Fiona Alderman: A Letter from France – Fifi’s story

underwearColours have gender

The summer is over although we are now experiencing a delightful Indian summer, where the light is particularly soft and good for photography . I have been out and about with my camera capturing the last fetes and markets in Salignac. The local church has one called La Kermesse which is a typically rural affair, quite basic but fun for the children and even the oldies! One of the games was to put on as many clothes as possible in one minute, the winner is the one with the most. Two girls did this amidst a lot of laughter and falling about .I am always amused at the idiosyncrasies of the French language and love to learn all the twists and turns of phrase. Apart from words either being male or female , apparently even colours have gender too! We write about a green dress “une robe verte” which is feminine , to a blue pen “un stylo bleu” which is masculine, after that it gets very complicated with particular nuances of colour and exceptions to the rule with violette, mauve and rose . Oooh la la ! I was at another market this week, one that is so charming with what it sells from “granny ” type aprons and old fashioned underwear, to solid working shoes for the farmers and wives. It is a delight that these types of markets still exist in rural France.

The Big Ben and Retro

union jackI am a big fan of the retail firm called “Darty”. It used to have a slightly bad image , but it has certainly smartened itself up and we have had many purchases from them usually with free delivery . I recently bought a hi fi system from them called “Big Ben” with a Union Jack displayed on the lid , but I really bought it because it has a turntable! Yes , I am a vinyl freak and love to watch the records go round and round and even to turn them over is a real pleasure . Even the record covers please me with their great artwork, so I am now spinning my discs every night. Barry also bought me for my birthday a little telephone .

old phone However this is in the “retro” style with an old fashioned look and a circular dial with the digits on it . It is great fun! Where we used to turn the hole round to the right to make the number, on this one you push the button but it goes the other way round. A little confusing at first but I love it, even the ringing tone is funny! The French seem to have a thing about “zee Breetish” and their idea of us. Fancy t- shirts, handbags emblazoned with the Union Jack , and mobile phones equally adorned. Even “le look retro” with makeup like we used to wear in the 70’s is now being advertised on the tv. Everything comes around. It is alarming, and not one Scottish flag or otherwise to be seen. I think I will be getting out my kilt and waving a Scots flag very soon!

Dancing in France

dancersDuring the summer I was asked to teach a dance class at the local campsite “Le Temps de Vivre” run by charming French people and their two young daughters. This was a bit of a challenge. I never knew until the day who had signed up , and so had to be prepared for anything .One week I seemed to have everyone who didn’t know their left from their right foot , which was interesting, all very well in my own language but in French it is not always so simple. I taught various floor exercises to warm up, did simple stretching exercises, and sequences across the floor in two’s, finishing with I called ” Le Disco enchainement. ” To the music of Sam and Dave “A Soul Man” we did all the cheesy moves from that era and my youth. It was very popular. It was great to see so many smiling faces, a great tonic to start the day and I am starting a regular class soon in Salignac as there has already been some interest . Otherwise there is no Contemporary dance at all, simply tap, hip hop and African all seem to be the flavours of the month. I feel like a pioneer for this art form, just like Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham in the 1940’s in America did, by starting small and struggling for years and years. “I will survive” as the song says!

French quirks

To finish this months letter I would like to share with you some very amusing expressions and words. I wondered why they talk about “les petits pois ecossais? Scottish peas. And also “une douche ecossaise ” a Scottish shower. A French friend said kindly that maybe we have a reputation as being cold (the weather) and “stingy.” I am not sure he wasn’t winding me up! I recently had some visiting cards made up for teaching English classes and called it ” La plume de ma tante” thinking of that irrelevant phrase we all learnt at school. However on “Googling” this phrase it comes up with it being a hit song in the 50’s and even a Broadway musical. Two men by the name of Hugo and Luigi are on YouTube with, I warn you a very catchy melody. We played this to some friends at the Cafe recently and they were totally captivated! We managed to tell them something even they didn’t know for once. I also heard of a slang expression for vaginas , which is certainly not an everyday one to use. In a Parisian cafe, the waiters call to the male clients “ca va les moules” Moules normally known as mussels, delicate non?

Well that is all for now, catch you next month for another “Letter from France”.

Vive la France et vive l’Ecosse,

Fiona Alderman (Fifi’s story) Salignac Eyvigues (c) France.

28th September 2013.

Fiona Alderman with more news from the Dordogne
A Letter from France - Fifi's story - Fiona Alderman

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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