Le Dernier Mot: The Sky is Falling!

Le Dernier Mot: The Sky is Falling!

Yesterday I darted back and forth like a chicken beneath a falling sky. A violent wind caused my hair to fly up, twirling around me as I retrieved scattered laundry near the base of my clothesline. I snatched a dried sock from the rosemary bush, some underwear dangling from an olive branch, and a T-shirt that had flattened a patch of newly-bloomed anemones. As my eyes scanned the countryside I was thankful the wind hadn’t carried our clothes off any further!

The girouettes are spinning this morning as the wind continues to sweep through the Mediterranean. Residents in Marseille have been asked to empty their balconies lest objects fly off, landing on the streets (and citizens) below. Certain roads are closed owing to the threat posed by the giant waves coming in off the coast. Even the scenic Route des Crêtes, between La Ciotat and Cassis, is off limits.

C’est infernal ce vent!” Jean-Marc grumbles as he battens down the hatches. I watch my husband pull the shutters closed, securing them with a metal latch. The wooden volets are old and warped and won’t shut completely, as evidenced by the darkening patch of sky looming through. Jean-Marc isn’t sure his gesture will make a difference. “C’était peut-être pas la peine”.

“Yes, it’s good, it’s good!” I assure him, a little spooked by the wind after an exceptionally creaky night. Earlier, when Jean-Marc got up, he left our bedroom door open. I listened as it creaked back and forth, eventually slamming shut. The windy rafales are so strong they are blowing right through the tiny spaces between the window and door frames!

“What kind of wind is it?” I ask Jean-Marc.

Un vent d’est”, he answers.

“Yes, but what is it called?”

Un vent d’est…

Oh. I was hoping for a memorable name like Tramontane or Sirocco. This got me thinking about the latter, how it would blow through Sainte Cécile, where we lived in a 300-year-old house with loose roof tiles. I would tell the kids to put their hands over their heads as we entered or exited the two-story mas. After hearing about les tuiles volantes I was always so afraid one of those tiles would come crashing down on us.

We eventually had the loose tiles secured, but I never lost the habit of using my hands to shield my head when the wind kicks up. And it is something I keep in mind when navigating the windy corridors of France, where those charming old buildings look a little different to me on a day like today, when Chicken Little would say, “Le ciel tombe!”.


une girouette: Weather vane, wind indicator

c’est infernal = It’s hell

le vent = Wind

C’était peut-être pas la peine = Maybe it wasn’t worth the trouble

une rafale = Gust of wind

le vent d’est = East wind

le mas = Old Provençal farmhouse

les tuiles volantes = Flying tiles

From France Today magazine

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The American-born author and photographer lives with her French husband, Jean-Marc, and their two children on a vineyard and olive farm near Bandol in Provence. She's the author of "Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language from the South of France" and runs the French Word-a-Day blog and newsletter.

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  • Judith B. Dunn
    2017-05-03 19:17:57
    Judith B. Dunn
    Always love anything Kristin writes about! He taales are fun, funny, sad, happy, and poignant. I am a huge fan of hers! Judith B. Dunn