Learning French A welcome interruption, the server arrives
She (the American Antiquariess), still hears
Michael’s words echoing in her mind.
He was her English speaking, French teaching,
British courier for three years in France.
“Stop translating French to English in your head,
you’ll loose the bloody moment, associations,
make associations, form a picture of the object
with the word!” he would say, banging his
pipe on the dashboard.
The only association in her mind was a
Louis Philippe commode playing musical
Photo European Antique Market
The top drawer opening for English, 2nd drawer
for French, 3rd drawer was for stashing all
the cultural tidbits, food and wines, and the
bottom drawer held names of people and
Her drawers were full, names hanging
half out, French words spilling into the
wrong drawer, places tumbling to the floor.
Names were hopeless, so she applied the
association first to Brocanteurs, AKA,
NoPants, Caveman, Madame Canal,
Horsetooth, etc. They were located in
villages throughout the countryside
like Tripe Village, Duck Maison,
Eau de Vie Ville, and One Man Band.
She knew where and who she was going to see,
even if Michael didn’t. It was only fair that if
she had so much to learn, he should exercise
his white mass too. That is when he told her to
drop the last consonant. Not foolproof, but a start.
“Jesus Christ!” he screamed, as his pipe
tumbled to the floor board and his
tweed cap rearranged itself on his head.
“The car exiting the lane to the right
always has the right of way!” followed by an
incomprehensible flow of French.
Michael just had to understand that she
only had a four-drawers, there was no room
left for stashing road signs, besides there were
It was just one of those things the French knew.
The French lessons usually took place in the van.
"Quit flowering up the language," he would tell
her, "the French don’t talk like that."
How was she to express her emotion without
an overload of adjectives? Although she
was glad, because she didn't know if they
were placed before or after the noun.
Even though he disliked her use of too
many adjectives, he did tell her about
B for beauty
A for age
G for gentile
S for size
Adjectives that are BAGS or describe those
traits, go before the noun.
All others after.
He reassured her she would start to understand
the French language if she stayed in the
moment, and not rummage around in her
drawers trying to find the English translation.
L’heure pour l’aperitif
“SVP Madame, une bouteille de Perrier Jouet, brut,"
As they wait for the champagne, Michael
starts to bang his pipe on the table and
fidget with the tobacco. He arranges the
pinches of tobacco just so in the bowl and
seems to enjoy chewing a bit, on the pipe stem.
She wonders why his hesitation in firing it up,
but lets it drop in fear of interrupting his flow
of thought, as he proceeds to tell her the story
of his Frenchification.
bottle in hand, perfectly chilled,
accompanied by two thin crystal, tulip shaped
coupes. She watches as the sommelier performs
Peeling the foil, he twists the metal ring to
loosen the muselet and covers the top of the
bottle with his white napkin. He holds the
bottle at an angle and slowly twists it with
his right hand. The deed was void of the big
POP and corks a flying, only a slight hissing
from the effervescence.
The sommelier poured Michael's glass half full,
then resumed his military stance in silence.
Michael held the glass to the light and
studied the bubbles against the brilliant
color in his scholarly gentleman manner.
How many, their size, and at what speed
they traveled. He brought the glass closer,
slightly below his nose, but close enough to
allow the dancing bubbles to tickle and
the aroma to reach his olfactory region.
Michael wasn’t speaking, but it was
evident to her there was an inner conversation
Eagerly anticipating, she waits for the
glass to meet his lips and the champagne
to engage his palette. How many adjectives
will he use to describe this poetry, she thought.
After huffing and swirling he simply smiles
and nods at the sommelier.
Alas, her glass is filled. She decides to
fore go asking for OJ, which is about
the only way she drank Champagne before
France. She heeds the advice, when in France...
She mimics Michael’s routine even though
she has left her comfort zone.
Micheal doesn’t comment on her technique.
He proceeds to tell her stories about the
Champagne region of France. The three
major grapes grown on the chalky terre,
the wars and hardships the region has endured,
how the wine is fermented twice and aged a
minimum of 15 months. She learns about
riddling, recipes, and Madame Clicquot’s
contribution to the Champagne Houses.
He tells her the typical French person
knows this before the age of 12.
Still puzzled by his lack of any description,
she prods, looking for those words that he
would use to translate the tasting experience.
Silky, toast, hints of almond, white flowers??
While tapping his pipe, he tells her it is of no
importance how his palette would interpret
the champagne, for hers would likely differ.
"The point is," he tells her, "the ceremony,
that so eloquently engages the senses."
"Joie de Vivre," Michael told her, "are
those moments in life, when all your
senses are engaged."
"Stay in the moment," Michael told her.
Photos courtesy Comite Champagne & Perrier Jouet
Sante mes ami's
A welcome interruption, the server arrives