Friday, October 28, 2016

Another Friday, Still in Bordeaux, and Five More "Things"

I'm feeling a bit impatient with myself around what's happening on the blog lately. I'm stuck in reportorial mood, it seems to me, when part of me is itching to become a bit more analytical, perhaps even move to the confessional (not as in sins, just as in exploring, thinking out loud) -- and I think I'm even getting ready to try linking back home, making more connections than I've been wont to so far this trip.

At the moment, I haven't sorted a rhythm to make that happen, but having identified the impatience, I think I'll get there over the next week or so. More words, less images perhaps. Not quite sure yet. Meanwhile, you're all so wonderfully supportive and patient, and on the days when I wonder if I should just quit, I'll read a comment that convinces me otherwise. Thank you SO!

Also meanwhile, for now I'll just post a Five Things Friday again, if you don't mind, and start clearing space in my head, time in my day, for delving a bit more deeply, or at least differently, in the next few weeks...

So. Counting:
1.  Thanks to Netflix, we've been watching Un Village Français with the French subtitles. Being able to read what I'm hearing is immensely useful to my development of aural comprehension, especially given my (slight to moderate) hearing impairment. The series was developed under the guidance of a French historian, Jean-Pierre Azéma, and although we're only 5 or 6 episodes in now, we're finding it devastatingly realistic. Very well written, thoughtfully cast, powerfully acted.

And for something lighter that also keeps our ears working in French, we follow an episode of  UVF with one of La Vie Devant Elles, about the lives of three young women after the deaths of their fathers in a mining accident. Despite the tragic opening, the episodes we've seen so far (again, about 5) are lively and engaging and full of the colour, music, and style of mid-70s France as women begin to flex their newly emerging feminist muscles. Smart programming, I'd say, appealing to the sizeable Boomer population who lived this period and their kids -- especially daughters -- who might be able to relate to the three strong female protagonists.

2.  This might be something I think more about in one of those extended posts I'm hoping to tackle, but for now just let me say that this time together, away from family and friends and new home whose packing boxes still need tending to, tough as it is in some ways (we do miss the grands!!), is so important to our marriage. Something about just walking together, no particular goal yet so much to slow down and admire, plenty of cultural possibilities to schedule time around but also much time to luxuriate in simple domesticity, enhanced by the exoticism of travel. . .
Even just taking a selfie together. . . really doesn't happen at home!
3. Another simple pleasure, and we're back to language acquisition again, is simply picking up phrases here and there, hearing them often enough to feel confident using them ourselves. For example, I've become very good at always calling out "Merci, bonne journée," when I leave a shop (sometimes, "Merci, Au revoir, Bonne journée"), but today I learned that you can sometimes take a shortcut. When I gave the usual mouthful as I left a tea shop with my bag of English Breakfast this morning, the young vendeuse answered "Également" (literally, "equally," so more like "Same to you") after my "bonne journée" had followed our reciprocal "Au revoirs." I haven't used this myself yet, but I will. (Just as I've recently found opportunities to use the idiomatic "C'est parti" after hearing it on the teleseries Détective(s))

I know, it sounds like too much, but it's basic courtesy here, and I'm beginning to really appreciate the social space it clears. Even when you walk into a Café that's completely new to you, even if it's well peopled with folk you don't know,  you do well to catch the proprietor's/server's eye and sing out a quick "Bonjour" or "Bon soir." If you're too shy or you forget, you might, like me, feel a hint of rebuke when the server gets there first with a "Bonjour M'sieu-Dame". . .  But if you can get yourself into the habit, well, you might just have a moment here and there where you feel a little pat on the back, from your home self to your French-wannabe self. . .

4. Stonework. Simple Beauty. Lessons about Regularity and Repetition and the Reassurance of Order. (keeping in mind the Lessons that Street Art offers against becoming too caught up in those three R's)

5. And Number 5, let's see. . . a number of possibilities are jostling for a spot here, elbows out. . .I think I'll choose the oddest, the vomit-smelling ginkgo fruit littering the ground beneath a splendidly mature tree in the Jardin Public.  Nurseries at home rarely even offer the female trees because of this (Edited to Add:  in case it's not clear, only the female trees fruit, and the 12-15 foot Ginkgo we said good-bye to earlier this year was male, so this was my first confrontation with the legendary odour -- which, I have to say, lives up to its rep!!
 Still, the smell only happens if the fruit (which has crazy healthy benefits) is allowed to rot, and you can't deny the beauty of those fan-shaped leaves nor the tree's cool prehistoric status as a living fossil.
 And given how slow-growing they are, this specimen's rather awe-inspiring. . .

