Tag Archives: French

Vive La France!

When we lived in Switzerland and just across the border in France in the late 1990s and early 2000s, one of the biggest problems was finding healthcare.  Now I realize that I worked at the World Health Organization, but the docs there were researchers, primarily, meeting goers-to-ers.  They weren’t your every day heal-the-sick kind of doctors.

In addition to not knowing the ropes of a foreign system, there was the language barrier.  I mean, frankly, it is difficult to describe illnesses in English — I always feared that I would go in with a sore throat and end up without an important body part.  I didn’t realize that that could happen right here in the good old U.S. of A.  In fact, that just happened recently when a man went in for a routine procedure and, ummm, had a life changing event.  Allegedly.

So in 2002, we moved home to the U.S. where I could communicate and get medical treatment for $197,238.73 per word.

Today, though, I’m rethinking that decision.  Maybe we acted in haste.  Maybe we should have thought twice or three times.  Maybe we should go back.

No, I’m not sick.  In fact, with my English-speaking doctors I’m doing quite well.

But there is one thing that I could get in France that I cannot get here:  wine.

French hospital to open wine bar to cheer up terminally ill

PARIS – A hospital in the French city of Clermont-Ferrand is to open a wine bar where terminally ill patients will be able to enjoy a “medically-supervised” glass or two with their families.

Vive la France, where the terminally ill can get “medically supervised” alcoholic beverages.  I hear the wine is to die for.

UPDATE!!!

If I DO go back to die with wine in my hand/throat/tummy, somebody else needs to pick it out.  I have an amazing skill crafted while living inside of or within spitting distance of France.

I can go into any store in France and leave with a bottle of awful wine.  It’s a talent.  A gift.  Not many folks can claim it.

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Filed under Adult Traumas, Crohn's Disease, Hey Doc?, Huh?, Humor, Mental Health, Taking Care of Each Other

Boaring Followup

When I wrote my story about Cooper and the wild boar he tried to befriend, well, I did it as a way to make my peace with my furry friend’s passing.

And as frequently happens when I write about things that hurt my heart, my blogging buddies have all helped me through what has been a sad few days.  Thanks.  It has made a difference.

Karen, from Mom in the Muddle commented that she’d never known anyone with a wild boar story  And it occurred to me that I have several.

So I thought I’d tap that keg one more time, and tell you my other wild boar stories.

Spoiler Alert:  Nobody dies.  You’re welcome.

Boaring-story #1

Linda was an English angel.  We met when she came to my door about six months after we moved to Switzerland.  By that point, I was incredibly lonely – my French was, ummm, sucky, and I knew very few people.

Then Linda knocked on my door. She spoke English.  And she was moving in down the street with her husband and two, count ‘em two kids – a girl Jacob’s age (Catherine) and a boy (James) a year younger.  Friends for my son!  Did I mention that she was English.  And that she spoke English?

While Linda was visiting that first afternoon, John called. I told him that we had a new neighbor who spoke English and that I wasn’t going to let her leave.  I said this in front of Linda.  Somehow, she didn’t take me to be some sort of psychopath and became my friend in spite of what must have seemed like a creepy thing to say.

Anyway, one evening after Cooper and I had our encounter,  Linda was driving down the busy road that was next to our house.  Linda drove a large, green Mitsubishi Montero, and that night she struck a fully grown, male wild boar.  Only a car that size could have won such a jousting match.  Linda was unhurt, and she called the local police, the gendarme, to report it.  The men in uniform came rushing.

Now what do you think was their first question?  Did they ask if she was hurt?  If her car was alright?  If she was traumatized by hitting and killing a beast that weighed as much as a truck?

No.  Wrong on all counts.

“Madam, do yu vant it?” they said in heavily French-accented English.  “Ze sanglier?  Ze body?  Ze boar?” 

You see, the meat from wild boar is a much sought after delicacy in Switzerland and France.  Linda was unaware of that fact.

