Scrounger

A neighbour received a summons to the gendarmerie earlier in the week. He couldn’t think of an outstanding sin but it is always wise to respond to such a request. A complaint had been lodged against him. It seems that around Christmas time he had called someone the French equivalent of a Social Security scrounger. He had no recollection of doing so and the concept of fair comment did not seem to be an option. ‘What happens next?’ he asked. ‘Rien.’ It cost him a morning and he is thinking of lodging a complaint himself for defamation.

I suppose the gendarmes must keep records of such things and there must be a room somewhere the size of a cathedral where they are all kept. They will be a treasure trove for social historians in the future. I certainly feature thanks to various altercations with the grandson. He’s been very peaceful of late, as has been the whole village, but I heard that his missus had tried to lay a complaint against me about a year ago but was told to piss off. I have no idea what her grounds may have been.

Lawn

I once lived with a river at the bottom of the garden, quite a good one, with salmon passing through, dippers and otters. Whenever I decided to procrastinate, I would pick up the fishing rod that lay on the bank and cast a questing fly in the direction of Algernon, a small trout, or his neighbour whose name I have forgotten, that lived in an eddy behind a rock. I would quite often catch him and tenderly put him back till next time.

Here my equivalent is weeding the lawn. I hadn’t really taken much notice of it until an early visitor said something irritatingly snotty about its quality. So I decided to do something about it and bought a dagger-like tool. The first weeds I tackled were those that were prickly. Once it was safe to sit down, I moved on to dandelions. Then a couple of species with tenacious roots that I have never bothered to identify – and so on. A breakthrough came when a visiting native said in surprise ‘une pelouse anglaise’ when he came through the gate. I must have recently chucked most of the dog turds over the hedge. This year I no longer have to spend an hour tackling a couple of square metres but am merely picking off stragglers. Should I move on to daisies?

Olympics

‘How do you feel?’ asked the doc. ‘I don’t think I’m ready for the Olympics yet.’ ‘Don’t worry. You have four years to get fit.’

The river at the bottom spread itself across the fields for the first time in months. They tried to put in the 80 hectares of melons adjacent and one wept for the work gang as they lurched across the field carrying a couple of kilograms of clay attached to each foot.

Most of the summer migrants are here, although orioles and swifts still have to show. And only one tentative nightingale. The winters seem tougher and longer than they were but I may just have forgotten the endless dark months in Scotland. Here it’s six months sweaters and CH and six months shorts and t-shirt. Transition from one to the other and you instantly forget what it was like beforehand.

Consultation

The first swallow twittered over the village a couple of days ago. And the maire crashed in on me and said ‘Come. I am taking you to the doctor.’ and he did. He also attended the consultation, a first since, I think, my mummy last joined me in there. I came away with a clutch of antibiotics and a bollocking. ‘You are no longer a spring chicken. Such things are dangerous at your age.’

The maire was so concerned with my health because we had a council meeting this morning during which we set next year’s budget. Without me there would have been no quorum and democracy would have crumbled. It was a bit like those days in the sixties and seventies when ambulances full of moribund MPs turned up at Westminster to register votes before returning to hospital or the morgue.

Knee

I think my manflu must be proper flu since I’m still a puddle of spluttering misery. I was being joined on the trip to the UK by my South Africa-based sister, but her health isn’t up to it either. A couple of grand’s worth of travel costs have been pissed away as it didn’t occur to me to insure against cancellation. At least I don’t seem to have infected anyone else.

We had an 8 year-old here for a few days while his parents went on a jaunt to New York. He bonded big time with both Poonkie and Tim next door. The former was all about Ball – pink and ricocheting round the ground floor – and Tim was mainly about computer games. However it looks as though there will be exchange visits and such things in the pipeline later on.

The village matriarch and the patriarch are in hospital. The former is having bits lopped off due to diabetes and is not in good nick. Apparently her heart is rock solid, but not much else is. Her husband has demanded that they chop off his leg, put in a fake knee and then stick it all back together. He’s been hirpling around quite well for years, so it shows a certain faith in the future at 79.

Decal

I was once told that a gentleman never lets himself be photographed with a glass in his hand. Now it seems de rigeur to look as pissed as a fart, so this convention may have died the death. Sir Iain Moncrieffe noted another telltale sign of ill breeding. He blackballed an aspiring member of his club because he saw him wash his hands after taking a pee. Urine is sterile but that one would be a hard sell these days.

