Le Canard enchaîné

How a Chained Duck keeps France on its toes.

I don’t read the newspaper but if I did it would be Le Canard Enchaîné.

The investigative weekly first appeared in Paris in 1915. It was founded during World War I by a couple of French journalists, Maurice and Jeanne Maréchal, to help keep up moral in France. More than 100 years later the newspaper is still going strong, despite the slow demise of print media everywhere.

The title ‘Le Canard Enchaîné’ is a play on words taken from ‘canard’ (duck) which is also slang for a newspaper or what in English we might call a ‘rag’, and ‘enchaîné’ which means chained or linked. The Chained Duck has been quacking its revealing stories and satirical cartoons about the French political and business class for decades. The paper is said to have our leaders quaking in their boots. De Gaulle was known to regularly ask: “What has the bird got to say?”

Stop the press: You don’t read the paper? How do you keep yourself informed about what is really going on? I admire people who take the time to read the paper. The level of information you can get from a decent newspaper is far superior to anything available on the web, via radio or television.

France is a country with a lot of newspapers. Major dailies include Le Monde, Le Figaro, Libération, Les Echos, L’Equipe…to name but a few of the national editions. Alongside these are many respected regional papers: Ouest France, La Voix du Nord, La Dépêche du Midi. The list goes on, along with many local journals and the free press (meaning the papers that are distributed for free to commuters, not necessarily ‘free’ editorially).

The Canard ensures its editorial independence by the fact that it takes no ads and is privately owned, mostly by its own employees. The newspaper practices old-school journalism, relying primarily on leaks from sources from within the government. It is available only in print in France and digitally outside of Europe.

The latest edition of the Canard features stories about shootings in Trumpland, Brexit woes and the ongoing saga of the Notre Dame renovations. The latter story has been in the news this week following revelations of extensive lead pollution resulting from the fire in the cathedral and in the surrounding streets, posing a risk to both local residents and workers. The complexity of securing the site in order to begin the renovations has proven more challenging than first imagined and it is looking like the promised timeline will not be respected. In the meantime, traditionalists and modernists debate over whether to rebuild the structure with the exact same materials, i.e. oak beams, or something more fireproof.

A suivre.

Et toi? Do you read a daily or weekly newspaper?

Objets perdus

Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash

I hate losing things.

The thing is, most of the time, 99% perhaps, they are not lost. Just misplaced.

My husband is perfectly fine with this. After a few minutes of irritation and rapid searching, he gives up. It’s like he lives his life according to what is possibly the world’s first meme:

“If you love something, set it free.
If it comes back, it is yours;
if it doesn’t, it never was.”

Quote: Richard Bach, author of the 1970s novel ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull’.

I, on the other hand, drive myself and those around me mad by embarking on a relentless search. Retracing steps. Picturing the object the last time I saw it. Not resting until I have exhausted every possible avenue of investigation that may lead me back to the thing.

“How do you say, ‘lost and found’ in French?” I asked my husband, when I first tried to retrace a lost object in Paris.

“Objets perdus,” he said. “Or, objets trouvés.” Hmm, I wondered. Which is it? The yin or the yang?

Last week, when I lost my very expensive glasses — the ones with the Alain Mikli frames and the progressive lenses that go dark in the sun — on a trip to Annecy, I left no stone unturned. Searched the car, various bags, called the restaurant where we’d had lunch. Emailed them a reminder. Called the stand-up paddle rental place. They all replied kindly and with patience that sadly, no glasses had been found. Rien.

Heart heavy, I realized that acceptance was probably the best approach.

Yet secretly I began to think about getting new ones. They are my working glasses after all, the only pair that lets me comfortably see my computer screen while reading close up, standing up and walking around. Oh, and if somebody comes to the door, as it happens fairly often, my eyes don’t tear up as they normally do in the sun.

“Wait for a while,” advised my husband. “They may turn up yet. Besides, they are very expensive!” He even volunteered to look for them again. Then forgot all about it.

Granted, he loses things a lot more often than I do. His wallet on our honeymoon, his wedding ring while repainting our first apartment, his keys more times than I can remember. He worries less, manages fine without. Is generally happier. I wish I could be more like that.

Years ago, on a return flight from Croatia, his suitcase vanished into some lost-luggage vortex. It was a smart little Samsonite that I’d bought, and it contained all of his best casual clothes. They never found it. If memory serves, we got $200 compensation. I am still in mourning for one particular summer shirt.

It is the lost part of the thing that upsets me. There is no closure. And let’s face it, is there anything sadder than a single sock? Anything more useless than a key untraceable to its lock? One lone earring, bereft of its mate, leaves me longing for my lost youth. Lost luggage makes me grieve for the perfect items that will never be replaced. Knowing it is out there, somewhere, of virtually no value to anyone but me.