Linda straightened her British backbone, stiffened her British upper lip and said in her most refined British accent:

“Why No.”

Image from gourmetfly.com

Image from gourmetfly.com

Linda’s boar was given to a local bistro in the next town.  The served sanglier à la chaise for the rest of the season.

Google, natch

Google, natch

I didn’t try it out of respect for Cooper’s pal, the boar who didn’t kill us.  It only seemed fair.

*   *   *

Boaring story #2

In mid-2000 we moved a short ways away, across the border into France.  There we had a lovely house, but the dog walks were less spectacular.

Still, every night after Jacob went to bed, John or I would take Coops for a walk.  We took turns, because Jacob was still too young to leave alone.  We were still surrounded by farm fields, but the views and the walks now along town streets that meandered alongside of farm fields, instead of farm roads that criss-crossed them.  These roads were built for cars, and darn it all, people used them to drive on!

John insisted on taking a flashlight whenever he went for a walk at night.  I thought he was a pansy.  I mean, really, there were streetlights here and there, plus your eyes adjust to the darkness and I for one could see just fine in the dark, thank you very much.  I was not a pansy; I didn’t carry a flashlight.

And you know, that was probably just as well, because one night while Cooper and I were out, we walked down a road that was busy enough to require me to leash Coops.  And it was a good thing.  Because as we came around a curve I noticed something silhouetted in the streetlight 30 feet ahead of us – a full grown, tusked, wild boar.

Thanks, Google But our boar's tusks were way bigger

Thanks, Google
But our boar’s tusks were way bigger

Male wild boars have tusks that protrude from their lower jaw.  They use these tusks to skewer dogs and people who displease them.

Cooper and I stood very still and watched him.  The streetlight glistened on his tusks which were quite large.  I figured they would easily go through either Cooper or I.  Maybe both.

Unless we died from the stench.  Wild boars seem to have an aversion to water.  And soap.

After about 10 minutes that seemed a whole lot longer, Pumba moved on into the farm field on the other side of the road.  There was a dip of about two feet between the road and the field, and Pumba negotiated it easily.

Phew!  Another boaring averted.

*   *   *

Boaring-story #3

Naturally, I started to become a wee bit nervous.  Paranoid.  Fearful of large mammals that might kill me and my dog.

I was pretty sure I wouldn’t do anything stupid around a wild animal.  I respected them.  I admired their strength.  Their wildness.  Their ability to kill me if I ticked them off.  So I knew that I was safe.

Cooper? There was not even the slightest chance that he would be sensible. So during the fall, when the wild boar were known to be around, I kept him on the leash in the evenings.  I was learning.

I did decide that maybe my husband John wasn’t such a pansy after all.  Perhaps, I thought, just perhaps, a flashlight wasn’t such a stupid idea.  It could let me see what was going to attack me, although sometimes I think you’re better off not knowing what’s gonna hit you.  Still, maybe having a flashlight would give me a blunt instrument with which to defend myself.   I looked at the six-inch plastic flashlight in my hand and realized that I was totally screwed in the weapons department.

One night, not long after Cooper and I had seen Pumba basking in the streetlamp, that we had another sighting.  I was starting to worry that my luck just couldn’t continue.  Time was running out.  How many times can you be in close contact with a wild boar without getting boared?

It was getting on towards December.  There was a distinct chill in the air.  The leaves were off the trees, the shrubs were bare .  The moon was full that night, and so I left the flashlight at home.  I could see just fine in the bright light that needed no batteries.  Of course, just when I needed the moon, it chose to disappear.  And that is when I looked to my left and saw the dim outline of yet another wild boar.   And this one was even bigger.

This wildlife crap was beginning to get on my nerves.

“SHIT!!!!” I thought.  “What is with these pigs?  Do I have a ‘Gore me’ sign on my back?  Or one that says ‘Secretly wants to be Boared?’ ” 

Does Mother Nature truly have a warped sense of humor?

