Anchored in the land of the wind

Îles de la Madeleine, hay dune, beach, sea, sky

Gone with the wind

Being surrounded by a never-ending wind, means always having your hair undone (that is unless you are bald!). On one hand, the wind has its own way of shaping the landscape: low grass, scrubby trees, eroded cliffs, wavy dunes and bent power poles. On the other hand, it forces us to find various ways of coping with it. Here are a few random thoughts on the matter.

Waste

Many locals attach the garbage bins and their lid together. And not because they might run away, but to prevent the wind from opening them up and spreading their content everywhere. In fact, the Municipality of the Îles-de-la-Madeleine gives every taxpayer an elastic fitted with a hook for the green bin to prevent this from happening. The inhabitants of the Islands are given a 24-hour notice in case of any push bash in the waste collection schedule. When we hear this announcement on the radio, it's like a small weather report: we know the next day will be windy.

Waste, recycling bin, garbage bin, compost bin

In the house

The strap on the front door is pretty common. It attaches the door to its frame, and actually prevents it from being blown away. Some older houses have what we call a “tambour,” which is a little entrance for the main room that prevents the cold air from entering the house.

Strap, front door

The car

No straps on car doors! Go ahead and talk about that with the local mechanics... Some people even got used to parking their car so it faces the wind during gusts to prevent any damages.

The kids

We cover the babies' faces to prevent the wind from choking them. And when they grow up, on some days, we watch them run for the bus wondering if they will be able to stop on the side of the road as the wind carries them at high speed. The good thing about those mornings is they are wide awake when they get to class!

At the beach

Here's a tip for windy days at the beach: put down a rock on each corner of your towel. This way, it will stay put while you go for a swim.

Curiosities

A few gusts can change the nature of a business in the blink of an eye — that is on its sign! A grocery store (called “épicerie”) became a “pic rie”after losing two of its “e” during a storm.

Also, flags wear faster than everywhere else, and fray in no time. As for umbrellas, we don't have much of those around here...

A few old-school French expressions

“Être vent de bout” (pronounced “vent d'boute”) means having a tough time or being overwhelmed. “Une dépouille”means the wind is strong. “Perdre vent” means being out of breath. When the wind switches direction, we use the verb “râler.” And when it dies down, we use the verb “calmir.

A little bragging

The first year on the Islands will blow your mind (literally!) and surprise you in many ways. Some people respond with a tense smile when we say we didn't get much sleep because of the wind. And then eventually, we realize we do just like them.

Par Suzanne Richard

Suzanne Richard is an author, a speaker and a musician. She published a collection of short stories entitled La mer, trois kilomètres à gauche. Her conference — Les mots et la mer — is about maritime words and expressions commonly used in the French language.

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