Up Against It!


There are days when I could swear there is a conspiracy going on! The upper echelons of Parisan business have decided to ‘oust’ our little ‘famille Brittanique’ by any means, devious or foul. My husband’s enterprise had only to whisper ‘Africa’ to him and he was off like a shot – eager to wrestle crocodiles and stalk birds in the bush. Not so his stubborn wife and kids in tow, firmly attached to their morning croissants and French Patisserie. For them it was ‘means most devious’, and lengthy strategic planning.  

ImageFirstly the enterprise bought the plot and all its buildings on the sunnier side of our street, Then, quickly designing the most improbable edifice to adorn our 19th century street, they called in the workmen.

In July, their tactic was clearly to ‘flush us out’. A systematic flooding of the road in general, and lasting nearly three months ensued. But we were ‘high and dry’ in our lofty appartment and resisted, making the odd bolt for fresh supplies when their backs were turned.

 This February the workman must have considered that we were ‘holed up’ in a different building. Two weeks ago they returned with a vengeance. This time they were to ‘pound us out’ at any cost. Suddenly, in the middle of the day cracks appeared in the west facade of the Hotel de Dieppe. Within a short space of time the cracks became fissures running from foundation to roof, and the central portion began to sag, bringing with it two bedroom windows and their party wall. Finally part of the masonary crumbled into the street. Once they realised that their initial point of attack had been more accurate, there was nothing for it but to shore up the hotel, and others in the immediate vicinity and come up with a new strategy.

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Yesterday morning, after what appeared to be a particularly excellent brainstorming session, they came up with their latest campaign. Noise and blockage. There is nothing set to anger the average Frenchman (or pseudo Frenchwoman) than to put an obstacle between stomach and table. Succesfully, the workman set up another lengthy stretch of barricades, effectively compounding my vehicle in its courtyard and attempted to prevent a planned ‘sortie’ for dinner. Of course the average woman, in the promise of dinner cooked by someone else, will walk (a long way if necessary).  To add insult to injury however, at the crack of dawn, the motors and generators kicked into action, and all the local residents awoke in the knowledge that this new campaign would last ‘as long as it takes’ and at least until the end of the month.

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I have only one thing to add. The English may have been successfully ousted from Rouen in 1449, but after a dinner like last night….

The ‘powers that be’ are going to have to try an awful lot harder…

Or just ‘give up’!

I have my allies, and they are very good chefs!

 

A River Runs Through It!


A few months ago the building opposite our apartment was demolished. It was the ugliest building on our street and no-one was unduly disappointed. Now our street is home only to turn of the century immeubles and it’s character is all the better for it.

A great deal of attention was paid to protecting the street from falling masonary…

But not for the workman’s head!

As one can imagine, having a building site at the end of the street is not without it’s problems.

A month ago a group of workmen turned up and stood huddled just on the other side of the archway that leads to our carpark. They didn’t seem to be in any hurry to disperse but being deep in discussion lit a few Gauloises and began gesticulating wildly.

By lunchtime several had disappeared down the manhole to the side of our gate whilst the others gave advice, and I was delighted to think that at long last the nasty cabbage smell in our toilet was going to be rectified by a general clear out of the drains.

Not so!

By the end of the day two 100mm bore tubes snaked their way out of the manhole spewing water onto the street whilst a smelly diesel generator coughed fumes. The building site had pierced the mains water pipe. It was touching 30° when we finally decided to close the windows.

Today, almost a month on, the green slime usually more at home on a rocky mountain stream has begun to grow on the edge of the paving slabs. We have come to love our inner city stream with it’s gurgling and splashing as it makes it way unhindered down the street. Yesterday, in the sweltering heat I was very tempted to go paddling!

In idle moments I try to calculate the quantity of water that has made up out stream. 2 x100mm bore pipes on full mains pressure, 24 hours a day for month. I remember the day I received a bill for 2,400€ for an underground water leak in my back garden, and wonder who will be paying this bill. But then I remember that I was let off my bill after a ‘nod’ and a ‘wink’ from one of my contacts at the water-board….

No one has been unduly concerned, and no-one has rushed to fix it, but that’s just the way of things in France. If you need a workman urgently, one will probably amble by in a month’s time. And just like the builder without the hard-hat, there are no health and safety issues about a river for a pavement growing slippery green slime.

It’s September,  the rentrée, and a works van has pulled up. I imagine the pressure is on to get it fixed before the first big freeze. Anywhere else, and there’d be a lawsuit.

But until then we’ll enjoy it for what it is!