December 06, 2007
Sometimes, a woman just comes undone. And when that happens, it's not a pretty sight.
This isn't about food, this isn't about France. This is about being as smart and stubborn as one Barge Captain can be because life on a 65-ton inanimate object can sometimes be a bit... crazy making. But when pushed to the wall, I come out fighting and no amount of cooking therapy can tame me. There are a thousand stories in my Long Village; this is just one of them.
When the Englishman and I bought the Julia Hoyt, a lifetime ago, in the Freeze-land of northeast Holland, the first thing we did was find a sweet little woodstove that fit the look of the turn of the century barge. In a second hand shop in Enkhuizen, I found this highly polished, faceted aubergine-colored bijou of a Deville stove. And although the name of the stove says "Osaka" (remember- it was the time of Japanaiserie deco) we called her Darth Vader- the dark glowing helmet-like cast iron stove masking the sizzling heat within. She has an elegant fan that rattles the damper between "lent, moyen, vie" and the enameled surface is a gleaming deep purple. Folkloric and functional, she stood in the place of honor for many winters.
Later when the Julia Hoyt had nested in the Southwestern South of France and the super efficient fuel-oil furnace found a thermostat and delivery service, Darth was retired (at the instance of an ex) to decorative status in the sitting room of the Relais de Camont.
However, nothing will make a girl go green faster than watching her hard earned euros/dollars/pounds pour into the fuel tank. Think of what I could do in Paris over Christmas with that loot? I began looking at solutions as the green wave hits France but it took a garlic breath of fresh air called Riana writing a post about her Hobo cooking challenge on her wood stove to kick me into action.
Transporting Darth from the house to the boat was relatively easy thanks to my new all rubber two-wheeled wheelbarrow. I can't even imagine how much the cast iron babe weighs... at least or as much as my 100-pound Bacon. Conjuring up an Egyptian engineer spirit, I tipped the wheelbarrow over the stove and the righted it with stove intact... and inside. Next hurdle, the gangplank.
At just over 18 inches wide, it is often the best test of sobriety in Gascony; only tee-totalers and experienced captains can maneuver the plank after a serious evening fête. But a dirty bath mat and a large paper bag served as the lubrication needed to drag the stove across the aluminum rails and tip'er into the wheelhouse and up the steps. 'Pink' thinking.
Hmmm. Now how to get Darth back into her place of honor, the salon, where the old cast iron pipe that passes through the steel deck still stands waiting for the new stove piping. I tried hefting her. Besides getting my hands tattooed with soot, I couldn't really get a purchase and descend 4 steep steps. I couldn't lift it- period. Ok, I really didn't want to lift it either. Seemed like the smartest thing I decided in ages. So I did what I always do, walk away and let it think itself into a solution. and then I called a friend.
As Shauna discovered recently Sweet Judy in Tuscany is more than a gracious hostess when visiting her Florence stomping grounds. She's a dynamic problem solver and a great cheerleader. And when she said, "Andrea uses an old bedspread to drag stuff around", long life lightbulbs lit up all over my brain. First I tried rigging a cardboard ramp- NOT. Next I took the bedspread throw from the couch and padded all the steps down to the salon floor. I tipped the stove on it's back and just like "Winnie the Poo", she went thump, thump, thump and rested gently on the bottom step. After that it was an easy slide across the varnished floors to her resting space.
And there she sits...5 days and 7 hardware store trips later. I have the pipes, I have some of the connections; the trouble is nothing fits exactly from one system to the other. My favorite hardware boys said wait until Thursday (that would be today) and they would have the rest of the pieces. This impatient DIYer has finally given in...
As soon as she is hooked up and with her mica windows glowing, I know I'll forget the frustration and trauma and sink into the couch covered with the bedspread and read about those floating 'gyptians in Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass- a great winter read when playing hooky from the real world.
Posted by Kate Hill at Thursday, December 06, 2007