Friday, January 8, 2010


Here we are doing a home science experiment from a cool book of Oliver's: you put the pointy end of a tack in a thick match, place the flat end of the tack on the inside of your wrist, and, if you hold really still and watch really carefully, you can see your pulse - the match moves ever so slightly. But you have to hold really still. Notice Eleanor's intensely crossed hands, and Iris preparing a strand of hair for some serious twirling. Oliver and I were at the other end of the table holding our breath (no reason). Why were we doing science experiments at home today? Ice underneath snow - brrr - so, no "transports scolaires" (scholarly transport is what I'd like to call it). And these are not yellow school buses, mind you - no, these are huge buses, like huge tour buses that pick kids up throughout the region. Those, and all large trucks, were barred from driving this morning. So, no school. Except that we read in the paper that 10% of students attended the high school in a nearby town. Who are those poor kids??? Mac found out from our bakery lady this morning, which turns out to be not so unorthodox. They were chatting (and where she had been speaking to him in English, she now speaks to him in French - yea, Mac!) and she was saying that her son was staying home today, and so Mac asked her, but how does one find out? And she looked at him a bit quizzically and said "de bouche à l'oreille" (from mouth to ear = by word of mouth). Of course. Gotta get out to find out you're staying in. :-) I love that interconnectedness - no matter what else is happening (tremendous snow, dangerous ice), you're going to be going to your bakery, and you'll get the news you need to know. So yes, we spent a good part of the morning working through a couple of Oliver's home science experiments.

I love this picture of my little guy - so studious about his book. Hmmm, which experiment to choose? We were sorely tempted to try the one in which you try to light a sugar cube and it doesn't light, but when you coat it in cigarette ash, it does. You'd need a smoker's ash-tray and some sugar cube - what was the typical after-meal set-up in restaurants in France until two years ago when they passed a law outlawing smoking in restaurants, cafés, everywhere. There's talk now of banning smoking on terraces as well, but folks are up in arms. So we told Oliver we'd have to wait until spring to "borrow" someone's cigarette ash for the experiment. Something to look forward to!

But we did make it out of the house - the sun came out, enough snow melted, and we ventured forth. Having postponed our much sought-after bank appointment, we decided to keep it... with the kids. Gulp. But they were actually really swell: Eleanor napped in my arms, Iris did her hipster Leapster video game, and Oliver read his beloved Calbin and Hobbes. Our appointment was 40 minutes late getting started (back log from yesterday's cancellations) and we were then ushered through the process of setting up an account. Yipee! We'll finally have a card with a "puce" (which I believe I'm right in translating as "louse") - it's a little computer chip in the card that allows European cards to be swiped swiftly (whereas American cards have to be tediously signed for). :-)

We ran around the promenade afterwards (Iris and Eleanor were on the hunt for their snow face, which was still there, kinda sorta; and Oliver and Mac were right back at snowball fighting) and then wove our way home, where we happened upon this mural on a wall near where the market is going to be tomorrow.
Qu'est-ce-que c'est? What is going on here? One of those knights towards the center looks like he's looking for a contact lens! The big medieval battle around here was the Bataille des Trentes - when, in 1351 during the Breton War of Succession, 30 knights under Jean de Beaumanoir (supported by Charles de Blois and the French crown, and living in Josselin) fought 30 English knights under Bamborough (supported by Jean Monfort and the English crown and living in nearby Ploermel). It was Beaumanoir's idea to do it that way, so as to spare the local population all of these knights fighting out Breton succession. Yea, Beaumanoir! All this to say, however, that I have no idea what is going in that mural. But I intend to find out tomorrow because it's market day (yea!) and this mural is directly above a bunch of stands. 'Till tomorrow then: first we'll sleep in, then we'll go to market, then off to explore Ploermel (thus the keen interest in the Battle of the Thirty!).

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