Fiona Alderman Blog: Cafe´Talk

cafe talk

With the “rentree” this month, the return back to school and the summer holidays finally over, our thoughts turn to the end of the year. I like this time though, the Autumnal colours and the light which is less sharp and softer. I was reflecting on many things whilst sitting at the Cafe´one day, and listening in to conversations around me. Mostly talk about the weather or about food !

French men talking about looking for mushrooms in the forest , and how to cook the famous omelette aux cepes/ wild mushrooms. Oh, and, of course, fast and furious talk about World Cup Rugby matches.

A lady came up to me, that I knew, and asked if I would give her some English lessons. She is going to the UK next March and wants to be able to converse better with her friends there. I said yes gladly, as I enjoy this activity very much. We arranged to meet the following week and I prepared a short lesson.

Someone I know at the Post Office was also asking if I knew about Sean Connery. Collecting stamps and she knows I am Scottish, from the envelopes that I send, she continues the subject of Sean every time I go in. She is totally transfixed by Sean and his beauty, that she asks me if there are any more like him? Being single she says to keep a look out for her with my friends from Scotland.

The French School System

Back to the “rentree ” and the French school system which I find quite puzzling.Divided into 3 zones, A,B and C . Depending on where you live, they take their school holidays at different times. Schooling starts from the age of 3, ecole maternelle, for a further 3 years until they go to ecole primaire. Next comes college in the teenage years and lycee for a further several years. I think ! Studying finally for the Bacalaureat, which is the final and most important stage. That and the famous “philo” ie philosophy. This is also compulsory to take whilst at lycee, and was first started in 1808. All very different to the British system. I do find that English is not very well taught in schools, and I have had both children and adults over the years coming to me for extra help. I am hoping to begin a new chapter of life in rural France, teaching English and also French lessons for English people. By the way, do the French do a gap. year? Never heard of it.

Maison Gainsbourg

la maison de serge gainsbourg

Listening to the radio recently, I learnt that the house in Paris that Serge Gainsbourg lived in with Jane Birkin and their two children, has now opened up as a museum. Situated on the Left Bank, 5 bis, rue de Verneuil is a famous address that has been in the family since Gainsbourg’s death. His daughter Charlotte has been planning its reopening for many years and now, not so long after her mother’s death, she has finally managed an enormous work to pay homage to her parents.

Full of treasures and incredible memories of when she as a child, with her step sister Kate, played on the floor of a sumptuous marbled living room with black walls and ceilings. Serge would be reading, his beloved bull terrier by his side, Jane playing on the floor with the children amidst paintings lying propped up on the furniture, and statues, one with a cauliflower head that was actually a seat. The piano taking over one side of the room, just ready for the maestro to play. He was apparently strict and obsessively neat , whereas Jane was the opposite, so she had separate rooms in the house just for her and her disorder. They lived there from 1969 to 1980. The outside is painted with photos of Gainsbourg and graffiti covers it with an almost wild abandon.

The museum is a marvellous insight into a little part of their history. Charlotte has carefully chosen to show all the elements that were just part of her daily life.
His gold cigarette lighter with a packet of Gauloises underneath, paintings of Brigitte Bardot, his previous love before Jane Birkin, and other numerous nudes, that when asked of daughter Charlotte what she thought, said it was just normal for her as a child and wasn’t offensive to her either. By the way, I realized that I have the same floor as their house. Distinctive square tiles with inter twined shapes of black triangles. On the other side of the road is “Gainsbarre” which was the name he became after Jane Birkin left him, and he descended into alcohol and excess. Here Charlotte has set up a bar and memorabilia of her parents with publicity photos and personal items from the house.

(Maison de Serge Gainsbourg YouTube)

A one hit wonder

born to be alive

Another subject came up at the local Cafe´whilst listening to the radio there. A singer called Patrick Hernandez, that I had always taken for as English. He sang a hit called ” Born to be Alive ” which was hugely popular in the 80’s. He is French though.
He sold millions of copies throughout the world and has won gold and platinum awards .
On an earlier world wide tour, he met a young Madonna, who was one of his back up dancers in his show. He would apparently, said the owner of the Cafe´,  promote Madonna into her fabulous career.

Monsieur Hernandez, is a producer today , still giving concerts entitled the Star 80’s with a lot of the singers from that era, and still making a lot of money from that one song all those years ago.
Last estimatiom, was 1,500 euros a day. Nice work !
(Born To Be Alive – Patrick Hernandez, Official Video)

October, 2023

That’s it for now.
Fifi’s stories from rural France

Fiona Alderman: Blogging from Rural France - Waiting for Godot
Fiona Alderman: Fetes Galore

This section: Fiona Alderman blogging from The Salignac Foundation France

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Avatar of PatByrne Publisher of Pat's Guide to Glasgow West End; the community guide to the West End of Glasgow. Fiction and non-fiction writer.

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