Fiona Alderman: Summer Stories from Salignac
A very hot spell here with temperatures reaching 40 degrees at one point, it has been a bit overwhelming.
This past month we have had a lot of technical problems,which proved time consuming as well as annoying. We first discovered something amiss with one of our bank accounts with several unknown withdrawals. It was a fraud and I went to the local bank to report it.
The card had to be changed and a report made to the police before filling in a complaint form for the local police. This has to be done online on a Government site called P.E.R.C.E.V.A.L for short. What happens if you don’t have a computer I say?
I struggled for several days with it and being a French site it is always complicated. I went back to the bank to say I couldn’t do it and she says Ah oui nous aussi meaning she didn’t know either!
I persevered and finally did it and then the computer crashed so I couldn’t print the receipt out. No wonder I resorted to having a glass of wine!
I remember years ago when the bank had a break in and the hole in the wall was smashed leaving an even bigger hole.Someone had come during the night, bashed the wall and drilled the machine out, hauling it over the square.The police came down our road a few days late asking all the neighbours had they heard anything unusual at 2am? No. We heard later it had been some local boys but as it had been a weekend the coffers had been already cleared.
As usual here in rural France they do things differently or not at all. We have had workmen problems too. A lot of high maintenance French spoken with the usual cigarette hanging out the side of the mouth, a lot of pursing of the lips and difficile et merde used to show they might be able to actually do the work. But when I ask?
We needed our cellar floor leveled up, quite a job we knew, but that turned out not to be possible, so we wait for another estimate.We wanted our kitchen/living space painted too and a neighbour said he could do it. He is a painter and has done work here locally. He started but hasn’t finished it.
I phoned him to ask when he was coming and he said Friday. Here we have to ask which Friday and which year! We are still waiting.
A Very French Pastime
Watching a young family playing petanque on the village square,we were delighted to see a very typical game in France set in a beautiful setting. The word petanque comes from the Occitan language of Provence in the early 1900’s, and means feet planted on the ground.
It conjures up lazy summer days amongst friends and family, the sound of the balls clicking on each other and the “rivalry” between the teams. Then celebrating with a pastis or two – how French is that?
A young man named Jules Lenoir, it is said in 1910 was first to play the game when he had an attack of rheumatism and couldn’t run to throw the ball. He and a friend from the local cafe devised the now standard stance in a circle with the feet together.
The circle, which has to be 50cm inside diameter, was originally just scratched on the ground, now we see a portable red plastic ring used mostly in tournaments.
The jack or cochonnet in French is the small wooden ball first thrown high up in the air and then three silver ones in each team are subsequently thrown. The object is to score the most points getting the nearest to the jack who will be the winner.All quite complicated and lots of rules how to play it. There are different ways of throwing the boules, including holding it from behind in a downwards palm and then an underarm swing with quick twist of the wrist, it is very skilful. A measuring tape is also used to really check how near the target ball is, and there is a lot of Gallic discussion concerning this!
Now an International sport, played in large open spaces, it hasn’t quite got the charm that we have just seen in a quiet rural village in France.
The Feather of My Aunt
An unusual title you might ask yourself? I give English classes here and call it La Plume de ma Tante meaning my Aunt’s pen, which I learnt at school in our French lessons. I thought it would be a funny title and a good source of discussion for students.I have never used or heard a French person using this phrase by the way!
However I saw this translation on the local directory of services and noticed how the French had translated the plume into feather. Not correct really.
Another good one is mon oncle d’Amerique, literally my uncle from America. What is it about all these aunts and uncles?
This is a strange one. A man who has emigrated to the USA, becomes very rich and when he dies he leaves a large sum of money to his family.This is called an unexpected heritage. Someone that maybe everyone dreams of having.
Well,I shall leave you with this thought.Until the next time, from sunny days in rural France.
July 2019. www.salignacfoundation.com Dance and film courses in SW France.
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