En mai, fais ce qu’il te plaît

“In May, do as you please.”

Of all the weather-related French proverbs, this one is my favourite. It is perfectly aligned with the beginning of the month that kicks off the holiday season. What I love most about May is that it starts the way it intends to continue.

May 1st is a public holiday in France. as we celebrate Labour Day by doing…

Nothing. What better way to honour work than by avoiding it? Seriously, since I first posted my critique about May day or the ‘Fête du Travail’ (faites du travail!), my sentiments have changed somewhat. Now I gratefully accept every holiday on offer and enjoy every minute of it.

So I’m going to do as I please today. Mostly.

It is still a little cool to be out on the lake with my paddle, but in just a few short weeks the weather should be warm enough to dip our toes in.

Today will start with a yoga class with friends and then we’ll head down to our favourite restaurant by the water and – hopefully – sit in the sun on the terrace as we eat the season’s first ‘filets de perches’ from Lake Geneva.

Then I’ll come back home and do a bit of work as, sadly, my clients on the Swiss side are too industrious to celebrate Labour Day.

Do you celebrate the first of May? What’s your preferred way to spend it?

Mayday, m’aider!

Did you know that the expression ‘mayday’ used as a distress signal comes from French? I did not, although I speak the language and have lived in this country for over twenty years.

Amazing what you learn watching television. I was glued to the news last night watching reports of the Germanwings plane crash in the southern French Alps. A former commercial pilot being interviewed on France 2 says that the mystery of this crash is the fact that there was no call of ‘Mayday, mayday, mayday’ – which must be repeated three times according to international protocol. And suddenly it clicks. Mayday is ‘m’aider’ – meaning ‘help me’ in the formal or infinitive form of the verb.

Like you, I am horrified by this crash. The loss of innocent life, the tragic fate of 150 people who took off for a short-haul flight from Barcelona to Dusseldorf on Tuesday morning. Something that low-cost travel has made almost like a taking a bus for many Europeans today.

It is all the more shocking considering that the flight was operated by Germanwings, a low-cost affiliate of Lufthansa, one of the world’s safest and most technically reliable airlines.

Perhaps because it has happened here in France, I find myself obsessing about that 8-minute descent into oblivion. The strange trajectory of the crash into the worst possible mountainous region. The gut-wrenching fear of the passengers, the impossible news for the families, the courage of the crews who must sift through the debris for bodies at 1500 meters near Seynes-les-Alpes.

Like many, I’ve considered the possibility that it could be an act of terror. Suicide or a medical emergency is now looking likely with the discovery that one of the pilots was locked out of the cockpit just before the crash.

My thoughts are with the victims and their families, the hundreds of police and investigators trying to recover the bodies on treacherous terrain at high altitude.

And for anyone who has to get on a plane knowing that their worst fears could be just a ‘mayday’ away.