One hundred days in France
19th February 2018
Learning a new language requires coming to terms with being an idiot in a ongoing, sort of cumulative process, where every day there is a novel way to make a tit of oneself.
Yesterday I went for a leg and muff wax (the two do run together somewhat, at least, in my situation) at a salon in the village. It’s the first time I have ventured into the workd of beauty here, other than a couple of questionable hair experiences (more on those another time.) I googled some useful phrases and managed to make my wishes understood: a ‘maillot classique’ (just a hedge trim) and not a ‘ticket de Metro’ (a little rectangle shape) or a ‘maillot entier ‘(the full kit and caboodle, leaving you plucked-chicken bald ‘from arsehole to breakfast-time’ as we say in the old country.)
What do you call these fanny stylings in Australia, asked the beautician. Full Brazilian was easy enough to translate. ‘Wax’ as the product as well as the process was OK too. ‘Et la ticket de Metro?’ she asked. I took a deep breath and launched in. On my back, in my undies, waving my arms about, I mimed ‘landing strip’. The plane. The earth. The road of the plane. It took an uncomfortably long time, but we got there. And I was so thrilled that I could manage a full half hours conversation, if I didn’t deconstruct the content of it too much.
This week marked the ‘100 days of school’ celebration, and six full months since we left Australia. It feels like a place-out-of-time, this great adventure. Like home, but in another dimension.
Yesterday morning we went on a mission to deliver food about the town – some dinner to a friend who just had a baby, and some cakes to another who had his appendix out. Ivy has really taken to cooking lately, and she is learning the joy of cooking for others. The kids swerved their scooters around the crap on the cobblestones (bird, cat, dog) as we we dodged the Saturday market-goers with their trolleys and cameras and ducked into the apartment buildings where our friends lived. We saw people we knew everywhere we went. ‘Bonjour! Ca va?’ with three kisses to the adults, ‘Salut!’ and ‘Rebonjour!’ to those you’ve seen already that day, and ‘cuckoo!’ to the children with bisous (kisses) as well to those children you know well, or who are so cute you can’t help it. If you are too far away for kissing you call ‘Bisous!’ across the road instead.
For the first time in weeks, I didn’t have my puffy coat on – we’ve been all hunkered down for the winter, but there is just a hint, a warning in the air that someday soon the south of France will burst into full glorious spring plumage. Warmer weather means we can extend our domain beyond the bottom room of our poorly-insulated house, the place where right now we spend most of our time, picking our way around the laundry hanging off every piece of furniture and the 1000 piece kitten-puzzle which has now become Keith’s life work to solve.
School holidays have started, and we are off to Poland tomorrow! I am all lists and packing. Keith the workhorse is taking no actual time off for this trip – he will still be up at 5am and getting his hours in. We’re just moving the circus to a new location, and I can’t wait for this visit behind the Iron Curtain. So so many amazing sights to see: a Mozart performance by the Krakow Philharmonic, the brutalist ‘display city’ Nowa Huta, the harrowing - yet important -experience of Auschwitz (not for the children, this one.) But it will be freeeeezing! A few more weeks in the puffy coat still ahead, I think.
It’s been a great term. It has been far from easy for the children, but I watch them run inside those gates, navigate playground dramas and work through problems, and I feel filled with pride and admiration. I hear the way they talk about the different lives of the children they know here, and the way they try to help each other, and I can see that they are growing as people. As for me, with every week that passes I learn and understand more about the village, and fall a little more in love with it. Layer by fascinating layer, Sommieres is revealing itself to me. We might be just a short story in the epic, lengthy novel of this historic place, but we have roots here.
In short, life is busy and not always easy, but has the wondrous and charming quality of a fairy tale.
Much love comrades!