vendredi 28 novembre 2008

But what I'm really thankful for this week is

Thanksgiving itself completely absorbing the attention of Americans and leaving me two days to think of other things, like vacuuming, and our renovations instead of the Grassroots Ball all the time!

Not that I am not grateful that the ball is succeeding enough to require that time, but. You know what I mean.

The gable end

Some of you might remember that things got very, very tense with the contractor, Joaquim. That was not nice at all.

It all started in the day or so after the chaux -- call it "natural stucco", if you like -- went up on the street side. Ball business was pressing and immediate, the emails coming in like enemy fire, and the phone ringing, and I was still adjusting to working American hours while living in the muddy French countryside, and Joaquim was being more demanding than a hyperactive 2-year-old.

"Jacqueline! Jac-que-line [imagine, my first name in 3 syllables]! Viens vite. Viens!"

(I remind you that there is a translation tool to the right. You can put whole sentences in to find out what on earth I'm saying.)

"J'arrive, Joaquim. Attendez une seconde; je suis en ligne." That I was on the telephone made absolutely no difference whatsoever to him. I should hang up instantly. The second he calls my name, "Jacqueline!"

"Viens voir, viens voir!" It makes a mother feel like saying, "That's won-der-ful, darling! What a beau-ti-ful picture you have made. Shall we hang it on the refrigerator together?" Instead, I apologized into the telephone and tried to keep breathing normally to keep my heart from taking off.





"I'm sorry, I'm really going to have to go. My contractor is calling, and I have to go -- Yes, yes -- absolutely -- okay, bye!"

"Jacqueline! Tu viens ou quoi?" Yes, I am coming. I am really coming, right.this.very.instant.

If his heart rate was normal, I don't know how. He held up a plastic jar of yellow pigment. I caught the lid, "Jaune de chrome". Chrome yellow.

"Tu n'auras pas un bouchon de bouteille, non? N'importe quel bouchon de bouteille. J'ai changé de pigment. Celui-ci est beaucoup plus concentré alors il en faut beaucoup moins mais il faut le doser." I handed him a Coke bottle cap I happened to have.

"Will this work?"

"Parfait, parfait." He headed back out to the mixer. But not for long. I was hardly back at work on the ball, when I heard my name again, in urgent tones. This time, he wanted to show me the chaux he had just mixed. I followed him and the dollop on the trowel to the wall, where the sample we had selected had waited these three weeks or more.

"C'est pareil, non? C'est la même chose." I looked closer. It looked about the same, but like Joaquim himself never ceases to tell me, it changes over time. The chaux on the wall had been there at least three weeks, the liquid in it being drawn into the brick behind, and the acid in the lime working on the pigment.

"Ca a l'aire d'être ça," I said. Hoping it was, but Joaquim had spent entire days telling me how serious he is about his work, and I believe him. He's nothing if not serious about his work, and seriously needy to hear that he does it well. Let me not, however, appear to knock it. He is good at his work.

He is also a really good mixer of color. I told him what I wanted for the paint for the windows, showing him the flowers whose petals should serve as the color to add to a chocolate brown, and he came back with exactly the color I wanted. Try that yourself.

I went back to work, and he retured to Georges, José and the mixer. By a couple hours later, I heard my name again. It was time to go see the ochre chaux in place. It looked good.

"Jacqueline, tu as ton appareil de photo? Il faut que tu prennes des photos. Il faut que tu prennes des photos de José en traine travailler. Tu l'as, ton appareil de photo?" There wasn't a single pause for breathe in there. Not one. Don't be fooled by my punctuation.

"Of course I have my camera." I started taking pictures.

"Mais il faut que tu en prennes de José, en traine de travailler, de plus près, là, comme ça. Non, mais, non. Plus près -- mais, qu'est-ce que tu fais là? D'ici --"

"Joaquim, je t'assure, je l'ai. Je suis en traine de prendre les photos que tu veux, comme toujours." I am the one who started taking the pictures, telling him that he really should document his work. That day, I became the official documenter of his work. The next time, he came with his own camera, but that was mostly because he was very, very angry with me because over the weekend, we had decided that the color was too greeny-yellow, too mustard.

Joaquim had quit the job by Sunday afternoon.

By Monday evening, he was discussing the history of the Euopean Union with Sam and women, fidelity and libido (don't forget, my husband is a gynecologist, so this is all very professional and normal around here) over dinner. While preparing my apple tart during drinks, he saw me start to sprinkle something on the apples.

"C'est quoi ça," he demanded.


"Ah, c'est bon! Tu as déjà gagné des points!" He wanted good food, his ex-wife wanted more attention and more attentive sex, I am guessing.

(It's okay, I have checked my demographics. You're all old enough to read that.)

I'll save you all the discussion about the color. In the end, it did change a bit on the wall, he promised to work it with a bit of a siena wash if it still needed it, and we're all okay now. The brown for the motifs is drying out too light, so we're going to darken it with a stain. I went lighter for Audouin, and I still want it darker. Like it is when it's wet. That's easy to do.

Work now has moved to the garden side. The scratch coat is up, the holes are being prepared for the brackets for the balcony, which will be delivered Monday, and the wood strips to make the forms for the half-timber motifs are on their way.

It's getting colder for Georges and José, but they're not complaining much. After all, we were the ones who wanted to get this show on the road earlier this fall. Snow fell Sunday morning, but this is nearly the Norman countryside. It's mild here, even in the winter. The cold never lasts very long when it gets its coldest.

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