Seeing's believing

May is full of bank holidays in France, especially Thursdays, and when people take the Friday off to create a long weekend they call it “faire le pont”. I heard the expression “viaduc” the other day – nice image of a double bridge.

I was “looking forward” to cutting the grass on this bank holiday, so imagine my surprise when I went into the garage to get the lawnmower and immediately realised there was something missing. The something was a bright red plastic petrol can. I bought it recently to replace the dull blue plastic petrol can that went missing from the same garage. The absence of the expected bright red blotch almost made me hysterical. I went out into the lane, thinking one of my son’s acquaintances must have needed petrol for his scooter and been afraid to ask, hoping the can itself would have been discarded in the ditch. As I walked up and down looking into the ditch, fulminant, the words “red rag to a bull” came to mind. This definition reminds me of the days when I used to feel frustrated about dictionaries. If I don’t understand the word in French I’m hardly going to understand it in English. Pronunciation is important but… wait a minute – reminds me of the check-in at Vienna airport. I ask Sylvia what a “Vortages Check-in” is. She says she has no idea. She asks the hostess behind the counter and bursts out laughing. It is German for “check-in”. Because I pronounced it in English she then saw it as an English word.

The last time I arrived at Blagnac to travel my mind switched to English as soon as I left home, and when I got into the lift I thought I saw “departs” (when it was actually “départs”). Can’t they get their English right, I seethed, it is departures not departs, which reminded me of the arrivals board which sports “delayed at” instead of "delayed to" – in fact, in English speaking airports they use another formulation altogether – "expected at"… Everytime I see “delayed at” I want to write to Air France but then the person I’m waiting for arrives and complaining seems insignificant.

In a Guardian interview of Kashuo Ishiguro I came across the word bathos (in the adjectival “bathetic” form) for the first time and coevals

In the same interview I realised I was not sure what “vindicate” meant and I discovered the Japanese aesthetic concept of wabi sabi: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect. Phew. That's a relief.


Butterflies are one of the reasons I moved to the South West of France from Paris, along with starry skies and fresh air.

There are two kinds of red. Red that makes you angry and red that warns you of danger.
Returning to Caen from Scotland, having driven up there one Christmas and almost being snowed in by a blizzard, I was heartened by the tail lights of the car in front of me as I was heading down south at a snail’s pace. At one point I actually got the feeling that they had been put there especially for me, to keep me safe and make me feel part of a great network of people who drive cars. I suppose that is the opposite of paranoia.

P.S. fulminer bluster, rant, seethe, storm away, fulminate