We returned to Paris loaded with worldly London goods like biblical mules to find we were being leaked on again. This time it was La Fille's room, which I had foolishly assumed was flood-proof unaware that the upstairs neighbours had installed a second bathroom directly above.
The water was still dripping when we arrived, its trajectory from ceiling to floor broken by La Fille's bookcase and her absolutely favourite books. What else? The drip-drip-drip must have been going on most of the time we were away because Charlie and Lola, Gerald the Giraffe, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Winnie the Pooh as well as Anton and Marie Tatin's Thirty-Six Cats had taken a soaking that had all but reduced them to soggy puffed up pulp, and I'm not talking about the plotlines. Of course these were not only La Fille's absolute favourites but some of her most expensive books as the English ones had been ordered and sent from the UK.
The ceiling plaster has gone all scabby and yellow and looks like over-ripe brie and the polished parquet has turned a dull milky colour. Hoppity the rabbit who took a heroic soaking to spare the others has a disturbing orange stain across his face, but it will probably wash out. The books, however, have so far resisted a blow dry with the hair drier and will have to be binned. This is terrible and La Fille knows it. She loves books and we have instilled in her an absolute respect for them.
We will not only have to buy new books but pay for the flood damage as, under bizarre rules we should claim off our insurance even though it's not our fault. As there has hardly been a six month period when we have NOT been drenched by our neighbours, our insurance company has "fired" us. Worse, even though none of these incidents were our fault no other insurance company will give us cover. Our French bank finally agreed to insure us so long as we paid an exorbitant premium and promised not to claim for flood damage for three years. Hard to believe, but true.
We hammered on the neighbours' door and they said something along the lines of: "Are you sure it's us?" There then followed a conversation worthy of Estragon and Vladimir about whether the water could have come from somewhere else; an original idea as there are no other water pipes but those of our neighbours anywhere within 20 feet of the leak. The Frenchman stuck to reasoning while I was ready to smash someone's head in with a mushy copy of the adventures of a British schoolboy and his little sister. God knows my patience has been saintlike until now: tomorrow I'm calling an estate agent.