Whimper

There’s little good that can be said about the weather. The forecast keeps postponing summer, now not due for a week. A couple of nights ago a storm went on for a couple of hours with continuous thunder and lightning. The dogs did their usual cower/shiver/whimper and then got bored, went back to sleep and haven’t batted an eyelid at thunder since. Curiously it’s today when it hasn’t rained for 18 hours that the river at the bottom of the hill has burst its banks. Yesterday I coincided with the chief pompier at a Brit-owned mill on the river and translated while he issued a flood warning. The Brit knew it all and was dismissive but he moved his vehicles and today the road to his property is inundated.

M. Chateau has returned to Orleans for the time being to keep his business ticking over. His missus has taken his place and is working in the building by herself, save for the blokes doing the roof. She is invited here this evening for supper, as it must be both lonely and a bit spooky to be living there alone. As far as I know the electricity supply is still dedicated to producing hot water rather than light.

Bubble

We had Scots guests for a couple of days and the weather was usually good enough to sit on the terrace. The chateau currently provides great entertainment as the bits we can see are covered in scaffolding with three and sometimes four workers stripping tiles from the roof and re-doing the bits that have rotted away. Health and safety does not seem to be an issue. The favoured way of getting up there is being hoisted up in the bucket of a yellow machine with an extendable arm. Otherwise they monkey through the scaffolding or use a ladder. Nobody wears a hard hat. I suppose the employer has insurance in case of accident but it all seems refreshingly casual.

Carpenter bees are impossible to miss. I was admiring one foraging for nectar on some lambs ear when it took off, performed a couple of dizzying spirals a few inches in front of my face before it crashed to the ground and waved its legs in the air. I took a closer look at the plant and found half a dozen bees on or around it in a similar drunken condition. They seemed to recover after a minute or two and beat an uncertain path out of the garden but either they soon returned or else there are an awful lot of carpenter bees round about. Perhaps a few flowers added to a stew would make for an interesting meal.

I live in an information bubble. I don’t read anything favourable about Trump, or anything positive about Brexit. It’s lamentably obvious that those who disagree with me have their own bubbles. Otherwise they’d know my opinions were right and theirs shockingly wrong. How can this ever be reconciled?

Roof

An apparent downside of growing melons is that rain is channelled down the field between the lines of plastic cloches. And if, as over the last few days, there’s a lot of rain, much of the topsoil is washed down with it. And if the field is on a slope, it all ends up at the bottom and on the road. This morning we were held up by a council tractor that got stuck trying to clear it. The driver misjudged the extent of the tarmac beneath the foot of mud and lost one of its front wheels into the invisible ditch. It took another tractor with a chain to tow it back to dry land.

I’m told that ¢40k is about to be invested in the chateau roof. That will take experts and machinery. Otherwise it looks as though its renovation will be largely DIY by the owner. He has placed a shower in the cellar to which a power line has been jury-rigged from the road. At the moment he has a brother helping him but that is temporary. It should take him no more than a decade or two and I hope that his business, now being run by his wife, does not suffer.

This magnificent alien thing is a lizard orchid. It pops up in odd places each year and each year I have forgotten what it is and have to look it up again.

Carottes

Would I represent the village at the Carottes ceremony? That’s the local commemoration for the Resistance. I do my best to avoid Frenchmen giving speeches and, since nobody would know who I was anyway, it would not bring shame to the commune if I were not there. So I won’t be.

Digital Camera

My conscience is reasonably clear but it’s hard not to twitch a bit when the gendarmes park quite so close to the back window for more than an hour. I only know three or four of them by name but neither of the two who were visiting the village. Like British policemen, they get younger by the year.

At the moment a queen European hornet is quietly cruising the interior of the house looking for a place for a nest. They are peaceful, courteous creatures that will hover in front of you for a moment or two before moving on. When their curiosity is satisfied they fly out the window with none of the frantic battering and buzzing of lesser insects. Or the panic of a bird that comes in by mistake.

Fox

Proper summer at last with cartoon clouds floating in a blue sky, that Goldilocks interlude before it becomes too hot later in the year.

