So I haven't posted for a while. That's because I accepted a job with an American scholarly society in June and I've been trying to get my head round their internal systems. Not less complicated than the inner workings of a human being. Brain, digestive system, veins, arteries, spinal cord, nerves, vision.... all takes time to comprehend.
So, there I am, working away on my computer on a Friday afternoon, when the water pump starts to make what laymen refer to as funny noises. The water pump in rural Provence is roughly equivalent to oxygen when you are in intensive care. If you don't have water here in the Midi you can pack up and go elsewhere. Especially in summer. I don't have a thermometer or barometer but I'd say it was around 37° today and it was therefore not a good sign that the water pump was going clic, clac every 3 seconds. If that pump breaks, I need to book a hotel or sleep on somebody's floor until a new one is installed.
And installing a new water pump is likely to be a major event.
So I called the guy I've been seeing and explained the problem. Like any self-respecting Provençal man, he arrives with a toolbox and a set of strong opinions and after half an hour of tinkering around calls our local plumber. Amazingly, Pierre says he will come at once and, more amazingly, he does. There follow three hours of gushing water, no water at all, squeaky noises, drilling, filthy water spilling into sinks and baths, sparkling water spurting outside the house and large volumes of Provençal swearing.
At one point I am forced to intervene because the two men are discussing re-situating my cumulus and compresseur outside the house in an outbuilding that doesn't currently exist.
"Guys" I say (in French obviously).
"I don't want to build an outhouse for the water heater. Or the compresseur. (Whatever it may be.)"
Equality never really made it down to Provence and local guys are much clearer on fraternité than égalité.
Men still entirely expect to do the manual/technical/heavy work (and are often amazingly good cooks as well) and I'm frankly very glad about it. I am not one of those women who think it's liberating to bleed radiators or climb on the roof and clear gutters. Frankly, you're kidding? And if you disapprove, please go and access another blog.
So. Both guys are both somewhat stunned that I have an opinion on their plans for spending thousands of (my) euros on an outhouse for the water paraphernalia.
I see cogs turning in their brains as they adjust to my objections. And then they just get on with fixing the system where it is.
After a certain amount of competitive hooha ("I'm right", "No you're not, I am" and so on) the water pump stops going clic, clac when I turn a tap on and normality seems to have been restored.
Once again I have a steady flow of crystal clear, unfiltered water that flows silently into the house from, ultimately I think, but no-one is sure - Fontaine de Vaucluse, one of the largest Karst springs in the world.
It still amazes me that I have this natural resource flowing underground year after year and flowing into the house. I have friends in Isle sur la Sorgue who've put glass portholes or large sections of reinforced glass in their flagstone floors, through which they see the clear water flowing, illuminated as it runs by. The water below my house is far deeper, filtered by the limestone before the water pump draws it up, ready to drink.
At the end of the day - Pierre absolutely only had half an hour to spare but it has turned into the entire afternoon - the men are exhausted and ready for a glass of cold rosé wine. Both are soaked but their clothes are drying rapidly in the heat. Both are covered in dust.
Problems with water occur 2 or 3 times a year in the house and take priority over most other household problems. Ants eating the wooden beams or rain occasionally falling in through the roof doesn't compare to the possibility of losing the water supply.
Pierre reluctantly says that I owe him 60 euros (when my partner isn't around he simply asks for a hug) and I say I'll call round to his house with the cash over the weekend. Once the guys have gone, I stand outside under the pine trees, thinking, as I often do, what a delight it is to live here. A blue jay swoops down and takes a bath in a bowl of water that I fill every day. When he leaves, I hear a red squirrel making his way through the dry forest canopy to the same water source. He descends, headfirst, from a tall pine and takes a long drink, his tough claws gripping the edge of the bowl and his bushy red tail extended behind him. Later, the turtle doves will come and drink too.
It's a relief to have the water supply secured again. I know problems will still crop up from time to time. That goes with this particular Provençal pine and limestone territory. But I don't mind. It's just a small problem in a paradise setting.
You know, you really should read my book this year: