Claw

There were a scary couple of days when mist crept up from the valley and long trousers were needed. But no longer; all is back to blue, the temp seems set for 25 and higher ahead and we’re on the terrace again. The swallows are still tooling around but other avian wimps have all gone south.
I go to the prefecture next week to see if I’m worthy of becoming French. A letter has been slipped to le Grand Fromage of the department, now a minister in Paris, asking him to fast track my application. In my experience, admittedly in the UK, such attempts to influence the process can be counterproductive, but I’m told it’s the best way to achieve the desired result in France. I know one American and another Brit who have such interviews next week.
At the moment we have four dogs here during the day and three at night. In the mornings the sky can rain shit as I flick the latest harvest over the hedge from the turd trowel. The smallest dog was at the vet again earlier in the week, this time to remove a twisted claw. The animal is fearless and loses any instinct for self-preservation when in pursuit of its favourite toy. I was puzzled by how fast it can run, keeping up with and even passing dogs that would be expected to outpace it. But I looked at it the other day and noticed that its back legs are disproportionately long, a bit like a hare’s.

Plums

I rise from my bed about 7am, come downstairs and potter through the online newspapers. I also hitch up my nightie to show as much leg as possible and zap any mozzies that are attracted with the electric tennis racket. Normally they don’t bother me much but over the last week I have been well nibbled.
About a dozen melons and about 15 kilos of plums are the latest freebies that have come our way. We know nobody who would do anything other than scream with horror should another melon turn up on the doorstep. Plums are not quite at that stage yet – but 15 kilos? I had a friend, a South African academic, who in apartheid days would buzz round Johannesburg on a motorbike throwing tomatoes at policemen. Melons, rotting melons, would have been even more fun.
The matriarch has return from hospital to a changed environment. A couple of her sons have spent days with a chainsaw and a digger hacking their way through the jungle that she encouraged to grow round her house. Surprisingly she didn’t go ape as everyone expected. Her second house is more of a problem. She has a daughter who has need of it but it is so crammed with stuff that she has hoarded that one can no longer get through the front door. I have been told she has a maladie.

Loot

We’re used to mice scurrying over the false ceiling that covers much of the ground floor, but I’ve just heard one pad across above my head like a prowling lion. Perhaps it’s time I called in the chasse. The collared doves now come to schmooze with us when we’re on the terrace. They’re also often at it like rabbits on the railings. A visiting Frenchman marvelled at the phenomenon and said that the hunting season is open on them until the end of February. I won’t shoot them myself and I hope that they will stay sufficiently close to the village to come through it safely. At the moment they are as interested in water as seed since this is likely the driest spell I’ve experienced since coming here. The natives whinge about the heat, but I close my eyes and think of Scotland and manage to cope.
My interview – said to last an hour and a half – at the naturalisation section of the prefecture in Toulouse, begins to loom. I am unable to complete all the required paperwork but I hope that a letter proclaiming my wonders from the maire may compensate a bit. I have managed to identify a few mega great uncles who were killed fighting for France against England at the battle of Verneuil in 1424 which may also help, but I won’t talk about the Napoleonic wars when various greats did a lot of French bashing – and looting.

Monoglot

The melon harvest is beginning to wind down. This is a relief since many hectares are rented in the vicinity and tractors and trailers shuttle from the fields to unload their cargo at the depot a mile or two west from here. The two buses that carry the field gangs spend much of the day in the large car park at the bottom of the village. Their drivers are monoglot Spaniards and spend the day processing gently round the hamlet. Occasionally they are called upon to pilot a tractor. It is difficult to know how many tractors and trailers are involved in the operation but eight roared through the village in procession at the end of yesterday.
To sort out something dull I went to the doc yesterday. We had our usual brisk exchange and he picked the telephone to make an appointment for me to see a consultant next Wednesday. The delay, he explained, was to allow time for the results of a blood test to be available. I agree that the French system may not be free at the point of delivery but the amount of money one pays is not a consideration for anyone – native or expat – that I know. And I would prefer not to be marooned in the middle of some months-long waiting list and be at the mercy of whatever strikes come to pass.
The doc has decided that I speak good French and he takes no prisoners when it comes to conversation. I have noticed that people consider that I speak better French than I do. It may be due to having a reasonably convincing accent. This is faintly disturbing since I can find myself too often skipping from noun to noun when someone speaks to me, a bit like jumping across a pond on stepping stones without much idea of what lies between.

