We are about to find out how much our Paris neighbours like us or, if they like us enough to give us some money? It is a question that throws the 'Love thy neighbour' business into a difficult light depending as it does on the general unselfishness required of communal living; basically how most people live in Paris.
We are asking our neighbours to chip in and pay for our recent plumbing repairs. This is not as unreasonable as it sounds. Technically speaking, and God knows when it comes to Parisian plumbing I have learned to speak technically, the leak that landed us with a massive bill sprang from a pipe considered part of the fabric of the building and therefore the responsibility of the co-proprieté (the owners). Normally the 'syndic'(management agents) would have sent along their plumber and would have added the bill to our quarterly charges.
Unfortunately the leak sprang on a Friday night and left us with two choices:
a) to leave our neighbours without water for the whole weekend and disappear to Normandy until the management agent's plumber could be called on Monday morning.
b) to call out an emergency plumber who, in the absence of Monsieur Mustapha, was clearly going to rip us off because we were nice enough not to have done 'a'.
But will our neighbours appreciate this?
Today I am thankful I have never hammered on anyone's door to complain about a noisy party or made a fuss when empty boxes, old furniture or even unwanted kitchen cupboards were dumped in communal parts of the cellar or attic or sometimes the landings. To be honest, I do not think any of our neighbours, even those with whom we get on best, like us enough to hand over a wad of hard-earned cash, but we are relying on their neighbourly spirit.
"We'd be in a better position if we'd asked them before we put the water back on," I tell the Frenchman. He says: "Don't worry. We'll tell them we'll leave them in the merde, literally, next time." His strategy might just pay off. The one thing we all know is that there will be a next time.