mardi 29 décembre 2015
I hope your Christmas treat is no longer playing the fool in your stomach, and that any possible headache has faded away and left you clear in your mind to read this new chapter.
The festive consumer frenzy is still in full swing for a few days : at the poulterer's, turkeys, crusts and Guinea fowls are performing an ultimate strip-tease for their farewell tour, at the pastry-maker's, Yule logs and Twelfth Night Cakes are having a fierce competition. Even chemists are rubbing their hands together, cause medicines against hangovers and overeating are selling like hot cakes !!
I must confess that, every year, that kind of spending spree puts me in a stay-at-home mood. Don't get me wrong : I am not a wet blanket, but entertaining myself on cue is not my thing.So, forget about getting any New Year's Eve Party tips !
No plot in this week's chapter, no twists and turns, no thrill, just a commonplace but topical issue : the weather !
Come on, don't turn your nose up, don't knock the weather : nine-tenths of the people couldn't start a conversation if it didn't change once in a while.Better yet, a lot of us rely on the weather forecast to know what to wear.Last but not least, whereas religion, politics and money matters can turn into bones of contention( especially during big family gatherings such as Christmas), the vagaries of the weather is a topic that calm things down in a wink and on which everyone agrees !
A weather saying always keeps the conversation going.By the way, do you know any ?
Here is one I have got from my grand-mother :
"Birds flying low, expect rain and a blow".
Anyway, whilst this saying may sometimes be true, it is far from reliable..
Climate change and global warming often counter sayings and weather forecasters.
So, I have withdrawn my confidence in most of them ( except maybe some shipping forecast sites).
To know what the weather was(and would be) like, till November I used , when opening the shutters, to have a look at the ground to see if it was dry or wet ( Mrs Deer had already licked the dewdrops). Yet, just a glance around was not enough to know if it had drizzled or poured down during the night, and if I needed to water the newly-planted fruit trees.
Fortunately, a good friend of mine spoiled me with a bear rain gauge to make my recorded rainfall sharper, and as she added wittily," to keep
Mrs Deer company ".
Since this cute little bear took up residence on our terrace, he had not done an outstanding job ! He has withstood sneaky gusts of wind, and even better, he has restored the image of Brittany !
I mean, from early December till Boxing Day his gauge has been chock-full just once !! Unless parched he has gulped down the gauge content, it means we have been enjoying a pretty fine weather, haven't we ?
So, drop the so-called weathermen, and dismiss rumours about rainy Brittany ! Next time you hear someone say :
" It only rains twice a year in Brittany : August through April and May through July ",
IGNORE THEM !!
BRITTANY IS REALLY THE PLACE TO BE !!
lundi 21 décembre 2015
Whoopee ! Goody ! Thanks to all of you ! Father Christmas,let's call him Christmas gift-bringer (no offense, all of us are of age, aren't we ?), has not set off yet, and I have already been spoiled !! Thanks a million, you have really filled me with joy !! Come on, don't pretend you don't understand ! By sharing my blog with your relatives and your pals, you've helped me to boost my readership.Gee, last week you did such a great job that the number of my readers skyrocketed overnight. That was quite unexpected !
Actually, when I started this blog, I had very few readers. The very first and biggest adventure of Dany the Perky Busy Bee was to succeed in posting one chapter a week.
Today when I read some of the chapters posted between February and June,I find them childish, girlish, mawkish or even deadly boring, but " practice makes perfect ",doesn't it ?
So, I am quite grateful to my early days' readers who have never missed our weekly appointments, and have always stood by me through think and thin.
Congratulations to all of you and keep on sharing !!
Now, the countdown has started. Within a few days it will be Christmas and, I guess some of you must be pretty busy shopping (last-minute purchases are a real headache), giftwrapping ( my pet-hate : either the paper tears or I run out of sellotape),or decorating ( I have a soft spot for candles and I love the warm glow of their flickering flames, and above all the spicy scent of cinamon, clove and orange of some of them).
Yet, before indulging yourself to Christmas meal ( even if you fancy ditching the traditional turkey with chestnuts,and the fatty Yule log, I guess you will push the boat out, so make sure you have some medicines to help you enjoy the food and be fit as a fiddle the day after.No one likes a food hangover), I do hope you will get some spare time to drop me a mail because ...
I have created a new e-mail address just for you :
I am expecting loads of season's greetings !! In the meantime I wish you a Merry Christmas !!
PS : A special thank to you J.... for the e-address you gave me to learn
mardi 15 décembre 2015
First of all, I'd like to thank all those of you who have commented chapter forty-two, and told me that having a coffee outside everyday does not mean you are a barfly.
Well, to be honest, I must confess that I was expecting such an answer.