I should be going to the UK for a wedding next week, but I’m suffering from an acute attack of manflu. My colds used to last for a snotty three days but it doesn’t work like that any more. I blame Trump and Brexit.

The grandson must have a dozen cars on his premises. His ride of choice is a white thing with go-faster decals. I’ve never clocked the brand but it must be by his front door with the bonnet up or on jacks for a dozen hours a week, every week. It has as much care lavished on it as a Formula 1 racing car. Grunts beyond the window at about 10pm yesterday showed him pushing it down the street outside in an attempt to get it started. He built a new wall last autumn for his garage and took his sledgehammer and angle grinder to take it down again over the weekend. It’s been 10 years in its construction so far.

Eglise

I went yesterday for a scan to check that the bits that were shoved in my belly some five years ago were still keeping me alive. Here you wait and collect the pics and take them along to discuss with the consultant. A very, very bad idea is to glance at the images yourself even if you had been concentrating while watching Gray’s Anatomy & House. After doing so I refused to consider checking with Google. Instead I have put them away and hope to survive until I see the Great Man.
Village improvements continue apace. The church illuminations have been upped to the pic. I’m also told that you can point your smart phone at it and its history and that of the commune will pop up. My own unsmart phone is a dozen years old and is greeted with incredulous derision by anyone who sees me use it. Obviously the modern world is passing me by although it’s impossible to avoid Trump, Brexit etc.
I’ve just cut the grass for the fourth time this year. An added pressure is to get it done by midday since the law states that no noise should be heard in the village during the sacred two hours set aside for lunch. I was three minutes over but the grandson opposite was out and he’s the only one who would complain. He is the person at whom the bylaw is aimed to curtail his use of his ludicrously noisy machinery. But it means that everyone else must shut shop to show that the rule applies to us all.

Birder

Just broken a keyboard, followed by a watch. The keyboard’s had it coming for a while, but he watch was daft…take off the back, replace the battery, close the back and shatter the glass during the process.
The best birder I know round about, a man who has scoured the globe in his quest for new species, saw a bittern sitting in the middle of a field a mile down the road. He’d never seen one outside a reed bed and I’ve never seen one. The stripy brown camouflage is ineffective in a green field.
The maire went to Brittany to collect a car and it cost him just €60 on a shared Uber ride. Another friend went to the UK to buy an upmarket motor car and traded in his old one for a pittance. His neighbour here said he’d’ve paid that for it, so he phoned the garage, found the man wringing his hands at the hassle of trying to re-register the car in the UK, and has bought it still in its French guise. Now all he has to do is get it back here.

Gin

A sure sign of spring is the roll out of plastic in fields in preparation for melon planting. So far there’s a just a single field under wraps. It must be 30 hectares but it’s on the right side of the village as far as we are concerned, down near their depot, so we should avoid the continual shuttle of tractors in front of us past the chateau. But there may be more. The chateau buyers intend to lay out temporary accommodation for themselves, a family of five, in a couple of its enormous downstairs rooms and peck away at its restoration for as long as it takes. They all spent a week clearing brush, ivy etc., through a great roiling bonfire but I don’t think they’ve yet discovered where the septic tank is sited, so there’s a way to go. The young have unusual first names. A son is called Come. I asked for it to be repeated twice to confirm it. I didn’t ask how to spell it.
A neighbour’s cat took a bird from our terrace a couple of days ago. Since then I’ve satisfactorily bowffed it twice since and narrowly missed it with a stone so it may have taken the hint. It’s quite a nice cat – as cats go – and I’m reluctant to lay out a gin trap. Once the French windows can be left open I hope the dogs will keep it off the premises.

Short

It’ll be a couple of months before the legalities of the chateau sale are complete but the new guys are busy clearing and burning the greenery that has been trying to take it over. It would be catastrophic for them if someone came in with a higher offer.
Electricity cuts are common here. Usually it’s just a flick off and on, which is only tedious because the wifi router must laboriously do whatever it has to do in order to reconnect. But something more fundamental went wrong yesterday. I managed to isolate the faulty circuit. It was labelled ‘cuisine’ but it wasn’t. Half a dozen lights ran through it, most of which I have interfered with over the years. I checked the most obvious ones but nothing seemed wrong. It was a job for an expert and, naturally, one lives a couple of doors down. He was here with his box of tricks in five minutes and managed to diagnose a wire that had overheated in an upstairs light and burnt through the insulation and shorted against it neighbour. It cost a bottle of wine to put everything right.