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.

Air-conditioner

When it gets too hot we become troglodytes. The French have always done so but it still feels faintly perverse to shut all the windows and shutters and turn the lights on. Inside the house peaked at 26 degrees while 35 was going on outside. My neighbour uses an air-conditioner in his bedroom but it looks like a bottle gas heater and sounds like a tractor.
The flowery village judges came and went. They were scheduled to stay for 15 minutes but instead were here for more than an hour. We live in high hopes of gaining a star. Such people always grimace at the sight of the chateau, beached like the carcass of a great whale at the edge of the village. Who would be daft enough to buy such a thing? It needs a brainless oligarch who can sail around in a yacht for three years until he has expended the few million needed to make it reasonable. The worst solution would be its purchase by a bodger who reckons he could make money out of it.

Produce

The local swifts all disappeared on Bastille Day. I hope it was in response to the couple of autumnal days we had rather than a harbinger of the rest of the summer.
Without the news continually trickling into our myriad of electronic toys, it would be very easy to know nothing of the turmoils of the world when you live here. The tranquility seems eternal and unchanging. When the news travelled the country at walking pace, one didn’t need to get one’s knickers in a twist because by the time you heard about it the crisis was long over. I once heard a few ancient Devon farmers discussing their memories of the war. What they best remembered was that the summers were very good and the prices for produce excellent.
The judges are round next week to decide upon the village’s efforts to become flowery. The gardeners are almost entirely expat and they have laboured long and hard. The ambition is to win a sign with a star on it. It would make a third as you come into the village. One with the name of the place in Occitan has recently been installed.

Rupees

The chateau is on the market at the stonking price of €700k. Schemes are already afoot. It is thought that one might get it for half the asking price and, if everyone in the commune took a stake, we could turn it into a co-operative. Once it was done up – the cost estimates vary between €200k to €2m – then it could be let. A hot contender would be to delinquent youths. One could pack it full of lots of them and enjoy a sensible return. I can foresee drawbacks. If the thing can’t be left to peaceful decay – my preference – I would like a fat cat to buy it as a holiday home. I could bear a helicopter pad and, with luck, the purchaser would buy me out for a vast sum to stop me staring into his bedroom through my binoculars.
I need lots of paperwork before I face the first interview for French citizenship. Amongst it should be my mother’s birth certificate. She was born in Ceylon in 1916, a child of the empire. She isn’t in Somerset House, nor in Scottish Record Office in Edinburgh, nor in the colonial list, nor on any the genealogical sites and she has not been hoovered up by the Mormons. It may be that she’s in Sri Lanka but that seems to require turning up there with a handful of rupees to initiate a search. Their records are not computerised or centralised and termites are said to have consumed many of them. She had a passport, so I’ve asked that office if it’s possible to access their records. Otherwise I’m running out of ideas.

Flatiron

One of my Remain motivations was a preference for a claque of grey bureaucrats riding shotgun over British sovereignty. Sovereignty is not a concept I have much time for. My hairy ancestors’ sovereignty was over the home glens and barbarians began the other side of the hill. Then they were mostly Scots for a century or two before becoming British. Civilisation progresses when the first tier of power is removed from local politicians and handed to a higher authority with a broader view of the common weal. Most British politicians are truly grim. Posturing egotism is their common attribute and they seem overwhelmed by the task before them.
Becoming French may be trickier than I expected. Bookings for the first stage interview that takes place in Toulouse have been closed due, no doubt, to overwhelming demand. Meantime the pile of necessary bumf continues to grow.
I had a great uncle killed on the Somme. He had a wife and child, was an elder of the Kirk, ran the local Boys’ Brigade and was said to have been a sweet and gentle man. Then he became a tombstone in Flatiron cemetery.