Added on Sunday 21 Mar 2004
I would never have thought that the antics of two brothers in 1783 would impinge on my life some 293 years ago in sleepy Salignac. The two were the Montgolfier Brothers, who had the crazed idea of lighting a fire underneath what was essentially a very large paper bag and trying to fly this contraption over Versailles.
Surprisingly, this crazy idea was successful and new words entered the French language, gonflier and gonflage, meaning to blow up or inflate. These words are in common usage today when I go to the garage to blow up the tyres on my car, for example. The reason that I mention this is because the other week I woke up to find that, after a night of some discomfort in my groin area, I woke up to find that a particular part of my male anatomy - the bits that are often likened to walnuts! - had swollen to several times the normal size. As you may imagine the pain was intense and excruciating. This prompted my first foray into the French medical system since I came here four years ago as Fiona called the doctor.
When the doctor came and examined the offending item he pronounced that I had an infection and severe gonflage. That bit, at least, I knew! Prescribing various antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs he left with the warning that if it had not started to improve with 4/5 days I would need to see a specialist at the hospital. Leaving me in pain and my thoughts, I began to contemplate about the legacy that those brothers left behind.
As I write this some 5 days later, sitting in slight discomfort as you may imagine, I am glad to say that I am not seeking the services of the specialist just yet as all the medication slowly begins to take effect. While lying in my sickbed feeling very sorry for myself the thought occurred that Michelin may require a new model for their advertising but I tired of that idea! Our cat, Fifi, sadly did not realise the gravity of the situation and jumped on the offending part one morning, thereby setting back my recovery by at least a day. This caused much multi-lingual cursing and general blue language and the cat was banished from the bedroom for the duration. The cat is now miffed and I wish that I had a puncture!
A well-meaning friend of ours recently gave our friend; Alain, a laptop computer and we were charged with giving him some instruction, which we were more than willing to do. In the process of doing so, we have found one or two pitfalls in this simple request. Alain does not understand English and the computer, having come with all English software has a qwerty keyboard, French keyboards are different, Alain is impatient, though keen to learn, Alain also comes for lessons after a session in the local caf?! All this has combined to make the whole thing rather complicated, albeit hilarious and frustrating all at the same time.
I have tried to make the laptop multi-lingual and simplify it as much as possible but there are occasions when we feel that it is an uphill struggle! The next big test will be when we get him connected to the Internet as Alain has the tendency to argue with a brick wall and whenever something comes up on the screen he will disagree with the spelling, grammar or content as though as if it is my fault. Poking the screen in between glasses of wine seems to be his favourite way of expressing disgust at his impatience, which he will not admit to. At least he has not spilt any wine over the keyboard so far. It does, however, make for some interesting evenings even though it leaves Fiona and I totally exhausted by the time he wobbles his way out of the house.
It is now some months ago that The Salignac Foundation was asked to provide a quote for training technicians in Iraq. Who would have thought that such a small organisation such as us would be asked? But there you are, Salignac has hit the mark somewhere. Because of the fact that no decision has been made as yet and with the political and security issues involved, the longer this goes on the less inclined I feel that we should continue in this direction. Perhaps it would be better for us to concentrate on doing our courses and workshops here in Salignac. At least I know that I will not get shot at when I go up the road to the caf?. Meanwhile Fiona has had an enquiry from Italy to go and teach there - that again is a bit up in the air while we wait to see what happens in that direction.
All the time the lure for me at least, is the springtime and coming summer in Salignac with all it's parochial ways and hopefully some film and dance students as well as some film work. At the moment the village is just about to start coming alive again; some of the blossoms on the trees taking a wee peek out, flowerboxes are refreshed with some amazing colours, Fifi's first ever spring, good friends about - friends from all walks of life and many countries, Switzerland, Ireland, France, Scotland, Wales, Belgium and even England.
Of course, I miss Scotland and The West End of Glasgow as that is where my roots are - although the grey, dreich days in Byres Road I can live without but having spent half my working life in foreign parts I am used to being "abroad" - Iraq? I think not, after all, I have sore noix!
The one thing is for sure; I shall never go into a garage again to check my tyre pressures without remembering the Montgolfier Brothers. Strange that?
Rural France - I love it.
? Barry Paton. Mar 2004