One glass too many can turn a barfly into a boozer whereas one cup too many never makes me tipsy.Hard liquor can make a drinker stumble, but a strong coffee never makes me lose my balance. Of course, it gives me throbs and keeps me awake all night long, but nothing serious compared to a hangover !
No, actually, I have nothing much in common with barflies, I'm just a coffee buff. I must admit that when it comes to coffee, I am quite fussy : I have often deserted a café because the beverage they served was just brown
In my favourite haunt (see chapter 42)every early afternoon I spoil myself with an excellent coffee. To top it all, Sylvain ( I forgot to mention your name in chapter 42 and as you are modest, you were not sure I was writing about you , so now you know !) knows I have a sweet tooth, he never fails to add some treats to my espresso !
Hey, don't get me wrong !! Even if I have found the place to have the perfect shot of espresso, the main reason for my choice is that my Aladdin's cave is a social hub, a good place to chit-chat, to socialize and to ...overhear conversations.
Some weeks ago, I was sitting near a group of four old men.I was pretending to flip through the newspaper, but actually I was eavesdropping on their chatter ! Don' call me nosy bee, please !!
I just pricked up my ear because I could catch some snatches of conversation in Breton.That reminded me of my grand-parents who used to speak Breton, first to save their language, but also for me not to understand when an important matter was brought up !
Those four men's words were such a music to my ears that I decided to learn the basics of my ancestors' mother tongue.
I didn't want to get a degree but just to be able to handle some everyday situations within a few weeks. So, I thought a phrasebook would meet my expectations...
I was just deluding myself and I realized it as soon as I received the paperback ordered from a website.
I know phrasebooks offer the seductive illusion of mastering a language at little cost, but, anyway, in mine I found some sentences I can hardly conceive of ever using. I can't help quoting some :
. I'd like to buy a pair of binoculars.
. I am allergic to nutmegs
. I want to rent a rubber dinghy.
. What's that barn in the middle of the clearing ?
I've got tons more if you want !
So, I shelved my purchase and found a website to learn Breton for free. I knew there are no miraculous short cuts when it comes to language learning, you just need to commit. I was willing to work hard, and, the idea of being able to exchange with the four men in the café helped me to feel motivated. I studied everyday : I hammered words, phrases, and so on, into my brain over and over again.
Then a few days ago, I decided to take the plunge !
I greeted the four Breton speakers in Breton and managed to tell them( still in Breton) that I was going for a walk , and, as it was overcast, I hoped it would not rain.
Then I said kenavo (=bye in Breton) and left.
Hardly had I crossed the threshold when I heard one of them say :
"What did she say ?"
Another answered :
" Something about the weather, but I could not catch all ".
To my dismay, a third voice added :
" She was not speaking Breton, was she ? ".
Fortunately, I was outside, otherwise I would have wanted the earth to swallow me up. I was as red as a beetroot, I had a lump in my throat, my hands were sweaty !
Yet, my power walk helped me to cheer up and pull myself together.
Whatever the number of mistakes I had made, I had taken the plunge, and as the saying goes : " the first step is the hardest " !
Learn that lesson !!
Share this chapter with all the people afraid of speaking a foreign language !!
Remember : the sky is the limit !
mardi 8 décembre 2015
Summary of the previous episode : A friend of mine had mail ordered a road sign mirror, the company had cashed his cheque, but since then no news and no safe way to drive out of his place !
Solving the Mirror Affair has left me dead beat. When I accepted to help my Dutch friend with his mail order, I did it wholeheartedly, because as the saying goes, " A friend in need is a friend indeed " !
Well, either I had overestimated my mental toughness and my patience, or I am not the stuff detectives are made of. My first experience has really washed me out, and if I had not promised last week to tell you about it, I guess, this week I would have played dead. I would have idled away my time, and, I would have pinned my cyber silence on a poor Internet connection. But promises are made to be kept, and, I won't be an exception to the rule.
This, then, is the story of a poor Dutchman dogged by ill fortune, who, on an impulse, left his fate to an apprentice detective.
When I first browsed through my friend's "hot file ", I realized immediately it was high time to help that poor guy, otherwise within a short while he would have to be put in a straightjacket. It was such a bag of bones that I decided to start all over again and phone myself the company he had ordered his mirror from.
First round : first jimjams
The company responsible for my friend's sleepless nights had a toll-free number, so I naively thought I could wrap up the whole case by the end of the morning. Unfortunately, that kind of things happens only in fantasy land !
After two rings, I got caught up and lost in a computer voice directory service. I bet all of you will agree that there is nothing more frustrating than having an issue you need resolved ASAP and not being able to ask to talk to a live person ! To crown it all, among the different keys the unbearable voice invited me to press, of course there was none matching my request !
Never mind ! I still had a few tricks up my sleeve , and that stubborn robot was entirely mistaken if he thought I could be easily put off !