A neighbour called by yesterday and professed no interest in the wedding. I pulled up a few pics on the computer and I couldn’t get rid of him for half an hour. The UK does the royal pageantry thing so well and yet is making such a cock-up over Brexit. It’s a shame there’s not an international living to be made through doing such Gilbert and Sullivan.

I went to dump some rubbish and was surprised by a dead fox in the bin. The chasse had been doing their thing and I suppose it was a reasonable way to dispose of their kill. It felt unseemly just the same.

Cowdenbeath

After a wobble or two the chateau seems properly sold. A dozen or so locals were invited over to sit by the front door and enjoy fizzy drink and food barbied in a mighty fireplace inside. The evening was warm; the company on good form and kept on its toes by large and stupid tiger mosquitoes lumbering over from the decayed swimming pool to be swatted. The expert had to be called out several times to remove the colonies of honeybees that had set up house there. The priority is to make the roof watertight.

The arrival of summer seems on hold for three or four days. It’s inconvenient to have donned shorts and then having to dig out the trousers and sweaters that had been put away till November.

We took a visitor to Condom last week. He asked the population. I thought of the cathedral, the smart civic works and monuments and guessed 25,000. Wiki says 7,000 odd, half the size of Cowdenbeath. It’s the same for anywhere round here. If asked I grossly overestimate the numbers who live in such places.

Tootle

We had the usual ceremony in front of the war memorial on VE Day, but it was nip and tuck. The maire had been on holiday and the nibbles in the salle de fetes after the ceremony were only bought the afternoon before. Invitations were not taken round the commune until the same day. It’s a good couple of hours to deliver one into each post box but it gives an excuse to drive up every farm track. A very few farmsteads are still rurally squalid; most working farms are obviously prosperous, as are those that have retained the land and now rent it out. The sold-off houses are all in various stages of being done up usually, these days, by young French rather than aging Brits. There was a good turn out with the usual bizarre absence of the village dissidents.

Today was fete day in a local town. We have a visitor who expressed interest and we dropped by. Our guest’s prime reaction was astonishment at the numbers thronging the streets. Rural France, in his experience, was almost deserted. The main attraction, aside from crap-selling stalls and street food, was a dozen or so horn-blowers from some chic up country chasse. They wore smart green uniforms and tootled most impressively before retiring into the mairie for refreshments.

Nimes

We spent the night in Nimes to meet up with my US-based cousin and the party of old ducks he was shepherding round some of the sights of southern France. He’s now 89 and could easily be 20 years younger. We did the amphitheatre, the Maison Carée and laboured up the hill after him through the gardens to the Temple of Diana and above. He once told me he intended to live till he was 94, but he’ll have to do a rapid degeneration if he’s not to surpass that.

The town crest is a crocodile that is plastered everywhere. There are also lots of shops selling crocs. Nonetheless I, as always, seemed to be the only person wearing a pair.

The car, now with 260-odd thousand miles under its belt, performed impeccably. Tomorrow is a crunch date for it as it is going in for its controle technique before the regulations are tightened. If it survives that it should be good for another couple of years. It has needed nothing beyond oil and filter changes for five years. It is worthless with scarcely a panel without a dent or a scrape since I gave up worrying about its beauty years ago. But I doubt if I could afford a replacement as efficient and comfortable. It has a new career this year humping soil and plants around the village.

Naturalisation

Along with more than a hundred others we went to a ceremony at which we were presented with certificates of naturalisation. About half of us were brown or black and most of the rest were Brits shimmying round Brexit. It was very French. There were not nearly enough seats and we waited for half an hour before the Great Man, festooned in gold braid, arrived to make a speech that didn’t say very much. We then watched a film on a computer that sprinted through French history. Like the speech there was nothing new because we’d had to mug up that sort of thing some time back. Then we were summoned one by one to shake the Great Hand and that of a small henchman alongside. They got my name wrong, but they usually do and I’ve learned to answer to almost anything. I think we should have been there for an hour more, clapping everyone who received their bit of paper, but we sneaked out. It was evident that we were all French already and needn’t have bothered to turn up. But we did sing the Marseillaise. Fortuneately the words were on the computer.

The cracks on this house following the dry spell last year are to receive a donation of €14k from the state for their repair, which is very kind. They’re even providing a contractor to do it, sometime. The specifications for the work are very detailed and largely incomprehensible.

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.