Cracks

The heat shuts down the village. All shutters are barred and nobody goes out to play with their noisy machinery, except the grandson who mucked out his car with a leaf blower. Alarming cracks are beginning to appear in houses as the clay beneath dries out, but the maires will be declaring a natural catastrophe, which will make the insurance companies pay for repairs. I don’t think this house has any new or expanding fissures but next door has a problem and I’ve heard of others. The lawn by the house has subsided by several inches, but at least I don’t have to cut the grass at the moment.
The matriarch had her three operations and is still bristling with tubes in intensive care. There was initial gloom as to her prospects but she is rallying. The junior dog, a tough little beast, suddenly began to scream in pain. It was taken to the vet who anaesthetised it and pulled from its ear a bloody grass dart that was burrowing into its eardrum.

Slide

At this time of year one spends time trying to dodge melons. A neighbouring farmer wouldn’t take no for an answer and came round the side of his house with a full wheelbarrow. 10 was the lowest number we could escape with. You drop them on nearby doorsteps and flee before the householder can come out to decline them.
I was introduced to Pokemon Go by grandchildren, a craze that seems to have erupted over the past month. In the botanical garden in Toulouse more than 50 people of all ages were clustered by one of the gates busily stroking their telephones to catch the Pokemons that had been lured to the vicinity. I stopped updating my understanding of technological things before the smart phone came out. I’ll stay that way but it won’t be that long before I’m barely able to function in the modern world.
The only time a swimming pool could be useful in the garden is when children visit, but the swimming lake with unrivalled slides is only about 10 minutes away and there the thrill is clogging, finding someone with a fat arse to back up the water flow to create a mighty skoosh that hurtles you down into the water before the life guards get there to tell you to desist. I did spend five minutes in the water one day when the thermometer hit 35, but it wasn’t that much fun.

55p

Except where the outflow from the septic tanks seeps into the lawn, grass growth has stopped. The clay has shrunk revealing fissures in the lawn, which is bumpy and sags in places. The sag is irritating where it meets the tiled path by the house as this sinks and tries to pull itself off the house. Last year I touched up the resulting crack but I won’t bother again since the same thing will happen every year.
Small family is here for a week. Much time will be spent by the local swimming lake that has two slides plunging into the water. Supervising adults cluster beneath the few shade trees where the air is filled with the scent of cannabis.
The village’s Mr Noisy who has a buzzing machine for every eventuality has taken his family off on holiday. His immediate neighbour has seized the chance to have folk to stay without these boytoys adding to the hullabaloo of the cicadas.
My Frankification has begun to progress once again. The District Secretary of Kandy in Sri Lanka says he will produce my mother’s birth certificate for the rupee equivalent of c55p, paid by bank draft. It’s such an absurd price that I’m sending him c£15 and hope that will cover postage and not make him think I’m trying to dash him a bribe.

Hot dogs

Ninety sat down for supper on Saturday in the square the other side of our hedge. The village matriarch, who is due in hospital this week for three operations on her innards, presided happily in her festive wig at the top of one of the three tables. Traditionally the locals eat lunch barbecued by the maire on the lawn in front of the sale de fetes on Sunday. I sat beside the matriarch and, after placing her chewing gum on the table, she chomped her way through three hot dogs and two portions of chips and told stories of the network of tunnels that burrow their way between landmarks in the surrounding countryside, most reputed to have been built by the Resistance I have never lived anywhere that isn’t said to have similar tunnels, usually stuffed with gold or lost bagpipers, and I’ve yet to see one.
A very jolly circular lady whom I understood to be the deputy chairperson of the departmental council came and sat on our terrace to admire the chateau. She indicated that there would be no grants to help preserve the place and is the only person I’ve met who shares my desire to watch the place decay into an even more picturesque ruin. If I’d caught her name, I’d probably vote for her.

Scrub

We are busying ourselves for the village fete this weekend. Bunting all down the street, big fat supper on Fri, metal detecting jamboree, a vide grenier, lots of petanque and a 2-night disco that goes on till 3am opposite our bedroom window. In the last couple of hours, the only dancer is usually an old lady who totters round in circles waving her hankie.
The village only obtained an ‘encouragement’ in the Flowery Village competition about which the maire was so pissed off that he is threatening to write a snotty letter to the judges. He was also advised by the prefect that his municipal councillors could be targets for inadequate brown youths with beards and sharp knives since we are functionaries of the state.
The grounds of the chateau are filled with roaring tractors chopping down the scrub to entice prospective purchasers. It doesn’t really help.

Bags

The chasse lunch took place on Saturday. 150 people sat down and nobody became incoherent or objectionable through strong drink. Chasse lunches are one of the few occasions in this country when such behaviour is not uncommon. The average chasseur gets tanked up, often on a lethal home-made eau de vie, before he sets out on a hunt, gets further tanked over a long lunch and celebrates some more at the end of the day. It makes for a dangerous sport and one that rarely results in large bags. But our chasse has perfected the art of cooking boar. I think there were eight courses.
The kestrels have raised four young. Two are scrambling about on the roofs of the chateau. The other two still stand like sentries at the entrance to the nest hole, but they all seem to snuggle up together at night.