In the dim light, I could just see the animal slowly walking, straight towards me and Cooper.  We slowly backed away, but it kept coming.  Slowly and steadily it lumbered our way, prolonging my fear.  Why not kill me and get it over with?

I swear, this animal was even bigger than the last boar we’d seen.  From its size and shape, I figured it was possibly the largest wild boar on earth.

And then, just when it was at the edge of the field, about 20 feet away from frozen me and squirming Cooper, something surprising happened.

The wild boar mooed

 

There was a whole mess of them Google Image

There was a whole mess of these scary critters
Google Image

The farmer had apparently just moved his herd of cows to that field the other boar had crossed.  It had previously been empty.  The moon came back out and shined down on me, as I laughed uproariously.  Cooper looked confused but he wagged his tail and tugged on his leash.  He wanted to play with the cows.  Of course, they don’t much like dogs, either.

*    *    *

Cooper and I never again met a wild boar.  And you know what?  That suits me just fine.  Because dealing with one sanglier was memorable.  A whole herd of them was just getting boaring

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Filed under Awards, Cooper, Dogs, Family, Geneva Stories, Humor, Pets, Stupidity, Wild Beasts

French is Dangerous

You’ve heard me talk about this before (Merde 101).  But the world has gotten more dangerous since I wrote that piece.  We need to be on the lookout.  We need to be vigilant.  We need to speak English.  No, this is not an anti-immigrant piece.  This is a potential-worldwide-calamity-caused-by-incomprehensible-grammar piece.

Yes, it’s true.  I’m saying that all roads to terrorism are sign-posted in FRENCH.  Believe me.  I lived there.  I know.  Well, I don’t know the language, but I know those signposts.  And what they say.  More or less.

Why would I make such an accusation?  Because French is stupid.

Well, actually, it’s really French possessives.  French possessives are stupid, illogical, dangerous.

You see, in French, objects get the gender of the object/noun, not the owner.  And that, is of course, the problem.

Imagine that there is a man and a woman in a train station.  Between them is a suitcase.

Google Image (or KGB?)

In it is a nuclear bomb.  Desperate to foil the bad guys, you cannot just shout out “It’s HIS!” pointing to the man who can be arrested and the bomb diffused.

Google Images are everywhere

Why not?

Because the word for suitcase in French is “valise” which is feminine.  Therefore, you can only say “It’s HERS” (“Est la valise!”) — regardless of who owns the suitcase/nuclear bomb.  The bomb would go off and everyone would die.

The terrorists would succeed because French is stupid.

Not speaking French is the way to protect the world.

*****

One of my blogging buddies, Paprika of Good Humored felt stupid recently.  She wrote about it here:  At Least We Can See France From Our Toilet.  And it’s not her fault.  You see, Paprika and her husband Oregano found themselves in French-speaking Switzerland, just down the road from where I used to live.  They came back feeling stupid.  They shouldn’t have.  Instead, they should have come back relieved that they had survived a nuclear attack.

[Note to folks who actually know French:  Before you get on my case, I do know that there are other was to say “It’s HIS.” But they are not short, sweet and to the point.  They are long and involved and the bomb would explode by the time anyone could get the sentence out.  The Terrorists would still win.]

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Filed under Criminal Activity, Geneva Stories, Gizmos, Global Warming, Health and Medicine, History, Humor, Hypocrisy, Neighbors, Politics, Science, Stupidity

An International Life of Crime

The State of New Jersey just passed a new law requiring pet owners to restrain their pets in the car.  It’s become known as the Seamus law, after Mitt Romney’s dog Seamus who famously rode to Canada on the roof of Mitt’s car.

Now I have mixed feelings about this law.  It was designed to keep primarily dogs from distracting the driver.  Which is a good thing.  But I’m worried that it will lead to a crime wave.

