Jun 082012
Canapes at DDs Drama Club performance.

“What was so French?” you might ask.  Well…..

Let’s start with Thursday, which was actually a very German and a very French day.  It was German because it was Corpus Christi.  This is a largely-Catholic holiday (celebrated by some other christian churches, though, apparently less… religiously?) that takes place 60 days after Easter.  In Baden-Württemberg it is a state holiday, but in the less Catholic areas for Germany, it is not.  Nor is it one in France. So, DS (who was already on his second Spring Break) and DH both had the day off.  But, DD, in school in France, did not.

So, around 3:15 David and I set out from Offenburg to pick the girl up.  Plenty of time to get to her school by 3:45 when she would be out.  Only, as we got off the freeway in Kehl, things started getting sticky.  Or rather, they got *stuck*.  As in not moving.  After 10 minutes at the same signal, we knew there must be something significant up.  After 20 minutes of sitting in Kehl (a town all of 1 km wide) we were fairly convinced that there must be some sort of major border activity going on.

Usually the borders between France and Germany here are not subject to any restrictions, but occasionally officials from one of the two governments will stop rows of cars to check them for contraband.  This is most often the French police checking for things like fireworks around New Years.  I have only seen the German police stopping cars going that direction once, that I recall.  Since this was, in fact, a holiday we could only venture that there was something similar in the works- and, given the lack of movement, we were guessing they must have uncovered some sort of super firework smuggling ring.  How exciting!

But, when we got across the bridge to the area where the police usually conduct searches, we noticed that while there were a few police cars, there were no vehicles from the general public pulled off beside them and the cops were just sort of milling about, looking… well, bored, really.  Something else was afoot.

As we continued down the main road into Strasbourg, I glanced at the traffic alert sign that doles out the usual platitudes and good-citizenship reminders along with its traffic info and the phone numbers to report issues.  Today it read “Ne jouez pas avec les feux”   Don’t play with fire.  Ok, good advice, thanks.  It poured rain most of the week, but that’s no reason to let your guard down.

A block further on, and we finally reached the cause of the disturbance.  Dozens of people were standing about wearing bright yellow day-glow vests, These are standard issue for drivers here to make them visible if they break down.  Most of these folks seemed to be upward of retirement age and were walking about through traffic distributing brochures of some kind.  David understandably thought the circus (a senior circus?) was in town.  But, once I spotted their banner, I knew what it was: another strike!  Or at the minimum, a strike-like demonstration.  How, very, very French! Again!  I couldn’t actually read what the banner said- it blew in the wind and seemed to be mostly made of acronyms.  But, there was no other explanation.  Unfortunately, the folks handing out the papers stopped just in front of us and we never did figure out what cause was being touted this time. Later inquiries of locals indicated that they are so bored with the multitude of these events, that they didn’t even bother to pay enough attention to know who was out and about stopping traffic through town.  It is just part of living in France- like lingerie ads and butter.

We had been warned that sometimes during more major events French truck-drivers will actually drive their trucks onto the borders, turn off the engines, take the keys and leave.  Luckily no one had done that this time.  But, they were still managing to snarl traffic into some sort of undulating mass of barely-damp clay.  Not only was traffic slow… it was French traffic.  So it was slow and unpredictable.  Sometimes a car would dart to one side as if it could go around the blockage by force of will- or perhaps dematerialization.  Other drivers literally just threw up their hands, drove onto the sidewalk and *parked* there.

As we inched along, we arrived at a second traffic alert sign.  This one declared “Au feu rouge, je m’arrête”.  At the red fire, I stop myself.   Umm.  Ok, very poetic.  Thanks for that, too. 

Looking to the right, I noticed a long line of bicyclists also wearing the yellow vests.  It was then that I remembered that my camera was in my purse.

I only managed to get the last few in the row, but you get the idea!

We did eventually make it to DD- about an hour late.  Luckily, we weren’t the only parents coming from Germany, so she knew about the delay.  By the time we headed back, the protesters were heading out, so all their signs were furled and many were removing their vests.  The traffic took a nice long time to recover, though.  David, who never likes driving in France, was pretty much beside himself by the time we got to DD.  So I offered to drive on the way back.  I had some idea of exploring a bit and trying to work my way around the blockage.  But really, that just raised DH’s blood pressure higher.  You may recall similar results the last time we attempted this.  DH was definitely not designed to be French.  He criticized the way I ran a red light (seriously, it *was* the French way!) and didn’t like it when a bus turned into our lane and nearly hit us at a signal.  He also wasn’t fond of turning around 2ce to eventually find a short cut.  But, I *did* find a short cut- and, it was even, well, short!  Or, at least, as soon as traffic moved enough for us to make any progress, it was short.

