dimanche 4 avril 2010

Contest of wills

"quarante-heuriste" ou "anti-quarante-heuriste"

The line of confrontation was drawn: a small segment of rail fixed to the ceiling. Symbol of everything that can be contested in a marriage.

"Mais que c'est ça?" I breathed, having come to see what the relative quiet coming from the petit salon had produced since we had left the dinner table, at well past 11 pm. Rather than installing a wall-to-wall length of the ceiling rail to receive the uprights, to which the sheetrock is eventually screwed, there was a 15 cm bit, fixed at a slight angle with respect to the wall, causing a larger and larger face of the front of the upright to show from where I stood to the side.

"J'essaye de voir quelque chose. Ca doit marcher aussi bien." I saw my frustration and fury in Technicolor behind my retinas.

"C'est un système particulièrement conçu par des spécialistes dans l'isolation thermique et l'installation de plaque à plâtre, peut-être on peut leur faire confiance et suivre les documents au lieu d'inventer des solutions individuelles," et bidonnes, I added in the raging silence of my own head.

"Ca va aller. Tu me permets de voir?"

"Ce n'est pas droit. Si tu mets toute une longueur, on peut être sûr que chaque vertical soit aligné avec ses voisins. Si tu mets que des bouts, un pour chaque vertical, il se peut forcément que chaque vertical fait un peut comme il veut, malgré que tu les vérifies avec ton niveau. Déjà, je vois d'ici que celui là est peut-être dans le vertical, mais il est tordu."

Which means to say that the fourrure verticale was twisted. Using little bits of the horizontal railing that receives the vertical elements at the ceiling at each vertical element only means that each one is oriented in function of the bit of railing. It might be vertical, checked by the level, but it might be twisted. I could see from where I stood that this first one was. If you use a wall-to-wall length, in which you insert each vertical along the length of wall, then their faces are sure to be aligned with one another. Additionally, there is a small back-up support at the tops of the panels of sheetrock other than at their limits, although the documentation does not call for screwing the sheetrock to the top and bottom horizontal rails, I'll grant you that.

"Tu me laisses faire, si t'il plait? Tu n'en sais rien du système. C'est moi qui en sais quelque chose."

This is where I get completely nuts. I don't know about the system. No, this is where I spent several years working on construction sites watching the subs work, learning from them and making sure they were doing what we wanted. I am far from an expert in everything, and what's more, next to nothing is the same here, but I get the principals, and I know that it is generally better to respect the integrity of systems than to cave in to frustration and do it your own way.

"Je peux toujours le refaire," he added, "si ça ne marche pas."

"Tu ne vas pas le refaire une fois que tu l'aurais fait!" I shot back, adding a few thoughts about the state of my contentment in our marriage, and returned to the living room. He followed. I was not talking.

Sometimes it is best not to continue negotiations with the adversary.

I did recognize, however, that he was the one suffering through the cutting and attaching of the system, but I was not going to feel sorry for him if he were trying to do a professional job with a bricoleur's equipment. The mason said as much when I called him to say that my husband couldn't drill holes of sufficient depth for the 4-5 cm concrete nails and plastic anchors (cheville à frapper) to fix the horizontal rail to the slab he had poured. I suspected that we were encountering the (what appeared large to me) aggregate stone too soon in this fairly shallow slab, but he said that he never has problems installing chevilles à frapper in his slabs with his equipment.

"Il utilise un matériel de bricoleur," suggested the mason.

"Je ne sais pas," I sighed over the sound of my husband clattering around and swearing. "C'est un Skil à 550 watts et des mèches en carbure de tungsten d'une qualité dite professionnelle."

Really, my husband meant "forets". These are drill bits for concrete and stone, where "mèches" are for wood. The term "mèche" is used en parlance for both, unless you mean to be very precis.

"Ah bon? Ca devrait aller alors," said the mason. "Puisque vous êtes gentils, je le ferai pour vous si vous pouvez attendre jeudi."

"Je ne sais pas. Mon mari est très tétu." I looked over at my stubborn husband, like a frustrated bull in his pen, surrounded with building materials he was knocking about, this way and that.

"Ah, alors s'il est tétu --" he chuckled. I leaned against the wall and tried to keep my sense of perspective.

"On verra. Je lui dirai que vous le feriez jeudi. A jeudi, Monsieur, et merci."

"A jeudi."

I addressed my husband, "Il dit qu'il le fera jeudi, si tu veux juste marquer les trous qu'on veut." He muttered something. He returned to sawing off the ends of his chevilles à frapper, to make them fit into the shallow holes he could pierce in the concrete with his forets intended for concrete, marble, granite and other very hard stone. "Il semble vouloir dire que ta perceuse doit marcher, mais peut-être elle est fatiguée par l'usage?" I suggested. He muttered again.

I left him to his self-imposed enfer. If you want a job done, not only should you do it yourself, you should also equip yourself with the correct equipment in top condition. I'd have done this myself, except he preferred to saw the metal framing members by hand rather than invest in an electric saw, specifically for this type of work.

