Wednesday, February 18, 2009
A little vacation romance.
A little romance for you today, after all st valentine shouldn’t be forgotten just because his day has past. It’s also a vacation week and the house is stocked with nine souls, and a few others that pass through to visit. It puts me in a romantic mood, the warm house in winter with a lot of activity. During vacation everything seems romantic, even work.
Even migrant work. That’s why I put the three boys in the car after lunch and we headed to the vines. Vacation in the south of france countryside. Pruning vines in the sun that glimmers on the Mediterranean in the distance. What sounds more romantic than that.
Not much, and for a short afternoon it is just that. The taille, like coal mining, is work that kids are actually well suited for. Their short stature gives them a decided advantage - their little backs don’t have to stoop to reach the vines.
They do the pre-taille. Cut the vines back, leaving them long and ripping the tangled rest out of the metal guide wires they cling to. We come along after and just clip the rest down to where they need to be.
For boys, these three were 10,12, and 14, it’s ideal work. At least in it’s concept, if not it’s duration. The basic job involves cutting and ripping and pulling out. You also get furnished with very sharp hand shears. You are outside. You can make as much noise as you want. You also have long whips of various shapes and lengths in your hand at all times with which to flog your co-workers. In short it’s ideal.
The only problem with kids today is they refuse to work all day long. They're just not as productive a in the olden days. Then, I guess you would just take a vine and whip them until they worked efficiently and silently, like those racially mixed kids in the cave, in the Indiana Jones Movie, did. But being neither in the olden days (at least currently they aren’t old, though they said the same thing in 1909, or 1209 for that matter), or in the movies, we just aren’t allowed to whip kids to get them to work. In short, the work day was brief.
Which conveniently worked out well for me. Because even though I work sporadically, I like vacation too, and this kind of workday is just that On vacation one goes to the office with pleasure because you know you can leave when you want. It doesn’t seem like work when you don’t have to do it. Consequently the concept of work is removed from the workplace. It’s a lovely state of being.
After our pancake breakfast at 11:30, we made our thermos of tea, got our shears and off we went to the vines. It was our days outing. It’s like going to a museum, it’s interactive. But in a real way. You are on the land. The french land, and you are in a vineyard.
The work is good for about a half hour of attack mode, a half hour of encouragment mode, a half an hour of prodding mode, and a half hour of horseplay before the shears are discarded and they are romping around in the woods which border the vines. It is all just as I previewed. It’s sunny and we’re all outside. The boys play and I work with the vigneron and his wife for another hour before I call it quits. My good will (and fake farmer status) validated by my even showing up. We were all packed up and leaving long before the sun went down.
After everyone over bandages their tiny blisters we head out to eat. The project being to earn some money and then spend it. We spend it on pizza. What else can you get for 5 euros a head, which is just what the vigneron slipped them all before we left. They are like fisherman back on land after a month at sea. They recount their stories of the work, the tears and travail. I couldn’t be happier - they all agree that migrant farm work should be for someone else.