mercredi 7 janvier 2009


9 am, -9° C

15.8° F

It doesn't get that cold here. If it gets even close, it lasts for a night. Not a week. The fuel tank is nearly empty, and we filled it -- 1500 liters -- in the third week of October. Even taking into account the fact that one problem or another with the heating system has meant that we haven't heated the house for a period of time from November to the end of the year in each of the last 6 years, we have used a lot of heating fuel, and we keep the thermostat at 15° C. Trust me, that is lower than you probably do. Yes, President Carter, we wear sweaters.

And we stand next to the radiators for added comfort.

Yesterday I was Googling wood stoves, this morning, I flushed the toilet, only the flushing mechanism, associated with a tank built into an exterior wall that is due for insulating in a couple of months (too late), did not budge. I tried again. It didn't give a millimeter. Not one. I let out a cry of fury.

"La chase d'eau ne marche pas et c'est plein de pipi et --" I'll spare you the rest.

"Cherche un sceau. Ca descendra," said Audouin from the bathroom upstairs. Yup, you got it. The toilette is down on the first floor, at the other end of the (small, at least) house.

"Ce n'est pas ce que je veux entendre," répondai-je, and grumbling on, "Ce n'est pas normal que la chase d'eau ne marche pas jusque parce qu'il fait froid. C'est l'hiver. L'hiver existe, même ici." Nevertheless, I stomped off past Rapide, who had come to see what the fuss was about and be with me, for a pail, which was full of cleaning products, looked around the kitchen and grabbed a big cooking pot, thrust it into the sink and turned on the cold water. The hot water pipe had already refrozen yesterday. Joaquim, the contractor, drew my attention to this fact when he went to wash his hands, or something.

"Pour quoi," he asked, "l'eau chaude ne marche pas?"

"Oh, parce qu'elle vient de loin -- le garage -- alors elle met de temps à arriver."

"Non," he corrected me, "je veux dire que rien n'arrive de tout." I took it very well. Perfectly calm this time. I take pleasure in doing that with other people, especially contractors who are supposed to fix all these problems in the work they are doing on the house.

"Ah," dis-je, "le tuyau doit être gêlé à nouveau."

He was quiet for a moment, and then I heard, "Ce que tu souffres ici c'est plein de petits problèmes."

That make you crazy, went unsaid.

The fish and I continue to gaze at one another through a layer of ice and frozen snow.


Sam's hair

Already, Sam had gone about as far from unremarked upon yesterday as you can possibly be, and today isn't going to be any better.

"Sam, tu as les cheveux en bataille!"

"Sam, qu'est-ce qu'il y a? Tu as l'aire de sortir du lit, les petits yeux et les cheveux mal coiffés!"

One, he needs a haircut and refuses. Two, he has gone from a shower a day to two a week, and the longer his hair, the less successful the overall effect of his lack of grooming. I think he thinks it's unique, maybe virile, at least complementing his uncooperative and mildly rebellious "je m'en foutisme" at school. Yesterday, everyone had an opinion, from the French teacher, who seemed to have compared him to two writers he didn't recognize, to the head of the previous grade level (good humor, appreciated by Sam, "cheveux en bataille") and the assistant to the director of the établissement, who wouldn't let it go (see second quote above, and she didn't let up), to the boulangère and all his friends, about half of whom thought his hair is just great just the way it is. The other half did not.

"Sam. Get up. You have to at least wash your hair this morning."


"Sam. Wash your hair."

"I'm up. "

"Get up and wash your hair."

I heard him stir and went back to bed for 5 minutes. His footsteps into the bathroom between our rooms, then nothing. Footsteps back to his room. The alarm clock rang, and we dragged ourselves out of bed to face whatever nature had provided during the night.

"The Fiat probably won't start."

"Of course it will. Why wouldn't it?"

"Because diesel fuel freezes around -13°, and it was to go as low as that last night."

"In the US it gets a lot colder than that all winter in some parts, and diesel cars and trucks start."

"Then they keep them in heated garages."

"No they don't."

"Sam. You didn't wash your hair."

"There wasn't any hot water."

"Il y a de l'eau chaude," said Audouin from the sink.

"There isn't," said Sam from behind his closed door. I leaned over and turned the handle for the hot water. Nothing.

"C'est gêlé," I said.

"Il y a de l'eau chaude ici," said Audouin.

"D'accord, mais ici, c'est gêlé."

"You're getting your hair cut today," I said to Sam from the hall.

"No I'm not."

"Yes you are."

Today certainly won't improve the comments on Sam's hair. I have a call to place to the hairdresser and wood-burning stoves to Google.

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