I suppose this means I should work on something that in yoga we call attachment. To be happy, we must strive for non-attachment, which frees us to experience the world in a deeper, more fulfilling way. I am far too attached to things and to my creature comforts in general. I know this to be true. And yet. How wonderful is it to be able to see the world through a comfortable pair of glasses?

The best part of losing things is finding them again. The joy I felt when my glasses turned up yesterday, wedged in their black case in a corner pocket of the trunk, was like a redemption.

All is not lost.

Everything is possible.

Namaste.

P.S. What is the most memorable thing you have ever lost or found?

Feature photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash

Encore!

Photo by Wil Stewart on Unsplash

Encore is one of those words that we borrow from French to mean one specific thing in English: a repeated or additional performance at the end of a concert, as called for by an audience, or a curtain call.

As with many things, in French it is so much more. ‘Encore’ can be used to say again, another, more, even or still. I used to get it mixed up with ‘toujours’ which means always or still. I suppose the meanings sort of overlap — if you still want more of something it is as if you want it always.

I was thinking about the things that I still and always want more of. I am grateful for these things, big and small, that get me out of bed early in the day. For the past few months I’d been feeling a bit rudderless, disoriented, lacking a sense of purpose. And then, a few days ago it returned. My get up and go came back for an encore. And this makes me very happy indeed.

So here I go with a little post about some of the little things in life that I can’t get enough of. Not all of them are French. But thankfully all are available to me here.

Here they are…in no particular order or hierarchy (seriously, beer and nature in the same list? Obviously one is far more important!)

La bière

Preferably draft but I’ll take bottled as long as it’s cold. My French favourite is 1664, colloquially called just ‘Seize’. But I’m not fussy. The Moretti at our local pizza place is great. I loved the Sagrès beer in Portugal. It is a bit of a faux pas in France but I have been known to turn down champagne at family gatherings and ask for beer instead. And when it comes to me and my hops, “Encore une?” or “Another?” is usually a rhetorical question.

Les séries télévisées

With the advent of Netflix, Amazon Prime and various other sources of online content, I have no lack of access to worldwide entertainment chez moi. Funnily enough, this has opened my eyes to French TV series that I would have otherwise missed on live broadcast, like my much-loved ‘Dix pour cent’ — Call My Agent in English. This week I’ve switched gears from dramedy and am watching a riveting US cop drama called Seven Seconds. Next week a rare treat: the new season of a hilarious Canadian show called Working Moms.

La lecture

I am a lifelong bookworm and always have at least one novel on the go. Thankfully I have a couple of wonderful friends near enough to share books and who help keep me supplied in a wonderful line-up of fiction. (Merci Anna et Rodica!) Above are the ones currently on my night table. The one about plot (which I got online) is the best book I’ve read yet on how to construct great stories.

L’écriture

I have worked as a writer most of my life, but I am still learning. Lately I’ve been struggling to structure a novel. Hence the above book. Storytelling is a subject of endless learning and I am truly excited about what I have recently learned. Now to put it into practice. Hopefully one of these days I will have a book to share with you. A suivre!

Creative Commons

Le pain

I’ve posted before about my love of bread, here and here. Lucky for me I live in a country of bakers. I do try to watch my carbs but there are no paleo diets in this Frenchwoman’s future.

Le fromage

Lucky for me I also live in a country of cheese makers! I could live happily enough as a vegetarian but not as a vegan. Cheese is just too, too wonderful. My favourites are creamy goat’s cheese and the cow’s milk ones, ‘à pâte dure’, aka hard cheeses: Comté, Gruyère, Beaufort.

Les oeufs

Eggs to me are the perfect food. They are so versatile, so practical, and they marry so well with le fromage.

Le chocolat

What can I say? Life is short. I’ve developed a mild addiction to this stuff. Dark but with a sweet side and those little flecks of sea salt!

Le sport

Fortunately for my cholesterol count, I actually like to work out. No marathons, I hasten to add. Or even 10k’s. But I do like to work up a sweat doing some form of cardio or weight training a few times a week. I also love to walk and swim. I also hit the yoga mat (although you will never see me in one of those impossible gazelle-like poses). When it comes to exercise, I do a little a lot, mostly because it makes me feel good.

La nature

Like many French people, I can’t imagine a life that doesn’t involve getting outside each day, preferably walking near woods and fields and with a lake not too far. The skies and the changing seasons are a constant source of inspiration. We are fortunate to live in a place where nature is never very far. Let’s hope that we continue to be able to enjoy for generations to come.

L’eau

If I had to choose a favourite element or a geographical feature, it would be water. We live near mountains, which are beautiful, but there is nothing as calming for me as looking out at water. There is also nothing like swimming in a lake, even if it’s a bit cool. I also love to drink water, even just plain old tap water. J’ai soif!

