Showing posts with label conversations. Show all posts
Showing posts with label conversations. Show all posts

Saturday, 16 December 2017

I can get satisfaction


 Not quite as snowy but still magical with the twinkle of the Christmas lights.

It was a last minute decision to go up to the market in Thônes. We didn't stop to have breakfast at home as the BMW IBU WORLD CUP BIATHLON is taking place at Le Grand Bornand this weekend in excellent snow and we knew that this would mean heavy traffic on top of the general Saturday ski crowds; so best to be away early in an attempt to get a jump on everyone else.

Talloires is at lake level and snow had fallen here this morning, but it was colder with a much thicker cover just up the hill. Despite the passage of the snow plough, roads were icy and as recently arrived left-hand drivers, we took our time winding up through Bluffy and beyond.

On the way to the market
Breakfast
Due to the snow, the market was smaller than on a regular Saturday in Thônes, and whilst we would normally shop and then stop, today we opted for breakfast first. Tempted to return to a familiar café, we nonetheless headed into an unassuming little place facing the church. The slightly overdone wood and check Savoyard mountain decoration helped us feel at home straight away.  Unsurprisingly (you are in France, Madame), there were no croque-monsieur available despite the 'Croque-monsieur à toute heure' sign, but the coffee and croissant were fine substitutes, the service was friendly and the snow flakes thick and luscious outside. We were the only guests, but the barkeeper, deep in conversation with a friend, headed towards the door to continue talking out of earshot. Clearly still worried about our possible indiscretion, the ladies headed outside to stand in the snow and continue conspiratorially.

With the arrival of another gentleman, it was back to business. Madame la serveuse realised at this point that the music had stopped. Was Monsieur there to sing for her, she called out, laughingly.
Tomme de Savoie

Thônes


I was too far away to attempt to eavesdrop on this conversation, and too shy to zoom in and get a clear photo, but would have loved to be a part of this tête-à-tête (which then technically would no longer have been a tête-à-tête).

 

 


Back in Talloires with blue skies trying to wipe the grey slate clean.

A perfect culmination to a market visit is displaying our produce and making our lunch selection.
Personally, no fancy restaurant necessary, I can get my satisfaction with what you see below. 

PS If you are thinking that there is a lot of cheese on this lunch table, you'd be right. Promise that the wheel of tomme fermière, the log of goats' cheese and the two wide wedges of Comté and Beaufort made it through more than just lunchtime.

Soup, bread, cheese and ham

As always,  if you would like to read more of our family story, 'But you are in France, Madame', here is the Amazon link for a Kindle copy.
If you would prefer a print copy, an Affiliate link is to be found in Kristin Espinasse's French word-a-day blog. A purchase here costs no more and would be so very much appreciated by us both.










Tuesday, 23 August 2016

On not being French


This blog began its process towards its current incarnation many years ago under the title 'Conversations from France'. Admittedly, it was a misleading title as I had no readership, no followers, no conversations. That would have been hard, as I kept my writing to myself. The stories were penned, I now understand, to help with my recovery from illness.

Today, Paulita, left a comment about my blog and book title on a post by French Village Diaries. This is what she wrote:

I didn't know there was a book, only a blog, so I'll be interested to look for it. I've always wondered where the emphasis goes on this sentence. But YOU are in France, Madame. or But you ARE in France, Madame. or But you are in FRANCE, Madame.

And here was my answer:

Hi Paulita, Catherine here. The title 'But you are in France, Madame' came from a conversation that I was having with one of my daughter's teachers. It came after a few exchanges, and was said with only the slightest lilt over the word France and a big questioning smile. Unarguable!

I knew that I had first written the words to what became the book title in one of my original 'Conversations', so I fossicked through my files today. This, from 2011, is what I found:

Waiting at the school gate this afternoon with one of the teachers, whose job was to supervise the exit of the students, we started talking education. Hesitantly, I suggested that the curriculum did not seem to have changed much since I was last here teaching some twenty years ago. In a moment of refreshing candour she remarked that it was probably more like two hundred years with no change. 

There is a mark accorded out of twenty for most pieces of work that the students complete and parents and children alike constantly compare their moyenne or average overall mark. In some schools, if a student is not doing well, there are soutien or support classes, but in most cases the classroom teacher is not expected to cater for the different ability levels in the classroom. If a child does poorly on a piece of work, comments, such as the one word appraisal ‘catastrophe’ next to the mark, leave nothing to the imagination, nor to the self-esteem. The idea that a child might respond to praise, or to a warm relationship with the teacher is not the norm.

I went to a parent-teacher interview yesterday afternoon to discuss this exact point. I was on time and my daughter showed me up to her teacher’s classroom. He was chatting to another teacher when we appeared and made no real effort to come and greet us, so we waited patiently. When he did come out into the corridor he did not introduce himself, shake hands or engage in conversation. He indicated that the meeting would take place downstairs and headed off with us in tow.

Before sitting down, I introduced myself using my first name and put out my hand to be shaken. He mumbled back his full name as he took my hand, although I suspect he would have been shocked if I had actually dared use it.  There was no animosity or impoliteness from either of us, but he did look surprised at the frankness with which I spoke. He came across as someone sure of himself in his role of teacher but not a self-confident man. It wouldn’t have shocked me to read a poster on the walls listing the rules of the meeting, number one being ‘you are talking to a school teacher and his methods and practices are not to be questioned.’ Of course I did though, question him and, with the assurance of a perfect, unarguable answer, he replied "But you are in France, Madame."

As a justification, this answer seems to be all that is required, not just in a school context but everywhere. I recall a newspaper article that my husband and I were discussing wherein a Frenchman became unruly on a flight after having consumed too much alcohol. He refused to accept that he should abide by the rules for all passengers and be served no more alcohol. His argument to support his position was simply “But I am French.”

On holidays, we stopped to visit the castle of Chambord. Arriving mid-morning, we thought that it might be nice to have a coffee before going into the castle. There were several restaurants and cafés to choose from and the owner of one was out the front getting ready for his lunchtime service. Some instinct made me ask if it would be possible to order just coffee, before we sat down and made ourselves comfortable. “Of course not, I am far too busy and have got too much to do before midday.” I should have known that coffee time had passed. I had been put in my you-are-in-France-Madame place yet again.

Many a similar story abounds, in the travel folklore, of unhelpful Frenchmen. Why is this so? I live here and have many good friends who are French, but until you can prove yourself as someone of interest, which can be hard if you are an English speaker, you do risk being brushed off with a “But you are not French, this is the way we do it here” incomprehension. 

Funnily enough, I was once the target of ‘being French’ discrimination. My sister, speaking English to the sales assistant in Galeries Lafayette, could not have been better served. She was offered gift-wrapping and a smile. I was up next and spoke French. I was offered neither a smile nor coloured paper and ribbon. When I asked if my gift could be wrapped, too, I was told that I would have to go and line up at another counter. At that point, I would have liked to have slapped down on the counter my written assessment and mark out of twenty for her. She wouldn’t have made the moyenne.


To jump back to the present with many years of French living under our belt, I can better understand a lot of the differences that I was dealing with at that time. There is no point in pretending that we will ever be French, but learning the secrets of 'being in France' makes me a very happy Madame.