Monthly Archive for March, 2012


I discovered the whereabouts of the sorciere today, reasonably happy in a retirement home a dozen miles away. Since I am a foreigner, it is particularly important that I pay a visit because this will enhance her status within the institution, more so if I bring with me a packet of Scots shortbread, fortunately available for purchase in Lidl. I have pencilled it in for next week and will not arrive between the hours of midday and 3pm when lunch will be taken there. Otherwise and I would find myself amid a Bateman cartoon.
Her grandson is doing something sinister across the road which involves the use of large plastic pipes with a diameter of some 18 inches and lots of plaster board. I suspect he intends to pack his premises with lodgers but am confident that the rest of the village will do what is necessary should he go beyond the boundaries of what the community finds acceptable.


The hoopoes are back, as are a few swallows. A kestrel has spent an hour dozing on one of the cornices on the chateau and I hope they nest there again as they do add to the gaiety of the nation and give the other denizens there something to rub against.
I take the car to have its aircon repaired early next week. The garagiste is unique because he speaks English of a sort, learnt from his mum who was a teacher. His English is just better than my French so we confirm what is required in both languages to ensure we understand each other. I had a French lesson today and studied swearing. It’s in as dire a state as English with hardly a word left that will frighten a pony, let alone a horse. Even the President recently described someone as a ‘pauvre con’. Cameron would cause a sensation if he employed the English equivalent.


One of the hazards of life here is gravillon. In summer the road surfacers come round, spray tar and then fine gravel in great quantities. It makes for a lethally slippery surface until passing traffic has sprayed all the loose stuff into the verges. People often slide off on corners.
The police turned up at one such incident, looked at the car in the ditch, decided that the driver must have been speeding and started to issue a ticket. Then the driver’s spouse arrived in answer to his wife’s distressed phone call. He told the police not to be daft and showed them just how dangerous the surface was. So he was issued with a ticket instead on the grounds that he must have been speeding himself to have arrived on the scene so quickly from his house. One tiptoes softly round the gendarmes.


I put an unsold MS from way back up as a Kindle book on Amazon a few months back. A week ago it stood at 269,030 on their best seller list. Then I persuaded the guest who is staying here to pay £1.92 to download it. The following day it had gone up more than 200,000 places.
My machine is back on line but it took a call to Orange France’s English-speaking advice service to achieve it. Without such a help line I’d still be lost since I had to dig out various passwords that sent me scrabbling back to the original letter I received when I first signed up. The miracle is that I still had the letter.

Stained Glass

A stained glass day, taking in the churches at Auch and Condom. I had forgotten, if I ever knew, just how dead are the towns of France on a Monday. It was almost echoing footsteps in both places. Both also cater for tourists fairly seriously and small groups of Spaniards were wandering disconsolately around peering in through darkened shop windows. It was the first day of the year when the interior of a large church is welcomingly cool rather than distinctly chilly.
I donned a long unworn pair of shoes this morning. Bloody hell! One of them was most uncomfortable and actually caused pain. I hobbled a few steps and decided there was no way I could face the day wearing them. I took off the offending shoe and a queen wasp crawled out. I shall wait till my toe has subsided and give them another try.


Being unconnected with the world is rather peaceful. Of course my neighbour, who is also cut off, has a friend who can do the repair much better and quicker than Orange France, but so far the friend has failed to do the necessary. I hope for tomorrow but tomorrow morning we are told we face a few hours without electricity and that is bound to complicate matters.
I did a circuit of the village the other day and spotted something that was new to me. To my surprise, a 100 yards away, just behind the patriarch’s house, lies an official view point. There’s a tiny patch of public greenery on which is set a picture map that gives the names of all the places that can be seen. In fact one can only see two other villages on the horizon but it’s a pretty picture and depicts the direction of Spain and other towns far beyond. But it’s taken me two years to notice the thing. It is unsignposted and quite impossible to notice unless one knew it was there. Our dozen or so streetlights are symbols of village pride and importance. We light therefore we are. They are not necessary. Without them the stars would give sufficient light to allow normal life since everyone here could see their way round blindfold. I suspect the viewpoint may be another such redundant indication of status.


Back in the UK, many valuable hours of my life were spent communicating with advice centres in India when my internet connection went down. In the main the folk at the other end of the line were comprehensible. Not so here. I’ve struggled for two hours so far. One first has to persuade the adviser that the fault does not lie in one’s own general idiocy, nor in the computer but the problem lies with either the router or the line. This is a mammoth task since such folk are taught that their equipment is practically perfect and the customer is always wrong. My French is stretched to the limit on the phone anyway but when technical computer jargon is needed, it is a step too far. All my dictionaries are on line so I can’t even check out words like reset…
Aargh! I’ve just a call back from an expert. The fault lies on the phone line. They cannot promise a repair until the middle of next week. I shall venture out to find a kind neighbour from whom I can bum a connection. But blogs over the next few days may be sparse.

Raison d’etre

Grey and drizzly today. Summer is forecast from tomorrow with warm and blue promised for ever.
If conversation ever flags with my French teacher she will ask what I am reading. It’s very odd but for the first time that I can remember I have stopped consuming books at a rate of three or four a week and can take a fortnight over one. I suspect the problem may be that I sit with the computer at my elbow all day and reading time goes into that. It does mean that my conversations in French about literature are very meagre. Today’s main topics were the colonial aftermath and terrorism. For me the episode could have taken place on another planet, but natives were astonished and uneasy about hearing the place names of the locality bandied about internationally because nothing ever happens here. That’s the raison d’etre of this part of France. It’s a shame the BBC correspondent didn’t do his homework on pronunciation and halved the distance between Montauban and Toulouse.


I’ve just had a parcel delivered. The girl who dropped it off from her van bridled when she discerned I was an expat. I explained that I was not English but she didn’t think that helped much. I listened to a story about her having been abused and physically pushed away from the door of another expat when she went to the front gate rather than to the servant’s side entrance. She seemed to forgive my race when I congratulated her on her courage and explained I knew of that particular household and I would not have dared to go to either entrance for fear of having the hounds set upon me.


I airported this afternoon, aware that the ‘scarlet alert’ might lead to delays. There was a temptation to knock anyone on a big scooter and a helmet into the ditch just in case, but the only additional security was on one roundabout about 10 miles out of Toulouse on the way back where a mixture of gendarmes and soldiers had every exit thoroughly covered.
Something always goes mildly pear-shaped when I collect anyone for the airport. This time it was the car park ticket which came out in two pieces and the exit could not handle it, and I was told I had to go to the ‘cabine’ to obtain a replacement. It is mildly distressing when I say something bone simple in my best French and am replied to in English. On this occasion it was a nice taxi driver who I asked for cabine directions and he dug a freebie ticket out of his glove compartment.