09 March 2010

Gilbert takes a bow

Monsieur 100 000 Watts took his last bow yesterday. He had already sung his last encore at lunchtime on Sunday. But he was such a big lug, his handlers had to send in a truck to hoist him up and take him away. Getting the truck here took 24 hours.

Madame le maire consulting with the ERDF technicians

Madame le maire came out to give him a standing ovation. Some say Gilbert might never have been called in for his marathon 4-day performance if she didn't live here. Those who think that are cynics, of course. Nonetheless, we are glad the mayor lives across the road.

Gilbert being hoisted onto the bed of a big truck,
which I wouldn't have wanted to back out of there

Seriously, you can see how nice our weather is. What you can't really see is how cold it is. There's a dry, bitter northeast wind that makes it unpleasant to be outside.

We are counting ourselves among the more fortunate, however. Down south, from Lyon to Avignon, Nîmes, and even Arles, and all the way down to Narbonne, Perpignan, and Carcassonne, a big snow storm has piled up more than a foot of the white stuff over the past 48 hours.

Ridges on the surface of a frozen water hole
on the edge of the vineyard one recent morning

Down there, roads are closed, trains have been stopped cold, and palm trees along Mediterranean beaches look forlorn half-buried in snow. Northeastern Spain is under the same white blanket. The last time it snowed so much in the South of France was in the mid-1970s.

Au revoir, Monsieur 100 KW

Meanwhile, the French government reports that fewer people were killed in road accidents in February than in any month in living memory. Officials attribute the low figures to all the bad weather the country had last month. People were more careful on the roads and streets, or stayed home.

In fact, they say most of the decline in vehicle fatalities was among riders of what they call les deux roues — "two wheelers" — motorcyles and scooters. Those people just stayed off the snowy, icy roads, if they were smart. Lighter traffic, fewer accidents. Seems logical.


  1. Ken

    Like we say in French : Veinard :-)
    And if we continue on Becaud's theme :" L'Important C'est la rose" and it looks like "Mme La Mairesse est la Rose" in this case

  2. Thank heaven for the maire !

    It is still perishing cold here. When we have a bad winter in England, people always say it is followed by a good summer. Not necessarily, in my experience.

    BTW why is it Mme LE Maire and not LA Maire, which would have seemed more logical to me ?

  3. Jean, I think it is Madame le maire because mairesse is taken by the wife of monsieur le maire. In the old days, only men were maires.
    In 1989, Catherine Trautmann became the first woman maire.
    There aren't a lot of women in french government. As of 2005, France is 85th. Scandinavian countries are doing much better.
    I am not sure where the US rank but I think it is pretty high, though not 50/50.

  4. I do not envy anyone anywhere who has to endure winter weather.

  5. The whole question of the mayor's title in Franch when she is a woman gets pretty confusing. I think people don't say la maire (feminine of le maire) because that sounds exactly the same as la mère (mother). So it is Madame le maire, but that is also confusing because when you say it you might be talking about a woman whose family name is Lemaire (Mme Lemaire).

    La mairesse sounds almost pejorative. If a woman serves as le maire, some say, why shouldn't she be called le maire? It doesn't help that feminine forms like la boulangère, la charcutière, and even la présidente are used to name the wife of the boulanger, charcutier, or président.

    Here's what the Grand Robert dictionary says about mairesse:

    MAIRESSE [meRes] n. f.
    - 1. Vx ou par plais. Femme du maire.
    - 2. Femme exerçant les fonctions de maire.
    REM. Parfois utilisé par les féministes, le mot est en général vieilli ou plaisant. On dit : maire.

    In other words, mairesse is an archaic or facetious term. The generally accepted word for the person who occupies the office of mayor is maire, male or female.

    It's easier to distinguish between a woman or a man who is a government minister (une ministre or un ministre). There's no overlap with other terms as with maire and mère, and the word ministre ends in an E, which lends to its use as either a feminine or masculine honorific.

    But other terms and forms are linguistically controversial. Is a woman professeur a professeure? Should a woman writer (un écrivain) be called une écrivaine?


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