Monthly Archive for June, 2011

Saint Days

I still wait for a bell to toll to announce the death of a local and I thought yesterday might be it when the content of the cloche-mur at the bottom of the street started up at an odd time. But no. It proceeded to play as much of a tune as its three bells can manage. I checked the web and decided it must be a celebration of St Peter & St Paul day. Being very upmarket saints I suppose they were worth a peal of two. The bells are electronic so perhaps they respond to some priest in the Vatican who presses a button when he thinks Roman Catholic churches across the globe should ring. I feel that such public clocks should dispense time with a broad brush – to within a couple of minutes either way, perhaps. They should not have the nerd-like accuracy of a quartz watch.

I am told that all dogs in France born in a certain year must have a name which begins with a designated letter. The letter this year is G. There seems to be no very good reason for this that I can discover and I’m not even sure that the concept is not an expat myth. For instance my neighbour’s placid little animals are called Lula and Pussy and I cannot fit these into the chronology. They are said to have been abandoned and paddled up to him in the middle of a forest during a chasse so he may not know their birthdays. Happily my animal is called Cato which is right for his age.

Flapping

It’s barely 20 today which is a not unpleasant change. The plants in the garden are pretty drought proof but things start to wilt after a day or two above 30, particularly the oleanders and lavenders I put in last year. There was a well established jasmine which has been in fragrant flower for a couple of months and it’s just beginning to look a bit tired. The lavenders are constantly a-whir with humming bird hawk months. There’s another little hover moth that at first sight looks like a little golden bumble bee but I don’t know enough about such things to be able to identify it. There’s one bed about 8 ft X 20 and I just let it get on with it. It holds a well-established curry plant and a couple of other small bushy things, but most of it is covered in a flower that is also beyond my knowledge to identify. By the way that it has spread I suspect it’s a weed. But it is a superb butterfly attractor. The white admirals are on the prowl now. Rather than the frantic flapping of most butterflies, they give a languid flap and then go into a 20-ft glide before making another beat which gives ample time to admire them.

My neighbour’s pool is also starting its season. Juvenile squeals float over the hedge in the late afternoon for an hour or so. One couldn’t say it disturbs the peace since the other 23 hours in the day are quiet enough for anyone.

More hot

More hot but still not oppressive although I did notice the dog sitting on the carpet panting. I haven’t even had to go into emergency mode as my neighbours do by slamming all the shutters. At the moment outside is 36, inside 25. The village seems even more spookily deserted during the day although I presume life goes on inside the sealed houses. A couple of times when taking the dog out to deposit its daily crotte outside the garden I have found myself humming ‘Mad dogs and Englishmen’.

Hot

Hot today, 35+ but it was no problem. Granted I enjoyed a dip or two in a neighbouring pool but the heat never seemed oppressive. It must have been hotter last year and I recall having fans both in the living room and the bedroom for a few days at a time. Perhaps I have acclimatised. The dog, wearing his full coat, doesn’t seem bothered.

I speak to someone in French and struggle and fail to find for the word for something and make a mental note to look it up later. But when later comes I will have forgotten the word I was looking for.

Cats

The matriarch filled two shopping trolleys at the supermarket. It’s just as well I have a Volvo estate car, otherwise it wouldn’t all have made it home. Wine and ice lollies galore and 30 large tins of cat food. It was all dumped in the depressing interior of one of the family houses which is currently unoccupied. It seemed to have a century-old cooking range in the kitchen. There must have been a more modern appliance somewhere but I was transfixed by the mighty fridge/freezer. I imagine its contents are mainly deer and boar since the family is the mainspring of the chasse.

Fecundity is all around. A clutch of hunting dogs are being reared across the road and most of the cats have kittens – hence the 30 tins. Many years ago I rather went off cats when it snowed and I was farming. Every hedgerow had a beaten path on each side where the cats patrolled and decimated the wildlife. [I see the OED has added a definition of decimate which means lots rather than just one in ten] If country cats were too numerous in the UK, here it’s worse. They seem to lurk in every ditch. Only the lack of traffic prevents the roads being decorated with multi-coloured furry splats.

