I did the airport run a few evenings ago and, in the pouring rain on the way back, the car sloughed off its back bumper and the accompanying plastic trim. I pulled into someone’s drive and tried to put it back but the circumstances were against me, so I stuffed it into the back of the car and took it home. By 9am the following morning, the maire had replaced it and locked it in position with a couple of screws. The car becomes tattier by the day but it remains the quickest, most comfortable and reliable ride I have ever owned. It’s due for its control technique next November, but the rules change in April and it will never get through the new pollution regulations. Consequently it will be presented for MoT at the end of March, which should give it another couple of years before it’s finally put down. The maire is a bit depressed about it. He’s been wanting to sell me his 2nd best BMW 4X4, brown, for the last couple of years, but I don’t live in Chelsea so I resist.
The most recent potential buyers of the chateau are turning up mob handed over the weekend with assorted experts in tow and intend to spend a couple of intensive days trying to work out the hows, whats and whens of a restoration. Perhaps even the how much. That is the killer. There’s no doubt that it could be done up but its consequent value would not come close to the cost of rehabilitation.
My venerable US coz lives within earshot of the Florida school shootng. I watched its pupils gliding home on their skateboards when we were staying with him and thought how cool they looked.


A column of black smoke from the motorway junction was the reason for a diversion up the hill yesterday. The farmers were having a demo. We came down and tried to return to the original road, but that was blocked by tractors at a roundabout. We waited for a bit before a many pointed turn took us back another way. We wanted to go through Golfech to walk the dogs. We negotiated yet another roundabout blockage in the shadow of the nuke’s cooling towers by sneaking through the back streets of the village but just beyond it was a barrier across the main road a yard high. We parked beside a lorry and let the dogs run. I strolled up to the barrier. It was a remarkable concoction of ancient slurry intertwined with sheets of plastic, odd bits of wood, corrugated iron, fertiliser bags and old tyres. As a one-time coarse farmer I recognised it immediately as the contents of that noisome pit where all the farm nasties end up even though you know that it has to be mucked out out some day. This chap had managed to dump his on the open road and left it for the council to clear up.
There were some very pissed off drivers stuck and would have still been stuck when we wound our way home by a circuitous route an hour later. I hope the European Commission took note.


A new potential buyer for the chateau has popped up. In fact they popped to the extent that they were given pizza for lunch by the maire after they missed the appropriate slot in the local restaurants. They are trying to sidestep the agent who demands an extraordinary 8% of the purchase price for her services. The estate agent trade in this part of the world appears to be dominated by British women and a grim business it seems to be since property takes an age to sell, particularly since the trickle of Brits who used to come here has largely dried up. The French seem to rely on a chalked phone number in front of a property for sale and it may work. Two local houses have been thus sold in the village although each of them took five years to find a buyer. I was curious about such a property a dozen miles away and looked for it on line. The number belonged to a notaire but nowhere did they have details of the house. The village is in the middle of nowhere but has a stock of 18th century houses so grand that I wondered who had built them and why. I even went to the mairie and asked the history of the place. The maire looked as if I was insane. Who gave a shit? History is not considered that interesting here. Even the chateau’s is obscure and half a dozen versions exist.


The chateau buyer has withdrawn. One began to have doubts when he asked for ideas to bring in revenue while it was being renovated – camp site, market garden, small holding were his own suggestions. The land has a value and there might be a few quid in scrap value for its building materials but, as has been the case for years, it needs someone with money to burn to fall in love with it, as there are plenty of smart buildings around for half the cost of putting it right. And that cost continually rises as it decays. Whoopee for a peaceful summer, although there is a dark cloud on the horizon in the shape of another interested party.
I heard of yet another village that is riven with dissent, the cause being the prospective sale of a €15,000 pigeonnier. Such strife seems to be the norm. Our own dissidents have broken all contact with the rest of the community, which prevents any more clashes.

Grown up

At this time of year, strange listless days flow into each other. The weather is often not worth going outside to look at and the dogs gratefully hunker down to avoid it. I use the time to break the back of articles that I can tidy up for later in the year. That’s when I’m not doing bugger all.

The only hard evidence of the prospective sale of the chateau is the frequency with which the alarm goes off when another expert goes over to produce advice, estimates etc. I was about to be given a tutorial on how to turn the thing off but yet another expert interrupted it.

I’m due to give a talk to the clan in Scotland in the summer. ‘What’s the title of your talk? Do you need a projector, a screen? A computer?’ Oh, dear. It’s beginning to sound a bit grown up.


