Read my lips

Bill models one of the masks he made for us

And we were doing so well. Long before we had any plans of living in France we were watching French movies with the English subtitles turned on so that we could understand what was being said. That was a compromise since the real reason we were renting these films was for the scenery, be it the Eiffel Tower, Medieval castles, or fields of lavender in full bloom; all were really just inspiration for our next vacation. It’s a challenge, however, to read the dialog and try to take in all of the beautiful landscapes sharing the same screen. Then we moved here with access to 100 TV channels broadcast in French with only a few offering some programs subtitled in English but all having the option of displaying the spoken text on the screen for the deaf or hard of hearing. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em so that became our next step in comprehending what was going on. At least we could match up the words we were hearing with those across the bottom of the screen.

After a year of being here, Bill read the opinion of an online French teacher that it was easy to become dependent upon seeing the words on the TV to the point that you don’t pay attention to what is being said out loud. That seemed logical since our daily encounters with neighbors or shopkeepers never included anyone holding up cardboard signs of what they were saying so off went the subtitles. Our concentration then moved up the screen to the actors’ mouths where we were now trying to match their words with their lips, exactly as we were doing in real life conversations. Hear it, see it, understand it.

That was working well and then along came coronavirus, or more precisely the masks that everyone is now supposed to wear. Apparently they do a great job of keeping Covid-19 from spreading and I can confirm that they are 100% effective in preventing us from reading anyone’s lips. Until we were fairly comfortable with the language, we dreaded getting phone calls since it was impossible to see the face of the caller to get any clues from their expressions about what they were saying or even who they were. Now we’ve been plunged back into a guessing game of sorts but at least we can still see people’s eyes which Bill says always reveals if they are smiling. 

You’ve probably seen a chart indicating the best case scenario that if everyone wore a mask there would be essentially no virus transmission; but I like a more reasonable evaluation from the French government, printed below, that uses an arrow on a dial to show the “level of protection” from none up to maximum. Using the government’s recommended website listed below, Bill made masks for us from some of his mom’s leftover quilting fabric. By the way, if you can’t tell in the photo, he’s smiling. After all, we’re healthy and happily living in the south of France!

Make your own masks:

French government Covid-19 info:

The different levels of protection that masks provide

7 thoughts on “Read my lips

    1. We’ll be waiting for the two of you, Mike, and we won’t need to hide our smiles behind masks 🙂


  1. Salute, Bill and Bob. My sister and I were in Carcassonne in 2016 and met you for a glass of wine in the park. I have been reading your posts and making lists of where to go on the 1E train. It’s interesting to see that the government is telling you to stay 1 M apart and our government is telling us 6 ft apart. Why do you think there is a difference? Is it 1M for each person so it turns into 2 M which is about 6 ft.

    I have been keeping in close contact with my relatives there. It seems the French are much more serious with keeping everyone home than in some places in the US. I think we are already starting to see the beginnings of a second peak in the south because of opening up so many areas.

    I just read tonight that 91 people were exposed to COVID-19 from a sick hairdresser in Missouri. The hairdresser kept going to work sick for a week while doing people’s hair. We had a church open up against the California shelter in place order and 180 people were exposed on Mother’s day. I think maybe the “survival of the fittest” may still be going on in the mid-west and south. Those who wear a face covering and stay home live and those who do not………well I think you can guess.

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  2. That’s a beautiful smile, Bill. Our plans to come and see you two for my birthday have now been scuppered, as well, of course but I have no doubt that we will enjoy your company again as soon as we all are able to get together at the place of your choosing! Smiling at you both from behind our masks. 🙂 Be well.

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  3. I love this post! Gonna share with my Alliance Francaise class (on zoom of course). A friend of mine used the word ‘resolute’ about my determination to get to France to continue my adventure … Seems about right. While being flexible as I need to of course. But do hope to see you all – six feet/2 meters apart or otherwise – soon…ish — Elise

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