Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Chestnuts and Cider

The étang is dry.

One morning about 10 days ago my friend André rang me up. He asked me if Simon and I were free the next afternoon (we were). So we were invited to a small gathering at André's secret woodland hideaway, where we would roast chestnuts and drink cider, in the spirit of the season.

The waterlilies are an ornamental species, not native, but there is barely enough water to keep them alive this year.

He sent me instructions by email for how to get there and then corrected my French when I replied (I'd used était where I should have used serait, although there was a bit of discussion about whether it should actually have been soit...) Our mutual friend Jean and his wife Maggy would be coming, as well as André's partner Louisette.

André has built himself a hide.

Years ago André bought a parcel of woodland with a large manmade pond called an étang in the centre. It's about 20 minutes from where he lives and about half way between his place and ours. Over the years he's had fun with his various diggers and earthmoving equipment creating holes, mounds and tracks. There is a caravan, permanent awning and barbecue on an island in the middle of the étang. You access it by a high bridge with wire sides so you don't fall several metres into the drink.

André wrangles chestnuts at the barbecue whilst Jean and the rest of us wait patiently.

Mambo the 18 month old Rhodesian Ridgeback was delighted to have extra company. He is very tall and hasn't yet learnt to sit quietly under the table when people are eating.

Louisette and Maggy.

I really liked the low key way everyone dealt with Mambo. He's a big dog and doesn't yet understand that he is encroaching on people's personal space. Nobody made a fuss. He wasn't harshly disciplined, but he wasn't rewarded with excessive attention either. Reward good behaviour and ignore bad is a relaxed and sensible way to deal with Ridgebacks.

I also really enjoyed the fact that no one fussed when Mambo interacted with me. I like dogs and am perfectly capable of dealing with an enthusiastic hound. I don't mind owners who check with me about how I am with dogs on first meeting, but I get frustrated by owners who continually keep their dogs away from guests and spend all their time fussing about what the dog is doing.

One reason I enjoyed the company of young Mambo is that I owned a Ridgeback myself in my twenties and thirties. I know what they are like and would recommend them to anyone who likes hunting dogs.

André has offered his place as a venue for one of our monthly apéro or picnic gatherings, so I think in the late spring or summer we will organise it.

Come on! I thought we were going for a walk!!

Mambo has the most remarkably springy step, like a prancing thoroughbred and is still prone to mad puppy fits of bouncing around, tearing up and down or wrestling sticks.

No, I have no idea why there is a table with a decaying table cloth next to a folding bicycle...


Colin and Elizabeth said...

There are a great many of these little woodland hidaways around, we used to come across them all the time on our woodland walks. We never ever saw people at them though...

Susan said...

It's true. The ones along the rivers get a lot of obvious use and you see people lounging around on them all the time. The ones that are just random bits of woodland in the middle of the countryside do often seem abandoned though.

Ken Broadhurst said...

I'd like more information about the était, serait, soit question.

Susan said...

I wrote: je ne pourrais pas trouver quelqu'un qui était libre de venir avec nous to André and he wrote back that était should have been serait. Then later we were talking about it and Louisette said something along the lines of they had discussed whether soit would have been better.

Andrédantogny said...

Superbe reportage Susan
Amitiés AnDDré

Susan said...

Merci André :-)

Ken Broadhurst said...

Thanks. Were you saying "I can't (or couldn't) find anyone..." or "I wouldn't be able to find anyone..."? "Could" is a hard word to translate into French because it expresses either the past ("I wanted to prove that I could [was able to] do something.") or the conditional ("If you wanted me to do it, I could [would be able to] do it." "I couldn't find anyone" might be "je ne pouvais [imperfect tense] pas trouver quelqu'un" or "je n'ai pas pu [passé composé] trouver quelqu'un" or just "je n'ai trouvé personne". So complicated for an anglophone.

Susan said...

'I couldn't find anyone' as in I was unable to find anyone.

chm said...

Ken, your explanation is perfectly clear. For me, the problem wasn't était nor soit, but the conditional je ne pourrais pas which should have been, as you point out, the compound past e n'ai pas pu.

On the other hand, English grammar, even tough simpler than the French's, is not easy for a non-native! La plupart du temps, je marche sur des œufs!

Susan said...

I wouldn't go so far as to say Ken's explanation is perfectly clear, but I get the gist of where he's coming from. Having been doing informal French tests like mad lately in preparation for what is to come, it is clear I have three main weaknesses: whether I should use imperfect or passé composé (and sometimes conditional); I get gender wrong a lot; I forget to match the gender and number of verbs and adjectives that require it. The last two are really frustrating because they are stupid mistakes. I know the right form but forget to do it, again and again.

Ken Broadhurst said...

It's hard to figure out French grammar if, as an anglophone, you don't have a firm grasp of English grammar. I think you do. As CHM said, the main problem with your sentence was the use of the conditional je pourrais instead of the passé composé j'ai pu or je n'ai pas pu.

In English, the meaning of "I could" in English depends on context. In some cases, it means "I would be able to" (conditional) and in others it means "I was able to" (past).

"I could not believe that he said that" means "I was not able to believe" it (past tense). "Could you help me?" means "Would you be able to help me? [if I asked you...]" (conditional).

Susan said...

Thanks. I'll try and remember that 'was able to' versus 'might be able to' distinction.

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