Bonjour –

Mercredi – c’est tres bon jour!  Wednesday – it is a good day!  Well, at
least it started that way…

I awoke at 6am and began my morning ritual of cleaning up the flies, wasps
and UFO’s that died in the night and now litter the stone floors.  I’ve
stepped on enough squishy things since I got here – enough is enough.  The
vaccuum cleaner is surely my most important investment to date.

Alexander and Bonsai arrive at 7am.
Natasha who is painting the clouds off my ceiling tore in at 7:15am
Eric, Luc and Mathew, the plumbers, arrived at 7:30am
Frank, the handyman (and his son Sebastian) arrived at 8:30am (don’t get
confused – not THE Sebastian)
Max, the tile guy was right behind them
Mireille, the supervisor rolled in at 9am
and Bill the electrician arrived at 9:30am (that’s not his real name but I
can’t pronounce it so I call him Bill much to everyone’s amusement)

What’s a girl to do?  The first thing I did was jump in the car to get
lots of water and food so they had NO reason to leave.  Everyone in one
place and it’s all about me!

Alexander scratched his head, shook his finger at me and laughed – “tres
American.  This is not right – the plumber never meets the electrician.”

I thought, “oh, baby – I’m going to teach you all a quick American lesson –
team work!”   In an hour it was all organized:

The tile guy in the bathroom
The painter in the loft
Plumbers downstairs working on the water heater and washing machine

Handyman and son – you start on the opposite side of the house building Ikea furniture

Electricians – finish the bedrooms and move onto the kitchen
Supervisor – could you find out where the gardener is?
Alexander – what are you doing?

“I think I watch the circus!”, he laughed and smoked.

It worked perfectly – everyone got along, much was accomplished and nobody
left for the standard two hour lunch.  They still took a two hour break –
but I didn’t lose them to a bottle of Rose and the lunch special!

Now that’s the American way to spend the 4th of July!

It’s 6pm and the most important person was due to arrive – the pool
surveyor.  So here’s the update on the pool:

The Town Hall (the mayor) said yes!  (No, I did not have to “extend”
certain courtesies.)
The Enviromental Department said no.

“So, do I get to choose which answer I want?”
“Yes, you can choose but the risks are yours”

This last line was delivered by Andre-Pierre Lambert, the man who sold me
the house and who I am growing less and less fond of.   So far everything
Andre-Pierre has “handled” for me has been a disaster – the bank, the
mattress (too small for the bed frame) and the “legal” information about
the zoning.

Remember when I said the house was not quite legal and I’d fill you in on
that later?  It’s later…

The house was a barn
An artist bought the barn and turned it into a dwelling
He never got permission from the town
So, it’s not really a house
In France if you get away with this for 5 – 10 years (the number changes
all the time) – it’s fine!
It’s been 8 years…
So, it’s not quite legal because the town never said it was OK.

“This arrangement happens all the time and there are no problems – it is
normal”, says Andre-Pierre.

OK so I go through with buying the house.  (Yes, gullible is written
across my forehead).

The town did not want to approve my pool because they would have to admit
it was a residence.   But, the mayor finally agreed so now that they say
“yes” it means I am officially a recognized residence.  That’s the good

The environmental group does not want to approve the pool because I am in a
protected zone.

Flashback to 4 months ago when I had a very clear conversation with
Andre-Pierre about ND1 zones:

Andre-Pierre:  “It is the best zone because no new construction can take
place here.  They have found Roman ruins.”

Patty:  “Well that’s good – no Ikea, K-mart or condo complex in the area.
But what about me building on my land?  Are there problems with that?  A
pool for instance or an extension on the house?”

Andre-Pierre:  “No, it is your land – it already exists and there are no
problems to build on the land.  Your pool for instance.  It may need to be
a certain meter from the house – but it is normal for the area.  You can
add up to 30% structure to the existing house and add a pool – no problem.”

Sure Andre-Pierre that’s why I am standing here with an envirnmental
surveyor at $ 500 a pop and discussing why they said no.

The environmentalists will not approve a pool because I am in an ND1 zone.
They won’t stop me if I build it – but they won’t give me their blessing.
(I think I am catching on).

What’s the risk, you ask?  If anyone complains I have to destroy the pool.
No problem?!!!!

I’ve been hanging in there pretty well but at this point the idea of
slugging Andre-Pierre is the only thing running through my brain.  He
actually had the nerve to say:

“I do not want you to think that I lied to you in anyway when I sold you
the house”, he said with a smirky smile.


I gave him a cold look, turned my back on him and walked away.  I’m not
sure how much jail time you get for beating someone senseless with a paint
roller so, I thought it best to walk the other way.  The worst part was I
began to cry.  I knew it would happen – there was no way I could make it
through this project and not cry.  I had estimated two weeks – I did pretty
well – I held out for 18 days.

I rounded the corner and walked smack into the surveyor.  It turns out he
speaks more English than he let on.  He was very nice and made a suggestion
– an “agricultural pond” would be approved.

“So, I grow mold and pond scum on my pool and it’s OK?” Hmmmmmm…desperate

He said he would explain more later when I had time to think about it.  My
first thought was – “if it’s a “pond” that means you can’t really see the
bottom and no-one would see Andre-Pierre down there…”.  Hmmmmmm – there
is always a solution.

“Merci, I’ll think about it”

I told everyone I was too tired to discuss any more problems and they
promptly left (they aren’t stupid – they recognize a starving, crazed

I went to the kitchen and grabbed a bottle of Sancerre from the fridge and
a wine glass (some things have been accomplished).  Alexander walked in:

“Oh, good, I drink wine with the crying girl”
“Oh no you don’t – this is my bottle – get your own!”
He grabbed a second bottle from the fridge commenting that the American
style was good.

“Drinking from your own bottle?”, I questioned.
“Non, the work with everyone – it was good – crazy – but good.  It was a
good day.  I go to America and work this way.”  The cork was popped in two
seconds flat – what a man!

“You SHOULD come to America – you work really fast!”, I commented.
“Yes, but you need a passport.”
“You don’t have a passport?”
“Non, there was a problem with the car.”
“A problem with the car?”
“Yes, it was not mine.”

I laughed really hard.  It was a great way to get over Andre-Pierre and my
pool problems.  Alex grabbed his car keys and said he was going to get us

While he was gone, I set candles on the patio table that was constructed
today, grabbed plates that now had a dish cabinet, washed the new cutlery
and drank more wine.  In 20 minutes we had a Chinese feast spread across
the table.  We both sat there with plaster, paint, dirt, blood (Alex),
sweat and tears (me) and wolfed down the food – all the while continuing to
drink our own bottles of Sancerre.

An agricultural pond – that bears some thought…

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