Pauline Marois

Ma vie en français

J'adore la ville de Québec! Here I am, back after a six month absence, and so comfortable now. Just bought trois tournesols pour célébrer! Personne m'a repondu en anglais. I have made progress enough to understand and be understood en français.

This is the fifth time I have arrived for a stay of several months in this beautiful  City founded four centuries ago. J'adore le son de la langue française on the streets, des pierres partout, stone buildings with wooden window and door sashes in French blue, a rusty or bright red, ochre, light or deep greens. This time I live just off rue St Paul, on a small côte of cobblestone, in a 200 year old building with wooden posts at least a foot thick. Formidable! At this time of year the city is full of tourists whose faces are hidden behind cameras pointed up at mansard roofs, cupolas, spires. Bells peal from scores of church towers, a joyous sound no matter your religion.

The papers are full of opinion about Madame la Première's proposed charter of Québec values, the one that contains the contentious prohibition of religious garb in government workplaces. She was born feisty, Pauline Marois. In this age of multiculturalism, she must have known the furor this proposal would incite. Is it simply a matter of separating church and state, right down to dress codes for government workers, or is she trying to appeal to the worst in an electorate that has been under the threat of non-French invasions since the battle of the Plains of Abraham? Qui sait, mais c'est un commencemant intéressant.

As for la vie littéraire, my second night here I met with members of the book club who had  read Centre/Center, my third book. Pleased that they thought it a "true" representation of the 60's, that one woman in particular was sad when the book ended ( a real compliment; I have had that feeling about my favourite books), and surprised that the book evoked a spirited discussion about the Vietnam war. That old wound seems to fester still, and not very far below the surface.

Deux belles-soeurs deTremblay votent

September 4th, provincial election day, I spent a couple of hours on the bus. The first woman who reminded me of a character from a Tremblay play boarded the 800 metrobus somewhere on Blvd. Rene Levesque around 2:30. Just over 5 feet, perhaps 60, hair the colour of iron beginning to rust that hung straight to mid-neck except where it was pushed behind her ears, clear tan skin, a round face, no teeth or few of them, cropped red pants, running shoes, a pink t-shirt. Alcohol fumes wafting towards my nearby seat as she conversed in a loud voice with anyone who would respond, the bus driver, for example. She began by announcing that she didn't like the Liberals nor the PQists, but had voted for Francois Legault. In process of getting up to speed en français, I didn't catch all she said, but experienced the wheeling sense of danger that rises from the unpredictable. When a thin, mustached man in, around, his late 50's boarded at a stop or two further along, wearing a cowboy hat and leaning on a cane, grey sweat pants loose over socks he wore inside sandals, she greeted him like an old friend and shouted out to someone to give the man a seat. Someone did. She repeated the Francois Legault story and asked if he and everyone else had voted, she commented on the films and theatre offerings advertised in VOIR. At one point she said tabernac. As the bus filled and she could no longer see the man she must have known, at least as someone who also shopped at Place Laurier, where they were both headed, she continued her thoughts outloud. Her favourite films, les policiers, et les ouesterns avec des cowboys. Aussi, des belles filles. Les belles filles qui aiment les cowboys viriles. For the twenty minutes or so this commentary continued, the same opinions often repeated, the people on the bus smiled, supressed smiles, or outright laughed,not so much to mock her as in enjoyment of the entertainment provided par cette belle-soeur. She had mal à la cheville - a bad ankle - and was going to look for shoes, and the man across was going to look for something, or maybe just stroll, rather limp with her along les Halles to pass the afternoon while waiting to hear the election results to come. It was when I finished my business near a stop past Place Laurier that I met the second belle-soeur, who was also waiting for the 800 metrobus. Brassy blonde,over 60, with hair pulled into a knot, wearing a patterned visor and running shoes and several large rings, including an amethyst the size of a three-stack of Hall's lozenges, she asked me right away if I had voted. She had, she declared, for Francois Legault .Not as talkativeas the first , but clearly engaged, she immediately rose to offer her seat when a mother carrying a baby boarded with two little boys traipsing behind her. The earthy frankness of the two women, who assumed they immediately belonged to whatever group they happened to be in,reminded me of some of the characters I have met in Michel Tremblay's work. What did they think later when Francois Legault won fewer seats than, perhaps, expected, and the newly elected Pauline Marois was strong armed from the stage of her victory speech by security police wanting to protect her from the gun-crazed fishing lodge proprietor who tried to spoil the night and did, in a big way, by killing the stage hand who barred the door. Ah, Québec! From the time I moved to Canada in 1970, I always thought it perhaps the most imteresting place in Canada. Never disappointing, and yes, sometime dangerous in its unpredictability.