Friday, 3 August 2018

Feeling Hot Hot Hot!

I’ve just been to see some clients in one of the holiday villas I run and as usual, they were draped over the sun-loungers in pools of sweat, sun-cream and sangria (actually it was beer and wine but I’m a big fan of alliteration!).  They are 5 couples who said they were coming to the area to play Boules - but as far as I am aware, they haven’t moved since they arrived.  And who can blame them, as it is very very hot. 

Nobody really knows how hot it is.  Is it 40 degrees in the shade? Does it include the ‘wind-chill’ factor?  What does ‘feels like’ mean?  Either way, it feels hotter than the sun on my terrace, any wind is similar to a fan-oven and doing anything other than swimming and sticking my head in the fridge feels like hard work. 

Apparently it is officially a heatwave and we are on ‘Orange Alert’.  This weekend temperatures will not drop below 31 degrees, people are being advised not to go out between 11am and 5pm, the Town Halls are providing ‘air-conditioned’ rooms for people to go to if they need to cool down, and bus drivers are officially allowed to wear shorts (following a protest in Nantes where the drivers turned up in skirts to prove a point!)

I have never been the sort of person to say it is ‘too hot’ –I chose to live in the South of France specifically for the sunshine and the heat, but this week, it is ‘too hot’.  Luckily I don’t have a ‘proper’ job – so don’t have regular hours where I have to spend time in a office – but there are still clients who want to view houses, or rental clients who need something so there are occasions where I have to leave the pool and venture out…

… which brings me back to my visit to the rental clients.  They had called to say that one of the fans in the bedrooms didn’t work – so I went to deliver a spare one.  When I arrived, every door and every window in the house was open. No, No, No, No, No!   There is a knack to surviving the heat in the South of France and here are my ‘top tips’ (some of which I even heard on Woman’s Hour during my siesta): 
Morning – close all south-facing windows/blinds/curtains.
Midday – stay indoors with everything closed, put the fans on, take a Siesta (and listen to Woman’s Hour).
Evening – As soon as the outside temperature is cooler than indoors, open doors/windows and let the cool air arrive inside.  Basically keep the house open at night/closed during the daytime. 

In principle this all sounds quite easy, but in practice keeping doors closed when there are people and dogs wanting to go and in out all the time is difficult, and if there is any cool night air, it doesn’t arrive until 5am.  Luckily my need for a cold drink of water (or some other need...) usually wakes me around that time and I make my perilous journey down the dark corridor trying to avoid either knocking into the floor fan or tripping over a dog lying on the cool tiles, and fling open all the doors and windows.  Until 9am, when it is already time to close them again.

 So stay cool, and remember the important difference between "J'ai chaud" and "Je suis chaud" - the latter is a different kind of 'hot'!

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

"I'm standing you on my car"

Clients often ask me what is the best way to learn French and apart from the obvious answers such as ‘listen to french radio, practice as often as you can, talk to the locals whenever possible’, my sure-fire cheat’s way to learn French is – to live with a Frenchman! 

Most of the time we chatter away in French and I think I understand 90% of what he is saying – although there have been times when I have joined him in the garage to help him look for a ‘Tournevis’, for example, without having the slightest idea what I’m looking for (it turns out to be a screwdriver). Even if I know the word, how to pronounce it is another matter – and the day I manage to naturally roll the letter ‘r’ and pronounce the word ‘Ronronner’ (to purr like a cat) I will get the champagne out.  I had enormous trouble with the word Grenouille and he helpfully suggested I practice by repeating the word ‘Couille’ several times – and I apologise to the young secretary in the office who had to explain to me that it was actually the word for a certain part of the male anatomy… 

But if there are times when I struggle with french, there are even more times when he struggles with English, so we speak a strange version of Franglais together, which seems to work; for example when I received a text saying ‘I am standing you on my car’ I immediately understood he was waiting for me in the car!  It only gets frustrating when we are having a heated debate (or normal discussion, as the french call it) and by the time I have got the dictionary out to make my point, I have already lost.

Much as we English like to use french words such as cul-de-sac, faux-pas, and bon-appetit, similarly many English words have crept into the french language – le sandwich, le weekend, le snack.  But please don’t tell me how to pronounce my own language - I know for a fact that the supermarket Lidl is pronounced Liddle and not Leedurl, discount is discownt and not discoont, I drive a Honda not an Onda, and the river running through London is absolutely not the Tameese.  One of my favourite french TV programmes recently was called “The Island” – and I so enjoyed hearing the announcer welcoming us to The Island - ‘Bienvenue sur Le Zer Eeeslond’.

The best result of our Anglo-French collaboration is that the dogs are now bi-lingual and respond to ‘Come ici, Pipi in the garden, Allez in Car, Cherche your coat’ etc.  The cat appears to be deaf….