Cupboard

The builder has just spent a little while here doing the few small jobs that needed finishing. The downstairs shower has been converted to a cupboard; the top 6 inches of the terrace railing have been removed which interfered with the sightlines when one’s eyes cross through excess alcohol and one wished to view miles of France, and the inner staircase and landing which was a stygian black hole when I arrived now is ablaze with light thanks to the improved sun tube. The flaws in my painting now show up in the latter so this  needs a lick or two but after that I think I’ve done my dash as far as house improvements go. But I did fill a wall crack the other day and it is showing fresh movement. Sod it.

Streetlights

I intended to do a grocery shop this afternoon but I was waylaid by the matriarch on the way out and have postponed for a couple of days to give her a lift. She’s far from bouncing good health herself but one of her family is sick in hospital. The reason? The sorcière. She has put an evil spell on him. I find this a little alarming. The matriarch obviously believes it and the best way to solve the problem would surely be to remove the cause. At the moment I don’t think they burn witches in France but accidents do happen.

Having streetlights is an symbol of importance to a village, however small. This one is very small indeed but the lights blaze away all night along the single, short, deserted street. I find them a bit of a pain since they prevent the inky blackness that would allow a proper appreciation of the heavens. However I live in hope since the storm last night knocked them out and they did not come on again. Tonight will reveal if my optimism is misplaced.

Storm

A humungous thunderstorm is crunching its way very, very slowly over the village. The local substation must have damn good trip switches as the electrics have flicked on and off a dozen times, the TV satellite gave up and the broadband box is sweating to retain any connectivity at all. I suppose I should unplug it but this house is not a tempting target. I observe by the light show that the chateau opposite has a lightning conductor, about the only thing that may be still serviceable over there. There was a single crack like an explosion just now, loud enough to make me jump and my ears to ring. It sluices and hails outside. The dog doesn’t give a shit, but I  heard a howl from a neighbouring hound in a moment of quiet.

I was gifted some ceps and a curious yellow jobbie earlier on. All very tasty. I have looked up the yellow thing and it doesn’t exist in Britain. Amanita caesarea ‘the most highly prized edible mushroom of ancient Rome.’ I didn’t think it was that great. It’s been a while since I used a book rather than the web to check out something like that. It was 28 degrees at 11pm. The storm has brought it down to 23 so far – certainly the hottest night of the year to date. I shall post this in a minute of connectivity – when it comes.

La Poste

One of the advantages of living in a village rather than in rural isolation like most expats round here is that post is delivered to the door rather than to the roadside by a buxom damsel in a yellow van. And we’re just about the first on her route so it arrives about 9.30. The letter box seemed to be stuck this morning. Not till I’d yanked at in some puzzlement did a lizard drop out from behind the hinge and scuttle into the flower bed.

I received a formal invitation to call my neighbour tu rather than vous. In truth my brain has to work at such speed to drag vocabulary from its depths when I try to speak French that it’s pot luck whatever he gets called. I found myself calling him mon petit chou a few days ago. He seemed startled but not displeased.

Donkey

This afternoon was spent eating an excellent lunch, then sitting in the sunshine and being slobbered on by a black dog the size of a donkey. Added interest was provided by another guest enjoying a very high-number birthday who would occasionally go into a brief trace before saying ‘A Cetti’s Warbler! A Nightingale! A Blackcap!’ when the appropriate bird trilled in the distance. All very pleasant – educational, too.

Apparently trade in the car part my neighbour was looking for – bull bars – was deemed illegal by the EU. ‘Thou shalt not crunch up pedestrians.’  You can still buy a complete second hand vehicle, remove the bull bars and fix them to something else so long as you do it yourself. So my neighbour got onto eBay in Germany and found a set at a very good price. The legislative nerds in Brussels must be very grateful to the UK. Nobody else in the Union takes much notice of them.