mercredi 4 mars 2009

Books and Jackhammers

Right now I’m on winter break, not to be confused with Christmas break or spring break, each 2 weeks long. I took advantage of my free time yesterday to head down to the big public bibliothèque. Josh and I found a glass-encased silent reading room inside the library's spacious main hall. Perfect. After promising the room’s guardian that we were there to study and not to chat, we sat down at a massive old wooden table with a green leather top to get some work done.

We went to the library both for the study-inducing ambiance, and to get away from our neighbors, who are renovating their apartment. Apparently the instrument of choice for construction here is a jackhammer. Not so study-inducing.

While at the library, I picked up a book titled “Aix-en-Provence, hier & aujourd’hui,” yesterday and today. I love old photographs and many of the pictures in the book are from before the American Civil War. How cool! The old pictures were set alongside recent shots of the same places. When we got home, we plunked down on the couch right away and flipped the book open . . . only to discover that in spite of all the jackhammer noises we’ve been hearing, there were only a handful of pictures in which we could see any change from the 1850’s to the present. The only developments were that the roads are now paved and some shop signs are different.  

While in the library, I also swung by the English-language section and found a book called “Perfume from Provence,” written by an English noblewoman who moved here in the 1930’s to escape the collapsing British pound. It’s pretty much the same as reading a book by Peter Mayle, but the author is a little bit ethnocentric and classist. Sorry, Winifred, but your workmen can't possibly be "little more than children." She spends less time than Mayle does in detailing the horrors of having a house renovated in a land where people take two hour lunch breaks, but she complains a bit more. By the second chapter, while still really liking the book, I found myself wanting to say to her, “Stop complaining! You chose to live here! If you want telephone service, go back to Hertfordshire!”

It was a good lesson for me, since I spend a lot of time complaining and exasperated, and if I really don’t like it here, I could always go home. But we chose to move here and we’re glad of our choice. I was glad even this morning, as the next-door destruction (I mean construction) was again going full-swing, and this time, without announcing their intentions, they cut off our water.

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