Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Chainsaw of Zorro

“Hah!” shouted Hervé, swishing the air with his chainsaw, “I am Zorro!”

Indeed, he did cut a dashing dash as he bounded lightly up the trunk and positioned himself for action. George and I could but gaze in awe.

And what was he doing there? Well, our ancient and enormous cherry tree succumbed to a tempest twelve months ago, resting ever since upon the old stone wall and the log shed. Having neither machinery nor experience in felling, George and I have tried not to think about it. (Besides, I thought it looked quite attractive at that angle)…

Then one day, our hero Hervé offered to do something about it! He turned up last week brandishing an impressive electric chain saw, plus the huge petrol-powered version belonging to his brother-in-law! Plus… appropriate gloves, boots, goggles, different thicknesses of rope, an astonishing agility and an intricate knowledge of knots. (No, not Scouts - the Forces).

He secured and sliced through branches in logical order of safety, until forced to stop due to oil and petrol exhaustion. Valiantly, he came back the next day with reinforcements – his brother-in-law and an even huger petrol-powered Thing. And metal wedges and a mallet to split logs of enormitude.

The axe we proffered seemed to cause them much hilarity, being of a rather delicate construction and very blunt. SO? It works on logs for the fire…

Anyway, These two stalwart specimens have left us with a fascinating array of beautiful logs, a vat-full of sawdust for comfy cat-litter, and the inspiration to redesign the garden and to clear whatever lurks within the shed… now the roof won’t collapse on top of us.

It’s only the cats who are slightly aggrieved; since the downfall of the cherry, the gap from shed-roof to wall, and from shed-roof to ground, demands far more calculation. Is sunbathing worth all that effort?

Sunday, February 15, 2009


This week I went to have yet another broken tooth glued back. In the past few years I’ve had countless such repairs – well five, anyway – almost always due to over-enthusiastic carrot crunching. Mercifully I have at last found a kind and gentle dentist who repairs Without Pain.

The pain thing is, of course, paramount. My teeth are sensitive specimens and back in the UK, I always needed two injections against the agony of drilling. When we came here six years ago, I wondered if that would be allowed, or would I be snorted out of the surgery?

When you move house, of course, the best way to find a dentist is by word of mouth (ho ho). The first of an eclectic range of recommendations was for a young, dynamic woman, up to date on all the latest techniques and keen to transform every tooth into one Fit for Hollywood.

It seemed like a good idea at first, but after we’d been summoned back for several severe pokings, sent to a special x-ray centre to augment the many x-rays she’d taken herself and been given her Bill, we started trying to say No.

Because all we wanted was a checkup each and my first tooth-mending – victim of a birthday feast. The repair was… efficient in a Don’t-make-such-a-fuss sort of way. But what hurt even more was her list of Absolutely Necessary future treatments, the cost amounting to most of our savings. I didn’t want all those teeth crowning to perfection. We told her We’d call Her.

The next dentist was different. He looked at the ancient crown on the front tooth I'd broken aged nine (falling over a bucket), and said, ‘Mm, there’s no decay… unless you’re worried about your appearance, I’d leave it.’ Well, I was a little worried, but didn’t like to say - he obviously felt it merited no concern...

He had been recommended by Cecile, who’d been going there for thirty years and ‘had never had anything to complain about’. However, all her teeth are false and when I asked if he hurt ever, her ‘Non’ was accompanied by a very Gallic shrug.

He turned out to be upper-middle-aged, and rather likeable. Which is important, but pales completely against the Pain Factor; our jolly chats were interspersed with his guffawing, ‘You don’t need an anaesthetic for a tiny job like this!’ and my apologetic screams.

And you should see the repair he did on my broken tooth – it resembles a dollop of blu-tack. Inevitably - he applied the concrete with one of those wooden spatulas we used to eat tubs of ice cream with, and he certainly didn’t Fine Tune.

Further recommendations include a homeopathic dentist who didn’t even believe in anaesthetic – he’d just give you a Strong Warning; a dentist who was good but very squeamish, so would tremble all through root canal, and finally, finally our lovely current Dentist.

We’ve got into quite a pleasant routine – every so often I get carried away with my carrot-crunching, rescue the wayward tooth chip and put it in an envelope. I pop into the surgery and he glues it back on. He’s friendly, twinkly, and Painless.

And even though he’s been on the verge of retirement for the two years I’ve been going there, he’s too happy in his work to give up. Something to do with the calibre of tooth, I like to think…

Friday, February 6, 2009

Bring More Candles

Last night, we were half way through our pineapple yoghurts when all the lights went out. Damn! Still, these cuts don’t last long, particularly when the weather’s calm…

After a couple of minutes blundering around for a torch that worked, George went outside to see how far the blackness stretched. It didn’t stretch at all – the streetlamps were on; next door’s kitchen was dazzling… why just us?

I felt a tiny surge of resentment towards the electricity company and all those currently enjoying its full power. (In fact, quite a big surge). Despicable of me, I know, but good heavens - it doesn’t seem long since we had all that baffling work done to change our system from something called ‘Triphase’ to ‘Monophase’.

Did we even have different Phases in England-our-Old-Country? And if the dreaded Triphase presented such an urgent need for change in this house, why had the previous owners ever dallied with it in the first place? For it had certainly caused us problems, usually when just about to amaze our friends with a gastronomic delight; or if George was away and I had to negotiate the outside steps and the Stygian gloom of the cellar… alone!

Anyway, since the 'passage en monophasée' - which entailed synchronising two electrical companies’ schedules, multitudinous agonised phone calls and hand delivering several Declarations to swear we’d all do our bit, (the electricians charged with this painful task, though, were all helpful and delightful) - all has gone well. Till last night.

George went down to the cellar and sure enough, the main fuse had tripped. He reset it; thirty seconds later it went again.

Had I been alone, I would have kept resetting it until it burst into flames, such is my ability and patience with DIY. Together, we sensibly eliminated fuses three by three, until left with the tangle of plugboards and cable under the kitchen sink.

Quite a lot of which turned out to be damp, and dripping into the mouldering under-reaches of the cupboard.

So we couldn’t blame it on an electrical company.

By experimental positioning of kitchen towel we deduced that the little black overflow pipe had let go at one end, so that enthusiastic gushing of waste sink water resulted in spattering of the cupboard. For weeks, months… who knows?

To avoid alarming sizzles, George has now redirected much of the cable, and indelibly re-glued the little black pipe. And we’re airing the foul depths of the under-sink.

Which is Really Exciting for the cats - they remain on constant guard because whatever’s exuding that sort of aroma must be tastier than Kitlykat …