Thierry, Geoffrey and Saufiene arrived early this morning. Fortunately I had decided not to consume my cafetiere of coffee in bed, but to get up in time for them. Last time Saufiene had jocularly asked ‘where’s my coffee?’ before I’d had time to offer it. Today, whilst the tools were being brought in, I poured three cups, putting two sugars into Saufiene’s. This bean pole of a man likes his sugar. As the door closed without Saufiene, I asked where he was. The answer was that he’d gone to work. He’d only come to see them safely here. When he returned with their lunch we had a good laugh and he microwaved his beverage.
This was the first of the sometimes hilarious conversations we had with the Frenchmen’s lack of English and my paltry French. Thierry came in from the garden to ask if it was all right to stack the old doors there before taking them away. It was, of course. He went on to mention something which I understood to mean that the barbecue was broken, and to ask what had happened. I laughed and said ‘you can take that away as well’. He laughed that laugh that I do when I don’t understand what is being said but know it’s a joke. Eventually I grasped his meaning. He was referring to the plaster shards that were scattered on the tiles, having been knocked off the brick barbecue shelf. ‘Oh, now I understand,’ said I, ‘that was probably a fox’. ‘Or a cat,’ he replied. ‘No,’ I responded, ‘it must have been a fox because they were plaster chickens’. Laughs all round.
The original doors were installed by a cheapskate English cowboy builder using flimsy scraps of badly inserted material, which has meant a few surprises for these men, and more making good than they expected. Among the many peculiarites in the terrible conversion work was a key stuck in the rough plaster above a door lintel, that amused Thierry greatly. Of all the doors in all the world that he had worked on, he had never seen this before. I suggested this should stay there as it was reminiscent of the little birds or mice that used to be bricked up in chimneys. The more they dismantled the more problems they found. They were far more amused than fazed. When I saw the mess behind the door frames; the ill-fitting bits of wood and plaster; protruding nails bent over; broken terra cotta thingamies; I realised why they would not have fitted for very long. The men were perfectly relaxed about it, although the work will now take a day or two longer than expected.
When walking the La Briaude loop later on, I suddenly realised that I had left my French chequebook at home in England. I needed this to settle the final account on completion. Jackie has posted it to me, so the extra day or two may prove fortuitous.
Thierry and Geoffrey, two calm, friendly, and amusing men, agreed with me that they enjoy their work and each other’s company which makes them a good team. Thierry offered the opinion that the original work had been D.I.Y. I said I don’t try D.I.Y. I bring in the experts. This pleased him.
I received a text from O2 telling me my contract had expired and I should contact them to renew it.. This meant standing in the rain listening to muzak occasionally interrupted by a machine telling me how important my call was to them. When I was eventually connected to a person I politely conveyed my displeasure, then suggested we got on with it before I lost my signal. We did.
Le Code Bar was again packed. Had they not kept my usual corner table for me I may have had to go hungry, although I’m sure they would have fed me later. The English owner of an ageing golden labrador that lay at my feet and dripped bodily fluids onto my trousers, seemed oblivious as I clambered over it to reach my seat. She did eventually drag it away but didn’t notice it sliding back.
Onion soup; melon, coarse pate and gherkins; roast duck a Chinese chef would have been proud of, with pasta and ratatouille; and apple tart accompanied by vanilla ice cream formed the usual excellent 13 euros worth.