Saturday, December 08, 2012

The French Mistake

I live in a house that was built in 1895. Next door to us, on either side, are apartment buildings that were wedged in sometime in the sixties or seventies. The rest of our block is a patchwork of styles and eras, but it is apparent that ours is the oldest dwelling in the vicinity. My wife, who has a fondness for things historic, has spent some time researching our neighborhood. She has become ever more committed to keeping our house, or at least its outward appearance, true to the time in which it first sprang up from the Fruitvale district.
Which is why I'm sure she'll be devastated to read the story of an eighteenth century chateau that was recently razed "by mistake" in France. The mayor's office in Yvrac said last Wednesday that workers who were hired to renovate the grand 140,000-square-foot manor and tear down a small building on the same estate in southwest France mixed them up. Not everyone knows that the term "oops" has its origins in the French language. Originally, however it was spelled "oups," and pronounced in a very guttural way, in order to fully display the measure of self-loathing required from the kind of failure associated with a country that provided us with Waterloo. It might also bring to mind a Benny Hill skit, or a film with Laurel and Hardy. This one might be more along the lines of performance art.
The current owner, Russian business man Dmitry Stroskin who planned the whole renovation, said that he plans to build an exact replica on the spot where the pile of rubble now sits. What would Napoleon think of this?

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