Far from Blue

A delightful day at the AVF yesterday, and I spoke French for most of it. Acceuil des Villes Françaises is an organization through which the towns of France welcome newcomers, French or foreign. The volunteers, here at least, are nice middle-aged ladies--and why, I'd like to know, does that sound faintly amusing? I am a middle-aged lady myself, and we are the salt of the earth. Perhaps femme d'un certain âge sounds more dignified.

On Tuesday, I joined AVF at the office for my arrondissement of Lyon, the Second. Then yesterday I went to the main Lyon office, in the Place de la Baleine in Old Lyon. I walked a few blocks, and then crossed one of the bridges over the River Saône. The air was nippy, though sunshine lit up the green water and the pinky-beige buildings across the river. At the top of the hill, the Fourvière church gleamed white. But the narrow cobbled lanes of old Lyon were in the shade, and I walked briskly to little "Whale Square."

The Thursday international coffee mornings are hosted by volunteers who have themselves lived abroad. They are interesting and friendly; it was lovely to meet them and fellow newcomers to Lyon, and to have a delicious lunch together in the restaurant next door. Plat du jour: roasted farm chicken, green beans, and a divine potato gratin.

Later, in the French conversation group, the subject arose of playing truant, or hooky: you can say faire bleu. I love this, to "do blue" ! But why? My Robert and Collins doesn't mention the phrase, and online I learn the French themselves have found it puzzling. It turns out to be an adoption of the German expression blau machen--though again, why "blue," I do not know.  (Any German etymologists in the house?)  Faire bleu is apparently local to the German-bordering areas Alsace and Lorraine. The more standard French way to say "play truant" is faire l'école buissonnière: to go to "bush school"--the school of the bushes, the forest.

Another interesting French usage is "un bleu," a newcomer, rookie, greenhorn, or novice, as in, Tu me prends pour un bleu? Well, I am a bleu in France, unless you count my two stints here as an au pair girl, a month each in the summers when I was sixteen and seventeen; and so I feel that my wanderings around Lyon, sometimes doing nothing much in particular, are part of my education, even if it does mean I'm skiving off from assembling Ikea furniture and doing housework. I usually have a mission in view, such as the purchase of a newspaper or a baguette or a pair of good walking shoes; but that so easily turns into prolonged exploration.

However, the calendar is filling with commitments, admittedly not onerous: French lessons, conversation groups, and AVF trips to places like the library, specialty restaurants, and the Croix Rousse area of Lyon where the silk workers lived and wove. Plus I seem to have agreed to help out as a sometime animatrice, or leader, of the English conversations. Ma vie française is taking on a shape, though it's still in flux, and that's good. Indeed, as I've repeatedly been told in the last whirlwind months, and continue to learn at first hand, Change is Good! Especially perhaps pour une femme d'un certain âge.