Plus the same day I took these photos, I got a message from a former neighbour on "our" little island, telling me that she's been hired by the people who bought our old home to care for the garden I built, ginkgo tree and all. Made me so happy, and also, when I checked in with my feelings (as you do! ;-), I realised that the happiness was scarcely tinged with the sadness of missing. Not that those other feelings won't come back, but for the moment, I'm just happy someone else is enjoying "my garden." And that I can enjoy others myself. . .

This evening we're off to a Cine-Concert (at least, assuming it's not sold out by the time we get to the door) -- a showing of Fritz Lang's Metropolis in a cathedral on whose grand organ a master musician will improvise an accompaniment to the silent film. Cool, eh? I haven't seen the dystopic film in years (not since a Film Studies course I took as a "mature student" -- and when I think how old I felt then, compared to the other students, but how young I really was. . . .), and never with a "live" soundtrack in a big old stone building with magnificent acoustics. . .  You?

What are you up to this weekend? (and wait, didn't I just ask that question? Time is spooling by, faster than any film. . . .)

36 comments:

  1. I was interested (in Paris) in the frequent use of 'ouais' vs 'oui'. I expected speech there to be more formal. Stereotyping? Or did this happen because I was travelling with an artsy-type young person who strikes up conversations with others of her generation?

    I enjoy all the posts, reportorial and analytical. And the photos..and sketches...

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    1. We were scarcely in Paris this last visit, but I do imagine that what you heard would have been very much influenced by hearing more young speakers. We were just chatting with our French tutor about the disappearance (fluctuation, at least) of rules around liaisons. And I remember how surprised I was, the first time we were in France, some 25 years ago, hearing the cab driver say, "j'sais pas." -- Where did the "ne" go? They never taught us that in school! ;-)
      Thanks for the encouragement, Georgia. I always enjoy your comments..

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  2. I was interested in what you said about how much you are enjoying your time out and how beneficial you are finding it for your relationship and I do identify with that.

    The time we spend each summer living on our small boat in a foreign country is very intense and also liberating. I become a younger version of myself and we see each other in a different light. So important to step out of routine sometimes. Have a good weekend.

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    1. Yes. Intense and liberating is exactly right. Sometimes too intense, and we often have a good squabble (or two!), and I think it's good to have time for that as well. Stuff that gets pushed aside, or under, during the day to day, but really needs room to be exposed so as not to fester.
      Do you also notice that you find yourselves laughing with (even at, in the best, fondest way) each other again and recognising how much you'd missed each other?

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    2. Definitely. We do seem to get lost in the minutiae of our lives. Even a day out locally with no agenda helps, but being completely adrift turns everything upside down and I love that. When you come to the UK, let me know!

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  3. I am hearing stress in this post. Please know that though I share how I admire the intelligence, thoughtfulness, and courage of your blog with others, I also love reading about your "normal" days. I appreciate knowing that your engagement in real life also includes grandkids, walks, shopping, lunch with friends, etc. Not every post needs to be deep and thought-provoking.
    I love seeing the photo of the two of you! It is a great reminder that my husband and I need to schedule together time, too,..not just errands as is our wont. Love the thought of the two of you investing in yourselves and in your relationship!
    Charlene H.

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    1. You're so kind, Charlene, but not to worry. . . If there's stress, it's the productive kind. I'm just sorting out the difference between where I am and where I want to get to. At the moment, I need to clear more time/space to dig a bit deeper in my posts, just to satisfy myself. But it's easy to get caught up in detailing the everyday, particularly when it's a different and interesting day-to-day. And there's the undeniable time spent on responding to comments, which I enjoy, but which, again, puts a hurdle in the way of writing for myself. Not every post needs to be deep and thought-provoking, as you say, but some have to be for my own satisfaction. I'll sort it, though, and meanwhile very happy to have you here.

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  4. As you do so often, you make me jump with recognition. Yes to feeling adrift with the blog. Yes to the importance of time together which is outside the contented daily routine. Yes to the satisfactions of acquiring a new language, slowly, slowly. Next time you come to Europe will you find a couple of days to come to Wales ? Wine, food and conversation guaranteed. Walking? Fires? Rain? Fog?

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    1. Can we all come, Elizabeth? What a treat this sounds...

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    2. It will happen, yes! That's something else I'm sorting my way towards, visiting you and the Scottish crew as well. And no reason we can't fit Ceri in B there as well, right?

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  5. Agree... relationshiop-wise camping and canoeing together does it for us. And really necessary, I think. Don't know how couples who don't get extended time (a few days even) alone away from social obligations and family obligations etc clear away the damaging effects of sustained stress of modern urban living. That film in the cathedral sound so lovely.

