A Small French Moment

So many small moments and events here in France infuse me with pleasure, like the adorable compact toddler running around the square next to the creperie kicking a soccer ball long and hard with his tiny leg. Or the skinny old couple meandering down our street, holding hands, both dressed in black-and-white o, the man sporting a panama hat and black sports jacket, the woman, black tight-fitting pants and a snug white jacket. But my favorite interlude so far is the passionate discussion about shutters—volets–yesterday in front of l’eglise Saint Foy in our village.

It began innocently enough with my mentioning that the volets we had painted less than a year ago are peeling. “Oh my, that should never happen,” Sylvaine commiserated. “Who painted them?”

“Bernard,” I replied.

“Oh, but he usually does such good work. He just repaired one for us and you can’t even tell where. One corner was rotten, and he carefully cut that corner out, created a new corner, installed it, and painted the new wood.”

“Speaking of volets,” Olivier, her husband said, “have you seen the abominable job the worker did on Patty Laurent’s?”

“Oh yes,” Jeanne replied. “It’s disgusting. She shouldn’t pay him for that kind of work.”

“Every one knows, “Sylvaine continued, “that you don’t repair volets like that. The bottom was rotting and all he did was attach a piece of metal to hide the rot! I can barely stand to look at it.”

“I know,” Jeanne said. “He should have created replacement slats, attached those from the rear, then cut off the rotten portion. It’s a travesty.”

As we stood in the shade of the church, I turned to take a look at the shutters in question. They didn’t look so bad to me. True, the repairer had attached a flat piece of metal to the bottom of each shutter to hide the rotten wood. But I thought it looked fine.”

“You never combine wood and metal that way,” Sylvaine continued. “Shutters are made of wood and wood only,” she insisted.

“Yes,” Olivier, her husband joined the discussion, “there are rules for how things are properly done. That isn’t craftsmanship, it’s stop-gap, do-it-yourself work. I could have done better than that!”

“So could I,” Jeanne agreed. “What he needed to do was remove the anchoring stones around the window, replace the wood from the rear, then add one strip of metal from the volet to the stone. I don’t know how she can stand it!”
“Oh, I think she’s upset,” Olivier concurred. And I’m sure she’ll tell him she’s unhappy. We cannot have that kind of workmanship in the village.”

Though I love speaking French, and usually jump into conversations, I simply listened to this one, enjoying my neighbors passion for all that is right and proper, no matter how insignificant it might appear. Certainly for me, a new experience of small.

A Moment of Peeling Paint

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