lundi 5 janvier 2009


Bergenia Cordifolia

Snow is falling. The world is quiet, and even Eurosport has gone silent since our satellite dish appears to be as unable to receive a signal in the snow as in the rain. Last night Audouin announced that he would be taking a car this morning owing to the likelihood of verglas, or black ice, on the roads. Which did I want, the Fiat or the Voyager? We have the Fiat back now. I am so glad. It's my everyday car, and it has my Obama stickers on the back. Makes me feel more unique around here than I actually am. The neighbor had it for about a month so he could get to and from the train to go to work clear on the other side of Paris, the time it took us to get the old Volvo 360 GL from his parents' garage and bring it back to sell to Stéphane. Tomorrow they tow the BMW to the dealership to repair the damage from the attempted theft, a run-in with a wild boar in Dordogne a couple of summers ago, and some plain old damage from Paris the night two years ago of what will in all likelihood be Sam's last sacrament, unless he marries a better Catholic than he.

There are so many stories in that first paragraph that I hardly knew how to write it without parenthesis in parenthesis, short of leaving everthing out.

I had decided to take Sam to school by car today, since if Audouin considered it too dangerous for his motorcyle, it was hardly conscienable on my part to send Sam off on his scooter, and if I took the Voyager, I could take the dogs and weigh them. Since Wisp started loosing all the fur along the mid-line up from her tail, I decided I really had to get her to the vet, and since he had a little time on his hands after the animal refuge on Friday, when we returned from Cloyes, I asked if we could bring the dogs for their overdue vaccinations, too.

"Sure," he said, "I just have to be out of here by 6:30." An hour and a half. He must have felt like company. I hung up and turned to Audouin.

"Tu veux venir rencontrer le mari du véterinaire qui est premier adjoint-maire à Mantes? Si tu vas la connaître, tu devrais faire sa connaissance, aussi."

I don't know if interest in politics is contagious, but if I have had an influence on my own husband anywhere, it would seem to be in his new political involvement of late. First, he got himself unanimously elected to the administrative counsel (let's just call it that, shall we?) of the hospital, and from there it was an easy step to become the person who represents the hospital at city hall (don't ask what that's called; I can never remember).

The first meeting he attended was about a month ago, and he had left that morning warning me not to expect him for dinner, since he had no idea what time the meeting would end. He had been warned they could run on -- this is France; talk substitutes for action -- and he ended up surprising me that evening by arriving while I was still preparing supper, explaining that the person who ran the meeting was new, too, and apparently much more efficient, or busy. He asked if the name of our veterinarian wasn't Dumoulin. It is. I knew his wife, a partner in the same clinic, had run for office and been elected to head up all affairs relating to early childhood life in Mantes, but in a short period of time, she had managed the ascent to adjoint mayor. First adjoint mayor.

I first learned of her interest in politics during an appointment not long after her husband and I crossed paths, looking like we felt about equally out of place and bored at a reception (pince fesses, or "bottom pinching", as the French call them) that followed the opening to the annual Blues festival here in Mantes a little more than a year ago. I had already had my elbow squeezed somewhat suggestively by the head of the Conseil général des Yvelines, our département, and Mantes la Jolie's former mayor, Pierre Bedier, who indicated to the woman introducing me that he already knew me, fairly well it appeared. I figured he took me for someone else, or liked to make everyone feel special to him. Not unusual for a skilled politician, to say the least.

Not only is Madame la vétérinaire the first adjoint mayor of Mantes la Jolie, she is also about to become a députée at the Assemblé nationale as a consequence of charges brought against our former mayor. Politics is dangerous business not to be tried at home. It requires the training and experience of professionals.

My dogs were pronounced overweight by the vet the second we walked into the office with them side by side on their leashes, and why I had dragged my feet taking them in in the first place (it is somewhat overwhelming to see the two of them together like that; they look more slender viewed separately), but this is not particularly surprising. I have seen his wife, and I know that he and my husband share an appreciation for tall, slender, elegant and well-dressed women. Everything, in short, a true Labrador Retriever is not, and if it is true that dogs resemble their masters, then that says it all. I am sure our vet's dog is also tall and lean.

Nonetheless, we had left with a 13 kg bag of expensive diet dog food, even if he did revise his opinion of Baccarat once he took a better look at her alone), two new vaccination "passports" (new EU requirement equalling greater expense, as always), a new hole in our pocket, and the animals we brought with us.

"Madame Legrand serait en froid avec lui s'il elle avait entendu ce qu'il a dit à propos du 'surcharge ponderal' de nos chiennes. Elle me disait de tenir bon avec le vétérinaire puisqu'ils disent tous que les Labradors devraient être plus mince que la race ne veut," I said once we were settled back into the Voyager.

"J'ai plus de confiance dans les vétérinaires que les éleveurs," dit-il. Je jugéai bon de me taire.

Meanwhile, all three of us girls are walking the hill towards Bonnières several times each evening, counting calories and watching our waistlines, and I took the Fiat.

The chantier

Georges and José turned up this morning after I was back from taking Sam to school, as I expected them to do. I heard their voices and put my running shoes back on to go down to say hello. They were standing on the far edge of the top terrace, gazing at the house, their upturned faces catching the softly falling snowflakes.

"Vous avez amené le beau temps du Portugal," dis-je. José smiled and shook my hand.

"Il a neigé au Portugal," he said, tilting his head to indicate the amazement it would be appropriate for me to join them in feeling, "au bord de la mer, d'où je suis." Obviously, it is a rare occurence for it to snow on the coast in Portugal. I smiled back.

"Vous êtes tout coiffé. Ca se voit que vous avez vu votre femme." He grinned.

I joined them looking at the house, and then showed them the hose filled with ice that I had broken into two pieces yesterday when I wanted to fill the fish basin with water and found it all hopelessly frozen.

"You won't be making any chaux today," I said.

Georges shook his head, and I noticed that he had had his hair cut, too, what shows at the edges of his eternally present baseball cap, anyway. Early on, he took it off to show me why he always wears it. He was nearly bald on top, with plugs, for which José, Joaquim and I teased him, like what's left of an old doll's hair after a succession of 4 year olds has dragged it around by its locks.

"On ne peut pas travaillé comme ça," he said.

"On est venu pour rien," added José. I nodded.

"Je sais. Je m'entendais à un coup de fil ou que vous continueriez avec l'installation du balcon, mais il vaut peut-être mieux de commencer avec l'intérieure et revenir à l'extérieure plus tard, quand il fera plus doux." Georges nodded.

"Je vais en parler à Joaquim." He nodded again. "Est-ce que le bar est ouvert pour un café?" I nodded, and they walked up the street, into the falling snow.

We'll see what tomorrow brings.

Meanwhile, I have Dell on the telephone. The repair of the repair has produced the same problem as I had before any repair, and the poor technical support guy in Tunisia is astounded because the version of the Bios on the Dell site for my machine is older than the one currently installed.

Why does it feel like we aren't about to get to the bottom of this anytime soon?

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