Archive for the 'Moving' Category


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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?


‘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.


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.


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.