Because restraining my dog led me to bribe an official of the French government.  Somehow I eluded authorities and remain a free woman.  But there is a lesson here.  And that lesson is this:

Restraint results in a loss of freedom

Yes, it’s true.  I am profound.  And awesome.  And a hardened criminal.

So what happened, Elyse? you say, wondering if you really want to know about my life of crime.  And you know I’m going to tell you.

*   *   *

When we got Cooper in 1998, we owned a Toyota Picnic, a little six seat van not available in the U.S.  It was kind of a vomit van, actually, because it was well known to induce vomiting by anyone who traveled with us.  We kept a large supply of cleaning supplies with us at all times.

Anyway, I read an article about how, if you stop suddenly, while traveling at 60 mph, a 50 lb Springer Spaniel dog will be traveling significantly faster as he flies through the car.  He will, in fact, become a projectile and might end up killing your kid.

Now I liked the dog a lot even at that early stage.  But I didn’t really relish the idea of the dog killing my kid to whom I was quite attached.  So, to scorn and jeers from John, I bought Cooper a special doggie seat belt that attached to the seatbelt of the seat behind the driver’s.

Cooper, however, did not approve of this new restraint.  I presume I hadn’t adequately educated him on the importance of self-restraint.  Because he ate his restraint.  And he had started eating the seatbelt too when I realized what was happening and released the rebel.  Who then happily sat wherever he wanted in the back of the vomit van.

Fortunately, Cooper hadn’t really done much damage to the seatbelt.  There were only a few bites taken out of it; it worked perfectly well and was not a safety hazard.

But when we moved across the border into France a couple of years later, well, we had to have the car inspected.  And the French car inspectors are famous for flunking Americans.  According to my husband, anyway.  And so I faced the villains alone.

Now, before you jump all over my husband for sending me into the lion’s den, well there is something you should know.  My husband cannot lie.  He cannot stretch the truth.  He cannot exaggerate.  Worse in this case, he would not have been able to restrain himself from explaining to the inspector that it really was not a safety issue.

Me, well, I’m different.  I grew up getting away with high crimes and misdemeanors.  I rarely got caught, and when I did, well, I got out of it. I’ve had practice.

So whenever we needed to deal with the French government, well, it was all up to me.

I drove to wherever it was, produced my paperwork, and waited my turn.  Truthfully, I was nervous.  I didn’t want to have to spend $1 zillion replacing a seat belt (car repairs in Switzerland/France are tres cher).  So I fidgeted with the container of mints in my pocket.  Tic Tacs.

When my turn came, I was outside with the inspector, chatting to him.  He was a young guy, and was nice and helpful as I tried to have a chatty conversation with him in my pigeon French. In fact, he couldn’t have been nicer to me.

Plus, the car was in great shape, clean and nearly perfectly maintained.  He found nothing wrong on the outside.  Then he opened the front passenger side, and tested the seat belt.  He closed the door and went to the rear passenger seat, and tested that one.

I started to sweat.  The chewed one was next.

He went around and opened the rear driver’s side door.  And that’s when I did it.

“Tic Tac?” I asked him, holding out the container.

“Oui, merci, madame,” he responded, closing that door without looking at the damaged seat belt.  He took a Tic Tac, and proceeded to inspect the driver’s seat belt.

My car passed inspection with flying colors.

And I continued to live a life of crime in France, just outside of Geneva for two years.

*   *   *

So, if you are going to be driving through New Jersey with your dog you have two choices:

Restrain him or buy yourself a three-pack of Tic Tacs.

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Filed under Cooper, Criminal Activity, Driving, Fashion, Geneva Stories, Humor, Law

You’ve Got a Friend

This time it wasn’t my fault.  I didn’t break it.  John did.

Well, we had been meaning to replace the stereo for a while.  It went on without our help, changed from the radio to a CD and would often stop playing for no reason.  Other times it just wouldn’t turn off.  Perhaps it didn’t like our choice in music.  There was a short in it that no one could find.  Well, either that or we had to admit it was haunted.  We decided that broken is way better than spooky.

