Gibbons

There are 42,000 Grand Electors in France. They are the Great and Good and sponsor candidates for the presidency. Most of them are maires and most remain inert. But ours was one of the 1829 sponsors of Macron. Fillon got most with 3535, Le Pen a mere 627. It augurs well and if our boy does good, he will be reminded of his sponsor. It is odd that so many leading politicians these days seem actively unpleasant. Macron looks rather a petal, but we don’t yet know him very well.
Our tree chopping gang are functionaries, employed by the department. Their days start at 8am, but that’s when they report in to their yard. They arrive in the village about 9 and take some time setting up shop. They get a bit of work in till lunchtime and manage to get in a bit more afterwards before they have to pack up their kit in time to knock off at their depot. They wanted the village’s electricity supply cut for a week, but it’s been haggled down to five hours on a Friday morning. I once watched, transfixed, when a similar team descended on a street near the British Museum. They and their chainsaws swung like gibbons from tree to tree. The remains were fed into shredders and they were gone in a couple of hours.

Diversions

The two main routes into the village are lined by 80 plane trees, all in rude health. Today the bi or triennial pruning has begun. The job will likely take three weeks and diversions will be in place for the duration. The pruning and its cost has depended on dextrous work on the maire’s telephone. The longer I live in France, the more I understand that who you know is what makes things happen. It may be the same in the UK, but perhaps I knew nobody of influence there, so never encountered similar networks. Here I came across it with my first speeding ticket a month or two after I arrived. I wrung my hands for a day or two before seeking advice. ‘Why did you not come to me straight away? I could have contacted my friend and it would have been annulled.’ Bullshit, I thought to myself. But I am an innocent no longer.
The simplest daily dog walk is along a farm track a few hundred yards down the hill from the village. This year it will be taken over by melons. Great swaths of plastic are being laid out across the fields by teams of immigrant workers. These people keep the countryside functioning and it’s hard to understand why Le Pen has so many rural supporters when the need for them is thrust in one’s face. ‘I couldn’t live on a farm,’ said a neighbour. ‘The poison from all the sprays is very dangerous. Here in the village we are safe.’ I could do with a bit of local spraying to keep the mozzies down but it might be more effective if a householder a few doors down the street did something to stop his septic tank erupting in the field behind the mairie. He thinks the commune should pay for the repair. The rest of us don’t and things might eventually turn ugly.

Poison


We sat outside a cafe on the first warm evening of the year while Scotland was comprehensively filleted on a 10-foot screen inside. A mournful 50 year-old riot policeman told us he was probably going to lose his job since he had been caught too many times pissed on duty. A grim life, he said, but very well paid. He spends time stuck in barracks in places like Corsica waiting for chances to beat up those who trouble the state and there’s nothing to do but drink. You can’t hold on to a wife since you’re away too much for unlimited periods. Since he fell down some stairs and hurt himself in front of his commanding officer, he’s been suspended. His employment prospects were bleak. Everyone knew that you hung on till retirement because the benefits and pension were so good. An ex-CRS man must have sinned in some spectacular way and nobody would hire one.
A rat came to the bird table, a first. The mairie holds a crateload of poison and some this has been placed on top of the oil tank in the shed, which seems to be its route into our property. I don’t mind rats but others do.

Bollard

The Satnav threw a wobbly in the midst of a maze of narrow streets in Montauban. They were all one-way and there was no apparent reason which direction they should choose to go. So we followed a car that seemed to be going in the right direction. Mistake. A couple of hundred yards further and the road was barred by bollards, so was the next and the next. They were automatic bollards barring any but residents with the correct gizmo on their cars from accessing their compound and we had followed a resident, fortunately before the bollard thrust its way through the floor of the car. After a bit of hand wringing we found the woman we had followed and she did the business with her gizmo and set us free.
Spring has sprung, the grass doth grow and the grandson has begun work on putting up his garage/ workshop next door. His gallant copine is his navvy. It’s not too noisy so far but I can foresee a summer with a churning concrete mixer over the hedge. That assumes he’ll keep going and doesn’t damage himself. He was off games yesterday after he dropped a log on his foot.

Pizza

We have a meeting in late morning tomorrow to discuss this year’s village fete. About thirty locals will be there. The clan patriarch was round a couple of days ago to take our lunch orders, paid for by the surplus from last year. The choice was restricted to pizza, not my favourite, but mine should be seafood. I hope without whelks.
The matriarch is at that stage of life when she yo-yos in and out of hospital. She’s home at the moment. One of her sons told me that a cousin of hers had died a day or two ago and will be funeralised in the abbey at Moissac. He was a bit dodgy apparently but left a large litter. I asked how many cousins he had. He shrugged. His mother comes from several generations that all had a minimum of four children apiece, often with a variety of partners. This tradition has continued is still continued. His cousins will be counted by the hundred.
A string of 100+ cranes passed over yesterday heading north. They fly higher than geese and there are more of them in a skein. The noise, utterly different from geese is what makes you lift your head.

Ponytail

It is odd that to buy goods from the likes of eBay or Amazon, it is almost always cheaper to go to the UK sites rather the French. My neighbour has discovered this and he has also discovered that if he gets me to buy on his behalf, it saves on the conversion rate because I can buy in £s and he gives me back €s. It’s very little skin off my nose, except when he scours the UK for odd parts for his cars on my computer. But I’ve bought an iPhone for him and the vendor just shoved it in an envelope and it got lost/nicked in the post. I tap the button tomorrow to demand the money back, but it’s been hassle.
I must lose a day of my life every month wrestling with the computer. The damn thing ate a year’s worth of emails a couple of days ago, so I leapt into action, checked my back up and did all sorts of other clever things, none of which worked. And I found that my back up backs up but I appear unable to access it. I am pretty well immune to road rage, but computer rage is something else.
The kestrels are busy again. It’s the third year running in the same nest hole. And some people came to look at the chateau along with the agent. The main man was short, very stout, dark, 40, with a ponytail and clearly a lower grade Russian oligarch. They were caught in noteworthy rainsquall that I hope they took as an omen to leave well alone.

Weave

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.

First link

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.

Stump

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.

Stoker

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.