I could have resold it on eBay.

And, we were already saving thousands of euros in labor by doing it ourselves.

But, I had given up reasoning and the hostilities. The worst about the French (excusez-moi), is that they are persuaded of their ultimate rationality and reasonableness (see Descartes), when they are in fact Mediterraneans in warm clothing who really wish they were as rational and reasonable as they can imagine themselves to be.

I turned the page again on that newspaper stapled along the edge of the board with the print of the woman in the bonnet that told me of the tragic deaths, under the wheels of the "rapid" train from Dieppe to Paris on August 25, 1938, of Mesdesmoiselles Renée and Marcelle Ruë, the elder of whom felt unable to continue to live, condemned as she felt herself to be by the doctors' lack of optimism for her crushing "anémie mentale", and the younger of whom could not imagine her life without her sister, and I found what I knew had to be there it if were the end of the summer of 1938.

The headline was torn, but the second line read:

le comité de rassemblement
populaire s'est déclaré
prêt à parer aux nécessités de l'heure

industries de guerre pourront très prochaine-
ment produire à une cadence accélérée

Réunion de groupes,
meetings et délibérata-

tion de la déléga-

tion des gauches

M. Edouard Daladier
recevra une délégation
du rassemblement

The article follows. It goes on to recount that:

The misunderstanding apparent between the politicians and the unions -- misunderstanding that we were the first to report -- after the M. Edouard Daladier's speech and in particular by the subsequent ministerial reorganization that it occasioned, is fading away.

There is reason for all French to heartily congratulate themselves. It is not at the moment when the international situation gives reason for maximal concern to those who, in absolute agreement with the British government, are looking for solutions that will maintain the peace that the discussions, the conflicts should fragment the diverse elements of national opinion.

The situation, certainly, is not tragic, but it is serious. It seems to us, then, an absolute necessity that the French people unite behind their government. The work of the government will be made easier. It must not be lost from sight that a political crisis would favor certain businesses. M. Edouard Daladier's talk before the executive committee of the radical party and radical socialist party has given reason to reflect to those who thought that we could unburden ourselves of the management of national politics without unfortunate consequences.

The political parties and the groups that met the day before yesterday and yesterday have understood perfectly the danger four our country that could result from discussions that risk dividing us and pitting factions the one against the other.

It is signed Charles MORICE and continues on page 2. I think you get a sense of the article's intent.

Below, there is a photo of the Third Reich's troops, parading in Berlin, with the headline:


Horthy having by 1938 become the leader of the first nationalist dictatorship in Europe after Work War I in Hungary.

The news pertaining to the growing tensions with Germany and the apprehension of coming war is accompanied by a "Pour et Contre", or weighing of the arguments for and against.

It reads:

We can be assured that our friends and adversaries are observing us with great attention.

M. Daladier, with an authority no one would think to question, declares that it is indispensable to proceed with changes to the law of forty hours, so that France will be able to respond to the imperatives of the hour.

What to do?... Ought one prefer that the principle of the law pass ahead of the vital interests of our country? Ought we sacrifice national defense and our currency to the principle of a law?

Assuredly not! No one in France thinks so. Those who show themselves to be worried or reserved upon the announcement of this change to the law, nonetheless know well, under the present circumstances, find themselves with the overriding obligation to act immediately.

The law must be be put into effect under conditions of loyalty, probity, sincerity, giving no reason for material or moral damages. It is a national and social question that must be resolved in the national sense, the social sense, in good faith, in good will, with good sense and good humor.

What would be without sense -- and which will not happen -- would be to see the law of forty hours become a torch of discord at the very same hour that Hitler is maneuvering one million men who don't know when they will be free.

What would be without sense would be to make the analysis of this law a matter of simple and calculating politics, a matter of party politics. We would dispute among ourselves in the house of deputies, and in the cafés, and in the family, about this change that is yet to be realized!

We would be "for the forty hours" or "against the forty hours" with passion, with anger, with intransigence.

We would not want to make ourselves ridiculous in front of the entire world that is watching us.

It is signed by Maurice Prax, born in 1881 in Tours, died in 1962. He was a writer and journalist with Le Petit Parisien, the paper in which this article appeared on August 25, 1938. He was the son of General Léon Prax and the grandson of General Jean-Louis Prax.

The forty hours in question refer to the legally mandated work-week.

Her blue eyes gaze out from a century before, unseeing the news that would see Rommel install the Nazi HQ 5 kilometers across the boucle and the Seine in La Roche-Guyon, and himself in the Vacherie, German officers lodged in the houses that lined the narrow village street in which we live.

I will follow my sister's advice and seal her, and the paper, back under the stair, witness for the next to come along and decide the house is no longer to their taste.

This morning, I looked into the petit salon. The small strip of rail at the ceiling had been replaced with one the length of the wall.

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