This morning the plumber arrived to drill a hole from top to bottom of our 200-year-old building to install a new cold-water riser. This is a noisy, dusty and expensive job that even divided between property owners is costing us a small fortune each. Still, it will hopefully avoid someone being inundated every few months as happened when the old pipes burst. I have a bit of a touchy history with French plombiers what with being flooded out by an absolute incompetent and ripped off by a fast-talker so thought it best to steer clear of this one until the unavoidable moment he has to connect up our flat and add to our already labrythine collection of pipes. I passed him on the stairs and, head down, mumbled "Bonjour" before dashing in and slamming the door.
A few moments later the bell rang. I knew it was him because of the Cluedo copper pipe in his hand. "Ah, you're in," he said, displaying the impeccable powers of observation and humour I have come to expect if not from French plumbers, than the French plumbers who have worked in our building. He said he had been trying to contact me for "weeks." It turns out one of his copper pipes needs to pass through the ventilation hole in our cellar (every flat owner has their own damp corner of the "cave" under the building). It is that or find a way through six feet of two centuries old solid stone, so I don't suppose we can refuse even if we want to. "You haven't been in," he said. I told him I had been away in England for a couple of weeks. He said: "Goodness, you picked up that accent in just two weeks?" I didn't know whether to laugh or sob.