31 May 2023

A new era

I arrived at the hair salon at about 9:10 yesterday morning. My appointment was for 9:30, so I was early. The salon is called Nouvel'Hair, which sounds like nouvelle ère (a new era) or maybe nouvel air (a new look) since the H is silent in French. The young woman who owns and operates the salon was already at work. She was styling and cutting the hair of a man who was probably my age or even older. The man was accompanied by a woman I assume was his wife. There was a lot of chit-chat and I love to eavesdrop on French conversations.

When I walked in, the coiffeuse looked surprised and asked me if I had a rendez-vous. I said I thought I did, if I was in the right place. She said she also had a customer scheduled to arrive at 9:15. I took a seat in the waiting area and found an old issue of Paris-Match to read while I waited. I hoped I wasn't going to be there all morning, cooling my heels. Listening to the chit-chat and observing the action as discreetly as I could, I was surprised to see that the man in the chair getting his hair cut was bleeding from wounds on his right cheekbone and temple.

It turned out that he had fallen on the street just outside the salon a few minutes earlier. He and the woman with him said they needed to get his hair cut because they were going to a wedding later in the day. So the coiffeuse was combing and cutting his hair and also tending to his wounds. Pretty soon, the next customer, the one with the 9:15 appointment, came in and sat down in the waiting area with me. He was a young guy dressed all in black and with jet-black hair and a thick black beard.

We waited. It was nearly 9:30 when the older couple left the shop. The man was telling the coiffeuse that he was lucking not to have injured himself even more severely when he fell down. He hadn't even broken his glasses. The three of them chatted and giggled as they paid and then left the shop. In a snap she had the 9:15 customer in one of the chairs in the salon and was shampooing his hair. I was getting antsy, but all I could do was wait.

I wish I knew the coiffeuse's name, but I don't, and it's not on the card she gave me. Walt has an appointment with her tomorrow morning. Maybe he'll ask her what her name is. She was talkative and friendly. More importantly, she worked really fast. The had the young guy's hair washed in a flash, and then cut his hair just as quickly. The job she did on his hair looked really good, and the two of them, coiffeuse and client, seemed to know each other. They talked together quietly so I couldn't hear much of what they said. There was something to do with his having quit his job. Was the employer going to replace him, the coiffeuse asked. No, he said. That's about all I heard.

Then suddenly it was my turn. She continued to work very fast and in a way that inspired confidence. And she asked me a lot of questions about who I was, where I lived, what I did, how long I'd been here in the Saint-Aignan area, and whether I already spoke French when I came to live here 20 years ago. She asked if I have family in the area, and if I had children. I said no, no children and not relatives locally, but I do have a partner, un conjoint, so I don't live alone. Oh, she said, he must be French. No, I told her, he's from New York, but we actually met 40 years ago when we were both living in Paris. Oh, so you're two Americans living here, she said, with an air of disbelief.

She didn't seem nosy, but she was curious for sure. For once, somebody didn't ask me if I was a Brit. She did ask this question: do I hear a slight accent? She was polite about it. I'm used to that out here in the country, where most people, I believe, have never heard an anglophone actually speak French. Back when I lived in Paris (as a young man) nobody ever asked me that question. Maybe Parisians are just too busy to be bothered, and they hear French spoken with all sorts of accents all the time.

I made an appointment for Walt for tomorrow morning. And I'm really happy with the haircut I got. It cost me just 15 euros, plus tip. And it was all interesting and kind of fun. Can you tell I don't get out much?

30 May 2023

A moan, a selfie, and some more flowers

Some days you just feel like taking a day off. That would be my plan for today. Besides, I have to go get my hair cut this morning. That means going to a new coiffeuse or coiffeur, because the woman who owned and operated the village salon de coiffure for the past 10 years closed the shutters and sold the business this month. She said she couldn't keep going, for financial reasons. She also has three children, two of them toddlers, to take care of.

Thanks to the pandemic lock-downs, a lot of local men realized they could cut their own hair, so our village coiffeuse lost a lot of business. At the same time, quite a few local women stopped coloring their hair and adopted a more natural look. That meant she lost even more business. This morning, I'm going to get my hair cut in "downtown" Saint-Aignan by somebody I've never met before. Maybe I should just get my head shaved.

Here's a selfie that I took on a May day about a decade ago...

One reason I need a haircut is because I need to have a photo taken for the renewal of my U.S. passport. And I really want to get a new French driver's license, and that means a new photo too. At least we have a photographer in Saint-Aignan who does photos for such documents. I'm going to see her tomorrow morning. Maybe this will be my last passport renewal.

I'm still having a lot of computer problems. Day before yesterday I ordered a new hard disk for my laptop computer. It's a 1 TB SSD drive, and it cost all of 50 euros. I ordered it from Amazon.fr and it was delivered yesterday. I copied everything off the old hard disk, which is about 6 years old. It might be failing, and I think I got everything copied just in time. Now I have to install the SSD in the laptop and hold my breath, hoping for the best.

I'll decorate this post with a few more month-of-May photos. Maybe I'll find something more scintillating to write a blog post about tomorrow.

