Monday, June 14, 2010

I'll try not to bore you - Neighbors and things

Just in case all this "being in the present" and "reveling" etc is becoming tiresome, I'm here to assure you that stress is still present, as is sheer physical exhaustion. It's fun to float on clouds on occasion, and then things like an over-full septic tank come up to tap you on the nose. But, happily (or perversely?) I've become quite a regular for the septic cleaning people here -- this being the 4th year in a row -- and so they came within an hour of being called. Is this odd or what? I'm a privileged client to Sud Vidanges... Hey, at least I can testify to their professional behavior and friendly demeanor.

No doubt next year it will be the neighbor's time to empty his, and he'll forget, and it will overflow, and my back yard will smell till I urge him to cope, and ... But that's a year away. Today, all is roses.

But speaking of neighbors... I've two out of three who are fine. Of these two one is lovely and helpful, a little brother, the other innocuous and almost never there. But the one who is a bit off? Well, I've rarely come across a more stingy and selfish character with the absurdly false self-image of being "très gentil". Ha! mesquin is the term one would use. And remarkably so. If it doesn't benefit him personally, even if it would be in the interest of good relations, even if it were la chose correcte à faire, he won't do it. He's rather the type to chop off his foot to spite his toe.

And so, as I go out onto my terrace I see half a wall poorly redone. One of his outside walls gives onto my terrace. And so, he sent a mason over to resurface it to limit water damage in the winter etc., But rather than do the whole wall and split the cost with me, he did the absolute minimum -- fast and dirty. Ahhhh I could go on and on. But I won't. He's simply like that. Nothing I can do about it. If I want a prettier wall one day, I'll just do it, if the graces permit me to have the funds to do so.

Neighbors... it is such a source of either joy or pain or amusement. I enjoyed my first soirée sur une péniche the other night. Great fun, good people, good music, entertaining conversations. Most had heard of me (the American, the one who bakes bread, the one who has all those kids...), so they had an image in their minds before I arrived. However, I was able to impress at least one with my local truffle lore and foie gras knowledge. He exclaimed that I couldn't be American! I had to have French blood in me! Another spoke at length with me about how rare it is for Americans to truly settle in France. We visit, we romanticize, we contemplate, but the American who actually stays and makes a life is rare. Far more common are German, Dutch, English and folks from the North.

I've often felt this, that people hesitate to befriend you if they think you'll leave one day. What's the point of investing in a friendship if the person isn't going to be there till death do you part? Or something like this.

We laughed over our mutual neighbor -- the farmer who's been on the island for a few generations. He considers the péniche people upstarts and intruders, and there have often been disagreements between them. Many an islander considered their property line the Rhône itself. Thus, when the boat folks hooked up to the banks, they invaded the farmer's territory. It has been a quiet war ever since. This explains the fact that this farmer shoveled out only the road that left his farm this winter after the major snow storm. The other side (that would have led to my road...) he left a meter deep. Neighborly generosity? Thinking of others? Not.

Somehow, and mostly peacefully, we all co-exist. I've a beautiful house in an amazing place. And if the nice and helpful out-number the distant and persnickety, I consider myself on the winning side.


Nathalie said...

Glad you enjoyed the dinner on the péniche and met good people !

As for your lovely neighbour and local farmers, well....

Madeleine Vedel said...

t'was a lovely evening! At last I can put faces to some of those funky boats.