Saturday, 29 March 2008
We'll Always Have Paris
I had an uncharitable thought. Maybe Monsieur Mustapha is not in Morocco but is fed up with being called to our repeated emergencies so is pretending he is. We get on well with him and have great political discussions over coffee every time he comes. But even so. If I were him I'd be making out I was a very long way from France.
Still, having cut off everyone's water supply, we feel it only fair to get up at the crack of dawn and do something. Another call to Monsieur Mustapha who is still apparently in Casablanca, results in the name and number of a plumber pal. Unfortunately this chap turns out to be at least two hours' drive from Paris. It would be quicker for Mustapha to fly back to fix our broken pipe. I call the 'syndic' that runs the building and, as instructed by the recorded message, fax a letter marked URGENT in big black underlined letters to its so-called emergency line. While waiting for someone to call back, the concierge and I pad around the dripping damp, stone vaulted cellars below the building trying to identify various stopcocks supplying various flats so we can get water to some of our neighbours enabling them to at least have a shower and a cup of tea. Each time we think we have succeeded, water pours out of the broken pipe under our sink. In the end we give up. "When's the plumber coming?" she asks. "When he can get back from Morocco," I tell her.
The 'syndic' never calls back so while the Frenchman trawls the Paris equivalent of the Yellow Pages, I knock on doors to see if anyone knows of a plumber. Eventually we find one who agrees to come within the hour. More than an hour later he has still not arrived and we call again. He is caught in a massive demonstration near us and the police have closed all surrounding roads. He gets through the barricades by explaining to seven riot police officers in a row that he is on a mercy mission. It starts at the first road block as a flooding emergency, but by the seventh the entire building is in danger of fire, collapse, acts of God and total destruction involving massive loss of life for which he tells the aforementioned police officers they will be found personally responsible if they do not let him pass. It works. he gets through, arrives, fixes the leak, asks if we want a special 'pressure regulator' added to the pipe to stop future crises - of course we do. Then he presents us with a bill for over 1000 euros ( £785). As I gasp like a landed fish over the size of the cheque the Frenchman is writing from the joint account, the friends we were dining with last night phone to find out if we are waving or drowing. "That plumber saw you coming," they say. I decide not to tell Monsieur Mustapha when he returns. I think of the conversation between Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) and Rick (Humphrey Bogart) after Sam had played it again in Casablanca.
Ilsa: A franc for your thoughts
Rick: In America they'd bring only a penny, and, huh, I guess that's about all they're worth.
Ilsa: Well, I'm willing to be overcharged. Tell me.
Da da de da da dum, da da de da da dum...(piano music fades)