Rolie needed some more attention. When the man I’d bought it from had got it going again from a flat battery (Week 38), we pointed out that the car was also leaking some kind of pale fluid, very slowly, but still noticeable on the light-coloured garage floor. Costa offered to fix that too. He speaks English, copiously, and from decades of working in France he speaks it with a French accent. He speaks so copiously that I have developed the tactic of saying as little as possible – not a problem for me; I don’t much like talking – and letting him run on. I can have a five-minute telephone conversation with him in which I say three words: hello, perfect and goodbye. Husband knows who was on the other line as soon as I put the phone down.
After various organisational twists and turns, Costa offered to pick the car up for me on Wednesday, the day after Carnival, and take it to his cousin’s garage for checking. He couldn’t promise to return it the same day, but it shouldn’t be more than two days. He’d leave his car at our house in the meantime. I said: ‘Perfect.’ It was convenient for me.
He arrived, I gave him the keys and he drove Rolie out of the garage, parking it in front of the house and getting out in order to continue talking. A brilliant smile appeared on his face as he emerged from behind the wheel.
‘I love this car,’ he said.
Two days later he returned, still talking. Various fixes had been done. He veered away from the technical details – offering, if required, to speak to my ’uzband about those instead – but demonstrated how much better the car now was. As well as some gaskety-type replacements, he’d also improved the shutting of the bonnet, and – having tracked down an actual French expert when his various local mechanics couldn’t do it – had improved the closing of the driver’s door, so that it no longer rattled. He picked up a diesel can from the boot, went to his car, then doubled back to mine, having forgotten to collect an adapted water bottle from the passenger seat. Our local petrol station looks to any passer-by as though it is open; in fact, each pump has a small sign declaring it to be empty. The owner is a victim, apparently, of the supermarket petrol station a few miles down the road. That’s a real shame, but it’s another story. Anyway, Costa had been caught out by this on his journey two days ago and had just made it to our place on an empty tank. He needed to refill his car via the water-bottle funnel. By now darkness had fallen and he gave me his mobile phone to use as a torch so he could see what he was doing. Throughout this he didn’t stop talking – about how lovely our place was, how amazing that we’d only lived here three months when we seemed so settled, about his complicated comings and goings and a family member who was ill, how ideal the Renault was for these dirt roads but how I should nevertheless drive carefully – and I wondered when I might offer, or he might ask for, some money.
‘I do this because I like you,’ he said suddenly, disarmingly.
Then he got into his car, apologising for having left Rolie with a nearly empty tank too, and, remembering to retrieve his mobile phone from me only at the last minute, he drove off.
Rolie runs a lot more smoothly now, even on the dirt track. I love this car too.
I finally found the time to fix our beautiful, handmade tiles into the gap left in the floor by the removal of part of the wall: the very first job we did here, to connect the two houses. The tiles look even better than I imagined. It’s a bespoke design that looks like happenstance. We are also about to remove the old kitchen, ready for the installation of the new. While that is happening I, however, will be in England, temporarily exchanging the land of golden light for the land of silver-light-if-you’re-lucky.