Wednesday, 2 April 2008

French Ramblings (1)

I’ve taken to buying the local daily paper (Courier Picard) to try and help widen my French vocabulary. The headlines for some days have been the aftermath of the French League Cup Final between PSG (Paris St Germain) and our boys RC Lens. The match was decided by a questionable penalty decision in favour of the Paris team, but more controversial than the penalty was the large “banderole” displayed by the PSG fans.

I looked up banderole in my French – English dictionary and was informed that in English “une banderole” is indeed a banderole. The Oxford Dictionary was more helpful – a banderole is a banner or streamer.

Now it takes quite a bit to insult an RC Lens supporter. This is the team of blood and gold (a description of their colours) and their fans come from all over Northern France (including the jardinier that I laid off last week). This is the text that caused such consternation:

Pédophiles, chômeurs, consanguins, bienvenu chez les Ch’tis

Wow! I don’t need a dictionary to start that one. Chômeurs are out-of-work layabouts, and les Ch’tis is a slang expression for inhabitants of Northern France, but the word that absolutely enraged people was Consanguins - what we would term as inbreds. The newspaper headlines have included such as Dégout, honte, scandale … Carrément répugnant, inadmissable. All this is wonderful fodder for the aged Englishman trying to improve his French-speaking skills.

Also in the paper this week is a rather pompous piece about Lewis Hamilton and his amende of 578 euros for getting caught by a radar trap on the A26 in December. He was cruising along at 193 km/h instead of the permitted 130 km/h. There is criticism that he didn’t lose his licence as well, and rather ominous rumblings about EEC legislation to ensure that all Europeans are treated equally when caught by radar traps. This will surely backfire on the French who reckon that they are immune from penalties when racing up the A20 from Dover towards London.

So, apart from leaning on my fork and reading the paper (there’s a Beatrix Potter character - a fox – that comes to mind) what else have I been up to in France. Well, lots of cleaning and painting – the house is now formally on the market. I received a gift of mangey looking carrots from a friendly neighbour (the hundred-year-old lady with one tooth who sells gas cannisters, but who won’t let me lift them because I’m too elderly). The carrots were “pour les bêtes”. I’ve had trouble with late payment of rates and non-payment of insurance premiums to sort out. A malcreant managed to drill a hole in my oil tank and syphon off a couple of hundred litres of outrageously expensive heating oil. And I’ve written a few words. A quiet start to my séjour in France.

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