Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Les Deux Langues Qui Nous Separent ...

More idle musings on the pleasant confusions of language - the fruit, as usual, of my efforts to understand my good friend Sophie. (And, of course, vice versa. Miscommunication is a two-way street.) You'd think, after 25 years or so, that wouldn't be too difficult, but sadly, no.

Just for background, we swap a text each evening: just to say how was your day, and goodnight. Something that we got into when she was really depressed at the start of the separation, and it just kept on going. I forgot once - just once! - a couple of months back, and I won't tell you about the grief I got for that.

Were we married, it'd have been cause for divorce, apparently. Whatever, we're both quite capable of writing English, but according to that immutable law, it's always in French ...

As native English-speakers, I'd guess that should someone tell you of their "pensées bleues" (lit. "blue thoughts") you'd assume, as I did, that they were feeling down or depressed. Luckily - for this has happened before - I checked: just as well for it turns out that it means more or less the exact opposite. (Note: just tested that idea on an Australian. Supposedly English-speakers. Word association? Blue movie. Erotic. OK, I could live with that.)

It's a play on words: a pensée bleue just happens to be a blue pansy as well, which in the language of flowers (according to the French gardening catalogue I found on the interthingies, anyway) symbolises remembrance, friendship and love. So in fact it means a fond thought of a friend or loved one. Not, I think, immediately apparent.

But I was half expecting something like that, for being of a literary bent this is not the first time she's done it. I had to apologise endlessly for the flippant reply I gave not so long ago when she wrote of our "amitié linéare" (and no, I'm not going to say exactly what it was, suffice it to say that it involved a corkscrew): of course, she was using "linear" in the more mathematical sense of "constant", and was quite hurt by my levity.

Is it any wonder I get confused sometimes?

And along the same lines, I'm toying with the idea of changing the name of the blog - I rather fancy "The Skinny and the Hurted Ass Man". Which would also be an awesome name for a band. Check it out here. (Warning: may be unsuitable for children, the easily offended and the simple-minded. Just saying.)

So true to form, it's started pissing down, which'll please people up in the ski stations no end because they'll finally be able to turn off the snow cannons and hope for something a bit more than a 5cm cover on the slopes. But I've kind of forgotten what rain's like, and I'm pretty sure I don't actually like it. Still, I suppose it'll clean out the stream bed a bit - which is in fact a bit of a shame; it was quite pretty down there with all the dead leaves.

Still, when you think that we're coming rapidly up to the shortest day of the year, we've still had no snow down here and sod-all to speak of higher up, and the temperatures continue to hover around 10-12°, we can't really complain. With any luck we'll go directly from autumn to spring.

Trying to organise French nationality for Jeremy: like Malyon he has the right to it on becoming major, but it does make things easier if he gets his ID card now. Travelling around becomes simpler, and it also means he'll be able to sit his final exams without unnecessary hassle. He will also have to do his "journée de service nationale" and learn about the interesting careers available in the army, but I think he'll be able to cope with that.

So anyway I went off to the Palais de Justice to find out what they required: copy of birth certificate, certificats de scolarité to prove that he has been in school (and thus in France) for the last five years, livret de famille (we're bloody foreigners for godssake, don't have one of them, get over it), a couple of ID photos and a power bill (which apparently proves that we are who we say we are).

Fine, cue a trip to the mairie at Chambéry for the birth certificate, a few phone calls to various schools, and a quick visit to the photo shop, assemble everything in a neat little plastic folder and back to the Palais de Justice: to discover that you cannot become French on a Wednesday, because the appropriate office is closed. Why? Because this is provincial France, I suppose. Or because the bureaucrats take Wednesdays off so that they don't have to call in aunt Odile to babysit. Or because they think it stands a fair chance of annoying me (right on that one). Or whatever.

Products whose names you can't believe: OK, if you read the fine print the "Sexy Cherry" has ginseng extract in it, which I suppose is some sort of excuse (further down, in even finer print, you will learn that the coloring agent is carrot juice, which is rather less sexy, at least for me), but why anyone would think that "Bint" was a good name for a greenish bottle of apple and cherry juice is quite beyond me. I bring it to your notice, that's all.

Mal got in touch a few days back: she and Tony had planned on spending Christmas in the wilds of Scotland or something with Tony's family but apparently that's gone titsup (I vaguely heard something about a caravan on a blasted heath, which I admit did not sound promising) so it seems they'll be turning up over here instead. Hope she remembers to bring some decent whisky.

Anyway, Christmas will be a quiet affair in these parts: us, of course (for we are privileged to have Jeremy's company, before he slopes off to Geneva or somewhere for New Year with friends), doubtless Bryan, probably Stacey, and maybe our mad friend Karen. I am not allowed to be too creative in the food department, for Margo wants something traditional with no flights of fancy: given today's weather it's quite possible that we'll be having lamb on the barbecue.

And with the festive season coming up on us things are, as usual, getting hellish in town. Goodwill to all men is all very well in the abstract, but it's extremely difficult to avoid Grinch syndrome when you can't find a bloody car park for love nor money. I got into the market a bit later than usual yesterday (beds can be so attractive and clingy on a weekend morning) and spent 15 minutes driving around in the underground car park beneath the chateau; just as I was getting ready to call it a day and head out in search of somewhere less congested I finally came across a slot and pounced on it.

Well and good, so I headed off and did my business without serious injury to any third parties, loaded everything into the van and set out to park over behind Curial, as a prelude to the Saturday libations. Not, as it turned out, one of my better ideas. After another half hour going round in ever-decreasing circles I finally gave up on the idea, and headed back to the chateau. Which was pretty much a waste of half an hour's drinking time, not good.

Especially as Beckham made the executive decision that we had better things to do with our time than drink (can you even believe that?) and insisted on wandering through the little marché de Noël to look for presents to send back to the States, a vin chaud (mulled wine is not my thing), and a crippled tree for her apartment. One out of three is, I suppose, acceptable, although not great.

This week's top search terms:
  • greek sunday table
  • disturbed hell
  • vegetable rape our women
  • what would happen if you put mashed potatoes in a gas tank

Never ceases to amaze me, the questions people will put to Google. And why is anyone even contemplating potato purée in a gas tank? Maybe some would-be terrorist, trying to find ecologically-friendly ways of immobilizing an armoured car? Or an eight year-old, with a six year-old's sense of humour?

Whatever, Stéphane the neighbour has just turned up and, quite literally, dumped four stères of wood off at the top of the path: Jeremy and I now have to move and stack four cubic metres of wood down in the courtyard. Probably a good thing too, as - difficult though it is to believe on such a glorious day - the bloody party-poopers at Méteo France are promising us snow down here on Thursday, and a high of 2°. So we really ought to go and do that right now.

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