vendredi 31 juillet 2009

The end of July

The tree is gone

It's August.

The time of the year when everything that can possibly come to a halt comes to a halt. Nothing happens. The turtles would pack up their things under their shells and leave, if they had anywhere to go. The shutters on the houses close for the evening, and don't reopen in the morning. The parking spaces along the street that are jealously guarded, are vacant. The tools that sawed and leveled, are stowed away. The shopkeepers that open their door after lunch, hang a sign, "Fermée le 1 au 29 août pour les vacances", and leave the blinds drawn.

Villages and cities empty of everyone except tourists. The French have places to go, families to gather together in their ancestral origins. Some make the rounds, pilgrimmage circuits between the homes of family and friends. Some have left already and will return to go back to work when life is the most deserted. Most have to go now because their place of business is "fermée jusqu'au __ août".

Men attach the roof carriers or hitch the trailers (sometimes both) or camping trailers, secure the bikes and load the bags to the ceilings, call their children and their GameBoys and iPhones to their places and stuff the family pet in after.

"Tout le monde a fait pipi?"

"Pas moi," comes a voice.

"Moi non plus." He opens the secured shutter and unlocks the safety locks to let them in for un dernier pipi.

"Tout le monde est prêt?"

"Oui, papa!"

"On y va alors." He starts the car, riding lower than usual, and heads up the street and out of the village.


"C'est quoi encore?"

"J'ai oublié mon doudou." Heaving the proverbial parental sigh, and muttering choice words under his breath, his wife bracing for a long trip, he turns the family vehicle, trailer and bike rack around to head back, reopen the shutter, unlock the door, turn the electricity back on, and go find the missing doudou.

"Allez, c'est bon maintenant?"


"Et quoi encore?"

"J'ai fait pipi au chien, et il m'a échappé." A long, long trip.

For us, it means the work grinds to a halt. Georges warned my husband (I have finally grown used to saying that, after nearly 7 years) and I yesterday.

"Monsieur, j'ai hésité de le dire à Madame parce qu'elle va se fâcher," he cast me a glance and smiled, the kind of smile that hopes to make things alright, looking back to my husband, home earlier than usual after a night on duty, "mais je pense que les autres vont partir en vacances." He took time for a breath and hurried a little faster through the rest of his announcement, before we had time to open our mouths, "Moi, je reste, mais les autres," he lifted his shoulders and glanced at me, "il faut que je les laisse prendre leurs vacances." He had finished. It was out. It meant that nothing to speak of, really, would happen in August, since Jose would be away. The new guy, Pierro, too.

The sky didn't fall. We knew they weren't going to finish for the end of July, or the end of August. My husband had already been over that territory a hundred times with me, and I had been the one to hear his frustration. Georges wouldn't.

Heureux Georges.

It hadn't, however, occurred to me how close we were to August and Jose's departure. It was the next day, today.

They took down the tree at the corner that my husband had so long defended and made the case to keep.

"Tu veux la petite addition, l'entrée à la cuisine, ou l'abre? Car c'est l'une ou l'autre."

"D'accord, d'accord. L'addition," he said at last.


Georges knocked this morning. I was at the diningtop computer, making absolutely sure I didn't regret my paving matieral and pattern, starting the brick pillars at the entry gate.

"Madame," he calls me Madame and my first or last name, alternatively, "on abat l'abre?"

"Oui, Georges, abattez-le."

"Vous en êtes sûre? Votre mari est d'accord?"

"Oui, Georges. Il est d'accord maintenant. Allez-y."

Down came the tree. They cleared out the trunk and the limbs, had lunch and then scraped up the masonry debris from the demolition of the little pillars and buts of low wall and threshold in the entry court. Georges knocked again.

"Je peux m'asseoir?" Yes, George, of course you may sit down.

"Je n'aime pas en parler, mais les autres, il partent en vacances. Je serai seul pour le mois d'août." There, he said it. The others were leaving. At the end of the day, which I realized a short time later, at the end of our "state of the chantier (site)" and what-he-could-do-to-prepare-for-the start-of-work-again-in-September meeting, was right then.

The long and short of it is that by the end of September, he plans to have the entry court paved, the pillars built, the low wall covered in the same color natural stucco (chaux) as the base of the house, the brick facing on the side wall of the court, the gate and grilles painted and installed, and possible the structure of the kitchen entry in place. The rest of it, or all of it, will be for the month of November, along with the additional main terrace paving.

Joaquim is to come early next week to talk stone for the paving with me and start on the pigmented chaux-based coloration to darken the brown bands (and add punch to the ochre) so that I can be sure the paint color for the windows is right. Then, they can get the paint to us, and I can start that during August, or September.

Whenever we choose.

"Je comprends, Madame," he used my last name, "J'en ai déjà parlé à Joaquim. Je ne sais pas s'il est disponible lundi, mais s'il ne l'est pas, je viendrai moi-même il viendra avec moi pour le couleur et la pierre rapidement."

Let us hope.

Bones vacances et bon voyage.

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