Posted by: tabliope | May 28, 2010

Life goes on here pretty much like an extended lunch break with brief forays onto the balcony to tend to tomatoes, lemons and flowers.   The plus side to having three balconies is that we can pretty much follow the sun around, although it’s starting to get warm enough to stay on the shadier side in the evenings.  In an attempt to wrest the title of My Bourgeois Hell from Belgian Waffle I will add that having three large balconies means that it’s like having three extra rooms to clean.  I sound like a cross between those interfering women from How Clean Is Your House and a memsahib with my wails about the amount of dust that appears.  Honestly, it rains mud here.

It’s getting on for about six months since I moved into this apartment and I still haven’t met most of the tenants.  There are eight apartments in our block and apart from Mr and Mrs F who manage the building I’ve only really spoken to one other lady who lives in the apartment below ours.  Someone here is a thoracic surgeon, either that or they just enjoy reading journals about thoracic medicine.  Sometimes I hear someone speaking German but I haven’t actually seen them yet.  Mrs F speaks very good English and has, on the whole, been great in helping me settle in here.  This was tested a little a couple of weeks ago when Mr T tried to get the car out of the garage to go to work.  We have one of those electronic gizmos that opens the garage door but on this particular morning the door wouldn’t open at all.  Mr T has technical skills and he made various attempts at opening the doors manually but nothing was happening so he knocked on Mr F’s door but no reply.  He left it for 30 minutes and then tried telephoning and got a response from Mrs F.  After he’d explained that he couldn’t get out of his own garage Mrs F told him that she already knew that and what did he expect her to do.  Fortunately Mr T is a much more polite and patient man than his wife, who was yelling threats in the background.   I understand that things break but I find it difficult to understand that they couldn’t tell us that it was broken.  Anyway, evidently there was a way of opening it manually and all was settled but they were clearly confused by the fact that we had expected some sort of communication.

My communication with the lady who lives downstairs is still at the ‘good morning’ and ‘how are you’ stage.  I’m always able to say how I am but I can never remember what the formal ‘you’ is so end up grinning and nodding like a maniac rather than actually asking her.  Perhaps I should just write it on my hand and it would make life easier.  She is the lady who listens to the very long (and loud) religious broadcast every day.  I think the reason for the loudness is because her mother joins her for this and her mother is at least as old as the Parthenon.  It was as I was coming out of the front door of the building one day when I first met the mother.  She was walking towards the door, leaning on her daughter’s arm, and I thought it might be polite to stay and keep the door open because, after all, I may become old and frail one day too.  As she was overtaken by the wild tortoise that lives in our garden I realised that I was actually going to get old and frail whilst holding the door open for her.  Several lifetimes drifted before me as I watched each slow and steady step that she took towards the door and I could have probably fashioned a winner’s wreath for her in the time that it took.

Mother speaks a little English but she is very deaf and so we had the sort of conversation that I hope to never have to have again.  I swear that a casual passer-bye would have thought that we were having the best argument ever about whether or not I was English and how long I expect to live here.  She now carefully avoids eye contact with me so it probably wasn’t the greatest experience for her either.

And the rest is all sunshine, island, outdoor living, museums, lunch and socialising.



  1. This all (well, mostly) sounds excellent. I’m glad that the careful avoidance of eye contact isn’t just a British thing.

    And three balconies! THREE! I’d like to volunteer to quietly live on one. I’d keep it mud-free.

  2. The old lady story reminds me of the waiters in the restaurant in the Station Hotel in Kuala Lumpur when I was working out there back in the dark ages. They were uniformly old and decrepit and would quiveringly inch their way across the room trying not to spill a drop of whatever watery ‘soup of the day’ you’d ordered. It was always stone cold by the time it arrived – but it kept us amused. (I know, I know – picking on the elderly – I was young then ….).

  3. The old lady story made me cackle in an old ladyish way myself. V. funny. Thank you for the nod – should credit bourgeois hell to the witty brother of a friend – since I stole it, I don’t see why you shouldn’t. Had my own bourgeois hell the other day as I have an enormous voucher for a very expensive shop and I cannot find anything I like and I worry that it will run out before I buy anything.

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