So that very day when I was writing about how I like to smack stuff, my husband was putting the nail in our stereo’s coffin.

You see, it was playing a song by Steely Dan.  John hates Steely Dan.  He hit the button on the remote, but the song continued.

Ricky don’t lose that number. 

John rushed over to the stereo and pushed the button, gently the first time.  Harder and harder with each successive, um, press of the button.  Until it stopped.  Permanently.   He smacked the stereo’s power button so hard that Ricky lost the number.  Ricky, in fact, would never come back, at least not through that stereo.  It’s dead.

So today we got a new, shock absorbing model.  And putting it onto the shelf sent me back to the last time music haunted me.

We had just moved to Geneva; it was 1997.  Living full-time in a place where they speak another language makes you long for English.  Passionately.  Desperately.  So when my new friend Allison Dornstauder informed me, a mere month after my arrival that there was an English language radio station in Geneva, I was delighted.  WRG – World Radio Geneva.  All English broadcasting.  I knew now that I would survive my Swiss adventure.

But it was weird.  Every time I turned on the radio, whether it was in the car or at home, it played the same song.  It played You’ve Got A Friend.  You know, the Carole King song, also sung by James Taylor?  Both versions are terrific.  I heard neither.

Someone else was always singing it.

At first I thought it was odd; I mean, the Jackson Five singing You’ve Got A Friend?  Why would anyone want to listen to that?  I heard a different version of the song, every time I turned on the radio.  Roberta Flack sang it, Barry Manilow did a duet with Melissa Manchester, and Barbara Streisand belted it.  Every single time I turned on the radio when I was alone, it happened.

Did you know that song has been recorded by at last count, 752 different artists.  And I use the term “artists” loosely.  I heard each and every one of them.

I started to get spooked.  There was nobody I could talk to about this, other than my husband, who thought I was nuts anyway.  That’s why he married me.  But we were new to town, I didn’t know anyone yet, I had no friends.  Who could I talk to about this unnerving phenomenon?  There was my friend Allison, and a couple of other parents I’d chatted with at Jacob’s school.  But I was not yet comfortable confiding such an eerie experience to strangers.

Finally, I did tell Allison.  I tried to be casual about hearing the song so much, and by so many different artists.  She laughed; she didn’t believe me.  But it was true.  Really it was.  I honestly started to think I must be going, well, slightly, insane.  But if I was, I would be damned if it would be to the generic version.  Give me Carole King – it was her song.  Give me James Taylor – he made it a No. 1 hit.  Michael Jackson, Roberta Flack and the rest?  No.  Not good enough.  And don’t give me Barry Manilow doing anything.

Remember, this happened before you could just look up programming online.  Before you could pause and replay.  Before you could record on your computer just what weird thing you were streaming online.  It was the olden days.  Before Google.  Imagine that.

Allison started teasing me about it.  She wouldn’t even humor me; she thought it couldn’t be happening.  But I got back at her.  Whenever it happened and I was at home, I would call her.  Invariably she wasn’t home, and so I put the phone up to the stereo, and I let her know, well, Allison, “You’ve got a friend.”  No message, just the song.  After she was serenaded by 4 or 5 different versions of the song on her answering machine, Allison finally agreed that, well, maybe they were doing something weird with that song.  We became fast friends.

So today, when we plugged in our new stereo, we tuned it in to our favorite pop station and turned it on.  I heard those first few notes and thought, “Oh no.”

And then I heard it, Carole King singing

When you’re down and troubled
And you need some loving care
And nothing, nothing is going right
Close your eyes and think of me
And soon I will be there
To brighten up even your darkest night

You just call out my name
And you know wherever I am
I’ll come running to see you again
Winter, spring, summer or fall
All you have to do is call
And I’ll be there
You’ve got a friend

 It’s good to be back in the States.

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Filed under Humor, Music