22 November 2006

Disconnect day

Often, when when we used to live in windy, foggy San Francisco, I would turn on the Today Show or some such news program in July or August and see reports about how the "whole country" was baking in the latest summer heat wave. People were sweating and suffering, if not dropping like flies, because it was hotter than hell outside. Power brownouts were the order of the day, what with everybody cranking up the air-conditioning to try to keep cool.

Stone walls and a blue door bathed in November sunshine

And then I would hear the heat come on. With the thermostat set at 65ºF (18ºC), we needed a blast of warm air just to stay comfortable. It was a world turned upside-down. How could we be living so disconnected from the mainstream culture?

In many ways, if not quite literally, San Francisco is a little island at the edge of a continent, with its own distinct climate and culture. That's why so many people trying to escape, or distance themselves, from the mainstream end up living there.

Today I'm feeling similarly disconnected from the surrounding, mainstream culture. It's Thanksgiving. In e-mails, blogs, and the American newspapers I read on the 'net, people are talking about family gatherings, the long holiday weekend, and turkey and pumpkin pie.

Meanwhile, in France, it's just another Thursday. Our French friends, hardly even aware that today is a major holiday in America (and why would they be?), go about their daily routine as usual. Despite my unshakable feeling that everything ought to be closed today, Walt plans to run down to the post office this morning to send off an express mail envelope to England.

Chez nous à la Renaudière, a November sunset

We don't have any American friends or acquaintences in the area, so we are spending the day at home, just the two of us. Coincidentally, the chilly-but-not-really-cold, blustery, gray, drizzly weather we are having this morning makes me think we might have somehow been magically transported back to San Francisco.

It's not that I miss having a standard American Thanksgiving holiday and dinner. Walt and I decided years ago to forgo the traditional turkey in November in favor of a very French gigot d'agneau with flageolet beans. That's a leg of lamb, which we prefer to turkey anyway. It's our own alternative tradition. The desert will be a pumpkin pie — quand même. We grew the pumpkin in our garden. You can't buy such things as canned pumpkin — or cranberries or cranberry sauce — in the supermarkets here anyway.

A green spider on a sunlit doorframe

So being outside the mainstream culture is something we got used to by living in San Francisco for nearly 20 years. It's just one more way we are outside the mainstream, both by choice and by circumstance. It's just that our disconnectedness becomes really obvious to me on days like this one.

I'm not gloomy about it, so I'm putting some nice sunny pictures of French scenes in this posting to brighten things up.

Sun on the shutters

I think the disconnectedness is especially striking to me this year because of circumstances. We just got back from a very busy month visiting our families and a lot of friends, new and old, in the United States. And earlier this year, we were lucky to have a lot of our best friends from California other parts of the U.S. come visit us here in France — I can count up 21 American friends who we had as house guests for some amount of time in 2006.

For the past 17 days that we have been back at La Renaudière, it has been very quiet. We really are in a different world right now. We needed the rest, that's for sure. But when it comes to social interactions, this has been a feast-or-famine year. Speaking of that, it's getting to be time to start cooking that leg of lamb.


  1. Thanksgiving, sort of like New Year's Day, lends itself to reflections on our lives. And your story tells it true for all of us...there is something that we trade by coming to live in a new land. It's not bad (usually), but it is different, and it is wise for us to come to grips with it. Sounds like you have.

    Enjoy your celebration--and your gigot! Sounds wonderful!

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    As I roam around reading, I think a holiday list of expatriates celebrating Thanksgiving Day is calling...I'm loving this Vicar-ious story pooling!

    Gooble! Gooble!

    Meilleurs voeux!

  2. Sorry...I meant to sign in as "blueVicar"...losing track of who I am now? Gobble, gobble!

  3. Hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving Day. Just in case you decide to eat turkey at Christmas (as we English do) you can buy cranberry sauce in Ecomarche at St Aignan on their small English selection counter. Also I have on previous occasions found frozen cranberries in Intermarche at Noyer. However, for me I must say that I would prefer gigot.


  4. Hi Carol, I don't know if we have met but I believe I know who you are. Thanks for the tip about cranberries at Intermarché in Noyers. We are planning to cook a turkey for Christmas, when a couple of American friends will be in town. I'll keep checking the freezer cases over at the supermarché. Ken

  5. Hi Ken,

    No I don't think we have met but we are near neighbours - we are living on the opposite bank of the Cher. Love your blog and it has helped us so much when settling into the area with all the tips on local places etc. Hope we meet one day.


  6. Hi Ken - no not a B& B, we are early retired but do have another small house close by in Thenay, which we will probably rent out next year. We live close to the "Lockhouse" on the bank of The Cher(a couple of hundred yards) in route de L'Ecluse. The lamb looked delicious but I would prefer mint-sauce - very English!!!

  7. "I would prefer mint-sauce - very English!!!"

    Oh, là, là, j'ai beau aimé tout ce qui est anglo-saxon, la "mint sauce", ça me semble bien moins bon que notre sauce naturelle faite avec le jus qui s'écoule du gigot... Bon, tous les goûts sont dans la nature/to each, his own :-) Mais quand même :-) !!!

    Ken, alors, pas besoin de te faire un p'tit Colissimo des familles avec quelques paquets de cranberries, cette année, lol ? !!! Bises. Marie

  8. Be glad of rain, it's wonderful - remember your pond last summer.
    Cooked beets are great mixed with thinly sliced lightly cooked onion and cabbage - add mustard to taste (beets often very sweet). Most veggies are easier to digest if blanched



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