Although not every detail is yet completed it appears that the chateau has new owners. He’s a Scot and she is English. Who’d’ve thought it?
Another curiosity was the examination of the headless corpse meant to be that of the decapitated Lord Lovat executed in the Tower in 1747. My US-based coz – now in his late 80s and unnaturally perky with it – is supposed to be descended from his younger brother and thus has been robbed of his rightful inheritance. This week the corpse turned out to be that of a young woman, hence no useful DNA could be found to establish the truth – or at least the likelihood – of this claim. However this has concentrated minds of those who are interested and various researchers have come, blinking, into the light of day and seem to have proved the claim correct. I don’t think this adds much to the grand scheme of things but my coz will be shepherding a gaggle of old ladies to France this summer and I will be properly respectful.


Like most of rural France we burn logs. We also have oil heating, but the idea is that the system uses much less oil if the fire is lit and the fuel expense comes out much the same. I have never tested this theory and know nobody who has done so. This season we have been supplied wood of outstanding quality. I’m told it has been seasoned for a minimum of five years and never emits the least crackle or pop. Because the logs are so good, we light the fire more often use more of them. We buy €70 a time and this could be a cord, a stere, a cubic metre, or a tonne, or even half of each. I have no idea about such measurements. But our consumption is much greater than in previous years. I’m hoping our oil bill will reflect this. There can be few service industries whose sales are so directly related to the quality of the product.
I had a friend staying. In the afternoon he’d begin to twitch and then take himself to pound the local roads. I inquired why he felt this need. Because his fitbit told him to. This device is strapped to his wrist and tells him whether or not he is dead. So far the news has been good but to maintain this status he has to take 10,000 steps a day. He recommended I get one but there seems little point in trying to keep healthy so long as I keep smoking.


I collected someone from the airport yesterday evening and found myself mixed up in with the Gloucester rugby team coming off the same aircraft to play Agen. I travelled out with them once before and was awe-inspired by the sheer quantity of beef of which they were constructed. This time they didn’t seem so tall but their bulk was just as impressive and it seemed rather odd that so many of them were travelling in short trousers and displaying their mighty thighs since the temperature was no more than 7 degrees. They were met by fans bearing photographs of individual members of the team who hunted through the crush to find their desired player to sign his likeness. Apparently the flight was mostly the team and their groupies and most of the time they were taking selfies of each other.
My visitor watched them play some French team in the UK. Afterwards the fans all got pissed together. Most of the French missed their flight home and spent the night with their UK counterparts.


I went to get my few remaining teeth checked last week and managed to offend the dentist’s receptionist. Such things are very easily done. I bonjoured her but omitted to do the kisses. I hadn’t realised we were on bisou terms – another complication – and I left her cheek hanging. The first time you see anyone each day, you have to bonjour and bisou if they’re known female and shake hands if they’re not or male. If you have mucky hands you have to proffer a forearm to be shaken. I often forget. And if you’ve forgotten you’ve already bonjoured someone and do it again, they think you’re potty. I have an arrangement with the clerk in the mairie that I’m excused physical contact and we are allowed blow kisses at each other across her desk. I have also arranged fist bumps with Tim next door who’s now 9 and have stopped kissing his big brother as I consider it unseemly to snog a 15 year-old bloke with spots.
This house usually has the pleasant smell of wood smoke at this time of year, but I was hit by the combination of rotting mouse and squashed punaise when I went to find a tool. The punaise I don’t mind that much, but mouse is no fun when the deceased is behind panelling. The air mercifully clears after three days. It’s a grim way to control the mice but none of the other ways seem any better.


A temperature of 17 degrees, as today, is outrageous at the beginning of January. The damn grass shoots up between the towering pyramids of worm casts and even the dogs slither across them in search of a secure footing to drop a turd. The last bout of wild weather brought down an important dead tree at the chateau. With the electricity poles gone and the cables underground it was used as a perch by every passing bird. Jays would sit and glower at adjacent buzzards and every branch could be festooned with collared doves.
An extra 8 cents was added to the cost of diesel at the pumps at the beginning of the year. Bloody Macron, I was told. I thought he was doing rather well with his poll rating back above 50% but no. Unemployment benefit would be cut off if claimants refused more than three jobs offered to them. I said I thought that sounded not unreasonable, particularly if the government loosens bureaucracy and allows more jobs to be created. I was wrong. If a man is a baker, why should he accept any other job? Thatcherism has still to catch on here.