déboucher (day-boo-shay) verb
1. to unblock
2. to uncork, to open
3. to lead to
Le manque d'amour du prochain ne peut déboucher que sur une société d'égoïsme et de désespoir. The absence of love for one's neighbor can only lead to a society of egoism and despair. --Bernadette Chirac
"Bah! Machines! You've got to use your hands!" Those are the words of Old Man Delhome, who I mistakenly referred to as "Peep" at one point. Oh, Peep exists all right, as does the tobacco "pipe" from which he gets his name. Only Peep isn't Old Man Delhome, but his sometime helper or "bras droit"*; the two used to tend grapes together, beginning the sulfatage* as early as three in the morning. "After which we ate six eggs each. Eggs that would be better if there were a hunk of ham alongside them," Delhome admits. The farm fresh eggs washed down nicely with a glass or two of rosé, which Old Man Delhome drinks in place of water. "Water is too heavy," he complains. "I never drink the stuff."
I am standing by the side of a brook, in my robe, having left my cup of coffee back at the picnic table. Jean-Marc is talking to Old Man Delhome (the father of Monsieur Delhome or "Jean-Marie") who has left his garden and crossed over the brook to meet us at our property line just beneath the massive plane tree. I study Delhome's sunkissed 90-year-old face, wondering if rosé is the secret to his good health.
"Thanks for your help with the tuyau,"* I say, referring to the sewage pipe that burst when Jean-Marc backed over it with his tractor. Mr. Delhome enlightened us a little on the sewage system of our centuries old farmhouse after which Jean-Marc was able to unblock one of the pipes (which had been
invaded by gnarly roots). As Jean-Marc works the roots free (using a series of rusty iron bars which he has jabbed into the pipe), Old Man Delhome watches, an amused look on his bronzed face.
We leave the broken and blocked pipes and invite Delhome to see the transformations taking place inside the house. "Pierre de Serignan,"* he says, studying the stone wall in the stairwell. This part of the building is older. "We found terre cuite* tiles dated 1696," Jean-Marc adds. "Pas étonnant,"*
Delhome mutters. "They began building these types of buildings in the 17th century after those brigands* emptied the little cabanons* of tools, wine...even cochons!"*
Old Man Delhome, having referred to our home as a mas,* now calls it a "casbah" ever since one of the previous owners married a Moroccan woman who "wore the pantalons* around here!" I see her touch in the jewel green paint that colors a hollow in the wall where a stone sink once nestled.
We make our way through the casbah. "This is the kitchen," Delhome guesses. "How are you going to heat it?" Jean-Marc mentions floor heating, which sets Delhome's mouth into another one of those amused grins. "Just wait until the Mistral blows open that door. See how well floor heating works then!" Jean-Marc smiles politely to Delhome, who tells us he keeps his fireplace going nuit et jour.*
I point out the iron bar above our front door which the workers uncovered last week. "An 'essieu* de charrette',"* Delhome confirms, identifying it as an axle from an old horse cart. "Ils ne cassaient pas la tête. They didn't rack their brains," he says of the builders of yesteryear who used whatever materials were on hand. "Like those rock walls..." Delhome continues, indicating the pebbles and stones taken from the river-bed and used to build the walls in the last half of the building.
The home tour ends in the cave* which Delhome recognizes as the former "on-gar"*. The dirt floor has been covered and great cement tanks from Italy now line the walls. Delhome wags his hand, impressed.
"Il y a du pognon ici!" A lot of dough here! "It's your American wife," Monsieur continues, assuming I am the "money bags" behind the vineyard project. I do not correct monsieur. Instead, I think about the journey from what some would call "trailer park trash" to "châtelaine"* or "mistress of the château" as my mother-in-law now teases me.
"There are investors," I say, with more self-assurance than I have ever known before. "And bank loans," Jean-Marc adds, his eyes meeting mine with a wink of approval.
References: le bras (m) droit = right-hand man; le sulfatage (m) = copper-sulphate spraying; le tuyau (m) = pipe; la pierre (f) de Serignan = stone from Serignan; la terre (f) cuite = baked clay (terracotta); pas étonnant = not surprising; le brigand (m) = bandit; le cabanon (m) = cottage; le cochon (m) = pig; le mas (m) = farmhouse in Provence; le pantalon (m) = trousers, pants; nuit et jour = night and day; un essieu (m) = axle; la charrette (f) = cart; la cave (f) = cellar; on-gar (pronunciation for "(le) hangar") = shed, barn; la châtelaine (f) = wife of the lord of a castle
:: Audio File ::
Hear my 12-year-old son pronounce today's word & quote:
Le manque d'amour du prochain ne peut déboucher que sur une société d'égoïsme et de désespoir.
MP3 file: Download deboucher.mp3
Wave file: Download deboucher.wav
le débouchoir = plunger, plumber's helper
le déboucheur = caustic cleaner, Liquid Plumber (R)
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