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June 24, 2019

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What's to laugh at?

June 24, 2019

 

We are now six weeks into our three month stay in France, so we are losing a little of the rose-coloured gloss of the original few weeks (literally, as the rose wine consumption has dropped slightly!). We are now discovering the real nature of France and its people. That's not to say it isn't good, it's just challenging at times. For a start, Les has learnt his "Dad"jokes that, to be frank, are a little tedious at home, don't go down at all here in France. Not only is there something definitely lost in translation, but the French have a very formal sense of humour. I saw it explained in a book recently, that France and her history have tuned the country to a tragic register. This is a country that has been in the epicentre of so much tragedy over the centuries, from the early Roman times to more recently, World War 2, and now France's continuing civil unrest. As Lucy Wadham says in her book 'The Secret Life of France', "Britain, with her tradition of political compromise (very appropriate at the moment!) is more at ease with wit (and I would say, we as Kiwis, follow that).  The French are not. They're not as we know at all funny; they rarely understand irony and they're never, never self-deprecating. They are too involved, too committed for comedy, too busy feeling!" The French love to sit around, preferably drinking coffee or pastis, sharing their opinions on anything at all at top volume, and at the same time. I am now able to pick up the odd words, but here in the south, the language has a smattering of Catalan, which makes my French abilities very strained. However, there are certain situations that transcend any language and become funny, no matter what language is being spoken at the time. It appears that the people living over the narrow road from us, moonlight in car-fixing, among other not-so-legal activities. We came home one day to find the entrance to our apartment blocked by what can only be described as a "pregnant roller skate" spewing its considerable guts onto our front door step!  Bearing in mind that the road is right there, there was no way into our place without picking our way over numerous black and red leads, part of an engine, a variety of covers and a large patch of oil. We did the obligatory "Bonjour Monsieur" and got the eyebrow twitch in reply, along with a long string of what might have been French swearing, none of which allowed us easier access. Eventually we picked our way over the car detritus and left our shoes at the door, fearing a trail of black oil off our shoes on our kitchen tiles, and the subsequent wrath of our landlady!! We then poured a wine and sat back to watch what we thought was a hilarious procession of people across our doorstep, shouting and waving madly at the man inside the engine. They even made themselves more comfortable on our doorstep, barely 10 cms from our sofa, and proceeded to roll hefty cigarettes from a large colourful tin of tobacco (yes, it was....) then sharing the best part of an hour with the "mechanic", offering various tips and suggestions. When the "car" finally was put back together, a test drive was called for. We last saw it screaming up the road at 5km/hr with a cloud of black smoke billowing from it, that made me think there were twenty vapers stuck up its exhaust. Not even a "bon soir" to us for the use of our doorstep!  Gotta love the French; and their lack of humour.

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