I was asked recently to be involved in a local event of “Art pour tous, Tous pour l’art” – in other words art for everyone. It was the first attempt by a new group of artists, dancers,musicians and craftsmen, who have formed a collective association, to promote the arts in a rural environment where cultural activities don’t happen so very often. A very worthwhile cause with enthusiastic people, I just felt I was the odd one out, being the oldest member! For once the language had nothing to do with it as I can comfortably speak French now and even teach a dance lesson in French.
The event took place in our Salle des Fetes, our local hall in Salignac, in one corner was a brightly painted giant teepee for the children to play in. Stands were set up showing origami paper folding, wooden hand made jewellery, batik paintings and photographs, courtesy of Barry, depicting dancers, were all in evidence. I tried to do my little initiation into contemporary dance , but found it hard to compete with musicians tuning up and children running over the floor. My cd player also had a problem with the strange vibrations around and decided not to work. I often use a little tambourine for accompaniment so I used that instead but had a small child attached to me, wanting to play it!
The whole thing reminded me of events like this in the seventies when we were young .Everyone was dressed in denim, flowery dresses, dreadlocks and the obligatory piercings. I decided to skip the final music show which was playing very loudly as I left !
Edith Piaf is one of the most famous French singers, I think, that just about everyone has heard of. Born as Edith Gassion in Paris, allegedly under a lamp post, she suffered great poverty in her youth. She had a difficult childhood with a mother who took minimal care of her so she went to live with her father’s mother in a brothel staying there until she was 6yrs old. Growing up in the streets of Paris, singing for her supper, she met a man who will change her life – the nightclub owner, Louis Leplée, who nicknamed her” la môme piaf “ the little sparrow. This is where the name Edith Piaf came from. Leplée was the one who decided on her simple black dress and her hand gestures that would single her out forever.
Her love affairs were numerous and her lively nature was reflected in her songs; full of passion and longing. Standing on stage in her little black dress, a small fragile looking figure, until she began to sing in a richly accented French voice which came flowing out . Famous for La Vie en Rose, Milord, Hymne à l’Amour, Je ne regrette rien, Padam Padam, amongst others, she also went to the USA at the height of her success. When she needed to learn English, apparently even Marlene Dietrich helped her!
Unfortunately, she became addicted to certain substances, plus alcohol and her body finally gave up at only 47, and she died at Grasse in her own home. She is buried in Paris at the famous Pere Lachaise cemetery, next to her daughter who died of meningitis aged two. She never had any more children. She married a much younger man at the end of her life and was very happy. Her legend lives on and she is always remembered “toujours Piaf”.
Someone recently told me that they ”parlent anglais comme une vache espagnole”. An expression which means that they speak English badly. How I love expressions like this, here are a few more.
“Les carottes sont cuites” the carrots are cooked means there is no hope of changing it.
”Cracher dans la soupe” to spit in the soup, or ungrateful!
“Couper la poire en deux” to cut the pear in half or split the bill.
“Raconter des salades “ to tell salads or really to mean to tell lies.
And to finish with “ne pas avoir inventé le fil a couper le beurre “ – you did not invent the thread that cuts the butter ? or you are dumb! Funny aren’t they?
Fifi’s story from rural France. March 2016.