Bonjour 2017…where will it take us?



This cartoon sums up how I’m feeling as we start the new year – ‘My desire to be well-informed is currently at odds with my desire to remain sane’.

So instead of ruminating ….my intention here is to write about something obscure: Rebuses. Rebus = a kind of word puzzle which uses pictures to represent words or parts of words. Perhaps they are used as often in Australia as they are here…but I don’t think so.

Children in France are usually very familiar with the concept of rebuses (and other word puzzles….I repeat what I’ve written in the past – May 2016 for example – that the nuts and bolts of language are an extremely important part of the French culture). Rebuses make regular appearances in school lessons, in books and magazines and next week-end, they will show up in my daughter’s 9th birthday party treasure hunt.


One of the rebus clues that the kids will have to solve in order to find the next clue:  r+oeufs+f+riz+jeux+rat+heure = refrigerateur (refrigerator)

French words lend themselves very well to creating rebuses such as this one above  (which uses pictures to represent each syllable) because the last sound in words is often not pronounced…so that a number of very different words end up sounding exactly the same (such as ‘vers’ – towards, ‘verre’ – glass, and ‘vert’ – green). And also perhaps because French is a syllable-timed language (a language whose syllables take approximately equal amounts of time to pronounce). That being said, I didn’t even try to make my own rebuses but rather I cheated and used this web-site to create the clues for the words that I wanted to represent. Out of curiosity I tried an equivalent site for English words and it generated such obscure puzzles for words that I doubt many adults (let alone 9-year-olds) would be able to decipher them. English phrases (which exploit whole words instead of syllables) rather than single words lend themselves better to rebuses. Here is a picture of one in English:








Look out! Big changes ahead…..(again).

My husband organized a nice vacation in a converted wind mill in Brittany for a few days between Christmas and New Year. He was able to ‘recharge his batteries’ which is just what he needed before heading off to Toulouse to start his new job in his own company (yes, he ‘received’ his Christmas wish!). Toulouse is about a 5-6 hour-drive south from where we are currently living. He plans to come back most weekends and then at the end of the school-year (in July) the kids and I will join him…..providing we find housing and schooling.

More about this to come as we discover the south of France.

La Toussaint (All Saints’ Day)


Florists and supermarkets were very colorful for the week leading up to the 1st of November

Forget Halloween! In France it’s all about La Toussaint: The first of November is All Saints’ Day. It’s a public holiday and a time when families visit cemeteries to remember and honour their deceased relatives. It’s traditional for families to put a pot of chrysanthemums on the graves of their family for la Fete de la Toussaint – (Chrysanthemums are indeed so closely linked to La Toussaint that the French never give them as a gift.). This holiday falls during the autumn (fall) school holidays which I mentioned in my last post and which just came to an end. 

Actually I really did forget all about Halloween and so when we received one random visit from a small group of teenage ‘witches’ we had to send them on their way disappointed and empty-handed (no candy/lollies/sweets in this house!) And to be honest, as much as I enjoyed celebrating Halloween whilst living in California, I think that it is a tradition that can stay in America.

We took advantage of the school break to head south towards Toulouse and stay with the family of a very good friend of our son’s (who returned to France from Shanghai in June). The region is very picturesque and we took advantage of the opportunity to visit some of the beautiful towns with our hosts (Puycelsi, Cordes sur Ciel and Albi) and to eat the local cassoulet (a dish of pork and beans…which is a very simplistic explanation of this complex and yummy dish).


On the way back we stopped for a short while to visit the town of Bordeaux which had some great public spaces including it’s famous ‘water mirror’ which the kids loved running on/through/in?


IMG_7299Then we were fortunate to receive a week-end visit from my dear former boss John (from my time previous time in France in the city of Grenoble). We all enjoyed his company and I remembered just how much I missed our regular chats.

There were a few family birthday parties, play-dates and day-trips thrown in there too.

The last week of the vacation was even more eventful: my daughter had to have an urgent ultrasound to eliminate the suspicion of appendicitis – and which uncovered that she actually had Mesenteric adenitis – the second most common cause of right lower abdominal pain after appendicitis which occurs more often in children than in adults and does not require any treatment other than rest and pain relief.

And then on the very last day of the vacation a (slowly?) reversing car knocked my son over and rolled over his foot – where it stayed until the driver realized (after much frantic yelling and tapping on the car on my part) and moved forward. I was completely horrified especially as I was crouching down right beside my son at the time (which is presumably why the driver didn’t see us). I’m not entirely sure of the details as we were actually on a wheelchair route at the time and facing the other way.

Anyway, the ambulance arrived and the assistants said that my son (due to his young age and hence flexible foot) appeared to be OK. Finding this too difficult to believe, we went to the emergency department of our local hospital to do a follow-up x-ray. After waiting for over 3 hours we decided to return in the morning as Antoine was suffering more from fatigue than pain. After a further 4 hours in the waiting room the following morning, it was finally confirmed that, indeed, there were no physical consequences! In fact, he was running, jumping and dancing by the afternoon. AMAZING and such… such a relief. Events like this undoubtably remind me of all that I am grateful for.