Thursday, June 23, 2011

A week of fêtes

A feast or a famine; this week in our village , we are spoilt for choice of fêtes : 21 June was La Fete de La Musique, tonight is La Fete de Saint Jean and on Saturday, we have La Fete des Voisins ( Neighbours Party)
For our neighbourhood bash, the mairie (town hall) provide music, an aperitif, tables and chairs and we can party as late as we like on our street ( 'tis a great country all the same ;))
I registered with the town hall ( much paperwork) and notified the neighbours. A meeting was promptly called and an aperitif was organised - the lady of the house spent all day preparing a delicious spread of nibblies and all kinds of drinks imaginable. Serious nom nom nom.
There then proceeded a three hour debate as to to how we would run the party - a note needed to be dropped into everyone's letterbox on the street to ask if they would be attending .... it took at least an hour to decide on the layout and vocablary to use.
Where the party would be held was another long and heated debate... should it be at the top of the street, the middle or the end or in the park?
What shall we bring? How shall we arrange the tables and chairs? Should there be defined courses? Entrée, Mains, Dessert? Major Hoo Hah. I'm reminded of Stephen Clarkes "My Tea is Rich" meetings in A Year in the Merde as I knock back another glass of muscat..
After three hours of talking around in circles with nothing at all decided on, another meeting was called where we could finalise the details. Yawn.
So two strategic meetings later, our fete des voisins will take place on Saturday. The tables and chairs are stocked in my garden and copious bottles of rivesaltes ambré have been delivered to chez moi ( note to self ; do not drink!).
Allez, C'est Party!!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Team Try

With my mid life crisis in full swing after hitting the 40 mark last month, a group of us 'Fit and Forties' are going to take part in a "triathlon découverte" this weekend in Argeles plage.
This all seemed like a great idea way way back in January when it was 24 weeks to go and we had plenty of time to train and prepare - summer days in June seemed like a distant dream. Now with less than 48 hours to togging off, the butterflies are doing their own triathlon in my tummy and the rest of the team are getting pretty jittery too!
We'll be fine, I keep telling myself, the distances are very do-able : a 250m swim, a 7km cycle and a 2km run. The only problem is, all our mates are coming to see us drag our sorry triathlon asses around the course - the slagging, will no doubt, go on for years..
We aim to complete the course and in fairness have been doing alot of training, both in and outside of the bar!
C'Mon Team Try!! We Can Do It!
Yes we can, can't we?

Chez Alco

What a great appropriate name for this local bar in Toulouges!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

The Art of French Small Talk

The French can talk , no body is going to dispute that but when it comes to small talk, idle chit chat and just plain shooting the breeze with strangers, they, frankly, haven't got a clue.
I teach English to a group of retirees locally and we've organised a rencontre with English speaking people next week for an hour of conversation ; 30 minutes of English and 30 minutes of French, so that both parties can practice their oral skills. In preparation for the 'talk off" we've been planning what to say to the English speakers who all live in France.
Me : 'Ok class, give me a few suggestions as to what we will ask them'
Class : Blank faces
Me : 'Right, they are English speaking people, not from here and have relocated to France for some reason or another .. any ideas what you might want to ask them/talk about"
Class : Furrowed brows, deep concentration
Me : 'Okaaay, forget about the English, just give me your thoughts in French and we'll translate them' ( thinking it was the English that was blocking them)
Class : Shrugs, pffs, more eyebrow knitting ...
So what started as a lesson in teaching small talk English became a lesson in 'How to make small talk'. It's going to be a long hour!

Now, the french are great conversationalists, don't get me wrong and they love a good debate about anything .. but as for the chit chat at the school gate, the pleasant pass the time inane stuff ' how were your holidays / weather / traffic etc ' forget it. For an Irish person living in France, this can leave you squirming in certain social situations. Going on a school outing with the kids for example, with a handful of other parents who don't know each other, they are happy not to speak to each other and ride the bus in silence rather than turn to their fellow parent and have a nice oul chat. At first, I thought it was just me, they don't want to talk to the weird Irish one, but then I noticed they weren't talking to each other either, when they have so much in common ; kids the same age, same teachers, similiar age group, common neighbourhood etc etc. There are rich pickings there for hours of chit chat.

What is it about the French that they can't do small talk? I think, deep down( really really deep down) that the french are a little insecure. They've been through an educational system that heartily endorses the 'children should be seen and not heard rule' ( and look beautifully turned out as well). They dress conservatively ( black is always the new black in France), they toe the line, never speak out ( unless en masse as in strikes etc) and very rarely do anything spontaneous in their lives ( I'm generalising of course). Their lives are regimented, you eat at a certain hour, bathe avery day, dress a certain way and so launching into a chatty conversation with a stranger is a scary concept for them..
Or maybe, just maybe, they just couldn't be arsed!

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