The council met yesterday and approved all the works that are due – burying cables, changing lighting, doing up the presbytery and hocking ourselves with loans for several years to come. One of our number is flamboyantly camp, another is going through a sex change and never says anything. One disapproves of something at every meeting, just to show she can. Two of the three expat members have difficulty in following most the deliberations. And two are usually at work and don’t turn up. Democracy in action. Fortunately the maire and our clerk have a grip on things. We’re entirely responsible for the upkeep of the church and, though we knew the roof of the sacristy need work done, we were depressed to hear that there are dodgy roof timbers throughout. More money needed. It was decided to suspend creating disabled access until we found out whether there would be a building to access in future.
The chasse killed nine boar in a single day. This was considered by some natives as rather gross. I believe that those who kill are the ones who conserve so I don’t get that excited about it. More interesting is how they managed it since the chasse is fuelled throughout the day by copious quantities of alcohol. It’s not much of a concern for the chasseurs since the gendarmes, the prefect and the sous prefect are all hunters. It’s only a worry for those on the roads when they weave their way home.

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A great wind wuthered through the region for 48 hours. It shook loose the securing rope of one of the church bells and the gale set it tolling, so it felt as if we were living through endless funerals. I was told, as usual when it blows hard, that this was the Autan wind that drives men mad, but the Autan comes from the Pyrenees south west of here and this thundered through from the east. I didn’t argue. My pronunciation was corrected. I said Autan and I should have said Autang like the natives. When I lived in Scotland I called them cows rather than coos, so I will probably stay with Autan. https://1drv.ms/v/s!AvUY23Q98gVTtgQmNuJeY5lnnGlB.
The maire has given up on the chateau. A couple of experts clambered all over the roof a year ago to check on its condition and failed to replace the tiles they moved and so water now gets in right along the roof ridge. That’s it. The asking price remains at €400k without a flicker of interest. I wouldn’t touch it for €100. Its next trick is to squash trespassers as it crumbles. I hope that will be a problem for the owner rather than the commune.


A brace of God botherers knocked on the door this afternoon – very neat, very polite and speaking to me in English. ‘Good afternoon. Here’s a pamphlet that explains that they’re teaching evolution in schools to our children.’ For a split second I felt the red mist rise before I told them I wasn’t interested and shut the door in their simpering faces. There are already enough ghastly people from Brexiteers to Trump talking noxious crap at us without them.
My American coz Ian has just turned 88. I made contact with him and he returned with a limerick he’d just penned.
The dick of our President Trump
Is a limp and miniscule stump.
When he fondles his thighs
It refuses to rise
So he ‘Tweets’ when he once used to hump.
He teaches English to immigrants, lectures on the programme before concerts in three cities, chairs his local housing association, flies round the world and makes me feel inadequate. I have suggested contacting the president and have him declared a living national treasure.


These days my email programme tells me it can’t send encrypted messages and that it lacks a security certificate. I can’t work out how to rectify the situation, so I live with it. In fact this computer is studded with minor flaws that I’ve learned to work round. However I had a professional tecchie here the other day who sorts out such problems for employees of a big company, so I decided to put him to use. I leant on his shoulder to see what he was doing and it soon dawned on me that he was no better at it than me. Granted he was a Windows man and I’ve a Mac, but he said that wouldn’t be a problem. His bedside manner was excellent, telling me that he’d damage nothing and this was the sort of thing he did all day, he’d have it all sorted in a jiffy and kept up a constant soothing patter. I told him to piss off after half an hour, but he managed to make me grateful for nothing and feel awfully good about it.
The point of a wood burner is that it shows a jolly flame. In this house, the heat it gives out could be easily replaced by the CH, but that’s not jolly. But the jolliness is dispersed when you have to clean the glass every time you use it to prevent the operation taking place behind a window of stygian blackness. I have found no easy way to do this and currently employ stove cleaner that is very messy. It may be that the thing requires a much more macho fire than I currently allow, so I’ll play the stoker over the next day or two to see if a clean window is worth the added wood consumption.


A squashed animal on the road brings a pang of regret. When it is still alive, the regret is greater. Was that a damaged kitten that I saw just now? It certainly wasn’t that but it was still skittering around, clearly hurt but with a decent chance of survival if it found a corner in which to curl up. It was a dormouse and I left it to its own devices. Sometimes I aim at such a casualty, but that doesn’t do much for one’s peace of mind. I’ve even cut the odd throat with my trusty Swiss army knife, but that doesn’t feel great either. Occasionally I pick them up, stick them in a box and hope they recover. I once kept a tawny owl for a month, feeding it with dead day-old chicks before releasing it back where I found it. It would perch on the back of a chair with a chicken leg sticking out of either side of its beak. However I normally just pass by on the other side and feel shitty for a while.
I was busily filling in an online form the other day when I realised that it was a phish and I had fallen for it – PayPal, if you’re interested. I stopped in mid keystroke but had still gone further than I should, so I proceeded to cancel my credit card and change my money passwords. I think I’ve got away with it but it was a lesson. I had always thought I was too smart to be suckered but I will be even more suspicious in future.


