Diary of a Marked W•man

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Paris, March 2007

Sun. the 11th

Fri. the 9th I had interview at home with Mme Pambou to renew my Contrat d'Insertion. It was a quarter after three when I finally took the cold water compresses off my eyelids and looked at my watch. Just 45 minutes to get ready. She showed up fifteen minutes early before I had time to drink my "morning" cuppa. And I wasn't dressed yet! I called thru the door and asked her to please wait a minute. After she was in I told her why I made her wait. She said "So this is a hindrance to your work?" I said these horrible pains happen only when I'm lying in bed, and just after saying it for a brief moment I felt like a complete fool, as if this was totally impossible. The truth is that when I am awakened from sleep by the pain, I have to stay awake for as long as it take for the pain to dissipate, and be made uncomfortable by the necessity of keeping my head horizontal so that the compresses won't slip off my eyes. Then I drift to sleep again eventually, only to be violently awakened again by the brutal pain. And so it goes, until I wake up naturally two or three hours later than I would have without the pain.

She's a black lady. Just after sitting at the table she said that there had been abuse, that some people had been collecting RMI allowance without signing a contract. I asked how this was possible, but she did not reply. I don't see how it is possible unless there is corruption somewhere.

She explained that there has been a re-organization in the sector and that now the municipal and departmental social services have merged, that some social workers have gone to other services and that because they are running out of space at the rue Daviel address, her service is now being housed graciously and temporarily at the 13th Arrt. City Hall where the municipal social service is already located. I asked if there was a piece of legislation to formalize the arrangement and she said no. I said there was a lot of new office space in the district near the Mitterrand library nearby. I said I was a little surprised at the constant change of social workers. I never saw one more than twice. Whatever happened to Mme Eveillard, and Mme Lecat before her? She said a little mockingly that there was nothing against me personally in all this and I shouldn't take it the wrong way. But I wasn't making any reproach, nor complaining at all, just asking a simple question so I was a bit surprised at her reply.

I showed her all the stuff I had made during the past five months


Sashiko: a 50 x 100cm indigo panel divided into three smaller panels, one with a woven pattern, the second with a wavy patter, very pretty, the third, top one, a single big stylized five-petal flower with one quarter of this motif repeated in each corner.

Assisi: 20cm elongation of panels made last year, mounted as pockets for the two back-packs. The part for the green motif was very time consuming since at both ends the motif thins out there is more background, and it is the background that is filled-in, the motif being left empty as usual in Assisi style.

Appliqué: one 35cm and one 40cm diameter round medallions in the reverse-appliqué style. Both have a design inspired by central Asia felt motifs. The smaller one, for trial, is black and royal blue cotton poplin. Once the appliqué part was finished I quilted the entire outline of the motif on a cotton batting, then quilted some more a double line running parallel to the motifs on both the black and the blue fields. By pulling the thread rather taut, I obtained a pronounced puckering which I find quite pretty. Satisfied with the result, I appliquéd the medallion to a black circle to bring the total diameter to 40cm, the size of ready-made cushion filling.

The bigger one is made of a layer of blue silk that has tan reflections, and a layer of yellow-ochre cotton. I hesitated between a more orange color and that one and chose that one finally, which is a thicker cotton chintz (used on the matte side) than the orange poplin. The motif is also more elaborate. I found while quilting around the motif that this cotton doesn't lend itself well to puckering and so I didn't do any quilting on the blue and the yellow fields. The contrast between the shimmering silk and the matte ochre cotton is a treat to the eye, in addition to the aesthetic ambiguity of motif versus background (which is which?) typicql of this style.

* * * * *

I also showed the lady the two tablet woven bands I commissioned from Guido Gelhaar, saying I didn't make them myself but am going to from now on with my new Staudigel loom which I showed her, putting one of the bands on it to show how it works but not mentioning the tablets and explaining that many women make their own handbags now and there is not much in the way of handles and straps and I intend to fill that void.

She showed a lot of appreciation and complimented me several times on my creativity. She proposed to do a "mixte" contract that gave me other tasks in addition to the work related ones, since I need medical treatment. But I didn't want to commit myself to consulting or getting treatment fort my knee or teeth in view of the unethical attitude towards me of the professionals I have consulted. So I said I didn't want to be obliged... and she cut me off saying there was no question to compel me to seek treatment, and she decided to make a contract like the previous ones.

She asked if I knew my CAF number and if not she could find it and fill it in later on so I got up and fetched my RMI file and took out my previous contract. She copied my CAF number and read the rest. She asked if I was owner or renter of my apartment. I said that my family says I own it but they don't give me the papers proving ownership, but I don't pay any rent. She explained that if I was renting I would be entitled to collect more money to help pay the rent, but since I wasn't paying any rent she checked the box that said I own the apartment. She copied word for word what Ms Eveillard had written and after she had already written two lines in the box that the RMI recipient is supposed to fill in person I mentioned it to her and she handed the paper to me, so I zrote zhqt I intend to do in the next contrqct period then I signed it. She said that in general professional contracts are systematically renewed, whereas social or mixte contracts are not, so I shouldn't worry too much about getting my contract renewed.

I said I intended to take photographs of my various pieces and create a web site to sell them, but I haven't bought a camera yet. I also need a scanner. I said I had started saving a little money to buy a camera. She said if my project was feasible the RMI admin could help me financially. Then she asked if there was anything I needed that she could help me with and I reviewed mentally all my problems and coudn't think about anything that the RMI admin could help me with.

I asked her to make the contract for seven month instead of six, to compensate for the month I was shorted from my last contract, and she agreed, took a big appointment book out of her purse to check when the end of the seven month from now would fall. This way I will return to the previous schedule of end of March, end of September dates for contract renewal, though I hope I won't need this service much longer.

After she was gone I realized I felt a great release and understood that I had been working hard to deserve the renewal of my contract, which grants me a livelihood for another six or seven months.

After finishing my last piece I had time left over during which I have done some hand laundry and house cleaning. I'm pretty much up-to-date with the news, so the only thing left for me to do, after abundant rest and relaxation, was to update my diary.

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