Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Positive thinking

This morning I told myself: "Be positive. Nobody likes a whingeing Brit and certainly not the French". This morning I thought: "It is not that bad." It was not raining, I had not been kept awake all night - unlike the Frenchman - by the concierge's miniature dog yapping his head off and there was no nauseating smell meandering its way through our apartment.

The smell is a real downer. On top of the water problems in our building, there is also a drain problem. Several times a week I am assaulted in my own home by the perfume of rotting cabbage and waste. I know this smell: when I was a child we lived for some years in the countryside, surrounded by farms and, I seem to remember, downwind of a sewage plant. Of late the smell from the drains has been so bad it made me want to be sick. When visitors come I launch into a long explanation about it not being our smell but a collective pong, even before they remove their coats (in case they decided not to stay). I have even explained to the cockroach control man who comes twice a year even though he never takes off his coat and I do not want him to stay. The worse thing is the smell comes from the sinks in the kitchen. Who wants to be preparing and eating food in a room that smells of putrefying greens or poo? I have poured all manner chemicals (I started with environmentally friendly ones) down the sink and nothing works. I complained to a member of the co-proprieté (the Frenchman). He said what I already knew: the building is ancient, the drainage system too. It was, he suggested, the French equivalent of "one of those things". I said: "But it's making me ill. We'll have to move." He looked at me as if I had just beamed in like a Prince Charles hologram from another planet as opposed to across the Channel. "Don't you think that your are over-reacting?" he said adding that he could not smell anything. Of course he cannot; his olfactory whatevers have been destroyed by years of Gitanes sans filtres. He promised he would mention it at the next residents' meeting. This is in seven months. I will have built a time machine and beamed myself to another planet before anything gets done about the drains.

There have been times recently - mostly on cabbage smell days - I have felt I could stand it no longer. Last week, having reached the frayed part of the tether after a run-in with French administration, I found myself wailing at the Frenchman: "I hate living in France." This is not generally true; but was the moment I said it.

Still, this morning I was feeling positive and cheerful. I said to La Fille: "Let's go to the park." OK, so this 'park' is actually a patch of gravel less than half the size of a football pitch squeezed between two main roads and is where the local drunks and tramps pee and hang out. So it does not have an inch of grass that you can put foot on and boasts two fountains that are not working and a small children's playground covered in pigeon droppings, but it is a park to us. La Fille loves the slides and grubby sandpit and besides, I was feeling positive. La Fille and I put on our coats and felt zippedy doo-da as we skipped down the stairs instead of taking the lift. We walked out the back of the building and straight into some dog poo deposited just outside the door. Sometimes I really do hate living in France.

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