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Truly ‘t is a rare bird in the land

Those of you familiar with my nonsense will know that I refer to my spouse as The Husband with Two Brains or HB². But he has another moniker, one that arose when he wasn’t even in the same country as the protagonist, let alone the same room.

Some while ago, probably 6 months after I moved to France, I was taking coffee with Raymond (adopt French accent, for he is indeed a proud Frenchman). Raymond came into world of HB² quite by chance some 20 years ago. A knock on his office door, a frantic colleague needing help with someone he suspected to be a Frenchman who had appeared uninvited in the lab. Under gentle interrogation it transpired that Raymond had spent all his savings on a single air fare to New York in pursuit of an Astronomy Professor that he particularly admired. He being, at the time, a student and general helper at the Astronomy faculty in Nice. Picked up by the Police wandering aimlessly, he somehow persuaded them to put him on the Amtrak to Boston from where he found his way to Harvard and there the story brought him into my husband’s orbit. Struck by his tenacity, his extraordinary affinity with the night-sky, which is akin to the ancient astronomers who first mapped and tried to understand the world beyond our globe, and touched by his desire to learn, my husband took him in and found him work in his lab. Eighteen months later he returned to France to complete a degree having finally accepted that to be taken seriously in the world of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Cosmology and all the attendent highbrow orbits he fancied dabbling in, he must have a degree. Since that time, Raymond remains devoted to Two Brains and I would suggest with some reason.

Back to the café where I had enjoyed a coffee and a chat with the same Raymond and asked his advice. I was concerned about my husband at the time for reasons I now fail to remember – living lives separated by 3,000 miles nurtures anxiety, or at least that has been my experience. As we stood to say our au revoirs, Raymond clasped me by the shoulders and, as he faire les emphatic bises (the air-kiss-kiss we do in France but with supplementary vigour to impart fortitude), declared that my husband is really un cochon rouge – a red pig. I queried this with a smile intended to make me the fool and a gentle ‘quoi?’ and he repeated ‘il est un petit cochon rouge’ – so in fact not just any red pig , but a small red pig. My husband stands almost 6′ and though of light and lean frame is not one to ever be described as little, particularly in France where most men are of, let’s say more concise hauteur. Including Raymond. To be doubly belt and braces sure that I understood him Raymond then announced in English ‘he is a red pig, a small red pig’.

Later that evening on the phone to The Brains I asked him, having Googled colloquial, slang and vernacular French all afternoon in vain. I enquired in a roundabout Winnie the Pooh sort of casual way what calling someone un cochon rouge or indeed un petit cochon rouge might mean. The answer came back ‘red pig or little red pig’. So not helpful at all. Accordingly spurred by what had now become an obsessive need to understand, I made a full confession, including sharing my troubled mind over he who owns both brains and was subjected to a stunned and complete silence. The identical stunned silence it turned out that Raymond employed a few weeks later when asked what he had meant by calling The Brains a red pig. He claimed he had said ‘un petit cochon rose’ and meant that my husband is more sensitive than he lets on. Less macho, less girder-built. I can firmly report that he did NOT. No sir. Not. At. All. I heard him entirely distinctly and he called my husband a little RED pig. Of course it has stuck. It begged to and would have been dreadfully rude to ignore it.

Therefore, when staying in Boothbay Harbor, Maine as recommended by my blogging friend ‘The Weird Guy with a Dog’ whom I wholeheartedly urge you to check out, and confronted with this wingèd porcine outside a pretty store selling eccentric ironwork, I was minded to abduct it but made do with a photograph for now. I perfectly intend to own it when we have a house to put it on – after all who can resist such a wondrous hog, seemingly dancing in the air, gleeful cheeks a-puffing, perky ears a-flapping and that tail uplifted with such blithe abandon. Nothing at all like my husband but portraying perfectly the joie de vivre I suspect we all aspire to and with the added advantage of telling you which way the wind blows. It is a rapturous porker, a piggy I will dream of until I return to make it my very own. I was inclined to share this story by the Weekly Photo Challenge prompt this week ‘Rare’ – if it piques your interest, you can see a sensational selection of entries here.

