Author Archives: jessica

La Montagne et Moi: Arretez le train!

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XmaspuddingUnlike the French, who generally allow ‘les dix minutes de politesse‘ (arriving 10 minutes late) for dinner, here’s why arriving 10 minutes early meant that I didn’t miss ‘le repas de Noël’ (Christmas dinner) with my family!

‘On allait passer Noël chez mes parents’ (we were going to spend Christmas with my parents) in London. The train tickets were booked ‘bien en avance’ (well in advance). It was an expensive three train, one métro and one tube trip from our little village in the Alps to my ‘ville natale’ (home town) – but it would be worth it ‘de se retrouver’ (to be together again). It was a journey that I took ‘au moins une fois par mois’ (at least once a month).

Now, ‘je n’ai jamais raté’ (I have never missed) a train, plane or rendez-vous ‘de ma vie’ (in my life). I have taken ‘le mauvais train’ (the wrong train). I have also booked a ferry ticket from the wrong country (I absent-mindedly thought that Douvres was in France – sounds French doesn’t it?). But I am passionate about being ‘à l’heure’ (on time), or rather ‘en avance’ (early). ‘La question qui me fait le plus peur’ (my most feared question) is ‘à quelle heure est ton train?’ (what time is your train?) when ‘des amis bien intentionnés’ (well-intentioned friends) try to help me work out what time I need to leave their house. I either have to ‘mentir’ (lie) or admit that I will need to leave about 30 minutes before they think I need to leave. I’m sure that some of my friends think that ‘je ne les aime pas beaucoup’ (I don’t like them very much). ‘Sinon, pourquoi’ (otherwise why) leave so early? But it is ‘cette phobie’ (this phobia) of ‘le retard’ (tardiness) that saved Christmas.

The train was at 7:57. I wanted to leave at 7:20 to make sure that we got there about half an hour early. But my daughter ‘levait les yeux au ciel’ (rolled her eyes at me). So ‘on s’est mis d’accord’ (we settled) on 7:30, leaving a 15-minute margin. At 7:35 she finally ‘descendait l’escalier, traînant’ (came downstairs dragging) her impossibly large suitcase behind her. “Dépêche-toi! Nous sommes en retard!” (“hurry up, we’re late”) I shouted. “Détends-toi” (relax), she shouted back. After a rather tense drive, ‘on a laissé la voiture dans le parking’ (we left the car in the car-park) and started the 3-minute walk to the station. It was 7:45. As we set off we heard a train whistle. I started to walk more quickly. “Ralentis maman, on a tout notre temps – on est en avance de 10 minutes.” (Slow down Mum – we’ve got plenty of time, we’re 10 minutes early). But suddenly, ‘des profondeurs de mon subconscient’ (from the depths of my subconscious), I remembered that the timetable had changed recently and that the 7:57 train that I always took ‘avait été avancé de’ (had been moved forward by) 10 minutes! As I spoke we saw it ‘rentrer en gare’ (pull in to the station) – a good 2 minutes’ walk away. Instead of being 10 minutes early I was about to miss the train!

“Arretez le train’ (stop the train) I screamed as I ran, pulling an assortment of suitcases and bags behind me in a sprint ‘à la’ (in the spirit of) Usain Bolt. This was the last train to get us home in time for Christmas. We could not miss it. I reached the platform just as the doors closed, ‘le sifflet a retenti et le train s’est ébranlé’ (the whistle blew and the train started to move off). “Noooooon!”J’ai crié‘ (I screamed). It seemed all was lost – until the station guard ‘s’est retourné’ (turned), surprised and whistled for the train to stop. He ran up the platform whistling and ‘par miracle‘ (miraculously) it stopped, he opened the doors and we were in.
It took me a full ten minutes to get my breath back and I am still haunted by the thought of extortionate last-minute tickets and the possibility that there may have been none left and we could have ‘carrément’ missed Christmas (all together). The next time I took the train, I was on the platform ‘avec une heure d’avance’ (an hour early).

Importing my car to France!

Durante mucho tiempo, cada 8 semanas, hice el viaje de ida y vuelta de unos 1.630 km en coche hasta nuestra casa en el Reino Unido, en parte para que mi seguro siguiera teniendo validez y en parte para abastecerme de tallarines de pollo, marmite y mantequilla de cacahuete y ‘llenar nuestra bodega o, mejor dicho, botellero.

Mi viejo y obediente Cerdito Kangoo, que cumplirá 14 este año, estaba valorado en 2.000£ como mucho e importarlo a Francia me hubiera costado unas 1.500£ o eso creía yo. Pero después de pasarme varios meses mirando coches de segunda mano carísimos, me di cuenta de que, a pesar del coste,  y ‘le dossier’ (la solicitud) que hace que una hipoteca parezca una tontería, tendría que coger el toro por los cuernos y el Cerdito tendría que convertirse en Cochonnet.

Voy a ahorrarles los detalles sobre el proceso de solicitud, pero lo conseguí por el elevado coste de 100 euros (¡¡porque era tan viejo!!) y el día que conseguí mi matrícula francesa fue memorable. ¡Nunca me he sentido tan francesa! Y la felicidad de que me adelantaran o me rozaran la parte trasera del coche la gente local fue una liberación.

