I was sitting in my room, a cold white vine pattern framed by the window and the new under-floor heating rounding off the jagged corners of the frost. I was working out the spaghetti junction fingerings of the cello obligato to Zerlina’s love song to Masetto, ‘Bati Bati’, and suddenly I heard water. It was neither the trickle of a fountain nor the drip of a tap. It was the gush of…
I opened the windows and looked down at Monsieur R who had been digging our hole. He was standing on the edge of a pool of red water, his hands raised above his head and his eyes were pleading:
‘Il y a de l’eau….’ he said.
I thought of what rejoicing such a sight would have inspired in the Pagnol novel, Jean de Florette. I ran down and saw that the Syndicat des Eaux (the folks that had been insisting we buy land and install a prohibitively expensive and ultimately, once the European laws come in in 2012, useless septic tank) had installed the water pipes for the hamlet underground without protecting them as they should have done with a grille, that monsieur R’s digger had yanked one of them up, dislodging it, and that now the hamlet’s water was gushing into our beloved hole. As always when these things happen, it was a Friday night.
‘We have no heating’ said Manuel, our neighbour, coming over to witness the drama.
‘And no water in either house’ added Julian. ‘Well, darling, you always wanted a swimming pool….’
We phoned for the emergency services and a truck arrived.
‘Hi Shitface’ said Monsieur R to the man with the triangular nose who, it turned out, was his cousin. The two of them got to work by torchlight.
The next morning it snowed briefly. Julian and I went for a walk and danced briefly as the slappy sleet turned to hushed flakes, and Monsieur R came over to rescue his tractor from the freeze. When we returned, we discovered the tractor wouldn’t start, which meant Julian got to drive over the Demoiselles Coiffées in a ‘cat cat’ (quatre quatre; 4X4) with a big dog in the front seat to get Monsieur R home. On the way, Monsieur R - or ‘Alaing’ to us by now – imparted some news:
‘By the way, Monsieur C senior passed. He is not happy. He does not want you running your pipes to his reservoir. You can run it to his well if you want…’
‘But that’s too far….’ said Julian. People’s ‘d’accord’ here did not seem to hold much water.
‘We will get by without him. We will build our own reservoir in front of the house and fix a small pipe that Nadine can access to water her garden.’
‘Think of the flowers we could have!’ said Nadine this morning, as she stopped by for a coffee.
‘Or a car wash…’ said Julian. ‘People will be queuing all the way to Avignon.’
‘Everyone will ask where the water is coming from….’ said Nadine
‘It’ll be our secret’ I said.
‘What do you say to an evening of oysters and my home made foie gras and rye bread and champagne next week to celebrate?’ said Nadine.
‘Only if you lower it in a basket from the window in the old tradition.’ I said.
‘You know Monsieur C is ‘bête’ she said. ‘He has had that truffle orchard out there for fifteen years and there has been not a single truffle. After ten years there should be truffles but because of the drought…’
‘You mean..’ I said, thinking of the 850 euro a kilo mark the delicacies have just reached at our local green grocer. ‘..that if he took our free water we would have all free truffles sprouting up everywhere? He certainly is bête.’
'Yes' said Nadine.
'Merde alors' I said.