Autour du lac

A month ago this blogger was steaming like a microwave ready meal.

Summer – long awaited, much anticipated and gloriously welcome – came upon us in June with an inferno blast that lasted until mid-July. After that things got spotty weather-wise, with alternating days of clouds and cooler air interspersed with sweltering waves. Now, at last, I sense a change in the air. It’s still summer, but we are over the hump and heading towards those golden late summer days.

Hot weather is all very well if you’re on holiday. After all these years in France, a land where most people distrust air conditioning, I’ve learned to live without A/C for those weeks when the ‘mercure’ rises beyond my comfort zone.

It’s work that’s the problem. My get-up-and-go gets up and evaporates at plus 30 degrees Celsius. So I decided, quite simply, to ease up. My clients cooperated by slowing down the orders. And somehow my blogging break turned from two weeks into five.

It’s been wonderful! I’d been feeling in a bit of a rut for awhile blog-wise, so the break was most welcome. I stepped back, stared at the sky, reorganized my closets, worked on my memoir (more on that later) and set myself a few different goals.

One was to go to the lake more. I realized after a month of summer that I hadn’t once dipped my toes in the lake. We are lucky to have a pool at our house, and to live in an area of mountains and lakes very close to Lac Léman (Lake Geneva). When it’s really hot it’s just too easy to cool off in the pool. But the experience of swimming in the soft water of a lake is completely different, soul soothing, and one of my absolute favourite things.

So I set myself a challenge to go there every day and swim or just savour a moment by the water’s edge. It has pushed me to discover every ‘beach’ in our area (in French, ‘la plage’ is often a grassy stretch of a swimming area by the lake). New to Instagram, I decided to post a picture by the lake every day for a month. If you’re interested, you can follow my doings here.

Another was to try stand-up paddle again. I managed to get up on a board twice on Lake Annecy. Husband even joined me the second time, and for a newbie did rather well (he’s atrociously fit), only falling in twice.

And, just recently, I celebrated a bit of a milestone birthday. Which probably explains why I feel like reconnecting with my inner child. The one who loved nothing more than the barefoot freedom of summers by the lake.

So that’s my summer so far. How’s yours been? I’ve missed you guys!

 

Blogus interruptus

As the sun sinks slowly in the west, we find our heroine melting in a puddle of perspiration. Will she cool off with her paramour on a beach somewhere? Drown her sorrows in a bucket of champagne? Or disappear into a shady corner of the garden and hibernate until winter?

Stay tuned for further adventures of life in France when temperatures return to normal…

Bonnes vacances à tous!

 

Canada 150

My home and native land is celebrating a special birthday this week. July 1st marks 150 years since the confederation of Canada in 1867. Although I’m feeling sad not to be there for the event, I still remember the party we had 50 years ago.

The summer of 1967 marked a lot of milestones for me. Perhaps it was the first time I became aware that ours was a bilingual country. At school we all learned a special song to celebrate Canada’s 100th birthday. There were English and French versions, and each had some of the other’s lyrics so we had to sing a bit in French.

The province of Ontario also did its own song for the centennial, ‘Give us a place to stand’. Now it seems they’ve done a remake for the 150th. A lot of people seem to be offended by that, but I’m just glad to be from a country that has groups with names like Ginger Ale and the Monowhales.

It was also the summer I turned ten. My grandmother took me to see Expo ’67 in Montreal. That was a big deal too, my first time in French-speaking Canada and the first trip without my parents (if memory serves, which it may not as it was all a very long time ago).

A lot has changed since then. In 1967 we sung about being 20 million strong. Now we’ve grown to over 35 million. Back then the concept of Canada as a multicultural mosaic vs. the melting pot of the USA was new; now it’s part of who we are. Back then we were much more aware of our French and British roots. We didn’t have much of a sense of our country as having its own identity, or wave either of our flags. Perhaps the centennial celebrations helped change all that.

What hasn’t changed? Well, we still have a leader called Trudeau. Who can rival Macron for being young and hot, as leaders go.

I am not going to pretend to know anything much about Canada’s current politics,  but I have been along for the ride during the last half century. And although the most recent years have been in France, Canada still feels very much like my homeland. Mon pays.

How can you tell? I’ve posted before about feeling pulled into two directions as a dual citizen. But it comes down to a few simple things:

I apologize a lot.