Ayer lo llevé a su primera ITV. Llegué al taller con tiempo de sobra. La señora me pidió permiso de circulación. Le expliqué que todavía no lo tenía y que solo tenía un papel temporal. Apunto a la fecha de expiración, en la que yo no me había fijado.  No tenía los documentos en regla… Debía ir al ayuntamiento cuanto antes.

Milagrosamente estaba abierto. Le expliqué la situación al joven del mostrador. Sigo esperando a recibir mi permiso de circulación, le expliqué. ¡Qué raro! comentó. Parece que usted ha firmado su recepción hace varios meses. ‘Le aseguro que nunca he recibido la tarjeta gris del permiso de circulación, insistí. ‘Tendremos que investigarlo. Puede que nos lleve varios meses y mientras tanto…’ La amenaza de quedarme sin coche me hizo recordar algo. ¿Podría enseñarme cómo es?, le pedí. Llamó al cliente de al lado y él sacó un trozo de papel (no tarjeta) color crema (no gris) con una cuadrado gris brillante. Me vino a la cabeza la clara imagen de haber abierto una carta y haber visto ese mismo documento. ‘Me disculpe profusamente, me puse roja, (¡me parece que uso esta expresión muy a menudo!) y me fui corriendo.

Sigo teniendo el volante a la derecha por lo que algunos giros son un poco complicados y ‘los peajes una pesadilla cuando estoy sola pero, después de todo, estoy feliz como una perdiz dando una vuelta a la velocidad límite y sintiéndome con todo el derecho. ¡Viva mi Cerdito!

La Montagne et Moi: La Carte grise

“J’ai longtemps fait’ (for a long time, I did) the 1,000 mile (1,630 km) round trip by car to our home in the UK every 8 weeks – ‘en partie’ (partly) to keep my insurance valid and ‘en partie’ to ‘faire des réserves de’ (stock up on) chicken noodles, marmite and peanut butter and to ‘remplir notre cave’ (replenish our wine cellar) – or more accurately – ‘porte-bouteilles’ (wine- rack).

My dutiful old Kangoo, Piglet, ‘qui aura’ (which turns) 14 this year, had been valued at £2,000 max and to import her to France would have cost about £1,500, or ‘c’est du moins ce que je croyais’ (or so I thought).  But after a few months of looking at extremely expensive second–hand cars, I realized that despite the cost – and ‘le dossier’ (the application) that makes ‘un emprunt’ (a mortgage) look like ‘un jeu d’enfant’ (a walk in the park), I would have to ’prendre le taureau par les cornes’ (take the bull by the horns) and Piglet would have to become Cochonnet.

‘Je vous épargne les details’ (I will spare you the details) of the application process, but ‘je m’en suis sortie’ (I managed it) for the princely sum of about 100 euros (because it was so old!!) and the day I got my ‘plaque d’immatriculation française’ (French number plate) was momentous. ‘Je ne me suis jamais sentie autant ‘française’ (I have never felt more French)! And the joy of not being ‘dépassé’ (overtaken) or ‘collé’ (tail-gated’ by ‘les gens du coin’ (the locals) was liberating.

Yesterday I took her for her first ‘contrôle technique’ (MOT). I arrived at the garage ‘bien en avance’ (in plenty of time). The lady asked for my ‘Carte Grise’ (V5). I explained that I was still waiting for it and only had a temporary piece of paper. She pointed at the expiry date, which I hadn’t noticed. ‘J’étais en situation irregulière’ (My papers weren’t in order) … I had to go to the ‘préfecture sur le champ’ (town hall double-quick).

‘Par miracle’ By some miracle it was open. I explained the situation to the young man ‘au guichet’ (at the counter). I’m still waiting for my grey card I explained. ‘C’est bien bizarre’ (It’s very strange) he remarked. You appear to have signed for it at the post office several months ago. ‘I can assure you, I have never received a grey card’, I insisted. ‘Il faudrait qu’on lance une investigation’ (We will have to start an investigation). It may take several months and in the meantime….’ The threat of being carless jogged my memory. ‘Pourriez-vous me la montrer?’ (Would you show me what it looks like?”) I asked. He called the customer next to me over and he took out a cream (not grey) piece of paper (not card) with a shiny silver square on it.  A distinct image came to mind of opening an envelope and seeing the same document. ‘J’ai présenté mes excuses’ (I apologized) profusely, ‘J’ai rougi’ (went bright red – I seem to use this phrase a lot!) and left ‘en coup de vent’ in a flash, drove home to unearth ‘ledit’ (said) paper and made it back ‘juste à temps’ (in the nick of time).

J’ai toujours le volant à droite ‘I still have a right-hand drive’ which makes certain corners a bit tricky and ‘les péages’ (the tolls) a nightmare when I’m by myself, but overall I’m ‘heureux comme un poisson dans l’eau’ (happy as Larry) tootling about at the speed limit with a real sense of entitlement. Vive ma petite Cochonnet! (Long live Piglet!)”