Living in Provence: taking care of business

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Living in Provence: taking care of business
NYONS, FRANCE. Two major events happened in this small corner of Provence last week. I changed the washers in my kitchen sink by myself and Robbie Jackson had his balls cut off. Having lived in a NYC rental my entire adult life, I am accustomed to calling the super who calls the landlord who okays the plumber (at least that’s how it’s supposed to work) who fixes whatever is needed at the landlord’s expense. Only now, I’m the landlord. Vaguely I know a washer is a round black rubber thingy with a hole in its middle that has something to do with preventing a dripping faucet. A drip-drip began over the summer in my kitchen sink; by early Fall it was a prolonged dribble; then suddenly last week it became an unstoppable flow. Around the same time, one of the two sink basins became clogged and began to gurgle up matter you’d rather not know about. I dealt with it all by going to see “Un long Dimanche de Fiançailles” (a film I highly recommend) at the local cinema. Unfortunately, when I returned, the plumbing situation had not self healed. I went in search of THE WOMAN’S HANDS-ON HOME REPAIR GUIDE: “written by a woman for women,” a handy little volume I’d purchased from AMAZON.COM along with a similarly entitled one about automobiles. I flipped through the plumbing section. Nothing exactly matched my kitchen robinet, but there was a bathroom faucet that seemed similar. Step one: Put your hand under the dripping water to determine if the leak is hot or cold. Definitely cold. Next, look under the sink (you cannot imagine what manages to accumulate in those cavernous cupboards) and turn off appropriate water. Turning off water I know is serious stuff. I took the plunge. No more drip. I was astounded I’d managed to pull it ofa href="http://www.autoeurope.com/showspecial.cfm?aff=bonjourparis" mce_href="http://www.autoeurope.com/showspecial.cfm?aff=bonjourparis" target="_blank" rel=”nofollow”> f without unleashing the Bay of Fundy into ma cuisine. I had just moved to a new plane of being–handy woman! I sat down and poured myself a glass of Domaine du Maupas rouge. Emily, my Westie, looked anxious. I got her leash and we took off on our “fait pipi” route—Rue Victor Hugo, Rue Phyllis de la Charce (generally the site of a serious deposit), Rue de la Resistance, Place des Herbes. Mission accomplished, we arrived home to find Mr. Robbie Jackson mortally wounded on the door mat. Robbie Jackson is not my cat. He is a street cat of legendary renown, who goes by various monikers, among them Le Vieux, Monsieur Testicule and PomPom, the latter two because he has the biggest chestnuts (as my friend Lydie calls them) ever seen on a cat. Consequently, Robbie is also the father, grandfather, great-grandfather, ad infinitum, of most of the felines in the Vieille Ville. Poor Robbie had been in another fight. He was a bloody mess; his front paw was swollen and lame and he was wheezing and whimpering. Why he’d decided to come to me, I don’t know. Françoise-Marie, my next door neighbor, insisted he knew mine was a nurturing home. She announced he needed medical attention. Madame Didot from across the street solemnly nodded her head in agreement. Naturally it was Saturday night, which meant no vets would be around until Monday, except for dire emergencies at triple the price. Why me? Already picturing my plumbing savings down the drain, so to speak, I cleaned Robbie’s wounds with Betadine and gave him something to eat. With an appetite like that he couldn’t be too ill. I unlocked the heavy wooden door to my cave and made a cozy nest for Robbie on the dirt floor. No way was a cat with a propensity for spraying like Robbie’s coming inside my house! Next, I rang the bell of Collette and Christian, who own un petit café on the Place des Herbes. After all, Robbie is more their cat than mine; it is they who named him after an “Eastenders” character, to whom they insist he bears a physical resemblance. Plus Robbie is a summertime fixture on his chair in their café. Collette came over immediately with a can of tuna (apparently Robbie’s favorite) and some antibiotics left from when she worked for a vet. She agreed he could wait until Monday and offered to split the bill. One look at the sink and I decided that, too, could wait. Sunday Robbie seemed a little better; he polished off the tuna and a large boîte of terrine au canard et aux haricots verts, plus the croquettes. I cleared off the counter next to the sink and anchored the hands-on manual open with a bottle of local huile d’olive. Switching from book to faucet and one pair of eyeglasses to another, I slowly dismantled the robinet. Like magic, everything went perfectly until the final screw. Try as I might, I couldn’t budge it. I phoned my friends Anne and Nick. Nick was more than willing…
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