But never for the fact that beer is my favourite drink.

When the temperature drops, I feel happy.

When it freezes, I can’t wait to get my skates on.

When it snows, I still light the barbecue.

I believe that everyone has a right to healthcare.

And I can’t help but clap when the plane lands.

Happy Canada Day, eh?

 

24 heures

Laumaillé

“Quelle heure est-il?”

If there’s one question you will often hear in France, it’s “What time is it?”. Or more likely the informal construction, which breaks all the rules you are taught but is most commonly used: “Quelle heure il est?”

One of the frustrations I encountered when first moving here was the 24-hour clock. I discovered the French use the military time that I’d only heard before as a kid watching TV shows like Hogan’s Heroes and Mash, where they would say ‘Oh-seven-hundred hours, sir!’ for 7:00 a.m. The French use this clock not just in airports and train stations but all the time.

For non-native speakers, this requires some mental gymnastics. First you have to convert the 12-hour time clock we English speakers normally use into the 24-hour version. Alors…7 p.m. becomes 19:00, dix-neuf heures. Ten-thirty becomes 22:30, vingt-deux heures trente. That’s way too much math for me. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m numerically challenged, and the part of my brain that does language doesn’t like to do business with the part that counts.

“But it’s much less confusing than your a.m. and p.m.,” a French colleague said. “Half the time you English speakers forget to add it and we don’t know exactly what time you mean.” Ah, the French love of precision.

However, when you finally get the 24-hour clock down, you discover that although it is the rule, there are often exceptions. Sometimes people will simply say ‘une heure et demi’ for one-thirty in the afternoon. You are supposed to contextually understand that they don’t mean 1:30 a.m. Which I get, but hey, if it’s all about being precise…?

I love digital clocks because they do half the work for you. On the other hand, the clock in the above image known as the cadran Laumaillé in Toulouse makes telling the time especially challenging. There seems to be some mystery around its orgins (perhaps our Toulousaine friend Mélanie of My Virtual Playground can help us with that?)

My relationship with time is strained at the best of times. The big time clock in the sky casts its shadow on my daily doings, making me perpetually stressed and late for lack of time or causing me to over compensate by being early. My assumption that the French would be very Latin and fashionably late proved wrong from the outset.

While my compatriots have a way of seeming all casual and relaxed about time, they are irritatingly prompt for things like meetings and events. I’ve been known to arrive ten minutes late and miss entire speeches. The upside is I’m usually just in time for the drinks.

What’s your relationship with time? Do you use the 24-hour clock?

Bon vivant

“I think I am a good liver,” a French friend recently confided.

“You mean you have a good liver?” I suggested.

“No, I am a good liver. Un bon vivant.”

Well, that is true. He lives well, enjoys the finer things, and seems to truly enjoy whatever he does. And his English is good enough that I knew he didn’t need me to tell him that we don’t say ‘liver’ in that way. He had made his point.

It made me think. I often worry about my liver: I enjoy wine and beer too much for my own good. So I’ll cut back for a few days. Feel healthy, and go back to my old ways.

But do I worry enough about being a ‘good liver’? About enjoying life in every sense, living not just for tomorrow but today? Not even today but now?

I must admit that we have so many ways to enjoy that present moment in France. Not just around the table, or during the traditional ‘apéro’: there is a culture in this country of stopping to smell the roses, or at least enjoy ‘un petit noir’ at a café table, of savouring each change of season. We take holidays. Turn off our phones and other media (although not as often as we should).

But still. I know I focus way too much on my to-do list. Getting things done. Getting stuff. Not making enough new memories. Going off the path to try something different. Living in l’instant présent.

Come to think of it, my friend’s translation is probably closer to the expression: ‘bon viveur‘. As in so many other examples in our two languages, English borrowed from the French to create an expression and give it a whole meaning of its own: not just one who enjoys life, but one who overindulges in its finer things.

Perhaps one really does need a good liver to be a ‘bon vivant’. It certainly helps if you live in France. I suppose that’s why liver detox diets and tips to re-energize this vital organ abound on the French web: drinking rosemary tea, lemon juice and coffee; eating foods rich in antioxidants; avoiding chocolate, cheese and alcohol long enough to allow the liver to regenerate.

Et toi? Are you a good liver?