Book Report: A Year in Provence

Rating: 3 out of 5.

This is certainly not the kind of book I usually read, but it’s what the Bobcat neighborhood book club chose, and I want to stay in the book club, so I read it. As many of you who read this book years ago already know, A Year in Provence, by Peter Mayle, came out in 1989 originally. The copy I have contains an update from ten years later.

Much wine and pastis are consumed in this book. And why is that doomed fox smoking?

This would not be a beloved best-selling novel if it didn’t have its charms, and Mayle most assuredly can paint a picture of a culture in just a few words and a few bucolic tales of the neighbors and neighborhoods. I think any Francophile would just love the little vignettes and word portraits of the people in a remote area of Provence and how their activities and non-activities change from season to season.

There’s the problem. I’m not, alas, a Francophile, even though I once married one and have beloved friends who adore France. Too many years of watching French cinema could be a cause. Or it could be the particular set of grumpy, chain-smoking French people with strong superiority complexes I’ve known. (Before you rebuke me, I realize there are plenty of people in this continent who could be characterized similarly.

I didn’t find the way the contractors working on the house just disappeared for months with no warning nor any explanation (this may be because our pool workers have done the same). I didn’t find the smelly, mean-spirited neighbor, who Mayle seemed totally enchanted with, at all fascinating. He reminded me of half of Milam County, Texas.

And I know he was a sweet old man with much going for him, but Mayle came off to me as someone with more money than he knew what to do with, and no ability to make his own decisions. He just went along with everyone else and their ideas and timetables. Oops, I hope I didn’t just describe myself. I may have described how I must come across sometimes (I assure you; I do NOT have more money than I know what to do with–each horse and swimming pool expenditure comes with sacrificing something else and with the sad bonus of annoying my dear spouse).

This book review is not about me, it’s about Provence, an area of France where it gets quite hot and is often very windy…much like Milam County. Maybe I found too much of my own life in this book to find it a real getaway.

Oui, c’est un gros trombone – I did not know paperclip was “trombone” in French.

And also, I’m a linguist and all that, but I didn’t know what a lot of the words in the story meant. I’m not ignorant in French, but I wish more context from which to figure out the meanings of some of the liberally sprinkled French words and phrases had been included. Some of us studied Spanish, you know.

Still, anyone will enjoy some of the little bits you learn about Provence, the stories of grapes and mushrooms, and learning about how hunters of over thirty years ago a lot like the ones are today (they need their modern conveniences!). At least there is a lot less trash on the side of the road after hunting is over in Texas. You can enjoy a few days with this book and not get upset, angry, or bored, so it’s worth a shot.

Monsieur Renard is not happy about what is happening to the fox on the book cover.

My favorite part of reading A Year in Provence, though, was that I got to use my new bookmark that I got in Breck. It’s a cool fox, or dare I say, renard, on it. Its little face looks très amusant” peeking out from the top of a book. I can’t wait to use it again.

Feeling Pretty…Social

Blinding whiteness

It’s been an interesting few days of social activities since I came to the Austin house Tuesday evening. I got my hair turned back into my preferred whiteness yesterday, and that always makes me feel better…prettier…fancier. It makes that last month or so with the extensive roots worth it. I think adding the silver worked well to make the roots less obvious, so I may do that again, especially seeing that the bleach made it go away.

Working on hair seems like such a privileged thing to do, but I save up for it. Yesterday I even got a nap while sitting under the hair dryer. And it’s always fun to listen to the stories my hair stylist tells about his life and adventures. Well worth the time and sort of worth the money.

Getting pretty isn’t very pretty, however. My hair looked like worms when I came out of this dryer. I felt like a butterfly undergoing metamorphosis.

As soon as I was released from my cocoon in the salon, this social butterfly ran next door to participate in our first vaccinated people’s book club meeting indoors. All of us were so happy to be able to both see and hear each other! We did have to keep steering the conversation away from topics that might lead to strong words (Did you know none of the homeless people in Austin are willing to work? Neither did I.). One of the women there lives in the alternate world, and said she’d not worn a mask except the few times she went to Austin last year. Wow. I kept waiting for Anita to jump on her, but we were all good and decided not to cause a book club scene.