29 May 2023

May in Paris

I remember when I used to go to Paris. In May of 2014, for example. If I remember correctly, I went to Paris to spend one night. I stayed with CHM at his apartment. I went out for a walk and took these photos in his neighborhood, near the Institut Pasteur and the église du Dôme (aux Invalides) on May 30. That'll be nine years ago tomorrow. I don't think I've ever posted these photos before, but I have published many others taken in other years around this same area. It's the area of the 15th arrondissement that borders on the 7th, not far from two major Paris landmarks, la tour Eiffel and la tour Montparnasse. I've never lived in that neighborhood, but I almost feel like I once did because I spent so much time there starting in the year 2000. My last trip to Paris was in 2019. It was a one-nighter on my way to North Carolina to see friends and family. It so happens that that was my last trip to N.C. I don't know when or if I'll ever go back (but you never know for sure, do you?).

28 May 2023

In the vineyard and around the vineyard

In the vineyard, grape leaves are growing, growing, growing, and the colors are pretty. And so are the grape flowers that will become bunches of grapes, below.

And all around the vineyard, flowers are abundant. I took some photos yesterday, but I haven't had time to process them yet.

The reason for that is a computer problem: the laptop I use for composing blog posts is acting up this morning. I can't get it to start up and I don't know what's wrong.

27 May 2023

Greens need rains

Accuweather, my go-to weather site on the web, is predicting little to no rain for Saint-Aignan before July 1. I hope the forecasters have got it wrong this time. I'd like to have some weather like what you see in the photos below. Storm clouds and an occasional drenching would be welcome.

The vegetable garden is all planted now. Tomotoes, zucchini, pumpkins, and green beans. I'm going to try to grow some kale and collard greens under a cold frame. Hot dry weather, meaning dry, hot soil, might help keep snails and slugs away, as well as weeds.

I'll have to do a lot of watering. We aren't currently under water-use restrictions, but that might change any day now. I'm taking a risk. I sure would love to get a good crop of greens like the one I had in the summer of 2011. You can see it in two photos above. That year I planted collard and mustard green seeds under a cold frame. Then I pulled up and transplanted a lot of seedlings that I spaced out well so they'd have room to grow big and bushy. I'll do that again this year if my seeds come up.

26 May 2023

Raindrops on Roses...

...on May 31, 2011. I'm almost finished with the month of May. For now. I'm working through the year, so June is next. I'll see what kinds of photos I took in June between 2003 and 2012 or so.

25 May 2023

Où était-on ?

It was May 16, 2003. Where were we. We were on our way to a new life in France. Have you been here?

24 May 2023

Flowers and yard work

We made good progress out in the back yard yesterday. Walt mowed, and the yard looks really good. I cleaned out flower pots that we want to save. I also salvaged an old mini-serre ("cold frame") that was collecting snails and weeds. We used to have two such cold frames but over the years different parts of the plastic structures have broken. So we now have one working unit and a bunch of useable spare parts. I'm going to try to grow collard greens and kale under the working cold frame out in the vegetable garden. Maybe I can protect the plants long enough to give them a chance to resist the inevitable onslaught of slugs, snails, and caterpillars.

23 May 2023

Stuff I got at the supermarket

I went grocery shopping yesterday. The supermarket I went to, Super U, is in Montrichard (Chissay, actually), a 20-minute drive from our house. I wanted to drive the car a little after I had it worked on last week. It got a new timing belt. The car is 15 years old now, but it runs fine, looks good, and is fairly spacious inside. I came back home by driving south to the town of Céré-la-Ronde, and then east on little country roads through forest and fields to Saint-Aignan. That drive was more like 30 minutes. The shopping was successful and the drive went smoothly. Here's some of the stuff I bought, with photos.

I got turkey breast for kebabs and/or Asian stir-fries. Lettuce for salads dressed with vinaigrette. Tomatoes for salads. Ham called jambon de Paris for sandwiches and gratins. Mushrooms for sauces and sautés. Cheeses — Dutch Gouda, Basque Tomme, French Emmenthal and Comté — salads, gratins, or sandwiches like croque-monsieur. This list is not exhaustive. You can see below how everthing is packaged and labeled.

I also got two boxes of purée de tomates, six eggs, two nice veal chops (which we had for lunch yesterday, barbecued), and three baguettes, not to mention five or six carrots, one cooked beet, one cucumber, some fresh cilantro, four lemons, a jar of quince jelly, and one jar each of confiture de fraises (strawberry jam) and confiture de mirabelles (yellow plum jam). No photos of all that today.

22 May 2023

Feuilles de chou farcies

I had the large outer leaves of a Savoy cabbage (chou de Savoie ou chou de Milan en français) in the freezer. I had a thigh and part of the breast of a farm-raised chicken that Walt had cooked on the barbecue grill two or three days ago. I had carrots, stalks of celery, onions, garlic, croûtons, and smoked bacon (lardons fumés). I thought that, diced up and sautéed, that mixture would make a good stuffing for the cabbage leaves. It did. I cooked the stuffed, rolled leaves in a cream sauce.

These aren't the first cabbage rolls I've ever made. Follow this link to see others, with more details.