There is progress on several fronts. The work in the attic continues. The crew took only one day off — well, actually, they worked that day, but not chez nous. Coco told me that he and his two assistants were involved in pouring 29 cubic meters of concrete over in Tours, for a new police station.
Progress continues with the cat too, but not with the name. Yesterday morning I opened the garage window and set a plank in front of it that Bertie can use as a ramp to get in. The window has bars on it, so there's not much danger in having the plank there — except that other cats might come in through there along with or instead of Bert.
Bertie followed slipped outside, between my legs, when I opened the garage door to put the plank out and then wouldn't come back in. I had planned to let him out through the window so that he would start to get used to it. Too late. He was out and wouldn't be called or caught.
Two or three hours later, I looked out the kitchen window to see if I might spot Bertie out front or across the street in the neighbors' big yard. No. I opened the window and called him: "Bertie, Bertie, Bertie, Bertie." Callie got excited at that point and tried to push her way up to the kitchen window with me. She started barking.
Walt got Callie settled down and I called again. That's when I heard the throaty meow below. There was the cat, right under the window. I went downstairs to call him in through the garage window, to show him how to get in from now on — but he was already in. He's a smart cat.
Last night, Walt went down to see what the situation was, and when he came back upstairs he announced that Bertie was in for the night. He had closed the window, and he and the cat had played for a few minutes. I went down and played with him for a few minutes too. In fact, I took Bertie a few little pieces of smoked chicken off a bird we have in the refrigerator right now.
So there is real progress on the cat assimilation front. And that is true despite the fact that Callie chased Bertie up a tree yesterday afternoon. We were coming back from our walk at about 6:30 and Callie saw Bertie sitting by the fence along the street, before I saw him. She took off, and of course he did too. Next thing I knew, Bertie was perched high up in one of the maple trees out front. Callie was barking like crazy.
Okay, I think this is now officially a cat blog. On other subjects: as I said, the attic work continues. On Tuesday we went to the village hall, la mairie, to turn in a sheaf of paperwork that our neighbor the mayor had dropped off a few days before. After I wrote her an e-mail to tell her we were having work done, she brought us all the forms and papers we needed to file a déclaration with the authorities.
When we went to the village hall on Tuesday, our neighbor-mayor took us on a little tour of the premises. The building has been refurbished — the façade sandblasted, the walls inside painted. The mayor seemed quite proud. The lobby is painted in two shades of violet, one lighter and one darker, for contrast. Her office is in two shades of gray, in the same style. Her desk is a big clear glass table with lots of curves and no angles. We'd never seen the mayor's office before.
One very funny thing we noticed is that our mairie has the required, official portrait of the Président de la République — Nicolas Sarkozy, right now — hanging on a wall... but behind an open door! That made us laugh, because from what we've gathered our mayor is not at all a Sarkozy supporter.
Madame le Maire then handed us off to the man who runs the front office and deals on a day-to-day level with village residents like us. He looked through our file, added some information on a couple of pages, and told us what other papers we needed to furnish. For example, we needed to add a cut-away drawing of the space we are converting, showing its length and width. That made two drawings. We also supplied half a dozen photos.
We had to measure the whole house to get the figures we needed to fill out the forms. They wanted to know the surface area of the whole house (la surface brute, about 350 sq. meters) and then the surface area of the parts of the house that could conceivably be finished off as living space (la surface nette, about half as much). This is probably for tax purposes. The only modification we need actual permission for is the roof windows, because they will change the exterior look of the house.
To fill out the papers, we had to calculate and report the dimensions of the garage, the terrace, and the parts of the attic where the sloping ceiling is too low for the space to be considered aménageable, or convertible in to usable living space under the law. In the attic, the usable space starts where there is six feet of headroom or more. The rest is usable for storage or whatever, but it doesn't count as living space for tax purposes.
I think our taxes will increase on the basis of the new square footage (or meterage) of the house's living area, but I'm not sure. This morning I have to go back to the mairie to turn in the completed forms with required additions.