L’Experte

plastic letters

“I’ve learned some things, these years in France,” I said to Eric.

“You couldn’t drive a manual car when you got here,” he said.

I put a chicken into the oven to roast. “Why, four years back, I couldn’t even roast a chicken!”

I thought about all the other things I’d learned. How to speak French, the difference between brebis and chevre. I’d never heard of grèves and I thought France was all shabby chic and women with scarves tied just so. I had no idea there were so many kinds of slippers, or knives. That neon yellow safety vests are for driving, orange for hunters.

How to tell a baguette from a batard, a financier from a religieuse.

Survival skills, like drinking coffee black – not because it’s more sophisticated but because most of the milk is that long shelf-life kind. I didn’t know how to steam and scrape wallpaper, but that’s a must to know if you’re living in an old French house and don’t want to walk around permanently depressed.

“You know one other thing I’ve learned?” I shouted, clomping into the kitchen with an armload of logs. “This time last year, I couldn’t build a fire!”

But now I did it easily, the first fire of the season – piling the smaller bits of wood into the wood burner, planting fire lighters, getting it going and then adding bigger logs.

A few minutes later, when the thing was really roaring, the room started filling up with foul-smelling smoke.

I checked the chicken – that was fine. I opened the wood burner and it was perfect, like a picture from Country Living magazine. But the fumes were making me queasy. I walked outside, looking at the chimney silhouetted against the sky, to make sure the smoke was coming out alright.

Back inside, it smelled like a hazardous waste site. I looked at the side of the woodburner and screamed.

Plastic letters, like you put on a refrigerator, THANK YOU spelled out by friends in the summer. I’d looked at them just that morning and smiled. It hadn’t occurred to me to take them down – now they were melting and burning, the cheery colors dripping and running together like something in a horror film.

And suddenly Eric was lunging in fearlessly with a paint scraper, removing the molten mess and flinging it onto a pile of newspaper.

But then I already knew he was my hero.

5 thoughts on “L’Experte

  1. Anonymous

    I threw a cordon round the area and put on a special neon pink letter scraping vest. I'd already done the Stodge de Formation so I was fully qualified for the task.

  2. amy

    Yes, he had a certificate and everything, after the barn explosion last year Alex. Thanks Fly, you would have been welcome. The chicken was delicious, but we had to eat with the doors and windows wide open.I've hard that Jon, about the cooking on wood stoves, and we have a few excellent cast iron pans – but this stove is a piece of crap. Some people were over last year, saw the stove and said "oh no, you have that stove too? It is the worst. Ah well, at least it looks cute." We've been talking about dumping it on some other unsuspecting fools like the people who sold it to us did.

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