Skip to content

Archive for

Sounds like a whisper.

Still at it, here is my idea for Thursdays.  Actually, it is decidedly not my idea, or rather the original form is not but the notion of using the concept on this blog is my own.  Kudos me.  Even if it’s microscopic.  Thursday, in the spirit of a popular hashtag ‘Throwback Thursday’, will be devoted to sharing something previously written that might merit a fresh airing.  Or might not.  That is entirely up to your own opinion.  Delighted or disgusted you can record comments and I promise I’ll embrace you.  Here in my Half-Baked world we have a strictly no fights no bites policy.

This post was originally published in 2014.

When I was at school I learned French. In fact I began learning at the aged eight 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.

DSCF7626

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 ‘Les Enfants de Paradis’, France’s 1943 answer to ‘Gone With The Wind’. I listened to Jane Birkin breathing her way through Je T’aime Moi Non Plus and wanted to be her.

Adulthood and a cheese business that took me back and forth to Paris to the gastronomic chaos that is Rungis Market.  Ad hoc travels to Provence, Normandy, The Auvergne in search of the perfect morceau to bear triumphantly back to Berkshire in the overstuffed boot of our car and present to our customers who would sigh in ecstasy and run home to devour their new best friend with gusto and self-congratulatory glee that they had found this ‘maaaarvlus little place’ which sold all things French-Cheese without their having to bother at all with la manche.

DSCF6762.JPG

During all this time, I listened French. I loved the sound. Compare the way that airport is said in English – two clipped syllables uttered in a reasoned monotone – with the same word in French. L’aeroport. The aer has the lightness of a soufflé and that for me is French. That for me defines what I adore about the language. Of course regionally and even more microscopically the way words are pronounced, the way sentences are constructed, varies. Standard French, the same as BBC English is not the standard at all. My radio station of choice when out in my car and indeed in my home, now that I have discovered the joys of listening on-line to the wireless, is RBA 104.4 Bort les Orgues. The main reason for my slavish devotion is the woman I know as ‘Over Enunciating Announcer Lady’. She is bliss. When she does her petits annonces I am captivated by her emphasis. ‘PerDU, un beagLE tricoloooooR a Bort les OrgUH’ or even more deliciously the moment when behind the wheel shortly before Christmas I heard her utter ‘Soob Millie Mettre aRAY ….. a Champs sur TarentaiNUH’ and realized it was a shout out for The Husband with Two Brains’ presentation on trous noirs (Black Holes) and his observatory in Hawaii. Her fabulous iteration gilds my days and she has unwittingly helped my French from stuttering to fluttering over the last six months.

DSCF7595

That moment driving to Lyon in April when I realized the strange sensation I was experiencing was seeing Spring burst forth to greet me with its bumptious greens and yellows and pinks and whites and mauves in great swathes before my eyes is replicated in my sudden ability to assimilate and respond to a barrage of French with relative ease. But even in areas with harsher tones the words have elegance to me. Somehow Tortue sounds so much more evocative than Tortoise particularly if you can perfect that mysterious swallowed ‘r’ that French babies absorb by osmosis in order to bewitch dull English girls like me later in life.

DSCF7428DSCF5728

I have lived in Italy and speak decent Italian, I learned Russian for six years at school but for me French is candied grace and refinement. If it were a scent it would be captured in a bottle made of a glass so fragile that you would think it was a bubble. Even in Cantal where we live which forms part of the Auvergne region (now wed to Rhône-Alpes as one of the super-regions created during the panda-like François Hollande’s administration and where the accent is renowned as being the hardest to understand in France.  Even for native French speakers.  Say Grenoble. Gren. Oble. Now say it with a French accent (it is after all French). Can you hear the chicly swallowed G? The way the ble whispers away at the end? That’s French. I speak it comme une vache espagnole but I hear it fluently. And it is music in my ears.

DSCF7440

PS: My title is taken from a song by the brilliant Tracy Chapman. She was Talkin’ Bout a Revolution – something else the French do rather well ….

It should be noted that this piece was originally written for a writing competition … it didn’t make the cut but I rather felt it worthy of a place here nonetheless …. you are free to agree or disagree or remain Swiss and neutral.  And the photographs of mountains?  For me learning the language is like walking in the mountains: sometimes the climbs seem endless and the struggle never ending, you feel you won’t ever reach the top, you feel the task impossible but when you turn the corner on the path and take stock of how far you have climbed and breath the air and survey that vista, the effort evaporates.  And  aside from that, I simply love them.

The landscape listens

Good grief!  This new discipline is positively out of control.  Day three and still no signs of being distracted from the task in hand.  Or head.  Or wherever on earth I’ve got it stashed.

DSCF4904

Wednesday.  Not wordless for me, I’m afraid.  Rather I thought I might devote Wednesday to Wanderings.  I thought about making it a day to share walks but decided that, being  somewhat discursive by nature, that I would inevitably stray from the path.  Wandering, on the other hand gives scope for excursions other than walks – a junket here, a jaunt there, a foray and a forage.  Much more pleasing to one as naturally meandering as I.

DSCF4834

 

Words to accompany these expeditions may be many or may be few but I do promise lots of pictures which may or may not please the eye.  I’m of the little lauded ‘Myopic Point and Shoot School of Photography’ so be gentle … I don’t profess any excellence, simply enthusiasm.

DSCF4853

Today’s little ramble was more than four years ago when I was first living here in Massachusetts.  We subsequently returned to France for eighteen months and I commenced my present life here two years ago.

DSCF4825

 

Arriving anywhere in winter gives a naked narrative to the unfamiliar landscape.  Nothing is hidden, all is laid bare and it is a season I love for that reason.   Three things struck me immediately about this place:  the water, the light and the sheer volume of trees.  Fortunate since water, trees and light are three  abiding succours of my soul.

DSCF4823

This set of pictures was taken in the Assabet Wildlife Reserve which is literally on our doorstep.  I share them with you for a flavour of what I mean by water, trees and light.  This triptych captivated me then and still does now.  In winter, they are particularly lovely to my eyes.  But in honesty, they are particularly lovely to my eyes in Spring, in Summer and in Autumn also.

 

Weak rays of sunshine burnish the trees and the water reflects them back at us.  One tree is seemingly suspended like a diving acrobat, refusing to succumb to the ground to rot and feed it’s still living compatriots.

Late afternoon light provides a satin lustre to the wetland and the sky silken above deepens as it lights the water beneath

Nature snoozes but never truly sleeps ….

The rosy gleam of the setting sun shimmering on a natural mirror

A long-legged lumber man silhouetted against his eternal landscape

 

PS: the unavoidable PS:  The title is a line from Emily Dickinson’s lovely ‘There’s a certain Slant of Light’.  Dickinson was from Massachusetts, born in Amherst, directly west of here.  She captures her place quite perfectly.

There’s a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons –
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes –
Heavenly Hurt, it gives us –
We can find no scar,
But internal difference –
Where the Meanings, are –
None may teach it – Any –
‘Tis the seal Despair –
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air –
When it comes, the Landscape listens –
Shadows – hold their breath –
When it goes, ’tis like the Distance
On the look of Death –

‘There’s a Certain Slant of Light’

Emily Dickinson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

+-