Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Gypsy Circus (Le Cirque Tzigane)

Vivid blue placards sprouted on lampposts in the place Dom DeVic and at the entrances to the Soreze and Revel a week ago. Clown faces beamed down on us warming the spring air.

The Gipsy Prin circus rolled into town in six big red trucks Thursday night and set up camp at the Place de Stade (soccer field). They pastured their animaux exotiques at the sloping edge of the field -- a pygmy billy goat and his dainty dames, three Shetland ponies, a water buffalo, a flock of chickens and roosters, a black angus bull, a llama, an American bison, a donkey, a shaggy miniature highland bull, a spotted pony, a longhorn bull.

As I was leaving Rue Ferlus to visit D in Rue Balette with two pieces of tarte aux pommes to share with coffee, I heard a ruckus around the corner on the Allées de la Libération. I thought maybe they were broadcasting a soccer game at the Brasserie, which had already placed some tables under the plane trees so their patrons could profiter du beau temps (enjoy the good weather). As the hoopla followed me up the street, bouncing off half-timbered houses behind me, I realized that the hubbub was coming from a panel truck with a PA system weaving through the streets, calling people to come to the circus this evening at the football field, Mesdames et Messieurs! Venir au spectacle de cirque, ce soir, au terrain de foot!

D and I checked the schedule for the ciné Get in Revel and the version originale du film (in English with French subtitles) was not starting until Sunday night. Why not walk over to the circus at 1730? And so we did, promptly at 5:25 pm. Les jeunes femmes du cirque (young women of the circus), their waist length hair tied up in pony tails, were darting between the trucks, opening storage compartments, pulling out silver boots and spangly costumes. They threw startled pony looks at D, me and a father with two small girls. !Quel genre de personnes sont ceux qui viennent tôt? (What kind of people are these who come on time?!) We wandered around the perimeter of the field watching the animals graze until the box office opened.

There were only twenty people in the bleachers for the show when it started. Some of the acts introduced by the pert ringmistress were: performing pony and miniature pony, strong man, clown/strong man, tightrope walker, wobbly ball balancer, two lady unicycle riders,a billy goat tower, a baby clown with strong man (big Cute factor!).

The last act was three pythons, 6-8 feet, that les femmes du cirque wound around their shoulders like exotic boa's and brought into the audience to allow us to touch their warm, thin leather skin.

It looked as though the oldest member of le cirque might be 34 years old and in some ways the Gipsy Prin Circus was reminiscent of a kid circus, that is, a circus that kids might put on. The level of performance of this smalltop troupe might be laughed out of even the smallest towns in the US.  We have different standards for entertainment here in Soreze. It’s more about: Can we walk to it? Is it in one of the surrounding towns? Is it an excuse to get together with friends? Will it support an artist we know or even one we don’t?

Everyone in the audience left with a chuckle in their mouth. Les artistes de cirque were waiting outside the tent to bid us each adieu. La petite dame de chèvres were glad of our parting rubs between their nubby horns. As we walked back to Rue Ballette, Venus lumineux brillait dans le ciel bleu pastel au-dessus du nouveau sourire de la lune. (Venus shone bright in the pastel blue sky above the new smile of the moon.)


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

An empty house (Une maison vide)

Encouraged by my friend LC’s fine example, I will be posting some of my poetry here. I wrote this just after arriving at Rue Ferlus. As you can see from tonight’s picture, the worn statues of Mary are currently on the mantle piece. And the rooms are no longer empty, in fact the one from which I write is quite a jumble at the moment, but soon to be sorted!

Start with an empty house

Open the windows and doors to air
and light. Sit in the small courtyard.
Introduce yourself to the plants.
Feed them. Water the well,
adorn it with worn statues of Mary.
Create a comfortable burrow of a bed.
Fall asleep to the click of boule balls
in the soft dirt under pollarded plane trees.

Wake to a restless summer wind. Tie the shutters.
Wash the grime from the Escher-tiled floor.
Buy olives of pincholine green at the market,
a chalky pyramid of goat cheese, a wheel
of bread with wood fire-blackened crust.
Eat lunch on the stone ramparts of the village,
your basket perched on a map of the towns
spread like a sunflower strewn carpet below.

Leave for the lake when the church bells strike noon
to swim in that pine-rimmed basin -- rain held high
before dashing down stone channels to the Canal.
Spend the late afternoon at the brocante in Revel.
Make the furniture you buy first for the house
a simple writing desk and oak captain’s chair.
Invite your neighbor in for a glass of wine.
Give her the new chair. Exercise your rusty French.

