Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Provencal Spy

I'm not sure I remember dinner...but I do remember being jolted awake shortly after dawn to the sound of a weed whacker.  Gads.


I had a day and a half here, and that half day was about to be eaten up by din.

No more cigalle lullabies, tranquil mountain reveries, or mercy--only the relentless tree cutter, splintering wood and splitting our ears, for the next five hours.  Long enough to run into lunchtime.   

We then entered another film scenario as the Bouchers offered the tree cutter a drink, and he plopped down in a dangerously comfortable position in response--a ball of sweat with the air of a raconteur warming up for a command performance (with the famous Provencal twang I have only rarely heard).  The first story involved a recent mechanical breakdown with his Peugeot, for which an exorbitant repair price was quoted, to which he retorted, "What do you take me for, an American?" 

How long was this to go on?  Under other circumstances, I might have been as engrossed as Josy, sitting opposite him at the picnic table, apparently riveted to his not-so-riveting story.  But I had precious little time with the Bouchers, and a bus to catch...I glanced at the clock...was I to be foiled again by the French savoir vivre?! 

For one does not rush an important member of the fabric of life in a French countryside, especially at meal time.  Although I suspected Josy wanted him to move along so we could get back to our visit, our weed whacker had recently gleaned an important tidbit of information, which could be profitable for them all.  Parisians (who seemed as distasteful to him as Americans) had been seen scouting for Renaissance stones--the exact sort of stones he had been clearing off on their property.  They could fetch quite a handsome price.  If ever the Bouchers should decide to sell them, they must call him first.  Not the Parisians.

I smelled a rat, but Josy was now riveted, and Gilbert kept pouring.  "Careful what you say, my friend," he chuckled, while uncorking another local vintage.  "We're from Paris too remember!"

Soon Josy was satisfied that she had pumped our spy for any glimmer of truth that they had a small goldmine on their property, and this charming episode came to its conclusion.  She chased him off in a hospitable sort of way--the bum's rush, as we might say.  We had an hour to eat lunch and catch the bus.  Quelle horreur. 

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