Monday, June 22, 2009


In our commune (and, for all I know, in every French commune), the mairie has the right to widen the public thoroughfare--that's road to you--when a new house is built. And they get to charge the owner of the new house for a portion of the widening costs. They can't widen it a lot--no super-highways going in where there used to be a goat path--but they can widen it up to one meter from the preexisting edge of the road. Our house was built two years ago, which qualifies it as new.

And thus it came to pass that last weekend Jules came down from Paris, hired two day laborers, and dug a ditch along the edge of the chemin alongside our house.

In the dark hours when Jules lies in bed, counting over all the people who are scheming to part his sous from him, he apparently remembered this law and realized that it was possible that his good friend the mayor of our village might decide, one day, to pave an extra meter of ground on our side of the road.

When this thought came to him, Jules did not turn over and drift off to sleep, to dream of legislation repealing the TVA. I imagine that he sat up in bed and put on the light, woke Madame, and together they hatched out a plan to prevent the commune taking any of their land.

Our lane is about eight feet wide, and bordered on both sides by either a sheer drop of several feet into an olive grove; an equally sheer stone wall, rising straight up for much higher than I can reach; or impressively tall, dense hedges. We have a hedge. Between the edge of the paved road and the hedge there is a few feet--a meter, if you will--of packed earth and rock.

Or there was. Jules and his hired men spent the hottest weekend we've yet had this summer digging up that packed earth, making a ditch where the edge of the road had been. As ditches go, it's not terribly deep--not so deep as a well, nor so wide as a church door, but 'tis enough, 'twill serve, as Mercutio said, when he contemplated the damage that would result from driving his Citroën into it.

Now, if M. le maire takes it into his head--Jules explained it all to C; he was very proud--to widen the road, the measurement will be from the edge of the pavement and not from the edge of the packed earth. And Jules won't have to move his hedge.

Canny or illegal? We're not sure. But we suspect.

1 comment:

  1. "Crafty son-of-a-gun!," as we would say in Oklahoma. And, "I wish I'd thought of that!," they might well say in Jules' neck of the Hexagon. What a guy!