The rain in Spain…

When you get a little older, you often get, as we used to say in my old neighborhood les portugaises ensablées (oysters/ears full of sand).

Yes, because of the accumulation of sand in your “oyster” canal, you don’t hear as well as you used to, and it becomes important to listen more carefully to the person who is talking to you. But often, despite your best efforts, you don’t catch much of what is being said. And it is not entirely your fault, as some people would be quick to point out.

It has something to do with phonetics “The production of speech that looks at the interaction of different vocal organs, for example, the lips, tongue, and teeth, to produce particular sounds.”

 Many, many people don’t speak properly. They mumble, they slur their words, they don’t articulate, they ignore syntax, they speak too low, too fast, or like Eliza Doolittle, they speak with an unpleasant accent. These poor souls are often unaware of this flaw, and unfortunately, it is not something that you would mention in polite society.

And then, there is also the pitch factor, the degree of highness or lowness of a tone. Women and children speaking in higher pitched voices are sometimes difficult to hear and understand.

Even on television, where it is extremely important to be clearly understood, many presenters don’t articulate properly. Many of them would do themselves a big favor by taking a few lessons from Professor Henry Higgins. They would have to attend daily classes until they could properly say “The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain!”

And to get a passing grade, Professor Higgins would have to finally say, “By George, she/he got it.”

 So, as you can see, we les durs de la feuille are not entirely to blame for some awkward conversations. In a perfect world, everybody would speak with a mellifluous voice and there would not be any misunderstandings anywhere. There would be no wars.

I feel that since Ukrainian and Russian don’t sound exactly alike, Vladimir Putin might have misunderstood Volodymyr Zelensky and decided to grab a chunk of his territory to teach him how to speak Russian correctly. Actually, any excuse would have done.

Do you see how far this problem could go? So, I urge all the unskilled speakers to carefully watch their mouths, clean their teeth and exercise their tongues before uttering anything. We, the people with a standard pitch are tolerant, but you should not push us too far.

Thank you for your valuable cooperation.


Pedicure, the ultimate stress reliever

The Flirtation. Eugene de Blaas

When the unending distressing daily news gets to you, keep calm… and book a pedicure. It will soothe your soul… and your soles. Pedicures, you should know, are the ultimate stress reliever. I can vouch for it. I have done it many times… no later than this morning.

“According to many sources, the history of pedicures goes back 4000 years to the civilizations of Babylon, China, and Egypt and it was then that this practice of looking after one’s feet started.”

 I am pretty sure that (after her camel milk bath) Cleopatra insisted on a pedicure, and what was satisfying to Cleo, will certainly be pleasing to all of us.

When I was young and stupid, I would do the job myself, but it was never as satisfying as having somebody else do it for you. Now that I am wiser (and not as flexible as when I was stupid) I go to a local “nail salon” to have my toes pampered.

And it is done extremely well… mainly by Vietnamese women. They do a thorough job, soaking, cutting, sanding, oiling, and massaging your extremities. But they labor without ever uttering a word, which can be a little disconcerting… especially to a Frenchman. We Latins are born to talk and to kid.

So, to break the monotony of the procedure, I engaged my toe specialist with an innocuous question. She answered with an accented, thin voice, without looking at me. Since my hearing is not perfect anymore and since she was wearing a mask, I didn’t comprehend a single word of her answer. But being a diplomat, I smiled politely and nodded my head in a positive manner.

This was the extent of our conversation. When dealing with a woman, a Frenchman will almost always try to make her laugh. How can you remain indifferent when a man tries so hard to charm you? In French, this badinage is called “conter fleurette » or flirting, as the English-speaking folks would say.

But this time, my legendary charm did not seem to work. My pedicure lady remained as silent and unmoved as the Egyptian Sphinx.

Oh well, win some, lose some. But most important my toes are happy. At the end of the procedure, they bowed and wiggled approvingly. And when your toes are happy, it takes a lot of weight off your feet… and your mind.

If you are stressed, get a pedicure. Tell them Alain sent you.


Why a blog?

“A blog is a regular feature appearing as part of an online publication that typically relates to a particular topic and consists of articles and personal commentary by one or more authors.”

Why would anybody run a blog? Well, there are thousands of reasons, but every individual has a different motivation. To me, a blog is a way to exercise my grey cells, and a tool that can be used to educate or influence people… or when reason fails, to blast some unsavory characters or government policies. And thank God, we don’t live in Russia.

It is a safety valve that allows bloggers to vent when something frustrates them to the extreme. Like the abominable war of aggression in Ukraine, the recent preposterous decisions of the Supreme Court, the mass shootings… or the outrageous amount of noise generated by souped-up vehicles.

I recently discovered an old-fashioned breakfast place that serves good dishes at reasonable prices. But Bacon, on Grant Avenue in Novato, also has a terrace that is unfortunately exposed to an unbearable amount of traffic noise.

It seems that all the exhibitionist rednecks of the area come to Grant Avenue to parade their purposely unmufflered punkmobiles. This motorcade makes enough noise to wake up the dead and it is extremely annoying.

But when you run a blog, you don’t grab a gun when something or somebody upsets you. You don’t respond with a mass shooting to show your discontent. You go home, calm down and pour your thoughts into your computer. You then share your story with as many people as possible. You fight cretinous punks with words, not bullets.

Even if this does not work, it gives you the satisfaction to tell morons what you think of them; something you probably could not do properly in the heat of an argument.

So yes, I like the food and the service of Bacon, but the proximity of the street and the dreadful noise generated by some vehicles make it somewhat undesirable.

Our planet is under attack from all azimuths. Where are the decibel cops? Having a beer while waiting for doomsday?


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