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August 21, 2007

The winter of our discontent...

The winter of our discontent…
Made glorious summer... in some readings our winter was such and our summer again, but in all ways therein lies no complaint. Trying to live up to the traditions of our adopted homeland, we have taken a “pause” for the month of August, conveniently marked by our birthdays, Martel’s town fete and the Rue Droite fete (along our street). Summer has indeed been made glorious. While our winter was labeled one of discontentedness, it was far from. There was work to do, but it was a great fortune to have such an assignment. So many people came through our “project” incredulously, warning us of how much work still remained and offering solutions as to where we might live this summer since completion seemed too far off. Mais voila, here we are, comfortable, contented, made glorious. It’s been hard work, but what an opportunity! I’m not sure that William Shakespeare ever made it to Martel, but King Richard the Lionheart did. If it had been a summer like this one, then the story may have been different. It has been a perfect summer for moving and re-establishing our patterns in a new house, as it has been cold and stormy. It has made the point that a house is shelter first and the rest is gravy. It has been easy to be inside and seldom too hot to be moving boxes, and climbing stairs. The tourists are complaining, the river has been raging, and the markets have been bustling, restaurants are full and the town around us talks about lighting fires and turning on the heat in August for the first time in 60 years! We have been moving furniture, rearranging kitchen drawers, and socializing on a grand scale. Somehow this is the summer that we have discovered a new circle of Martelaise, a group of Parisiens who summer here and move from one house to the next dining and wineing, like some French bohemian version of a Fitzgerald novel. Interesting people, speaking several languages, and surprisingly talking to us! We have had the opportunity to visit some real homes, steeped in history with real art and real furniture, very impressive! While our home is old and new again, these other homes, in families for generations, drip with the emotions of old Europe, they feel the ages and have attics replete with lives and history, again, very impressive and making us feel our age, like America itself, thoroughly new at all of this! It’s almost as if we are “playing house” in comparison, with art on cardboard and furniture from Goodwill! But that’s certainly OK too. Marking our arrival into the new house we held a birthday fete last weekend that would have pleased Bacchus! A sit-down dinner for 20, a flow of English and French conversation and food! Food found perfect from weeks of testing and tweaking, wine and champagne poured from magnums that seemed bottomless, and a musical soundtrack that quietly played in the background as the hours past. We always felt that this house would fill nicely, and it did. If we can find a way to have a party like that without all the prep, then we might do it more often. Perhaps we need to introduce the high concept of “pot-luck” into the French culture. For now we will be contented with leftover chocolate mousse and melon gazpacho. In what must be a sign of good luck, our house was visited by a colony of bats. We returned home one evening to find bats par tout! Oscar sounded the alarm as they started to fly circles above his under-the-covers head, with a scream: “there’s a bird in my room” and then two more started running the length of the hallway and then at least a dozen in the guest room, creating a Hitchcockian scene. They came in for unknown reasons and then were thwarted from exiting by the gauzy curtains. When the windows were opened, they quickly found their way out, leaving behind nothing but a strange memory and a Chinese blessing of good luck on the house!


School starts up again next week (fifth grade!) and our glorious pause should curb and we will return to the tasks at hand. We have left behind enough large projects that I suspect we will stay busy for another year. Big things like opening the stone arch to the street and recreating the entry from the Middle Ages. Small things like finishing plaster walls in the bedrooms and hallways. Fun things like adding a skylight into the attic, and dull works like re-pointing the stones in the guest room. Challenges like the room sized shower pan in the master bathroom, and mindless choices like replacing the handrails on the stairway landing. Daunting tasks like finishing the electrical panel to divining a means for announcing a visitor at the street far and away below, something other than a pile of pebbles and a sign instructing them to launch the pebbles at the window over and above…

But again, we are pleased for the opportunity, it’s good work and we feel lucky to have it, the days are still impossibly long, and it might feel like summer for another two months and perhaps we’ll have ripe tomatoes by Thanksgiving!

Our guest room has a candle perpetually burning!

2 comments:

Seth said...

Winter in August?! Sounds like home....

An excellent update, Dan. Thanks for the beautiful prose that reminds me not only what a good writer you are, but how much I miss you guys.

And the bats! that is crazy fun!

Jerry and Nina said...

With every transmission from you three we get more of an itch to do what you have done, (I would hire the labor, however). Spain would be our venue and part of our trip to Galicia in October will be to look at property there.

Utterly impressive is this accomplishment of yours and the literary component is terrific. Many of your blogees, I see, have encouraged you to publish your missives someday--it would be very successful!

Love Nina and Jerry