I took myself, my PRIDE! shirt, and my giant rainbow earrings (I wonder why that one lady wouldn’t talk to me?) home just before yet another bad storm rolled through. Those are so hard on poor little Pickle the dog. Anita and I tried to distract her by watching weird shows about people with weight and skin issues, and she did eventually calm down.

Today I am back to feeling pretty and social. I was feeling so femme that I suddenly painted my fingernails and toenails this morning, and put on ALL the makeup I haven’t worn in a year. It worked out, because the office had more people than I’ve seen since February 2020 today. It has been so much fun seeing old coworkers, meeting some in person for the first time, and eliminating misconceptions (one coworker is much smaller than her large Zoom personality would indicate).

I may not be gender fluid, but I sure go from tomboy to lady-like in a flash. Hey, you just take fun wherever you can get it, right? I like wearing my “costumes” and looking different every day as much as my hair stylist likes to wear a white t-shirt and khaki shorts every day!

By the way, today I tried out the new “columns” functionality in WordPress. It looks pretty good on the computer, but let me know if it looks weird however you view the blog.

And yes, I will podcast again. I’m just really low on time these days (or bone tired) and can’t get to a lot of my volunteer and optional activities.

The Unpopular Kid at School

That’s who I feel like this morning. We invited a lot of people to join a book club on unconscious bias at work. There are two meetings, one early and one at mid day, so people in different time zones can attend. There were at least ten people who accepted, were tentative, or hoped to show up. It’s halfway through the meeting, and the only thing I see on Zoom is darned familiar looking.

That sure looks like me.

It sure is easy to fall into old patterns, insecurities, and negative self talk. Luckily, it didn’t last too long. I’m mature enough to know that people were busy, or they are too uncomfortable with unconscious bias to want to talk about it (very likely), or they forgot. I’m not the center of the universe, after all. I think I’m over somewhere near the edge, to be honest. Still, I have lots of other stuff to do besides Zoom, so it was irritating to have to just sit there and try to look cheerful, in case anyone showed up.

Ah well. I’ll end the meeting and see if anyone shows up at noon! I think some of the more interested people are on the West Coast, and by all rights they should still be asleep!

Time Marches On

Since I wrote the above, I’ve received a lot of kind feedback, most of which says it’s hard to get people to show up to book clubs at all. I think the only reason we had a good group at our previous work one is that we started pre-pandemic in person. The other reality is that unconscious bias is a difficult topic that many people might be reluctant to discuss. That’s valid.

Our learning and development group came up with some other ideas for discussion that aren’t book clubs, so we’ll try those, too. We just know people need a chance to talk about workplace concerns AND get to know each other, so we’re going to keep trying!

Hooray!

We had a great discussion at the second book club meeting! The West Coast contingent did show up! So glad I was patient. I enjoy facilitating meetings so much. It’s probably what I would do for a living if the introvert part of me didn’t get so darned exhausted from it. I truly get a LOT from hearing what other people think, and it always gets me thinking more. I’m going to really enjoy our unconscious bias book club! We’re reading The Leader’s Guide to Unconscious Bias, which has so many good questions to talk about!

Who, Me? Hypochondriac? Paranoid?

What in the world would lead me to say this? Well, things have just been a bit…unbalanced this week. I’ve felt a little “off” all week, and have done some really goofy things that aren’t like me.

This is the can of delicious water that didn’t want to go in my mouth.

The biggest example is suddenly forgetting how to drink a beverage. I was sitting in my living room, watching television or reading, and I was really thirsty for that cold, fresh lemon-flavored water I’d gotten out of the refrigerator. So, while still focused on my other task, I picked it up and briskly poured it into my lap.

That certainly surprised the dog. But, really, I forgot how to put a drink to my lips? It’s like my body had a glitch. Of course, once that happened, I’ve been alert to any other motor-skills issues, so when I trip and almost fall on a tiny raised part of a sidewalk, drop what I’m carrying, etc., I think, “Oh no, I’m getting some disease.”

Vlassic took to his (my) bed to recover from my oddness.
Continue reading “Who, Me? Hypochondriac? Paranoid?”