Muse over wall colors in the day, by the light of night.
When you go away, leave a good book behind
so the characters can fill the house with laughter,
a welcome when you open the windows and doors.


More about the market in Revel after Saturday. You’re going to love its abundance.

Bonne nuit, dormez bien et ne pas rêver de cornichons au vinaigre

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Funny Faces (D'amusant grimaces)

M and I went to the Abbaye Ecole to see a filmed version of "A'bribus" (Bus Shelter) written by the actor, Philippe Elno on Friday night. It was in a little theater with modern stadium seating. Here's a synopsis of the play that I rescued from the Google translator: "At a bus shelter on a forgotten country road, a showbiz star on the brink of hysteria, Florence Foresti, and a beekeeper with attractive wisdom, Philippe Elno, wait for the bus...and more. An offbeat, very funny, romantic comedy." The theater was full! The best ticket in the area this winter Friday night, I guess.

It was a physical as well as verbal comedy, with “beaucoup d'amusant grimaces et de sons” (many funny faces and sounds) to help me with my understanding.  I had a good time and got most of the plot line, which revolved around the actress' attempts to communicate on her two mobile phones while waiting for the bus out in the boonies and her increasing interaction with this strange guy, in his beekeeper's suit. (She finally asks him to lift her up on his shoulders so she can retrieve her messages and make a couple of phone calls from up there.) Sort of a modern, broadly comic "Waiting for Godot". I was quite exhausted when we got out of the movie and walked home through the village. I think my brain was a little taxed with the translation on top of jet lag.

You can watch a good clip of the highlights here (in French and still funny):
[L'Abribus] Florence Foresti : Extraits (DVD bientôt dispo) - kewego
[L'Abribus] Florence Foresti : Extraits (DVD bientôt dispo) - kewego

I went around the corner to the Utile’s little “cave”(yes, like cave in its meaning of dark, cold chamber, but here pronounced caahve and often referring to wine cellar, or seller, even) for a bottle of red wine to accompany Saturday night’s dinner for M&D. I poured over the selection, deciphering the labels to try to pick a decent red wine, of which I am no connoisseur, being mostly a drinker of white, and no expert on that. I finally chose a middle-priced (6 Euro!) 2004 Lussac Saint-Emillion from Chateau Carrieres de Grenet, as price is generally connected to quality here.

I was still puzzling, with some visible, no doubt risible, facial expression, about the quality as I walked up to the checkout counter at the front. The two “aimable” (amiable) ladies, who do most of the running of the place, seemed to have just exchanged a funny story. “Oui, c’est un bon vin,” (Yes, it is a good wine) one of them said to me smiling and I smiled back as I paid. l caught sight of their small, split-screen security monitor on the counter as I left. I suspect they’d been watching me sort carefully through their small wine stock for the while "comme je l'ai choisi mon peu de vin pour le dîner" (as I chose my inexpensive wine for dinner). 

A simple dinner it was, made cozy by the combined heat of the fireplace and the stove in the living/dining/kitchen front room. We had four courses, I guess you could say, though not in the traditional order: salad, mustard chicken w/potatoes and carrots, goat and bleu cheeses with pear slices, chocolates with coffee -- the last after we retired from table to couch. M opined, “You are a good cook” as she took seconds of the blood orange salad with home made green dressing. Quite the compliment from a French native late of Paris. It made me smile.


Sunday, February 22, 2009

Aventures du petit village

I got the modem working and the new computer connected to weefee (as the Fr say) here on Rue Ferlus yesterday afternoon and thought I'd fill you in on how it has gone this first week.

Monday: I arrived in Soreze and had to deal with the no water and gas situation which D. had called me about the week before I left CA =o{... Also found the phone/internet not working and the downspout torn off the front right of the house and laying on the sidewalk...The good news was that G. (American friend/part time Soreze resident from around the corner who is lending me her car) had written ahead to her friends M. and D. (French and Brit, respectively, who live in Rue Ballet) and together we managed to get the water and gas back on so I could spend the my first night here in the house, although with no running hot water as we couldn't get the water heater pilot to light. Turns out that Johann, my next door neighbor, had turned off the water because the hose bib at the well sprang a BIG leak and then he turned off the gas because he was concerned by the constant water heater activity in the cold, empty house. (I'm grateful for the helpfulness, but it did take a bit to figure out how to get it back on as they were not home...)

