This is my “Artisan” team, a FrAnglo mix each of whom has contributed in his own way to the rejuvenation of the Old Lady of Petite Rue.
First up was Daniel, artisan mason from Normandy. Short, stocky and in possession of a fine head of streaky russet hair -almost worth suiciding oneself for, or so Lydie the local hairdresser told me. Unfortunately, in the photo he’d been cutting stone and turned temporarily grey!
He has an impish sense of humour and, apart from working with stone his other passion is “Calva” (calvados) which he lugs back with him in huge plastic vats after a foray to his native county. “It’s probably illegal “ he said with a wink, “made in small stills in barns and outhouses across Normandy.” Whatever. It’s rich, strong and leaves a fire in the belly. That other famous Norman, William the Conqueror, probably supped it for breakfast before popping across the Channel in 1066.
Next came Tomas the charpentier whose specialty is… yes you guessed it, woodwork and specifically roofs.
Single-handedly, he defended the house against rain, rot and the egregious woodworm beasties. He arrived in the village some years ago via Berlin although his ancestry is Croatian. A perfectionist, he never took his eye off the goal of a watertight, insulated roof. He climbed into his 30year old Mercedes bus to drive to the house in the fiercest thunderstorms to check that not a drop got through his defences.
After Tomas there was Richard, the only local-born lad on the team.
Thin as one of Tomas’ roof laths, dark and quiet, he glided in and out of the house as the fancy took him. He is the sparkie; his long fingers wove together skeins of red, blue, black and white wires, curbing their wayward tendencies and taming them into the fuse box. Sometimes he was here for the day, sometimes for ten minutes but he had the uncanny knack of showing up at just the right moment to work his magic, usually when the rest of the team were getting anxious about a possible delay.
Finally there was Eric the Viking or Papa Noel as children call him owing to the magnificence of his facial hair. He grooms his long beard into a “chin tail” and ties his greying hair into a ponytail. A philosopher, a lover of nature, a devoted dad, he was one of those rare sightings…a plumber…and one with both brain and imagination neither of which he was afraid to use. There were no problems for Eric. ”A solution will be found” was his mantra for any apparently intractable plumbing difficulty. He mulled it over and next day, voilà the solution presented itself.
To this quartet I must add the English contingent- Matt who toiled for five weeks in atrocious living conditions but cheerfully mixed in, learning a few French phrases and cracking jokes which even the non-English speakers seem to find funny. His hippo-sized appetite made me resuscitate my culinary skills since I couldn’t get away with cheese on toast.
Finally big bro, who despite marching around like Captain Mannering from time to time, ranged all over the house, checking here, supporting there; filling in when necessary and directing work (when I let him). His forte was coming up with weirdly creative ideas usually in the middle of the night which actually do work (now and again).
Big bro -a moment of repose
So that was my team, winners if ever there were.