Orsay clock

Le temps

By this I do not mean the weather, although ‘le temps’ also means that. I mean time. Ah, precious time. Managing it, making the most of it, wasting it…time is my personal bugbear. I can never get enough of it and I haven’t yet found the secret to making it my friend. But I’m working on it.

Encore!

What do you want more of?

Le yaourt

If you think cheese is the biggest staple of the French diet, think again. Here in France, le yaourt (yah-OOrt) is consumed morning, noon and night. Either for breakfast, as a dessert at lunch or dinner, and even as a snack, although probably not more than once or twice a day at most.

The variety of yoghurts on offer was one of the biggest differences I noticed when we moved to France. The category takes up an entire aisle in the grocery store – both sides. Strictly speaking, however, this part of the dairy section offers not just yoghurt but other ‘produits laitiers’ (dairy products) and alternative desserts from soy and lactose-free vegetal sources.

Another difference is that yoghurt in France is almost exclusively sold in individual servings — pots de yaourt — rather than the family-size containers in North America.

yaourt

French yoghurt is traditionally made from cow’s milk. You will also find variations made with goat’s milk (chèvre) and sheep’s milk (brebis). Sheep’s milk yoghurts are most often referred to as Greek-style or ‘à la grecque’ (although not all so-called ‘Greek’ yoghurts are made of sheep’s milk). The best ones are thicker and more sour-tasting (my favourite — yum!). Most varieties of yoghurts also come in non-fat or ‘0%’ versions, accounting for its own section on the dairy aisle.

The French also enjoy ‘fromage blanc’: literally ‘white cheese’ or quark, which is similar to ricotta or cottage cheese but without any visible curd. It belongs to a family of fresh cheeses that are similar to yoghurt such as faisselle and the thicker, richer petit suisse. Fromage blanc is often served for dessert with fruit compote or a simple spoonful of sugar. In restaurants, it sometimes comes in a little puddle of crème fraîche.

In France, yoghurt must adhere to strict regulatory guidelines in order to be labelled as such. It is made of milk that is fermented by two types of bacteria: lactobacillus bulgaricus and streptococcus thermophilus. While they sound less than appealing, those are the little guys that do all the work for our gut by pre-digesting the milk proteins and making them more easily assimilated in the body. (More details in French here: https://www.europe1.fr/societe/le-yaourt-est-il-vraiment-si-bon-pour-la-sante-3625073)

Yoghurt is undeniably a key part of the diet here. French kids don’t drink milk, or at least not much. They get their calcium from yoghurt and cheese. My kids grew up and thrived on a steady diet of yoghurt and petits suisses.

Now my daughter is vegan, and I have recently discovered some tasty dairy alternatives made with almonds (not great for the planet, but alas…). I am not a fan of soy, but I do support dairy alternatives for dietary and moral reasons that each of us must decide for ourselves. Clearly, it is a trendy new category taking up more space in French dairy cases.

As for me, I am a die-hard yoghurt fan. Each morning, I have a plain, probiotic yoghurt for breakfast with fruit and nuts. My evening indulgences often include a Greek-style low-fat yogurt with a bit of fruit or honey. Unless, of course, I go for ice cream. But that’s another story!

How do you like your yoghurt – or not?

Le best of

One of the most overused and mispronounced English expressions I hear right now in the French media is ‘best of’.  Literally this translates in French as ‘meilleur de’ which strikes me as a perfectly acceptable French phrase. So why use the English? Like so many examples of franglais, this remains a mystery.

In summer and over the year-end holidays, all the major networks and radio stations run ‘best of’ programs – essentially repeats of the most memorable moments from live shows broadcast during the year. The expression can be found in everything from publishing to fast food menus.

As you know in France the year runs from September to June, just like the school calendar.

I suppose the news and entertainment media are entitled to a summer vacation just like the rest of us. Also, they need some time to prepare the new line-up that will start in September when we all rush back to school and work. Still, it seems a little slack to simply repackage content that is déjà vu and rerun it for July and August.

But as the saying goes, when in Rome…

This summer I am inspired to do as the French do with my own blog ‘best of’. So I’ll repost some old favourites as well as link to fellow bloggers’ best-loved pieces. While adding new posts as the spirit moves me.

I’ll start my ‘Best of’ with a throwback to this post about franglais from my early days of FranceSays. Check out the video of former prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin trying to use English to make a point in a campaign speech. It was a source of razzing and ridicule that carried my favourite French puppets, Les Guignols, now sadly defunct, through many a sketch.

Parlez-vous franglais?

Note that the French say ‘best off’. This makes me smile as it seems somehow appropriate: everyone is ‘off’ on holiday. Perhaps even at their best when off on holiday. In that case, I’d best be off!

Do you have a ‘best of’ example of franglais?