26 January 2011

The French Are Such Wine Snobs

No surprise in that statement eh? So why do the bars sell absolute plonk for €1.20 a glass when we’d pay more for better quality wine? Well, the Brits would, we’re used to paying extortionate prices in the UK.

But enough of that for the moment, I’m here to talk about the plumber, Monsieur Patane.

A few weeks ago I noticed a wet patch on the garage ceiling. As the days passed, the wet patch became wetter until there were drips falling. Now, I’m all for letting things fix themselves or until they become a disaster and after dismissing the theory that the water was a result of the ultra wet weather we’ve had recently, I called, or rather, J called our builder, Antonio. I reckoned one of our water pipes, embedded in the concrete kitchen floor had burst, and that would be an absolute disaster.

Antonio turned up the next day and when we met at the front door it was kisses all round and it’s not many builders who kiss their English clients, and it is most certainly unique for English clients to kiss their builders and I’m not just talking about J, I got kisses as well!

In he came, looked under the kitchen sink and shook his head. ‘C’est grave. C’est serieux’, he said shaking his head again. ‘It’s a leak’, he said.

Two things sprung immediately to mind. One – even Shadow could see it was a leak as when he needed water, all he had to do was go into the garage and have a shower, and two - maybe it wasn’t that bad as when he was building the house, Antonio was always shaking his head at J’s designs, saying, ‘C’est grave. Pas possible’! 

‘The floor will have to come up. How many spare ceramic floor tiles have you got left?’ he said, conveniently forgetting that when he’d finished the house, he took most of the spare tiles for his next project!
‘I will call Patane the Plombier’, he said.

Mr Patane called round a few days later and looked at the ‘leak’. He shook his head. ‘No leak’, despite the fact that the floor under the sink was soaking wet. He then checked the other sink in the kitchen (J decided to have two sinks installed in our kitchen – his and his !) and after a few minutes declared that he had found the leak.

It appeared that the water from the ‘proper’ leak was working its way under the floor, along the protective covering and up and out of the other end of the pipe, a physics phenomenon which I will research and cover in another posting when I’m totally bored. Either that or it’s a second leak!

Mr Patane cut out the offending section of pipe and when he was out at his van, I checked the length of copper and noticed that it was one of his joints which had split. ‘This will be interesting if he presents me with a bill’, I thought, also wondering just how long plumbing work is guaranteed in a French new build. Anyway, 15 minutes later, he proudly stated that it was fixed.

As he headed for the door, I grabbed a bottle of wine to give him as a gift in case no bill was forthcoming and as things turned out, he did not present a bill, but shook my hand and said ‘au revoir’. I said ‘thank you Mr Patane’, and handed him the wine.

Instead of thanking me and continuing his walk to his van, Mr Patane set down his tools on the drive and carefully looked at the bottle I’d given him (a nice white burgundy). He looked at the label, he looked at the vintage, he turned it round and looked at details of the chateau which had produced it and finally, held it at arm’s length and nodded in a sort of 'knowing' way.

This wasn’t somebody checking the wine as a form of gratitude. This was somebody looking at it to see if it was the plonk they sell in The Midi! 

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