DERNIER MOT - IN THE PINK
One of the first things I did here was get the front door repaired because it was so rotten that a kangaroo could have walked into the house without ducking.
A very nice man with a fox terrier came and took the door off its hinges, drove it away in his pick-up and brought it back later that day all patched up and ready to hang.
“Don’t mess around,” he said patting the sections of naked new wood. “Get it painted as soon as possible.”
I obediently slapped on a generous layer of undercoat and while that was drying, wandered round to the benches outside the church with my colour chart.
“What do you think, Eglantine?” I asked. “Cherry? Salmon? Ocean Surf? Spring Leaves? Sienna?”
She cackled. “I should think! We’re just on the edge of the National Park. You’ll have to paint it brown. Or dark green. Your shutters too.”
“But your shutters are grey!”
“That’s because they’re old,” she said, nodding mysteriously. “Because the Mairie painted them. Back in the war.”
Off I went to the Mairie. “What’s all this about brown paint?”
“Oh yes. National heritage. Tradition.”
“So I can’t paint my front door scarlet?”
“Why would you want to do that?”
“What’s wrong with brown?”
“So is there a law about coloured paint?”
“Well, no... but of course, all the houses in the National Park have to use brown or dark green. It’s a conservation thing. But there’s no law here in Moisson because we’re just outside the zone. But there’s a law in Moisson-les-Cebes. (The village next door.) Brown or dark green. To keep everything looking traditional.”
“Even that new development of Spanish style haciendas?”
The secretary gave me A Look and I retreated hastily. My colourful notions of house decoration were obviously going to be revolutionary. Whistling nonchalantly, I drove down to town for DIY supplies and spent the evening mixing dye pots and wielding my paintbrush with guilty pleasure.
By midnight I’d finished, and I went to bed leaving the front door propped open to dry. The next morning Eglantine was there, transfixed on the doorstep, her cardigan firmly wrapped round her bosom.
“Pink!” she gasped.
“Raspberry Sorbet, actually. Nice, don’t you think? Sort of summery and cheerful? Welcomes people to the house...”
“The pink house!” Eglantine tottered off, doubled up with wicked laughter and I happily continued polishing my handles and knockers. It took some time before the truth dawned. Well, how was I to know that pink outside a house generally signifies tarts within? (No, nothing to do with patisserie.)
In fact, by the time that Marie-France let me in on the joke, I’d already planted pink roses, hung pink wallpaper, and slapped pink paint on the window boxes, garage doors, cellar doors and garden gate.
“I think we’ll have to re-paint,” said the Senior Partner gloomily. “Brown. Or we’ll be a laughing stock forever.”
Time passed and the door remained defiantly rosy - although I did periodically promise to tone it down. Meanwhile, the school teacher painted her railings white, the Parisians painted their shutters sky blue, Marie-France suddenly painted her front door burgundy, and the Italians in the house on the other side of the village painted all their doors, windows and shutters bright purple.
Marie-France came round again. “Listen, we’re having a charity concert at the end of the month. Everyone’s got to do a turn. Yes, even you. What are you going to sing?”
I didn’t tell her, although I knew the answer instantly. What else could I sing?
La Vie en Rose.
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