Monthly Archive for January, 2012


Several Brits I know round here are selling up to return to the UK. Maybe three times as many expats own holiday houses as live here full time but I don’t know very much about them and perhaps plenty of them are also trying to sell. Houses do sell but, as in the UK, it is often at a price that makes the vendor weep. People are a bit shifty when they go on the market. Since the aim of the exercise is to find a buyer you’d think they’d shout it from the mountain tops, but generally they try to keep it under their hats. Apparently other expats treat such emigrants with disapproval. Have they failed to create a decent life out here? Are they insinuating that others are foolish to try to do so? About half seem to sell so that they can go ga-ga in English rather than French. And many of the others because living in the extreme sticks – traditionally this region has been considered the Norfolk of France – makes it too easy to disappear up your own backside,  or into a bottle.


A friend on the main road returning from the airport this morning hit a boar which erupted from a ditch just in front of the car. It was a long straight with no obvious cover nearby which might make you cautious. They’re not forgiving when you hit one. They’re hard, dense and heavy – like colliding with a crunchy version of Eric Pickles. On this occasion the driver was unhurt, the car still just driveable and a passing local, thinking of a feast in store, took over responsibility for the injured and dangerous animal.
I had five minutes to fill in the local town and examined a large poster with maps of the various local walks. Dreadful, the vast majority of their routes are along metalled roads. The UK is blessed with a multiplicity of paths and rights of way and one can walk all day without being bothered by a car. This country has more than twice the space but hasn’t cracked it.


The work creation programme came by last week and abused this unfortunate tree across the square from my front gate. Poor thing. How many decades must it have struggled into growth each summer, only to have it ambitions to achieve magnificence dashed back in winter? If it was let rip it would bring down the phone and electricity cable for half the village so I suppose its disappointment will be constant.
I’m already aware that nothing escapes the eagle eyes of the village. They know what time the wicked grandson surfaces from the smoke that will erupt from his chimney, usually in the late morning. The brute will also sometimes play his radio loudly when working on his car or in the evening. I’ve never noticed this particular depravity.


One begins to hear talk of the forthcoming presidential election here which takes place in three months. It seems unnecessary. Hollande will win, the interest comes in whether he wins in the first round or, if not, whether Le Pen could frighten the pants off everybody by going through to the second round. The most striking characteristic of the next President seems to be that he’s very nice. Even though Jimmy Carter was the only other politician with that as his main virtue, it’s surely worth a vote. With hindsight it seems perfectly likely that an elephant trap was dug to catch out DSK in New York in order to remove him from the election, but it availed Sarko’s heavies naught. He is doomed whoever his opponent.


I fed a local some coffee this morning. He has a friend, bald, who can easily fit a steel tie to the wall in front of my sinking terrace to prevent further movement. And the gendarmes turn up regularly to bollock the sorcière’s grandson to make him demolish the adjacent par-built garage. Eventually the prefect himself will arrive and if it’s not gone by then the grandson will be plein dans la merde. We exchanged a complicit smile of satisfaction at the prospect. Your French has improved, I was told, but you have need of a French woman to hurry things along. I asked him to provide. And that guy down the road is a voleur. He works for the Council and for years has been nicking jerry cans of heating oil. He has only just stopped doing so because too many people knew what he was up to. Shock/horror, I agreed. Frost and snow is forecast for next week. This is a pain because I’ve just planted the sorcière’s geraniums and shall have to cover them.


Three men and a truck turned up below the house yesterday. They decamped, dug a hole, poured in concrete and stuffed in a post which held a lieu-dit, one of the ubiquitous and uniform signs that mark a small patch of land that may contain nothing, or a single house or farm, or perhaps two or three. This particular sign had fallen down and had lain by the roadside for the 18 months that I’ve been here. It says ‘chateau’ and points to the overgrown footpath that leads to the chateau. It’s magically unnecessary, pointless and daft. Nobody is supposed to go down the path. Nobody should ever need to go down the path. Anybody who does go down the path will find nothing but fierce brambles protecting the gently decaying building which is private property.


I did the airport run this morning and – Bang! There were the Pyrenees. It wasn’t that clear a day but they were as crisp as I’ve seen them, floating above a layer of yellow smog from the pretty manky factories on the plain at their foot.
We were out to dinner last night and I found a very smart pair of shoes in my cupboard before going out and couldn’t think why I never used them. I put them on and found out why. They have leather soles and on the wooden floor upstairs and the tiles down, they sound as if I’m about to break into a tap dance. Drink was taken over dinner which forced my visitor to make a run for the loo in the night. He tripped over a chair and reduced it to kindling. I heard the crash but assumed it was just my head.


I hate having my hair cut, largely because it seems a complete waste of time and money. In Scotland I had it cut by Turks, apparently a national speciality. I would go in three times a year, show a rheumy eye, and get charged pensioners’ rate of £6. Here an old fart in a nearby town with a concoction sitting on his head like a superannuated Bee Gee charges me €17 which I consider outrageous and makes me wait with nothing to read but tedious magazines about La Chasse. I did try Natalie somewhere else whose price was much the same but, with nothing better to do, she flitted round me primping for hours and had the gall to offer to cut my eyebrows. I had never before given a moment’s thought to my eyebrows but now I sometimes find myself looking at them with faint worry, wondering if they’re mildly deformed. But my visitor has cut his own hair with a micro lawn mower for 20 years. I have bought one and got him to shear me today. Never again shall I visit a barber.


I’ve just taken my guest down the road to photograph the interior of a roof. It may seem an odd object of curiosity but out here such things are remarkable. With most old farmhouses, the builder seems to have started off with the exterior walls and, once those were up, he had to work out how to cover the span between them. He will have plenty of timbers but very few will be very long or of the same dimensions. He’ll get so far, then put in a short vertical piece of tree trunk with half a dozen beams projecting from it. So the finished result will have a plantation of these studded at random intervals supporting an uneven cat’s cradle of rafters. Once the shell is complete, he will fill up the interior with primitive portacabins to provide accommodation for both livestock and their owners which sit incongruously beneath the cavernous loft thus created.


A white van turned up opposite when I was busy planting the sorciere’s geraniums and things began to be shipped out into its interior. We had a drink locally and apparently most of the contents had been dumped by the poubelles. They included a porcelain lavatory which seemed in fine order. How does one have something like that to dump? I can understand having spare bulbs, but not spare bogs. As can happen here, the lunchtime drink dragged on until 6 and it was fortunate that home was no more than half a mile away.