Chicken soup might have been a more appropriate photo for this post, but I don’t have any–soup or photos. Instead, I’m lying in bed, the lap top on my knees, eating a fried egg sandwich, drinking coffee and assembling a small mountain of tissues. Last week I thought it was allergies causing the irritating, throat tickling cough, but yesterday I started getting chills and this morning I woke up with no voice at all. Really, I don’t think it’s la grippe (the flu) but just a bad cold. I like the sound of grippe though–one of my newer French words. Sometimes when I think I’m making absolutely no progress in French, I make a mental list of words I know now that I didn’t know a year ago. Although I learn some in my weekly classes, I’ve aquired most of them through day-to-day activities.
Before I drove to Toulouse, for example, it seemed wise to check the oil in my car. OK, I know I should know how to do this myself, but I don’t so I drove to the mechanic in the next village, smiled sweetly and asked if he would ‘vérifier l’huile dans ma voiture.’ He did. “Manqué” he said and showed me the dipstick. This was not a word I’d met before and at first I didn’t know whether it was bon ou mauvais. The line on the dipstick seemed to suggest the latter–it was down a quart. I looked up manqué when I got back. Lack or shortage. A few days later, after I returned from Toulouse, a friend used the word in a different context. ‘Tu m’as manqué,’ he said. “I missed you.”
From trips to the post-office to send mail back to the states, I’ve learned ‘envoyer’ and, in the same context, ‘courrier’, mail. Pronouncing words that contain a double r is difficult for me even in English, in French it’s almost impossible. When all else fails, I write the word on a scrap of paper and hand it over. I used to mumble, ‘j’ecris’, ‘I write,’ but when I’m trying to pay for something and don’t understand the amount, the cashier will frequently say, ‘Marquer,’ and write down the numbers for me. Another word for my list.
I’ve thought of creating one of those word-a-day calendars for my adventures in French. After talking on the phone to my prospective landlady, we arranged to meet in person. She would, she said, be wearing a red gilet. Since I had no idea what a gilet was, this wasn’t particularly helpful, but she also said she’d be walking a brown and white King Charles spaniel which was a better clue. A gilet, it turns out, is a vest. At the Intermarché, my American credit card works at some checkstands, but, inexplicably, not at others. In order to explain this, I had to aquire the word ‘appareil.’
“Peu a peu,” my French teacher says, that’s how you learn. Little by little.
Now, I’m just hoping that the cold, or grippe, clears up and I don’t have to visit chez docteur for an ordonnance pour des antibiotiques.
Facebook entry: 2 fevrier
Where’s a camera when you need one? I almost always have my iPhone with me, yesterday I forgot it. Sitting at Rebecca’s kitchen table watching her cut up vegetables for dinner. She was about to tackle a rather large ball of celeriac when her husband arrived home from work. A quick exchange in French and he produces a large and slightly rusty saw, gives it a quick rinse in the sink, and sets to work on the celeriac–rubber work boots, jersey, cigarette between his teeth, bits of vegetable flying everywhere. Voila! Half a dozen slices ready for the pot.
Later Rebecca and I walked down to the cafe, drank wine and played pool. I sort of played pool, it’s not really my thing. The TV above the bar played Elton John’s greatest hits and when I wasn’t playing pool a man at the bar told me over and over and over, in English, that “Elton John is the best.” It was the only English he spoke. By the time I left, he was wearing the straw basket that had contained the bar snacks and dancing on a table. Friday night in Montpeyroux.