Friday, 27 July 2012

Meet the neighbours

I'm not at all sure that Jacques got a very good impression of me the first time we met. It was in the late spring of the year we bought the house, during the period when I was spending one week in France and one in England. I was standing in the kitchen one evening, cooking myself a meal. That in itself is most unusual since I am not a cook. Mrs S has even been known to complain that I don't know where the kitchen is, let alone how to use any of the implements in it. But be that as it may, I was cooking a meal that evening. Probably something very simple, like sausages, oven chips and frozen peas or baked beans, which is why I suspect that Jacques' first impression of me was not terribly good.

As I said, I was in the kitchen when Jacques appeared at the window with a large bowl in his hands. My first thought was that he was begging, but he introduced himself and told me he had been picking cherries and thought I might like a few. I invited him in and was astonished to find that what he called a few cherries was actually a couple of kilograms of them. All I could find to hold them was a tatty plastic carrier bag from a supermarket. I offered him a drink (coffee, tea, wine or scotch?) and, while Jacques was explaining that he doesn't drink coffee or tea, and that he was rather partial to scotch, the smoke alarm went off. I have virtually no sense of smell and had not noticed that the sausages were burning.

Jacques, I have since discovered, is one of those infuriating people who seem to be able to do everything, and to do it well. He also has a large range of tools that would arouse the envy of a combination of a professional builder, electrician and plumber - and he knows how to use them. He speaks very good English although he said he had never been to England. Jacques' job is something to do with wine-making equipment and he has quite frequently to travel abroad to oversee the installation of it. He has visited Australia, South Africa and the USA, so he found it useful to learn English.

It was Jacques who solved for us the problem of our garage. We had from time to time smiled at the recollection of Monsieur Detroit's little quip that the garage/shed was suitable for a very little car, but otherwise had really thought nothing about the fact that the estate agent's particulars showed that the house had a garage.

Monsieur Detroit had told us that the garden had been sold separately. At least, we thought that was what he said: maybe he had actually said that it was to be sold separately.

It was some three years after we had bought the house that Jacques told us he had just bought a patch of spare land across the road, at one corner of which stood a ramshackle garage built in corrugated iron. Apparently, the land had at one time been the garden of out house - and that was our garage!

"Our" garden stretched from the fence to those trees!

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