Tuesday, December 11, 2007

water anyone?

Monsieur Thurin and his stooge arrived, as they are wont to do these days, at about 4.30, just about the time Julian and I finally, after a day making and packing prints, get to work.

‘This man your neighbour, Monsieur A, he is a rat’ said Monsieur Thurin as he plonked his ample bottom on the green cushion. ‘He is a mad peasant….do you know, in return for letting you run your pipes where they have always run, do you know what he wants?’

‘What’s going on?’ I said.

‘Well, having said he was ‘d’accord’ to put the pipes under his land he is now saying that he wants nothing to do with it unless….’

‘If he wants to get nasty, we do have a right to have a water system where it is now, even though it is on his land, because the law says that if the fosse has already been there for thirty years or more...…’

‘He couldn’t give a shit about having clean water as a ‘cadeau’, what he wants is electricity and town water from your house!’

‘But he was ready to sign…’

Blimey, I thought. No wonder the rat has been charming all along. It is true that Monsieur A’s sister in law sold us our home; that she sold it in the full knowledge that we would have neither a septic tank of our own nor any land on which to put one; that Monsieur A owns the ruin next door where all our poo and porridge go; that our house was the place from which he was used to helping himself to water and electricity freely knowing his sister in law would be paying…. He is clearly very unhappy that we are here. We are the thorn in his side. On the other hand, we offered to put in a water purification system that would serve the entire hamlet, which he refused saying: ‘Good fences make good neighbours’, or ‘Good boundaries make good friends’…whatever. The fact is that he is ready to offer us nothing and take everything.

'You know' said our neighbour and dear friend Manuel. 'When the mistral drops he will probably change his mind again....'

‘Even if he does, I think we’d better not touch Monsieur A’s land’ I said to Monsieur Thurin ‘but instead go through Monsieur C….’.

I phoned Monsieur C. His wife answered. I could see her with the telly hoiked up above the dining room table in the room where we had sat not three weeks ago asking if they could sell us land.

‘How’s it going?’ I asked.

‘Freshly’ she said.

I proposed, clumsily, a meeting in which we would discuss our proposition to run pipes under the ‘chemin communal’ to their garden and olive grove, and offer them access to free clean water with which they could water their trees, vegetables and crops.

‘My husband is going to hospital for tests on his heart. He will probably be in a few days…maybe you could call on Saturday?’

‘I’m so sorry Madame, I will call you another day. Do give your husband my best….’

Monsieur Thurin, hearing how difficult it was for me to explain our situation, insisted on calling the son who owns practically everything anyway.

‘Hello, I am at the Coucou - at the house of Les Anglais…..’ He started to explain the offer of pure water in exchange for…..well, nothing really, just the chance to put our pure water somewhere, when he was interrupted:

‘Oh, no, the police!’ said Monsieur C junior.

And that was it.

‘You see’ said monsieur Thurin. ‘Pure water is more shitty for the peasants. I am the son of a peasant. I know.’

And with the promise of a big bottle, nay case, of Highland malt, we let him go to his next rendez-vous.

We cracked open a bottle.

'So much for my recits' I said. 'First there were the pompiers asking for their ten euros thinly disguised as offering us a calender, then there were the poubelle men asking for their ten euros thinly disguised as offering us a calender, then the heavies arrived to talk about shit. What's for dinner?'


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