A heavy overnight frost – the last forecast – followed by a blue sky. A load of logs arrived. It’s the third this year, extravagant but the fire is nice to look at and there’s still two thirds of a tank of oil. I’d just finished stacking them when the angelus rang out from the church and I looked up to watch four deer delicately picking their way in front of the chateau. Who knows how long one’s sojourn is in any place, but there’s still nowhere I’d rather be.
I go to the lovely dentist tomorrow to have one of my few remaining teeth removed. I have no regret. It’s a nasty brute. But I’m beginning to warm to American teeth, a row of perfectly matched and shiny gnashers, preferably large and horse-like. Should I have a new set of falsies made to such a design, or just plug the gap? I shall have a discussion tomorrow. The maire has suggested that the extracted tooth could be encased in gold filigree and encased in a crystal box to become the church’s first reliquary, but I would have to pay for it.


I have always striven to avoid becoming a miserable old fart as my years advance, but it’s very difficult. Trump is a ridiculous man, but he may end up by being much worse than funny, while Brexit is already making the UK a more ignoble place. My neighbour and I have arguments on such subjects. He has a French reverence for democracy. If the people vote for it, then it has to be accepted but I can’t do that. Wrong is wrong and I make such judgements without reference to the ballot box. But, following the inauguration, my neighbour came round to tell me that Trump is unquestionably unhinged and he will surely soon be impeached. OK, but what would follow after him is no improvement and likely to be more effective at disseminating inhumanity.
I should have rung the church bells at a recent funeral, but the instructions on how to do it were missing and nobody else was confident enough to advise me. The priest was a delightful old man and shuffled through a tottery version of a highland fling after he had established I was Scots. The church needed a thorough sweep before it was sufficiently seemly for the occasion, but splashes of owl shit perforce remained. A rather dreary stone cross inside has been deemed important and the building has consequently been elevated to be part of the Patrimoine de France.


There are 195 communes in the Tarn and Garonne. We conseillers municipaux, some 2,000 of us, received a festive card from our representative in Paris. The maires, so far as I can establish, got about 20 such cards from conseillers départementales. That’s a conservative estimate of 6,000 cards. Perhaps a €15,000 cost to the taxpayers.
A maire is as busy as he wants to be. The huge majority of them in the department are farmers. The mairie here used to slumber through its opening hours because the maire wasn’t quite sure what he was supposed to do and didn’t know how to do it anyway, so he rarely received visitors. Our current incumbent is not like that and clocks up nearly as much in travelling costs between here and Montauban as he receives in salary. To be fair, the intensive rounds of seasonal parties thrown by the great and the good may not be classified as duty.
Most inhabitants of Western Europe seem to have had colds since Christmas. I got rid of one and jumped straight into another with scarcely a break. Soggy tissues can be used for cleaning the glass on the front of the fire.


The maire has all his ducks in a row for money this year. We’re turning what used to be the priest’s house into two flats. That’ll cost €200k. Not much less is needed to bury all the electrics, which will piss off the birds that line the wires, and redo the street lighting to cut the electricity bill. Some of the money is coming from the department, some from the prefect, some from the region, some borrowed from the bank and a small amount from our own funds. Some of it will be paid up front and some in tranches over three years. The house is the only one that’ll bring in an income, but this depends on finding tenants who will pay the rent regularly and not trash the premises. This will not easy and the village has become unstuck on this in the past.
A hard Brexit means that the UK will fall back on the ‘framework’ of the World Trade Organisation. The snag about this is that there is no framework. To do business will require a treaty with each of the 164 members and it takes an average of five years to complete one. Once the UK has been told to get stuffed by the EU for ditching free movement, the negotiators will be awfully busy.


In London playing grandfather. What has changed since my last visit is the number of young women wearing heavy make up. Apparently it’s in case the need to take a selfie suddenly overwhelms them. We horrified ourselves at the Hunterian museum and fled when faced with a great rack of weaponry for going up one’s bottom and went on to the Wallace collection. We lunched in a restaurant on the 38th floor. Balls-achingly trendy, filled with beautiful people taking photos of each other, Chinese youths with western arm candy and Lamborghini keys displayed on the table, and one snake-like young John Travolta look alike with his shirt open to his belly button billing and cooing at his Chinese girl friend while her parents looked on disapprovingly from the other side of the table. Most of the waiters were hipsters who wear the same beard and flat hairstyle and are consequently difficult to tell apart.