Upon reaching home, I went ahead and rechecked the translation on the two alert signs.  It turns out that “feu” (plural “feux”) can mean both fire and light.  So, “feu rouge” is probably red light.  Thus, the second sign was pretty clearly trying a sort of indirect reminder “You know, *I* always stop at red lights, but, well, if you don’t want to, I guess.. Eh.. (French-shrug)”

But, now I am not sure what to make of the first sign.  Was it actually imploring us not to play with light instead of fire?  Maybe they don’t want us to race the stop lights?  Not that that is particularly easy to do in most of Strasbourg.  Traffic is generally heavy in the city itself.  But, on the other hand it did always seem a bit odd that an area so wet and green would be overly concerned with fire safety.  Of course, this is BBQ season….

Mind you, Germans don’t mess around with vague imagery- verbal or otherwise.  Here is a fire safety sign spotted in Germany on the very next day:

Seriously, y’all, DON’T leave your BBQ unattended or
the fire elementals will reach out
and GRAB your baby!  And, as the poster
warns, Help Often Comes Too Late.

As long as I am on the subject, a few other German things:

My new German Reading Glasses
Severe, but fun!
Sunsets have been gorgeous this month!

A dead Giant European Hornet in front of the apartment.
Yeah, they are large.  And yeah, they have invaded the US.
Keep your eyes peeled.

The weather, as I mentioned, has been wet.  But, that is typical this time of year, and it is a warm wet most of the time.  DS has taken to going for daily scooter rides around the neighborhood, so, these days, like the locals, he just throws on a jacket and heads out in the rain.

Granted, his pants don’t really repel water that much….

More French

DD has participated in an after-school drama club throughout the year at Hogwarts.  Tonight was their drama recital, if you will.  An evening of Sketches- done in English, by mostly non-native English speakers.  It was quite charming, actually.

Apparently we weren’t supposed to enter through the main
gate, but we didn’t read the sign and an administrator
let us in anyways… Getting out, though was trickier!

DD’s skit was about being “In the Army”
She wore her great-grampa’s Navy flight jacket,
and, um… a hat.

Their darling drama coach.  The poor thing was
bright red anytime she had to speak to anyone!
To be fair, it was rather warm in the basement
where the recital was held.

Seven Skits

Did I mention that the event was held in the basement of the P building?  That means, I swear to you, the room is numbered “P00”.

It took me several minutes to figure
out what this is.  Do you know?  I am still
not sure why it is bolted to the wall!
Left Right Left Right!

The tall guy is Sgt. Small, The short on Sgt. Large, and the guy in red
was filling in for their absent Private Potter

DD did the entire thing with a decent English accent- only she didn’t know she was doing it.  It was just the character she had in her mind.  Too fun. Actually, she frequently slips into an English accent when she returns home from Hogwarts.  I think it sounds mysterious and enchanting.  She thinks it is a bit ridiculous.

These two were really funny hamming it up as love birds
The stage crew almost dropped the TV, but DD jumped in a grabbed it.
Later, she and one other girl muscled the thing into a new position and then
removed it without assistance.  WTG DD!
Best Costume Goes to – the Old Guy in Shakespeare’s House
Best unexpected moment- at one point in the script, a character knocks on the
door- this toddler from the audience answered it!!!

Flowers & presents for the drama coach!

  3 Responses to “A rather French Week, or Au feu rouge, je m’arrête”

  1. I believe that fire safety poster says something to the effect of “do you really need lighter fluid for your grill?” Given that I have managed to create effects similar to those show in the poster (though without harming any small children) by spraying lighter fluid on an already-lit grill, it’s a reasonable warning…

    • Yeah the whole text reads- approx:

      Benutzen Sie Auch Brennspiritus Zum Grillen?
      Wer Brennspiritus in Grillfeuer giesst, setzt Menschenleben aufs Spiel: Oft kommt jede Hilfe zu spät, wenn das Feuer sekundenschnell um sich greift. Paulinchen e. V. klärt über diese immer noch weit unterschätzte Gefahr beim Grillen auf und schützt so das Leben vieler Kinder-vielleicht auch das Leben Ihres Kindes.

      Which translates to something like: Do you also use methylated spirits (lighter fluid) to grill?
      If you pour methylated spirits into the grill fire, risking human life: often help comes too late, since the fire spreads rapidly within seconds. Pauline V. clarifies this still widely underestimated risk when grilling, protecting the life of many children, perhaps your child’s life.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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