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    1. "Sounds lovely"...sheesh...slow down Susan. Speed and good spelling do NOT go together:)

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    2. The film in the cathedral was very cool -- have you ever seen Metropolis? It's an astonishingly powerful commentary on industrial capitalism and the gap between rich and poor, and as my husband commented, the starting point for many of the Special Effects that fascinate him. -- Sadly, the standard rush-seated chairs were scarcely comfortable and we had to endure a 20-minute explanation of the Organ Campaign's funding efforts before we could begin listening and viewing, considerably diminishing the romantic effect!

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  6. Just you two is lovely...
    it is not unlike Mr. HB and my boating holidays....is that even good grammar?
    We get into a rhythm and it quickly becomes the new normal...
    I think there is a wee bit of romance that seeps in and can rekindle a flame that might be on the back burner...we always enjoy a few weeks away...it is good for a long time marriage.
    Both of us have 1974 as our dates!

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    1. Yes we do, and a Marriage of such vintage deserves special care, right? I agree that your boating time together must serve the same purpose -- it's good to be isolated for a while in each other's company, to slow down and remember the delights that drew you together.

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  7. I agree with Charlene H.about your blogging-I find simple things of everyday life also very interesting (and especially travel posts)-different countries have a lot of similarities and a couple of diferences as well.
    I always say hello entering the caffe or the elevator or the store,it was custom here "before" :-) (as well as you say hello to unknown people when hiking)-and in Zagreb,when you accidentally get in one's way,we say " Pardon"- meaning "excuse me",pretty extinct nowdays.
    I love foreign films/series with subtitles
    Just now we have Charlie Chaplin's movies with Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra,tickets were sold out instantly!
    I'm sure you'll enjoy your show.
    Some time together and away from everyday obligations at home is good for every marriage
    Dottoressa

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    1. Wow! I would buy those tickets -- What a great combination. The organist last night improvised all the music, and the overall result was so engaging. Have you seen Metropolis? I'd forgotten how powerful it was, despite the rather campy effect of the overdone make-up, stage expressions of the day, of silent film.

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    2. It was so long ago that I should watch it again,as well as a lot of Chaplin's or Buster Keaton's films :-)
      D

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  8. Please try not to be concerned about your blog. As Dottoressa says, your reflections on everyday life make for very interesting reading. Sometimes there's the flash of fellow feeling as you pick up on something somewhere that I have wondered about too, other times there's the delight of viewing a place, a time or an experience which I shall never see through your eyes. When I turn to the blogs I love - this one included naturellement - it is always with a sense of wondering what the writer is up to now, an element of checking in with a friend.

    (And Dottoressa - over here as in Zagreb. I spent yesterday in some of the touristy areas of London which were packed with people and I seldom heard anyone say Pardon, Excuse me or Sorry as they bashed and barged. Think that everyone was over hot, over stressed and over tired.)

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    1. Thanks for the reassurance, Ceri B. As I say to Charlene, above, it's more the need to fulfil some personal goals here that I'm trying to sort out -- you guys are always great! ;-)

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  9. A fabulous five Frances. Thinking about your last year of upheaval, this time away has to be good. Also stops you comparing how homes are different. As you say time for just the two of you. So important. Love French films with subtitles. Really helps my French. Sounds like your French is coming along well. Keep practising :) B x

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    1. Exactly right, B! I felt as if I wanted some really clear demarcation. I know there will come a time when I'm happy to look back and reminisce about our old home, but right now, I'm finding it best (safest?!) to keep looking ahead, and this trip helps.
      The French subtitles aren't always available, but they make such a difference to following the soundtrack for me -- I think those of us who are avid readers often have/need an imaginary spool of printed words to accompany our conversations. . . . Fanciful, I know, but part of me (and she's been perching since about 5 years old) is always converting sound into printed words. Glad to know I'm not alone.

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  10. Frances , I am reading this at 06.20 ( new GMT) after old BST gone - so that's us heading towards winter proper. Very enjoyable read and I learned something new about Ginko- I have only seen the trees in Cambridge ( UK ) in Autumn where they are beautiful , but had no idea about the fruit being smelly, now I have a note to self to investigate.I really don't think you should worry about your blog, and it not being where you want it to be - although it is something I understand. These days I cant get into any kind of rhythm of writing - and sometimes wonder if me constantly snapping and sharing on Instagram makes me lazy and a bit shy and self conscious of boring readers with more of the same. And while I ahve plenty of thoughts whizzing around, I don't have or make the time to draw them together.Reading these 5 things post I appreciated the balance of observation with a thoughtful hint of analysis, and lots to return to when you are in different circumstances . I look forward to more of your writing :)

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    1. You're very kind, encouraging, and it's clear that I have company who shares some of my unquiet about the blogging. And yes, something about striking a workable rhythm. . . we'll get there, right?
      (and note that only the female ginkgo trees fruit -- I'm guessing most gardeners would choose to go the male route...)

