Friday, April 17, 2009


Jules and Madame are here this week, and what do you think they want to talk about? (Aside from the perfidy of the locals, and how the glycine is not growing fast enough.)

The Obamas. And their dog.

When I came home the other day, Jules was in the garden. He'd arrived from Paris after lunch and changed immediately into his country duds--old Façonnable shirt, faded jeans, Tod's loafers, and a dark green merino wool sweater flung nonchalantly around his shoulders--and was haranguing the man driving the bob. Which means, in Jules parlance, any tractor-like vehicle that can move things around and may have been made by, or look like something made by, the Bobcat Company in North Dakota. (It took us a while to figure this out, as he pronounces bob in the French way: not bob like the yellow sponge with the square pants, but baub like the first syllable of bauble.) The man at the controls was using the bob to move large rocks back and forth. There were also pieces of plywood involved. And mud.

When I came out, Madame and Madeline, their granddaughter, had walked down the hill to join Jules. While Madame pointed out wildflowers and the swimming pool to Madeline, Jules muttered to her about the impossibility of getting anything done right by anyone other than oneself. Then I drew level with them.

Ah, ma petite! Jules did the bises. Then Madame did the bises. Then three year old Madeline did the bises and said Bonjour, Madame. Nobody greets like the French.

Once we had all kissed, Jules said: Et alors, Obama, he came to Europe!

Yes, I heard, I said.

And he was vraiment formidable! Jeune, beau, intelligent--

Madame interrupted. Vraiment formidable!

While Jules took a breath I leaped into the fray with a small joke. I see that you've put a belt around your sweater, Madame, just like Madame Obama.

But of course! I only wish I could look more like her. But I've given up alcohol and chocolate, and if I could only start an exercise régime--

And the dog! Jules grabbed the conversational wheel. T'as vu le chien? Have you seen the dog?

Have I seen the dog? I am the household expert on the dog, thank you very much. There is no Internet clip of the dog I have not seen, no article I have not read, and I even have a few theories about why we all--even the French--care so much about le premier chien. (It has to do with hope and normalcy, and I know you're shocked, shocked, to hear that I've been giving it some thought.) Mais bien sûr, I assured him.

Il est marron--so cute, the dog! And you know, Jules said, slowing down the French as he does when he's about to make a joke he wants to be sure I understand, le chien, he is black and white, black and white, tu comprends? Do you get it? Just like Obama! He looked to see if I'd gotten it, or if he needed to repeat the witticism.

I nodded. Yes, the dog is black and white. I understand.

Madame stepped in with a bon mot of her own. He is called Bo, et il est beau, comme le président. And she smiled.

1 comment:

  1. My old French neighbour talks to me endlessly about the UK royal family, the antics of whome she follows avidly.

    She thoroughly enjoys all speculation and gossip and then spits out, "Les Parasite!"

    It makes me laugh every time,