With a little effort, I could begin to see our surroundings in a new light: no longer did the room feel oppressive. With renewed thinking, I began to feel a flutter inside my spirit, as a new sense of adventure was born. One that would sustain me, again and again, each time my husband reserved a hotel room....


French Vocabulary
 

l'entrée (f) = entrance
pêle-mêle = in confused haste
la chambre = room
le castor = beaver
la moquette = carpet
un indice = clue
la robinetterie = plumbing
la joie de vivre = joy of living

 

====Note: any text from here, on, will not be included in the book.=====

Your edits here, please!

Thank you for scouring this story for any typos or blips or inconsistencies in formatting (for example, all chapter titles should look similar to today's formatted title. All French words (in the story) should be in italics... etc). I appreciate your efforts to help me. Thanks again! Click here to submit corrections.

 



Listen: Hear our daughter, Jackie, pronounce today's word: Download moquette2.wav

Expressions:
chambre moquettée = bedroom with wall-to-wall carpet
faire poser de la moquette = to have a fitted carpet laid
la moquette murale = fabric wall covering

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espoir

une Maison à Valbonne = a House in Valbonne (c) Kristin Espinasse
                                 Christmastime in Valbonne.


Espoir

(es-pwar)

noun, masculine

hope


The following letter is an intimate look into la naissance of a certain "thrice-weekly" journal from France. This online blog began in October of 2002 following its earlier pen-and-paper beginnings—as letters that were sent via snail mail to a group of beta readers: my family and friends! For this opening story-letter, I have chosen a Wild West theme, one that seems fitting, considering my southwestern roots. Though I left the Phoenix desert half a life ago, a part of my heart forgot to board that plane to France.
 

To You, the Reader (A Story about You and Me)

In October of deux mille deux I began a website, a vitrine of sorts, for my writing. I put up a few published stories, a bio and un livre d'or, and waited beside my virtual mailbox, ginger ale in hand.

A few tumbleweeds blew past, but no publishers. My address, my website—my writing—remained in a cyber ghost town.

I continued to peddle my words, sending out queries for my stories. I did not sell many.

I thought to offer something to attract editors and publishers, and so I stepped out of my cyber-office and nailed up a sign. It read: "French Word-A-Day." I waited patiently for a customer. More tumbleweeds blew past. No publishers.

I continued to show up at the page, or keyboard, each morning and the stories collected like so many stars over a sleeping desert on a warm summer's night. As for l'espoir, I had that. Still, no publishers came.

But you did.

You must've seen the sign out front. You signed up for French words and accidentally found yourself in my French life. You must have said, "Pourquoi pas?" then pulled up a barstool, ordered a ginger ale, and settled in.

Your presence reassured me. I wrote and wrote and wrote a little more. And mostly I hoped you would not leave town when the next cyber stagecoach passed through. At least not until I figured out what it was I had to say.

Then one day you said: "Thank you for your missives," and I ran to my dictionary to look up that word. You also wrote: "Thank you for your vignettes."

"'Vignettes'! 'Vignettes'!" I giggled, doing a little square dance. I never knew what to call "it" besides an "essay" (which, I felt, was a spiffier term than "diary entry").

Many good months passed with small writing victories, and a former ghost town came to life.

But my joie was short-lived. A menace and a few mean-spirited e-mails arrived. I almost yearned for those tumbleweeds. Instead, I mentioned my soucis in a letter, and suddenly it was Showdown at the French Word-A-Day Corral! You showed up with your posse and told the bandits to get out of town. Then you turned to me and said: "Don't let the !@#& get you down!"

While others don't understand the life of a former desert rat-turned-French housewife-turned-maman and, recently, struggling écrivaine—you do.

At a shop in Draguignan, the vendeuse says: "Your name sounds familiar. What does your husband do?" I fall back into a slump, reminded that what I really am is a pantoufle-footed housewife with a backup of three loads of laundry and a sink full of dirty, mismatched assiettes.

I return home to the dirty dishes and the laundry—and to a letter from a reader, which says: "Thank you for your stories." I sit up straight, dust off my keyboard and am reminded that what I really am is a working writer—if only I will show up at the page, and write, each day.

So, thank you, dear Reader, for helping me to live my dream: for reading my—missives—and for your thoughtful words of support. Although publishers and agents may not be beating down my porte, each time I crack open the door—there you are.

In the new year, I'd like to continue with the stories, expanding the gist of this French Life. I hope you'll stay in town because I have figured out that I do, indeed, have something more to say. In fact, there is so much that I have not yet told you.

And while you know of the light-hearted, bubbly side of this expatriation, Real Life continues to rumble within my writing veins, like a rowdy, drunken saloon girl, wanting to be heard. Only I will need to slap her cheek, pour a bit of cool water over her head, take a tissue to her running mascara and tell her to have faith, that her story will be told, if she will only show up at the page.

May you, too, live your dream in the coming year.

Bien amicalement,
Kristin


 
French Vocabulary

la naissance
 = birth
deux mille deux = two thousand two
la vitrine = showcase
le livre d'or = guestbook
l'espoir = hope
pourquoi pas? = why not?
la joie = joy
un souci = worry
une maman = mom
un(e) écrivain(e) = writer
la vendeuse = saleslady
la pantoufle = (house) slipper
une assiette = plate
la porte = door
bien amicalement = best wishes, yours


Le Coin Commentaires - Story Edits
Did you find any typos in this story? Any vocabulary words missing from the vocab section, below? Any other style or technical concerns that you would like to point out? Please leave a message in the comments box, here. Thank you very much!
. 
Update: in the third paragraph from the end, I am having difficulty knowing what to do with the years (originally, only two years—"2005" and "2006"—were mentioned. Five years have passed, since...). If you have an idea on how to present or update this, let me know. Perhaps I should take out the years and keep "in the new year"?
 .
I am also wondering about how to work in the very first paragraph--which is fitting for the blog post, but not for an introductory or first chapter in a book. Any ideas on how to resolve this are welcome! Perhaps I should leave it out? (In which case I'll need to remember to remove the vocabulary words from the vocab section! Oh, the blips of speed-publishing!)

Update: I am reworking the intro paragraph, check it out, now, and please let me know if you have any edits. Here is the paragraph that I took out:
     
For this last edition of 2004, a more personal look into la naissance of this letter from France; a background on how it came about, and its raison d'être(besides building one's vocabulary!). Most of the stories in 2004 were in keeping with a French theme. For today's personal story, a Wild West theme seems fitting, considering my Southwestern roots. Though I left the Phoenix desert one third of my life ago, a part of my heart forgot to board that plane to France. 



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Update: Four weeks after publishing "To You, the Reader (A Story about You and Me)," I was contacted by an editor at Simon and Schuster (!), this, thanks to a certain reader/writer who discovered my online stories. The book that resulted from that e-mail is available for purchase

When you buy any item at Amazon, entering the store via the following links, your purchase helps to support this free word journal!

Herbes de Provence in a handy grinder. A special blend found in country kitchen in the South of France. Click here to order the 3-pack for under $10

Exercises in French Phonics " a great book for learning French pronunciation" Order your copy here.

I Heart Paris Shopper: made of recycled material

Tune Up Your French: Top 10 Ways to Improve Your Spoken French

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy and look forward to these posts and want to give something back, please know your contribution makes a difference! A donation by check or via PayPal is greatly appreciated.
 
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♥ Contribute $25    
♥ Contribute the amount of your choice