I open this morning by restating once again – to reassure you – that this is NOT a politics blog. But there are times I feel I have to swerve briefly into that (unseemly) arena. After all, we have heard so much about the U.S. presidential election that it was impossible here to ignore it entirely.
If you’re exhausted by the U.S. one, well, France – which is of some interest here, as you know – is going to have a presidential election of its own in April (1st round) and May (2nd round) 2017. The Socialist candidate may be the incumbent president, François Hollande. However it seems highly unlikely he will win a second five-year term.
And why? Recently, it was reported President Hollande has a 4 percent job approval rating. No, that is not a typo. I wrote *FOUR* percent:
During our La Clusaz chalet stay last week, my wife told me she had had a pre-ski chat with a Frenchwoman in the boot room. When my wife’s French finally proved unequal to the Frenchwoman’s, she admitted it. The woman broke into English and continued the conversation. Eventually I came up when the woman (who had seen us together at meals) asked, “Where is your husband?”
“He’s writing,” my wife said she’d explained. “He’s a writer and gets inspiration here.”
Yet “inspiration” sometimes appears from the strangest of directions. A couple of days later after we checked out, we were sort of surprised to find the driver waiting to take us back to Geneva Airport was not the limo guy who’d dropped us. Instead, it was a woman of about 40.
As we headed off in her immaculate, small SUV, softly spoken she too revealed she spoke English well. She became easily the chattiest airport driver we’d ever recalled having in France. Soon she was on about the region, the weather, the lack of snow, the scenery….
The chalet staff is much the same as last year. The major change is the young Polish woman who worked in the bar, and whose French was so good we’d initially thought she was French, is gone. She had told us the job was only a stopgap until she got one in her field, so her departure isn’t a shock. (I don’t remember her field, but she was a recent graduate.) A similar aged Frenchwoman is in her role now.
At Swiss border control at Geneva Airport yesterday, I ended up within earshot of a “middle aged” American woman as I heard her explaining herself to the border agent. Apparently he had questioned her as to why she was in Switzerland. She stumbled a bit over words as she replied that she was here for a week’s vacation and lived in London.
Before she even said “London,” I’d had a feeling that was her “home.” For years I’ve heard her “accent” on most Americans long-resident here. The exception seems to be if they hail from the Deep South: that American accent seems to take a little longer to “Anglicize.”
Good grief, it’s so early! We’re up at this time because we’re going across to France from this morning until Saturday – to La Clusaz in the Alps. After all that’s sadly happened since October, we can use a getaway to a gorgeous spot and this one more than fits the bill:
On Saturday, our ski week in France sadly ended. As all good things do. 😦 We flew back to London from Geneva, Switzerland – which is about an hour’s drive from where we’d stayed in La Clusaz.
Geneva Airport isn’t huge. It feels rather “dated” as well. However, it also has corridors covered with wall ads for the likes of wealth management companies, astronomically expensive watches, Dubai, and stuff George Clooney’s hired to endorse; but before we got to any of that, we were in a mob scene at check-in.
In having posted back on Wednesday about those “ghosts” in our lives, one aspect of remembering deserves expanding: it is, we know, music. It stays with us. In many respects, our lives’ passage is marked by a “soundtrack.”
I had one of those experiences sitting in a small restaurant at lunchtime. During our meal, a “background music” radio station blurted out part of Jean-Jacques Goldman’s Quand La Musique Est Bonne. Released in 1982, it was an “oldie” even two decades ago:
I could have dropped my fork. It’s one song that marks, for me, “two decades” ago and especially hereabouts in France. We subsciously associate music with places, people and events to the point that we often barely realize the connection.
Last evening over dinner, our chalet “host with the most” sought to bring together a roughly 10 year old French boy, and two English sisters, who we figure are between about 7 and 10.
They were sitting with their respective parents at tables opposite each other. He gave it his best shot at coaxing them together. The kids did lots of giggling, but that was about all.
Finally he shrugged and declared in his friendly voice loud enough that everyone eating overheard, “I see it all the time. They become friends their last day. That’s sad. It should be from the first day.”
Had a slew of About.me views and new connections in the last few days. I’m still trying to understand what prompts its ebb and flow. Some days so many, others many fewer.
Always intriguing regardless. Some people put A LOT of effort into their profile pages. Makes me feel kinda inferior. 😉
Actually have time for some writing today. Going to try to take advantage of it. Have a good Friday, wherever you are in the world. 🙂
Insofar as writing for the third volume is concerned, this ski holiday has been nearly a disaster. This week, I’ve gotten barely a couple of pages done: honestly less than one decent regular day’s work. However, we’re also having a great time – and, in a sense, I’m getting LOTS of new material I can use once home in England and comfortably at my desk.
The chalet owner is a Belgian, well-spoken in English, and reminds us of something of a cross between a pleasant Gerard Depardieu and my (mischievous glint in the eye) novelist uncle. As you don’t know my uncle, that comparison’s incomplete, but naturally I’ll explain more. 😉
At breakfast, the owner confirms dinner is acceptable each night. (If anyone objects, the chef will do something else for them.) This morning, as her similarly aged English half was sitting at their table, he asked the 30ish, Scottish, female half who was at the bar getting coffee for herself, “Are you okay with the menu for tonight?” She approved quietly. He followed up by asking playfully, “And your lover? Does he approve it too?”
Her husband at their table next to us turned around to me, embarrassed, smiling, shaking his head. Seeing her expression as she walked back to their table, my wife told me afterwards that her face was bright red as she too embarrassingly grinned.
The owner has told me he used to own an art gallery in Belgium. In the last decade, he has redone what had been a shabby, old chalet. His booming, friendly voice can easily be heard singing or laughing during the day. (We even heard him outside while we were taking a walk our first day.) When I asked him if his chef was French, he joked, “French? No! He’s Belgian too.”
Evenings, they’re assisted by a Polish woman in her early twenties. She speaks French very well (at first we thought she was French until she told us her background), and English passably. The owner clearly relies heavily on her, but she also admits, though, to being a bit accident-prone. “I’ve broken so many wine glasses,” she once laughed to us from behind the bar.
Yes, welcome to France.
The chalet has 14 rooms. The guests so far have been mostly French. But there have been of course some other English-speakers besides ourselves and that English/Scottish couple.
Another, older, Scottish woman, unfortunately took quite a tumble skiing her first day and badly damaged a knee. That ended her skiing week. The other night (her last night), just before dinner, the owner concocted her a drink on the house.
“It’s terrible, she fall on her first day,” he remarked seriously to us. He then winked as he strolled off carrying the sympathetic, surprise glass to her table. “I try to make her feel a bit better.”
Hope you’ve been having a good Thursday, wherever you are. 🙂