It occurred this morning as I was mopping floors and cleaning windows how different life is in France. Before I came here I had never mopped a floor in my life. No, we didn’t have servants but carpets. And we don’t get that cheery chappie with a ladder and a damp rag who comes round every six weeks to do the windows. All the windows open inwards so you clean your own.
The biggest difference of course is the language, that elusive French. I have long abandoned the idea that I might ever become fluent but my aim is to be able to stay awake until the end of a village meeting. But I’m too late. The mind has gone, and so have the ears. Sometimes I get a word repeated back to me exactly the same way I think I just said it. I use the subtitles for films and TV. There again I sometimes do with English films. Don’t they mumble these days? We laughed when we went to the village cinema to see ‘The Angels Share’ about four Glaswegians. It was as incomprehensible to us as to anyone else and the only way to understand it was to read the French subtitles.
I have no excuse. French is a syllable-timed language so it should be easier to understand. Each syllable is pronounced and given much the same importance. English is stress-timed where you jump from stress to stress missing out any tedious syllables. So the French have trouble with contractions. For six years I have spent one afternoon most weeks reading with my French friend Jeannette. I would hate to be learning English. Some words troublesome to Jeannette are iron, hurried and women (i-un, hurr-id and wim-in). On the other hand I don’t think I will ever learn to correctly pronounce feuille (foo-ay-yuh) or words that contain a gn like baignoire (ben-wah with a French yuh sound in the middle). And as for pulle and poule!!
I’m due to go to Glasgow soon and no doubt I will look baffled in airport security when asked if I have any toothpaste. As for the announcements, I have to wait for them to be repeated in French before I can make any sense of them.
So languagewise I’m stateless. I don’t understand Glaswegian when I go back to Scotland and I don’t understand French here. Can we please have some subtitles?
Our Sunday morning walk started in Chapaize. We set off in the rain but it soon faired up and we could enjoy the lovely views from Uxelles over the green pastures and golden forests towards Cortambert. We followed a waymarked route through Bissy-sur-Uxelles and Bessuge, and back to Chapaize.
At Bissy-sur-Uxelles we stopped to look at the lavoir. It is most unusual because it is oval shaped and the roof is open above the water.
Normally in this area lavoirs are like this one at Bessuge, rectangular in shape with a gable roof.
Lavoirs were built in each village as communal wash houses and used until the 1950s. What a hard life the women must have led especially during raw weather like today’s.
Back in Chapaize we stopped to chat at the Bio Market and were offered a sample of home made saucisson and wine. It’s a very popular market, especially in the summer.
Chapaize is only 4km from Cormatin. With its interesting Romanesque church, two good restaurants, artists’ gallery and café, it is well worth a visit.
It is fitting that on this week of commemoration of WW1 there is an exhibition in Donzy-le-Pertuis that gives an insight into the lives of the soldiers who left their families in Donzy and went off to fight in the trenches.
Magazines published during the war poke fun at the difficulties of the soldiers on leave who go back albeit briefly to their families. We have more knowledge now of the psychological difficulties of talking about their experiences and resuming normal life. There are letters sent back from the trenches, and stories of those who were lost.
Before the war the population figures of Donzy showed that most of the inhabitants were young, only 20% were over 60, quite different from now. There were fewer people in Donzy after the war and a third of the houses were either abandoned in outlying areas or knocked through to make bigger ones. Previously it had been usual for people to live one up one down.
Several people, after working in Lyon or Paris, have retired to Donzy and now live in the houses of their grandparents. Some of the photos and artefacts had been discovered in old attics. Other material came from the local brochanteur .
The exhibition is open until Sunday, afternoons only. It was interesting for us but must mean even more to local families whose ancestors went away to war a hundred years ago.
We’ve been following with amusement the story of the tiger that has been allegedly spotted near Paris with the pawprints and the blurry photo - http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-30035666
Now we can reveal that we have our own tiger in Varanges who is not seen much out and about but was glimpsed this morning painting a wall in the vicinity.
Another relevation – many people do not believe that we can see Mont Blanc from the top of the hill going towards Donzy. Here it is this morning, 180km away as the crow flies. You don’t see it much clearer than that.