Monthly Archive for December, 2010


With Radio 4 burbling away in the background, I did nothing today but slap watery white paint on the walls, the floor, myself and even the dog.

There’s party tomorrow night. I am told to turn up as a Scot. I’m afraid I draw a line at a kilt as this is well south of the Highland line but I’ll put on trews. I might even put on my very shiny inherited dinner jacket. It’s a horrendously naff garment but is deliciously light and comfortable. I’ve never cracked the art of wearing the full Highland fig and not breaking into a muck sweat. Add a few reels and I’m a puddle on the floor.

I was told yesterday that the exception to kilts and the Highland line is if one is in the presence of royalty. The authority for this is the Prince of Wales. I suspect this rule may have been conceived to excuse the Caledonian Ball in London at which Princess Margaret was a regular fixture. This edict is surely an abuse of his position. I can see that the PoW could be seen by some as an arbiter of this sort of thing but he has no right to upset ancient conventions beyond wearing his underpants beneath his kilt.

Roman Bridge

An excellent dog walk this morning in the environs of Auvillar. I was pleased to see that the so-called Roman bridge along a track beside the Garonne was no more authentic than the Roman bridge in Glen Lyon. The difference was in the sanglier footprints in the mud of the path.

I received a letter from the French government this morning. My Legion d’Honneur, I thought, and not before time. Alas! I opened it to find a €45 fine for speeding as I went north. This is a disadvantage of having registered the car in this country. Fortunately the satnav squawked a warning at radar cameras on the way south, so I ought to have escaped any others.


I spent most of the day enjoying the peace and sunshine of this part of the world compared with London. I also drove myself potty trying to turn cover the dreary creamish crepi, a horrendous interior rendering for much of this house which takes the skin of your knuckles if you brush against it, brilliant white. It really needs a plaster skim but experimentation indicates that a diluted coat of paint may sort of work but it’ll need more than one coat. I also improved the bird feed station and it now carries four feeders and half a dozen fat balls. The tits found the peanuts within a couple of minutes although I doubt there are any others on offer within a 5 mile radius.


I Tomtommed my way back today. It’s a weird feeling putting trust in this odd piece of technology and it’s awkward to argue with the thing. It sent me through central London and some strange unknown suburbs to make the Tunnel and I very nearly told it to piss off and rely on my own resources. But it got me there in time. It also took me round the inner ring in Paris which is not something I would normally contemplate, but it did politely guide me back to the right road after I busily set off towards Brussels from Calais.

There was lying snow till south of Cahors and lots of traffic with the odd bouchon but this really looked and felt like a land flowing with milk and honey once I was on the home stretch.


London is still a cold place. I’ll be chugging back south tomorrow with the car laden with Tesco dog food. Cato consumes little trays of the stuff and they cost 29p here and well over €1 in France. If the animal croaks within the next 6 months or so, my guests will be eating very strange pate for many years to come. I also have great sacks of peanuts and seeds to satisfy the insatiable appetites of the tits and sparrows which swarm on my terrace.

I now have a Tomtom which will enable me to pick a trail through London towards Folkestone tomorrow. But the car’s cigar lighter doesn’t work so the thing must operate purely on battery. That I’ll try to put right soon. When I travel in the Tarn & Garonne, I spend far too much brain power worrying if I’m on the right road/lane. I hope this will become a thing of the past.


A cold place, London, and full of scarily bad drivers. I watched them all playing dodgems in the Tesco car park by the North Circular this morning and then fighting about it. It’s also 730 miles up the road which is somewhat further than I had remembered.


The dog had its medicine this afternoon in preparation for crossing the Channel tomorrow. The weather looks as if it’ll be passable but I called in on my next door neighbour who is going up to his in-laws about 50 miles NE of Paris. He reckons the motorways will be very busy but, bar the Périphérique round Paris, I doubt it’ll be a patch on an ordinary day on the M6. He tells me that the Souspréfet, said to be a cheese of awesome dimensions, is coming to the village next month to inspect the adjacent building works and pronounce judgement upon them.

Red admirals

A magic day, c12 with red admirals flapping about as I walked the dog. It had the feel of sunny late April in Scotland. Then I skype and am filled in on the snow, the freeze and the horrors of what’s happening there. Many of the expats I know are preparing to receive kin for Xmas, but they are having ditch their airline reservations & Eurostar to hire huskies to make the Channel and it’s a hundred miles south from there before things start to perk up. In a couple of days, I’ll wrap a scarf round the front of the car and venture north to the frozen wastes of London. Freezing fog is forecast for northern France so I’ve built in an extra hour for the trip but I can’t believe that the Tunnel is not functioning properly.

The mulberry is now an authentic French lollipop stick and I have a vast pile of its trimmings. Once the hedge is clipped most of the garden will be filled with its own detritus. It’s not practical to try to burn it on the premises so I’ll either have to find a trailer to carry it all to the dechetterie or take it out the gate and build a towering bonfire on the common land beyond my hedge.

I checked at the party yesterday and bugger all has happened as regards enforcing the restrictions against the garage which is being built adjacent to me. On the plus side a caterpillar machine with a bucket and a large cement mixer were parked opposite here over the weekend and they trundled off first thing without being put to use. There’s been no movement there for more than a month.

Tea party

The most interesting part of the day was attending the village Xmas tea in the salle de fetes. Invitations were issued to the entire commune and 30 folk turned up including half a dozen children. I was amidst the villagers and I struggled – more than a bit. But they’re remarkably embracing to a geriatric Brit. I managed a discussion on the invasion of foreigners, playing hard the Scottish card to distance myself from the English, but they really do seem to welcome expats as bringers of life to these otherwise declining communities. Some envy was displayed towards the Gers and Dordogne where they – we – are even thicker on the ground than here. I find my poor French immensely frustrating and it improves almost imperceptibly.

I ‘borrowed’ a ladder from the chateau this afternoon and monkeyed around in the mulberry tree lopping off most this year’s growth. I’ll finish it tomorrow and return the ladder. I was told that a light was seen shining from one of the chateau windows last week and there was talk about whether it was a ghost or a passing tramp. It could also have been the drink. The tea party, paid for from the taxes we pay to the commune, offered no tea and lots of wine. I had my glass replenished half a dozen times and quit before the coffee was served.

Ronde des Crèches

For the past 16 years, seven villages in the Gers, just across the valley from here, have organised the Ronde des Crèches. Each place creates a tableau, somewhere in the midst of which is a nativity scene. This year’s theme was the capitals of Europe. London had an English commentary and depicted beefeaters, red buses, Big Ben and a Tower Bridge that went up and down. They hadn’t missed a cliché although I didn’t spot Boris amongst the dolls. One felt sorry for Madrid as their only symbolic totem was the facade of the bull ring. Vienna was fun, whirling waltzers, mainly because a sparky bus tour was viewing it at the same time. 25,000 people are said to do the round of the villages. Today one wouldn’t have guessed it, probably because we went over the lunch hour and we were the only spectators at most of them. Nothing comes between the French and their nosh. What was probably more interesting was that all the churches adjacent to the tableaux were open and all were different and all well worth a look. One church, Paris, was a semi-roofless wreck in the midst of restoration. Paris was the only tableau with a guide. She told us all about it and only when I looked round for somewhere to put some change did she break into fluent English. She was wed to a Brit and had not wanted to embarrass my tortured French until it became necessary.