Archive for the 'Moving' Category


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.


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.


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.


BA cancelled 60 flights the morning I flew out of Heathrow, so I felt lucky to escape. I find flying and the necessary hanging around inexpressibly tedious and, being long, the seats are horribly cramped. My first ever flight was on a Dakota from Glasgow to Tiree and that was the only one that’s ever been fun.
I had a routine visit to the doc this morning. The surgery was full of folk squeaking with excitement at the inch of snow that was in the midst of falling outside. It’s already going slushy and I have every hope that it will disappear by nightfall. Snow is only bearable if one has skis strapped to one’s feet and that has not been the case for me for nigh on 40 years. The maire, also squeaking with excitement, visited and snapped the snowy chateau from our terrace to send to its buyers. They thought it lovely. They hope to complete the purchase by the beginning of the summer and to do enough of a restoration to enough of the interior to be able to move in by Christmas. They seem pleasant people, obviously optimistic by nature, and should be an asset to the village. Three baby girls have blessed the commune over the past few months, the first births for several years.


I’m in London for the weekend, largely for a chance to see if my French passport works. So far so good. It’s cold. I take the pulse of the nation during the 45 minute minicab run from Heathrow. The driver this time had a rich background. Born in Pakistan, some time in Canada and a dozen years living in Aberdeen working on the oil rigs. Half his family has returned to Lahore and he is wondering if it’s time he abandoned the UK and did the same. There’s more and easier money in Pakistan, he said. And he likes to grow mangoes and oranges in his garden.
I was talking to someone who gives advice to civil servants on aspects of Brexit. He says that they’re usually very, very bright and he finds it chastening to enter a meeting with 15 people and realise that he is probably the dimmest person in the room. They spend weeks carefully crafting papers that lay out the various options and their consequences. These are then bounced up to the politicians to take the decision, which is often made in a few minutes without any real understanding of what is involved.


I did the airport run a few evenings ago and, in the pouring rain on the way back, the car sloughed off its back bumper and the accompanying plastic trim. I pulled into someone’s drive and tried to put it back but the circumstances were against me, so I stuffed it into the back of the car and took it home. By 9am the following morning, the maire had replaced it and locked it in position with a couple of screws. The car becomes tattier by the day but it remains the quickest, most comfortable and reliable ride I have ever owned. It’s due for its control technique next November, but the rules change in April and it will never get through the new pollution regulations. Consequently it will be presented for MoT at the end of March, which should give it another couple of years before it’s finally put down. The maire is a bit depressed about it. He’s been wanting to sell me his 2nd best BMW 4X4, brown, for the last couple of years, but I don’t live in Chelsea so I resist.
The most recent potential buyers of the chateau are turning up mob handed over the weekend with assorted experts in tow and intend to spend a couple of intensive days trying to work out the hows, whats and whens of a restoration. Perhaps even the how much. That is the killer. There’s no doubt that it could be done up but its consequent value would not come close to the cost of rehabilitation.
My venerable US coz lives within earshot of the Florida school shootng. I watched its pupils gliding home on their skateboards when we were staying with him and thought how cool they looked.


A column of black smoke from the motorway junction was the reason for a diversion up the hill yesterday. The farmers were having a demo. We came down and tried to return to the original road, but that was blocked by tractors at a roundabout. We waited for a bit before a many pointed turn took us back another way. We wanted to go through Golfech to walk the dogs. We negotiated yet another roundabout blockage in the shadow of the nuke’s cooling towers by sneaking through the back streets of the village but just beyond it was a barrier across the main road a yard high. We parked beside a lorry and let the dogs run. I strolled up to the barrier. It was a remarkable concoction of ancient slurry intertwined with sheets of plastic, odd bits of wood, corrugated iron, fertiliser bags and old tyres. As a one-time coarse farmer I recognised it immediately as the contents of that noisome pit where all the farm nasties end up even though you know that it has to be mucked out out some day. This chap had managed to dump his on the open road and left it for the council to clear up.
There were some very pissed off drivers stuck and would have still been stuck when we wound our way home by a circuitous route an hour later. I hope the European Commission took note.


A new potential buyer for the chateau has popped up. In fact they popped to the extent that they were given pizza for lunch by the maire after they missed the appropriate slot in the local restaurants. They are trying to sidestep the agent who demands an extraordinary 8% of the purchase price for her services. The estate agent trade in this part of the world appears to be dominated by British women and a grim business it seems to be since property takes an age to sell, particularly since the trickle of Brits who used to come here has largely dried up. The French seem to rely on a chalked phone number in front of a property for sale and it may work. Two local houses have been thus sold in the village although each of them took five years to find a buyer. I was curious about such a property a dozen miles away and looked for it on line. The number belonged to a notaire but nowhere did they have details of the house. The village is in the middle of nowhere but has a stock of 18th century houses so grand that I wondered who had built them and why. I even went to the mairie and asked the history of the place. The maire looked as if I was insane. Who gave a shit? History is not considered that interesting here. Even the chateau’s is obscure and half a dozen versions exist.


The chateau buyer has withdrawn. One began to have doubts when he asked for ideas to bring in revenue while it was being renovated – camp site, market garden, small holding were his own suggestions. The land has a value and there might be a few quid in scrap value for its building materials but, as has been the case for years, it needs someone with money to burn to fall in love with it, as there are plenty of smart buildings around for half the cost of putting it right. And that cost continually rises as it decays. Whoopee for a peaceful summer, although there is a dark cloud on the horizon in the shape of another interested party.
I heard of yet another village that is riven with dissent, the cause being the prospective sale of a €15,000 pigeonnier. Such strife seems to be the norm. Our own dissidents have broken all contact with the rest of the community, which prevents any more clashes.

Grown up

At this time of year, strange listless days flow into each other. The weather is often not worth going outside to look at and the dogs gratefully hunker down to avoid it. I use the time to break the back of articles that I can tidy up for later in the year. That’s when I’m not doing bugger all.

The only hard evidence of the prospective sale of the chateau is the frequency with which the alarm goes off when another expert goes over to produce advice, estimates etc. I was about to be given a tutorial on how to turn the thing off but yet another expert interrupted it.

I’m due to give a talk to the clan in Scotland in the summer. ‘What’s the title of your talk? Do you need a projector, a screen? A computer?’ Oh, dear. It’s beginning to sound a bit grown up.