Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Are the French Friendly: Part 2

I found this cat in a restaurant near the border of Spain in St Jean- Pied- de- Port. 
 Isn't this pose called the downward facing dog? 

  In connection with whether the French are friendly, I want to  tell you about my local gym. ( I have changed all the names to protect my identity : )

The place is small,  only machines, no classes .    There are all types and ages and just two smallish rooms for the various torture instruments, not counting the tiny dressing room.

 At the gym a while back Vincent ( in his forties) brought in a fantastic gingerbread full of grapefruit peel and orange pulp and we all had at least two pieces.  He brought the first piece right to my machine while I was pumping iron and urged me to try some.  He asked me to take some home to my husband.  Everyone stopped working out in reverence to such a French moment.  There is of course a table and a coffee machine so we can linger and read the Nice Matin or visit a bit. 

 I get greetings when I come in, kisses before I start the treadmill.  You could say that the" kiss kiss" thing in France is a nuisance.  But I like it and people respect the limits of it in the gym. After all you are well ...sweating!
                                                                           Push ups?

  I  greet certain people who are the old crowd at the gym and I introduce myself to people from time to time. The old crowd (mostly retired) started in this gym together before it changed owners a year ago.  Now we have a young, hip owner that has painted the walls fuchsia and has two tvs doing MTV...we are still all coming and now we all have fushia t -shirts with the name of the place.

  Jacque,  a distinguished man in his sixties, a reserved, athletic guy,  told me that he is a recent widower.  Recently he begun training for Triathlons.  I don't know how he does it but he is there when I come and there when I leave, always working hard.  He is there to work out so I don't like to bother him, but I often stop and have a quiet word with him.  He came to my exhibition last year and I was grateful for that gesture.

Marie Claire has a husband who is not well, but she is always there to crack a joke.  She is a retired teacher like me.  Jean Marie is so tall that I refuse to kiss him unless he is sitting at the machines or I am on the top step. We have that joke going.  He is very polite and says goodbye to both rooms before he leaves. Christian, my age, very attractive, is a favorite, as he teases, "Tu es belle!".  Lots of teasing goes on, I do my part of it.

  The manager,  David always comes to my treadmill for his greeting. "Marie: "Tu es-t-en forme?" and his kisses.  He is attentive to all of us.  I have met his lovely partner and now they have a new baby boy.

  Julian is an attractive, retired guy I met on the first day, who has come to two of my exhibitions and taken me on sight seeing trips around.  He is always tan and nattily dressed.  I call him the man in Black.  He and  his girlfriend  had a party not long ago , as have Michelle and her husband and Amira, a beautiful young Algerian woman.  I was invited three times, in fact.  I went to two soirees and had a great time.  I could probably have a whole social life just from the gym, if I had the time and fortitude.
There are always lots of dinners going on.

I met Delphine last month.  She has lovely white hair and a young face. She revealed quietly , after our smiles connected, that she had been in a coma for five of her 51 years.  She has had 2 operations on the brain and 2 on her eyes.  She has to take 20 pills a day and she is always smiling, grateful for each day.

During the holidays, a young girl, Cynthia, came and asked me how to make a pumpkin pie from scratch. She said later, that the pie had turned out great and next time she would bring me a piece.

  I always plunge in with my French language such as it is , I may smile first and sometimes initiate the conversation.   I noticed that the French, like the English, don't invade people's privacy without tacit permission.  That sounds logical to me, now. 

 And yes, this gym, like my life , is full of French people.  Frankly, this gym is about as friendly as I can stand,   maybe a bit too friendly if I want to work on my abs.