Sunday, May 23, 2010

Awkward doorways

I've always been intrigued by this series of three doorways that give out directly onto the main road entering Pont-en-Royans from the Drôme.

A passerby has the impression that it's a long while since anybody ever opened any of these doorways. In the case of the one on the right, severely attacked by humidity, its days of being opened are surely a thing of the past. I refer to them as "awkward" because the proprietor of a doorway, prior to opening it, would need to ask the gendarmes to halt the traffic on the road. And I don't think these busy officers would be happy to intervene in that way for any significant length of time.

The proprietor of the middle doorway (and the space behind and above it) is none other than my neighbor Dédé Repellin, whose photo appeared at the top of my recent article entitled Down by the riverside [display]. A few weeks ago, Dédé told me the full story of his curious doorway. To appreciate the details, you need to know that, at the rear of this building with the road-level doorways, there's a prominent and ancient street: the rue du Merle (Blackbird Street), which lies two or three stories higher than the doorways and the road. Dédé purchased this place long ago, and he used the upper space (not shown in these photos), giving out onto Blackbird Street, as his workshop, enabling him to look after his trade vehicle. In the space above his doorway, to the right of the wooden ladder, you can see a curious box structure, composed of concrete bricks and apparently fixed to the far wall. Well, this was in fact a cavity that Dédé built so that he could drive his vehicle into the workshop, up at the Blackbird Street level, and then crawl down underneath it, inside this concrete box, to change the sump oil. Fair enough. He could still do that, if he wanted to… but Dédé's personal garage at Choranche offers him, today, a more comfortable environment in which to replace his sump oil.

The most amusing part of the story concerns the stuff to be found today behind Dédé's road-level doorway. Apparently, long ago, he bought a secondhand metal lathe, weighing a ton, and installed it in the space behind that door. It's still there, and Dédé would be thrilled to be able to make use of this precious equipment. But this is unthinkable as long as he's faced with the problem of opening and closing that doorway. So, the ideal solution would consist of extracting the metal lathe from that place and reinstalling it up at the Repellin home in Choranche (just down from my place at Gamone). But this transfer would be a major undertaking, requiring that the road be blocked for a period of at least a few hours, so that a mobile crane could be brought in to grab the lathe and lift it onto a truck. Dédé has concluded that a such a project is far too complicated to be imagined. Consequently, his precious metal lathe is likely to remain forever imprisoned behind the old brown door.

Incidentally, this story suggests that vague dreams may have been unfolding in Dédé's mind, a few days ago [see my earlier blog], while he watched the movements of the giant mobile elevator work platform…

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