The lazy serenity of life in the shade of the catalpa tree was abruptly shattered this week. It was with a wry (if not tortured) smile that I read all the all comments at the end of that post about the tangible calm here. I've said it before that there is a selective truth throughout this blog: it focuses very deliberately on the idyllic side of life in Provence. When I started blogging, the idea was that it would give a glimpse into the dream world of Eve and Dom in The Lantern.
But even as I wrote about my haven in the courtyard, I knew that come Monday morning I was going to have to get on the telephone to the company that installed the last of our two new fosses septiques. .For the uninitiated, la fosse septique is a term that strikes fear into the heart of the rural homeowner, especially when that homeowner is foreign and hoping to use that home for a holiday in high summer. It is the septic tank, or sanitation system that deals with all waste water and other matters.
Our first summer here, the fosse packed up in mid-August. That was bad enough, but we had realised by then we were probably going to have to replace it anyway. Then our first new fosse was destroyed by winter floods only a few months after it was installed at vast expense. The second, again constructed at extortionate cost, was supposed to be the Dreadnought of Fosses. But now one of our vital pipes had broken, deep under a new accessway we'd had made for the builders.
"What is it about France and plumbing and drainage?" raged Rob. "The bloody Romans worked it out two thousand years ago!"
The engineers had said they were coming the week before we arrived, but hadn't. On Monday I elicited a promise of Wednesday morning, and spent Tuesday nagging them not to forget us again. Black Wednesday began with a digger going deeper and deeper as the offending pipe was tracked. Several large holes appeared as the mystery as well as the earthworks deepened. It was finally found at midday, just in time for the chaps to celebrate with a three-course lunch. 'J'ai bien reussi avec mon ami anglais!' said the digger operator, patting the JCB on the flank.
When they left that afternoon, the solution to the problem was well within sight. We could relax. We went down to the swimming pool on the other side of the property. The pool we had spent hours cleaning the previous evening. We listened to the cicadas chirruping into the silence. Too much silence. No comforting hum from the pool pump. A check inside the mechanism told us the pump had stopped working. We worked on it for twenty minutes, trying every rescusitation technique we knew but the pump was dead and the pool rapidly filling up with dead wasps and other nasties.
Rob went inside to fetch his mobile to call yet more help. On the way out to the garden again he listened to his messages, and found one for me from my literary agent in London who wanted me to call as soon as I could. We got our priorities right and called the pool man. Books and publishers are another story.