Thursday, October 11, 2007

Block and tackle

Living on slopes, as I do, is quite different to living on flat land. And living on my own is quite different to being accompanied by a wife and a horde of country offspring. To do anything whatsoever, I can only count upon myself. The other day, a fellow working on the new bitumen road up past Gamone asked me: "You don't live here all year round, do you?" He seemed to be amazed when I said yes. From my viewpoint, I can't imagine where the hell I might live if I didn't live here at Gamone. Do observers see me as a wealthy guy who resides normally in Zurich, say, and only comes here to Choranche to admire the countryside from time to time, when he's tired of the noise of the city? It's a little like the surprise of people who learn that I cook for myself, instead of going out every evening to eat in one of the many imaginary restaurants in the vicinity of Choranche. Or the observers who are surprised that an Australian such as myself doesn't drop out to Bondi, Alice Springs or the Great Barrier Reef every so often.

At Gamone, I'm often obliged to move heavy stuff—such as blocks of limestone—from one place to another, often over sloping ground. I do so with the help of an excellent block-and-tackle device, seen in orange in the following photo:

On the left of this photo, there's a ten-meter length of silver chain that I purchased a few days ago in a hardware store at Valence. Often, when I'm using the block-and-tackle tool (attached to a tree, for example) to drag stuff from one point to another, I use nylon ropes. But this is a silly solution, for the ropes soon become inextricably knotted. So, it's preferable to work with heavy chains instead of ropes. My newly-purchased chains are indeed heavy. In the hardware store, a young guy was struggling to drag out the ten meters of chain, supervised by a friendly and attractive female colleague, with a glint in her eye.

He: "These chains are terribly heavy."

She (in a perfectly serious tone of voice, as if she were commenting upon the price of my purchase): "In the case of a vicious mother-in-law, you can't settle for anything less."

That's what I love about France and the French. People are never totally serious. They retain a great sense of humor and linguistic skill.

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