Margaret and Dick   


July 2012: Bavardage

Bavarder, the verb, and bavardage, the noun:  chatter or gossip.  Bavardage is a highly developed art in the south of France.  A five-minute walk can easily take a half hour if neighbors are on the street.  Relax, settle in, enjoy it:  bavardage brings a feeling of well-being, of fitting in.  It’s a concept that Margaret will never master.

The topic came to mind during this week’s swim.  The municipal pool is reserved for retirees on Mondays at 11:00.  Some twenty people in their 50s and 60s gather outside the entrance waiting for admission.  The dressing room, just beyond the ticket booth, is empty, as the mentally-handicapped swimmers from the previous hour have already left.  But we are not allowed to enter, since it's not quite 11:00.  The pool attendants are paid by the hour, and pleasing the clientele is not part of the job description.  It’s okay – we sit/stand outside and bavard.  

At the magic moment we rush to the dressing room to change.  The first person into the shower will get the best choice of lanes in the pool.  Six lanes for twenty people means a lot of sharing.

Today I try an astuce (trick) and join a lane occupied by several women.  Just as I thought, they swim one length (not lap) and then stand at the end of the pool to bavard for five minutes, enough time for me to swim a couple of laps.  To be fair I should point out that the men also stop to chat from time to time, but for the women it’s an important component of their workout.

As noon approaches, the pool begins to empty out, and I have clear swimming for the last lap or two.  But watch the timing:  the door will be locked at 12:00 sharp when the attendants leave for lunch.

Soon we are all sitting on benches at the exit putting on our shoes, which are not permitted in the dressing room area.  (France has dogs, you know.)   The attendants are eager to go to lunch.  “I think there are still people showering and changing clothes,” someone says.  Another calls out, “Anybody still in there?”  “Oui!,” comes the response.   

I mention that I got locked inside once, after squeezing in an extra lap and not paying attention to the clock.  I had to knock loudly from inside the glass door to alert an attendant as he walked to his car.  Somebody says, “You could been trapped in there!”  “Yes,” says another, “and they would find your skeleton in the changing cubicle weeks later.”  

“Maybe we should all start wearing dog tags around our neck like the soldiers do in the army,” says another.  “That was at least they could identify the skeleton!”  Laughter all around as we file out the door.  A good bavardage was enjoyed by all.

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