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  11. Re Ginkos , we planted one when we moved into this house forty years ago as we liked the unusual shape of the leaves . After reading our garden books we panicked & returned to the nursery to change it . We knew we couldn't cope with a tree hundreds of feet high . The nurseryman assured us we would be dead & gone before that happened . It has now reached the mighty height of 15 feet & we're not expecting fruit anytime soon . Interesting to know they are smelly .
    Wendy in York

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    1. Too funny! We only had about 12 years to watch ours, but it was already at perhaps 5 or 6 when we planted it, so it was almost at 15 by then. And do note that if yours is male you needn't worry about smell. My chats at nurseries suggest that, in Canada at least, the males are the only ones you'll be able to buy easily.

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    2. Ginkos are amazing. And among their more amazing tricks is that they can change sex! So you may have a ginko that goes along nicely without any of the really gross-smelling fruit, and then suddenly from one season to the next it will turn female and start spouting nasty berries. A real dilemma for cities, since ginkos' hardiness makes them great urban street trees. That's why you see all the ginkos cut down all of a sudden.

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    3. No way! So good thing we moved, then, and I'll have to stay tuned to find out if our male ginkgo should start spewing fruit -- I did some research after reading this, and apparently it happens because the "male" trees sold at nurseries have often been grafted onto a female stock.... Oh dear, I smell trouble. . .

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  12. The way I understand your first paragraph you would like to move your blog from a journal or series of letters to your friends towards something like an essay – at least from time to time. But then, the necessary reflection (or research even) demand time and might get into conflict with the social aspects of your blog (which I enjoy and look forward to as do most of your readers.) I sympathize with your need to explore some ideas more profoundly, so I hope you will just give yourself the time when you feel you need it.
    The other day, in a conversation with a colleague, I caught myself ranting about the way History is being taught in German schools. I stopped myself and thought I’d better write it all down, now I wonder if I’ll ever have the time to do so…
    There is a Gingko tree in my street which I love mostly because of the wonderful golden colour it takes on when most other trees are shedding their leaves, which is about now. Like a light shining in the dark months of the year. I would like to plant one close to my future house, but I am not so sure my future neighbours will agree. Some of them feel very strongly about “introduced species”. A debate which always fills me with misgivings, because quite often there seems to be a slightly xenophobic tinge to it.

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    1. I forgot to add that I am very glad fou you that your island garden is being looked after properly and that you can enjoy the memory without too much pain.

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    2. Yes, Eleonore, you understand exactly what I mean re the blog, although I'd be content enough with something like extended journal entries, not necessarily essays. And I do like to maintain the social aspect as well AND to preserve my time for simply living -- I do get considerable satisfaction about having stretched to the more in-depth posts re Ferrante, but they're much more time-consuming. We'll see. I sympathise re the near-rant and the wish to find time to write those thoughts out -- especially since you are still working full time.
      That's precisely why I wanted the gingko, because of that wonderful light in late autumn when it's so much needed. They are such a saturated gold. Interesting re the debate about indigenous vs. introduced species -- I've often felt the same way about the sometimes vehement campaign at home about the Himalayan blackberry. I love making jam from these and many of our indigenous animals, birds, have come to count on them as food as well. And I'm not at all confident we can turn the clock back to get the local ecologies as they once were nor stop travel so they could be protected. . .

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  13. I've been exposed to that gingko vomit smell since childhood - bizarrely, on every street I've lived there's been one of those lady-tree suckers. So revolting! I'm amazed you managed to avoid it for so long :-)

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    1. It's really a strong and inherently disgusting smell -- have I just ignored it or is it less prevalent so far "out West"? I'd be content to keep missing it, I must say!

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  14. Hi Frances ..sorry it's been a while! I know that I dont need to apologise but you do such great posts that I like to reciprocate by commenting ...creating a dialogue between us and sometimes Dottoressa :) which I always enjoy. Please take time for yourself ...your thoughts. . Paul and your family but don't stop blogging ...you'd create such a void that so many if us would feel. We'd miss you!
    Time away as a couple is so important I feel ...It takes us back to the early years ...to when we were young and had just met. Puts a spring in our steps and joy in our hearts.
    I love family time, but time just the two of us is special too. Great selfie of you both by the way. Good to be so comfortable with the language to be able to abbreviate certain comments.
    Be kind to yourself ...relax and live in the moment.
    Rosie
    ps I really love your new bag too ..great purchase :)

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  15. Meant to say, it must be lovely to know someone is taking good care of "your" garden and able to give you updates.
    Rosie

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    1. You absolutely don't need to apologise, but I so appreciate your impulse to "reciprocate" the work I put into my posts -- it's true that the reader feedback is what keeps me going!
      And yes, it is such a gift to know someone (and she's a very lovely someone, in truth) is caring for "my" garden -- I steeled myself to let it go, to accept that I couldn't control its future, but secretly, of course, I continue to carry it with me....

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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