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PS: The quote is Martin Luther, Priest, Scolar, questioner and reformer ‘A faithful and good servant is a real godsend; but truly ‘t is a rare bird in the land’. Raymond has been a good and faithful servant to The Brains these more than twenty years and as you will discover when I write more of him is surely one of the rarest of birds you will encounter in a lifetime. Actually Luther was uncommonly fond of his rare birds giving the accolade to wise princes and even more to upright ones. That would probably apply today though to politicians rather than princes, I would suggest.

Sounds like a whisper ….

I’ll fly to Paris tomorrow and then on to Boston (with The Flying Bean) so here is one more post from the past before I start to half-bake some fresh stuff.   I hope my French has improved quite a bit since I wrote this – getting to grips with American can be every bit as challenging …

Half Baked In Paradise

When I was at school I learned French. In fact I began learning at the age of 8 in Mrs Noble’s class. Mrs Noble liked me, having despised my older brother (the loathing was mutual). Given that I generally hated my brother (also mutual and absolutely compulsory at the ages we were), I loved Mrs Noble, which might have been why she liked me. Life is like that. We tend to like those that love us. Unless they are insane stalkers.  But that really is another story.

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I adored the sounds of the words and I enjoyed learning. At secondary school I was, to be fair, generally mediocre at the grammar and indeed only actually began to make friends with conjugating after moving here in September last year. But I perfected my accent and frankly I was waiting for the call to star in the remake of 80s sitcom ‘Allo…

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Dance me to the end of love

A post from nearly two years ago – places I have loved and a lady who stopped me in her tracks … Dance me to the end of love

Half Baked In Paradise

As previously noted, we drive a lot, little dog and I a motley pair and better still a trio completed by the husband with two brains.  One day not so long ago we set off for Grenoble at around 5 a.m.  We go to Grenoble reasonably frequently since HB2 has associations with IRAM (Institut de Radioastronomie Milliemetrique) and indeed worked there for 9 years throughout the 1980s.  He had a house in the Belledonne mountains until recently and still has a bank account at Caisse D’Epargne in the village of Uriage les Bains.  That we had to go TO the bank to reset his PIN will tell you that this particular bank is a teeny bit perochial  – this is a 5-6 hour drive and we can’t use the nearer branches in Cantal because Caisse d’Epargne is entirely localised.  Hey ho.

DSCF4824 Chateau d’Uriage in Uriage les Bains

We made it…

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I don’t care what the weatherman says ….

I drove past the turning for this place en route to Paris and thence Calais, le manche and Oxfordshire on Tuesday of this week.  It was sunny.  By the time we reached Paris is was wet and in Calais there was the added frisson of a wind that could fell Cyclops in stone boots. Two years ago it was thus in Bourges when we arrived ….

Half Baked In Paradise

‘If the weatherman says its raining, you’ll never find me complaining’ goes the Louis Armstrong classic ‘Jeepers Creepers’.   Which some days, in fact some summers – this we are told is the worst for 100  years for sunshine and the worst since 1977 for rainfall,  is just as well.

You might recall that we had started out for Paris at midnight or thereabouts and arrived just before 6 a.m.  By 11 O’Clock I was clear of the Embassy and we walked a little before heading back to the car and out of the city for the long drive home.  And it is still a long drive – that 500 km to get to Paris is exactly the same on the way back.  We decided to stop for lunch in Orleans, capital of le Loiret in the region known as Centre because that’s just exactly where it is.  In the…

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The battle of the bulge

A conversation with the very lovely Susan who has a beautiful blog named ‘Our French Oasis’ has me thinking again about the very particular relationship of the French to food. So as I prepare to drive to England tomorrow I give you a reprise of a post I made about 18 months ago that had me battling the bulge. I could do with a re-read myself …..

Half Baked In Paradise

Here I am back in France this past fortnight and nine days of it have been on a ‘regime’.  A diet.  A detox actually.  And it paid dividends – I’m now a bit more than half a stone lighter and I have lost the inches in the right places.  By which I mean when it drops off your face after a certain age you just look older, more saggy and haggard and equally at my age one has a tendency to gaining round the middle.  A spare tyre that would not help in the event of a blowout in the little yellow car.  So I am a little more en ligne, a little trimmer and all the happier for it.  It’s a curious fact that you wear the over-weight on your mind at some level and the niggling anxiety wears you out.  So best to out it and…

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