I had heard you could confuse the system by pressing all the numbers, mumbling, using bad language, speaking nonsense, or doing nothing.
I wasted the rest of the morning testing all those silly tips, but unfortunately by lunch-time I was none the wiser. Yet, using bad language had given me the opportunity to let off steam !
Second round : never complain, never explain ??
After lunch I googled the mirror maker's name, and after browsing a little, bingo !! What was supposed to happen, happened ! I came across a consumer website on which a disgruntled customer had posted the phone-number of the comapny official : revenge is a dish best served cold !
A few rings later ( to be honest, my first three calls went unanswered), an understanding and efficient operator put me through to the man in charge of the after-sales service.
He apologized for all the hitches due to a stock shortage, but , luckily, they had received the mirror the day before, and sent it immediately to my desperate friend. I was so elated that I didn't even tell him that a phone-call or a mail to let their customer know about the delay was the least they could have done ..
I rushed to the café to bring the good news. My friend jumped for joy, hugged me and even asked the regulars to applaud his " savior "!
My joy was to be short-lived... I was not done with my effort ...
Third round : going down for the count !
A few days later, a phone-call from my friend made me hit the roof ! He was appalled and so was I.
He had received the mirror and he had immediately fixed it on the post near his gate.
Unfortunately, either he had not screwed it strongly enough, or it had been gusty ( or my friend had fallen under an evil spell), anyway, the morning after the mirror was on the ground, smashed of course !
The mirror was in pieces and so was I !!
I turned a deaf ear to the little voice inside me humming nastily :
Breaking a mirror may bring you bad luck for seven years !
Instead, I put up a good show and said to my friend : " let's sleep on it ".
Fortunately, among the regulars, a former constable said we 'd better ask the mayor for a speed bumper and that's what we agreed to do !!
Case closed !
mardi 1 décembre 2015
Ever since I got old enough to be allowed in, I have loved going to cafés. Don't get me wrong, I am not a barfly ( at least I don't think so,but anyway, I would like to get your opinion), but nursing an espresso, and observing people around has always been one of my favourite ways to while away my free time.
As long as I can remember, cafés have been my favourite haunts.
When a student, I used to cram for my exams there. Then, when I met my future husband, that's where we built castles in the air. Later on, when I was working, I never failed to sip an early coffee in a tiny café near the school where I was teaching : the familiar sound of the coffee machine, the snatches of conversation ( sometimes bits of bar talks), the owner and the barista ( she was to become one of my best friends), all that really cheered me up for the whole day.
So, when we settled down here, it didn't take us long to set our hearts on a small café where every afternoon we warm up before our power walk.
We like the authenticity of that place : its creaking wooden floor, its old-fashioned countertop, the scatter of tables and bright chairs make it genuine, comfy and warm. The bartender is the right man for the job : demure but with a ready ear, always in a good mood but not too exuberant, that guy has really the knack to turn passing customers into regulars. He remembers your name, knows what you drink, and makes everybody feel at home.
Of course, as we go back there again and again, we have developped trusting relationships with some of the other regulars, sharing enthusiasm, grief, feedback, and of course the local paper.
It is just like having a focus group at beck and call. You can ask anyone for their opinion, and they will give it, no strings attached.
Don't go overboard ! Our café is not a philosophy café, but, anyway, that melting pot of people of different walks of life is an invaluable source of information. Mr Google had better watch out ! No Wikileaks in our café !
There the motto could be : " to every problem there is a solution ".
Among all the regulars there will always be someone able to meet your needs.
Tips and tricks for the garden ? Experienced gardeners and ecofreaks will tell you their secrets.
Leaking faucets ? A retired plumber or a DIY enthusiast will lend you a hand.
Longing to brush up your English ? An English couple will invite you to help them with their crosswords.
A stiff neck or a backache ? Jean, the bonesetter will heal your pain in a wink !
So, no wonder sooner or later we were to be roped in, too !!
A Dutchman (a regular) asked us if we could help him navigate through the phone-calls jungle.
He told us he was living along a secondary road, and at rush hours the traffic was so heavy and the drivers so reckless that driving out of his place was rather risky ! He had told the mayor about his concern, and with the agreement of the latter he had mail ordered a road sign mirror to fix on a post close to his gate.He had sent his cheque, and, since then he was experiencing what French people are used to : countless phone-calls, endless call waitings, unbearable hold on music, narrow-minded secretaries, people in charge reported missing, on holidays or on a sick leave, and all that for nothing !!
He had not been delivered his order, and yet his cheque had been cashed !
He was about to kiss good-bye to his mirror, but however he was wondering if the picture on the company catatlogue was just smoke and mirrors ! Unfortunately His French was too poor to investigate...
And that's when we were to come in !
Coming up next :
Dany The Perky Busy Bee and the Mirror Affair