Friday, February 24, 2006

Le ver vert va vers le verre vert

pot au feu
One relapse and visit to the doctor later, I'm actually starting to feel better. I'm probably still expelling a few million alveoli from my lungs every hour, but I'm sleeping better. It's still difficult to speak in French because I'm breathing through my mouth most of the time, and it just isn't possible to nasalise vowels properly. If I'm answering a question in class, I can rehearse it mentally then expel it in a well-prepared breath; but conversation is pretty impractical. I located an English-speaking doctor, but got an earful from his secretarial service for not using enough French - even though they didn't understand what I was twittering on about in my prefatorial French remarks.

While many Parisians are more than eager to practise their English with you - in fact you often have to resist lapsing into English all the time, so you end up talking French to their English - the "dark side" are those who refuse to understand anything but perfect Parisian-accented French. This seems to be most common in railway offices where they will wilfully misunderstand perfectly serviceable French and then switch to (perfectly awful) English as a final smack-down.

Last night, I joined a half-dozen students and two teachers from the language school for pot au feu at nearby restaurant, La Tournelle. It was my last chance for du vin before starting my antibiotics and codeine-laced cough elixir. Consequently I had to miss out on the wine-sampling during today's special class on the 5 senses, illustrated by copious amounts of wine and cheese. We learnt how different wine-growing regions employ different bottle-shapes for their produce, so you can for instance identify a wine bottle from the Alsace because it est fine et regulierement elancee vers le col. The shapes of the different glasses - les verres - are also keyed to particular regional varieties.

Other class-room tidbits:
  • Pont Neuf = the "New Bridge", not "Bridge Nine". It's actually the oldest of the Parisian bridges, but the name stuck.
  • Learning the language gives you an opportunity to hold up miscellaneous words to a new light e.g. Toussaint (a name) = Tous+saint -> All Saints' / Halloween. A more banal case is
    Longueville = Longue+ville -> long city. Longueville, Sydney is one of a number of Sydney suburbs with French associations. Another is La Perouse, named for a French naval officer who stumbled into Botany Bay a week after Captain Phillips lead the First Fleet there in 1788.

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Today was especially cool - with the drizzle softly metamorphosing into snow-flakes early this morning and again late in the evening. Bondi was entranced both times, and sat outside a cafe with his ears pinned back, eager to please - and as ready to fly! - as Sally Field in Sister Bertrille's wimple.

Finished reading Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Trawled through FNAC's huge music department yesterday and picked up Wax Tailor's Tales of the Forgotten Melodies, described by a French reviewer as a film for the ears - I caught a bit of trip-hoppy Doris Day in the mix somehere. Lauren Hoffman's Choreography calls up a folkier version of the solo album by Portishead's vocalist Beth Gibbons.

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