Tuesday: Through intercession by M in French, Gillaume, the cute, pony-tailed, young plumber working on a job across the street, came over with his welding set and fixed the leak on the patio, to get the water back to functioning in all locations. I got some clues from the last owner,K, through e-mail from D's computer, on the water heater. K's kind instructions pointed me to knowing that I had to open the door below and do something there. I turned the white knob down under (some sort of safety...), held the "spark" button (with little lightening bolt) down until I got a continuous spark and then pushed in the knob on the right to get the gas to the pilot, held it for the recommended two minutes, et voila! I was back in business for a much needed hot bath =o))... (Weather has been cold/mostly sunny, but this stone house is still warming up.)

Wednesday: M, a French terrier of a lady over 60, who takes great joy in pursuing "functionnaires" = bureaucrats and solving problems, went with me to the "Mairie" = town hall to iron out the payment of an obscure portion of the water bill (something to do with the region/county beyond the metered consumption which I have on "prelevement" = autopay). They wouldn't take cash, "pas de liquide" = no cash money, for the 12.98 Euro's, so Monique wrote them a check for me. She also called Orange, my internet/IP phone provider, to find out why the modem wasn't working (I'd already tried the usual unplugging/reboot routine.) and gave them her phone number for contact.

Then it was off to Revel, the next town, for me to iron out why I hadn't received any statements for my Credit Agricole bank account since April last year and to again request checks. I spoke to the young, teller in training, guy in my French and he hesitantly answered in passable English. Together we managed to put it together, though he had to ask for help from colleague's for everything and to get a manager's signature for the issuance of the checks.

Next, to my homeowner's "assurance" = insurance provider on the Revel town square to deal with an extra 44 Euro's on the insurance bill (I had paid the estimated balance in cash before leaving last May) for which I had 9 communications by letter saying that it had gone into collection "demand for payment!!!". The receptionist, a lady of a certain age with jazzy red spectacle frames and bright orange dyed hair arranged in a stylish flip, looked up my account and, once she understood who I was and what we were talking about "par mon petit francais", said "Pas de problem. C'est bon pour cette annee. (No problem. It is good for this year.) We took care of eet." and tore up all the bills. She advised me to bring her a "reeb", RIB ou "Releve D'Indentite Baincaire" = bank transfer order, so that we can set it up for next year to avoid the same problem. "C'est plus facile!"

Thursday: M. Akbar, a fix-it gent of M's acquaintance, and his hoodied apprentice came in the morning to repair the downspout, having dropped by to suss it out the day before. The intrepid M. has asked all around the village for any news of just which truck had run up on the sidewalk in our little Rue Ferlus and damaged my downspout. She wrote a letter for me in French to the Mairie to inform them of the situation and to give me something to take to my insurance provider.

M&D dropped by around noon, at the start of their 4 kilometer round trip walk over to have lunch with some friends at their converted "moulin" = mill, to check on the progress Orange had made with the internet service. She called them again and they said the problem would be solved before 1800 (6 pm). When M&D came back on their return, the modem looked the same, i.e. all red lights, but once we tried another reboot and hooked up my laptop -- Presto! it was working!! Yaay, Apple! I didn't even have to run the Orange installation disc as I had done for my PC laptop last spring. After they left for their supper, I quickly managed to get the wireless connection operating. The phone over IP (my home phone) will receive calls but can't call out. I think it's the old, hand-me-down handset, we tried replacing the rechargeable battery with new ones I purchased from the "Utile" = little grocery store around the corner, so I'll try buying a new phone in Castres tomorrow when I run over to see if I can find a used "armoire" from one of the second hand furniture stores there for my bedroom.

Friday: As I was typing this, M stopped by to bring me my property tax bill, which someone from the Mairie brought over to her house, since they had seen us together on Tuesday -- ah, la vie du village! =o). It had been addressed to "(Me), Healdsburg, Californie, Etats-Unis" and had come back marked "insufficient address". She called the tax office in Dourgne, the next little village, had them take off the 90 Euro penalty and promised that I will come in to pay it in the next couple of days and bring a RIB for next year.

We made a date to go and see a two person play on film in French at the Abbaye auditorium this evening (a Friday night date!) at 2030 and I invited M&D to dinner (mustard chicken, roastie potatoes, salad and dessert) for Saturday night to say "Thank You". 
It's been a busy first week!

J'envoie caresses et bisous à vous tous!
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