A Letter from France – Fifi’s story – Fiona Alderman
Salignac Eyvigues in the south west of France. August 2013
The time to live
Sometimes people are a bit shell shocked when they come to Salignac , because it is comparatively quiet to most people’s lives but they wonder why they are so tired mid week? . We call it the Wednesday Syndrome where it is often necessary to slow down with the course and go and have some holiday time ! The change in the weather too can affect people, often the extreme heat in the months of July and August are very tiring . The change also from big city living to quiet village life is another one . We had someone who was pretty distressed that it was so quiet and that he didn’t have a Starbucks to go to!
We have integrated well ourselves I think but I always have the feeling that we are still outsiders, étrangers in French, which does literally translate as strangers.
However I know now that even the French from other parts of France living here are treated the same. It is good to know . All has taken time , that word again , to be accepted .To be as a French friend said recently to me “tu es partie de la famille maintenant” meaning you are part of us now . Pretty good .
Everyone has several jobs around here, which is how we are not surprised when the hairdresser turns his hand to cutting chips. No difference really? I have been going to him for many years, in fact we even had 3 hairdressers at one point , amazing for such a small village ( around 1100 people) He left his salon to open up a travelling chip shop which he and his son do all year round . He is so busy now that he has just bought a new super duper van which is installed every Friday evening at our local market . I usually buy some chips as they are so good and beautifully cut!
Another man we know is a mole catcher, taxi driver and occasionally hearse driver! Nico a Belgian , another étranger, has a busy time catching the moles which are prevalent in the gardens now.
A business that continues to thrive is the pet cleaning one, “toilettage”. A young lady drives a big well equipped van all over the place to see to the needs of the French dogs. I have never seen one for cats ? The French are pretty obsessional about their pets and you see many sad looking animals being herded into this van and coming out several hours later looking much more cheerful . Perhaps their owner’s wallets are less full but “ les chiens vont bien.” As long as the dogs are happy.
There are many colourful characters living here, one called Yan, a Dutchman, who set up the local rugby club about 10 years ago. This year they got into to the final championship , they didn’t win but it was an amazing achievement for a small team . Yan also spends part of the year in Sri Lanka where he is a bit of an entrepreneur , making car numberplates !
There are a great number of men called Phillipe in Salignac. Often confusing when you talk of one or another and you need to have an extra tag on it to differentiate between them i.e. Philippe- graveur one who sells and engraves jewellery, Philippe – couvent one who lives in an old convent, Philippe- musicien one who is a musician, Grand Philippe-or Phillou one who is very tall and rather large! and Philippe- le chien Not the dog. Sadly this Philippe died last year and his dog Nash was found a home within another family .
Just to finish with, I wanted to tell you about some of the funny expressions I have learnt over the years .
“bien dans ta peau” literally, to be well in your skin. To look well.
“mettre l’eau sur le gaz” literally, to put water onto the gas. To disrupt something and make it worse.
“ répondre au tic au tac” to answer without hesitation.
“mon petit doigt me l’a dit” literally, my little finger told me. Or, I learnt something .
“avoir l’estomac dans les talons” literally, to have your stomach in your heels . Or to be hungry!
“avoir la patate” to have the potato, or to be in fine form!
I also remember at school, learning my first French lessons there was the marvellous phrase”la plume de ma tante” meaning my aunt’s pen . Well, I have to say I have never in 14 years here have I had the chance to use it. My French friends laugh about it and tell me their equivalent in English they learnt at school . It was..” my tailor is rich!!! I say no more.
“Vive La France et Vive L’Ecosse.”
Fiona Alderman and Barry Paton
The Salignac Foundation
12 rue Fenelon
Salignac Eyvigues 24590
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