Monthly Archive for April, 2012


The chair – an 18th century carver upholstered in green which has been wending its way here from the UK for the last three months – turned up. The carrier phoned ahead to ensure there would be someone present on the designated day to receive it. I gave up and went out at 7pm and consequently it was fielded by my neighbour. He flagged me down when I returned to the house and summoned me to collect it. By that time he had removed it from its cocoon of bubble wrap, carefully examined it and was ready to pass comment. ‘It is horrible,’ he said happily, ‘and it has worms’. But he thinks my long-case clock is horrible too, so I do not feel I need take his opinions on board. And any worms are ancient ghosts.


In a marquee, lashed by rain, we participated in a repas thrown by a nearby village. This particular one is a goodie and someone estimated a turn out of 160. The local maire, a well-moustachioed farmer with an impressive belly, had just returned from Bali where he and his family had spent 10 days while one of their number was married. The main dish was fat with some duck attached and beans. Last year it was beans and sausages from supermarket tins boiled up in the adjacent church. The wine, from lemonade bottles, is quite good but one doesn’t go there for the food.
An enormous storm, spitting lightning, has just rumbled across the valley. We just caught its edge and it is now being very cross indeed on the horizon beyond the chateau.

Disgusted TW

In spite of the depressing weather Nature must struggle on. I heard my first nightingale last night. For my guest it was the first of his life. And the cuckoos are about. I used to be very good at making cuckoo noises and could attract them to check me out as a potential mate or rival, but I seem to have gone off a bit – at least as far as cuckoos are concerned.
My neighbour and I had a Disgusted Tunbridge Wells conversation last night. It’s the Chinese who are buggering things up, and the EU, and the immigrants. And the Socialists, the Front National and Sarko. And the French who keep buying goods made by foreigners. I raised his recently-bought BMW, but he didn’t take the point and started to say how wonderful it was and how smart he’d been to buy it.


I drove my visitor though the mist and rain on a fag & booze run to Spain. It’s a pretty tedious trip from here, the best part of three hours, but my passenger had never seen a hill higher than 3,500 ft before and he was happy to boggle away at the frozen enormity of the Pyrenees. We didn’t get beyond the frontier town where it is surprising how monoglot the staff in the shops are when 90% of their customers must be coming across the border from France.
I had a gendarme on my tail at one point for some ten miles and it really puts a damper on one’s fun and I find myself driving like an idiot through sheer fright. If a gendarme stops you, he can always find something wrong. I only recently discovered that I must have a fluorescent jacket on display for every passenger the car might hold. I have one which I now show – but is the car a 5-seater or a 4? At least I have the mouthpiece of a breathalyser kit which must also be carried. Mine was a gift from the last gendarme who demanded a blow job from me.


We had a blow out at the nearby restaurant which specialises in six courses of heart-stopping local cuisine and takes a perverse delight in serving so much that only the most dedicated gannet can finish what’s offered. It finishes with four desserts, any one of which would be adequate. The menu which has three main dishes – two duck, one pig – has been unaltered for 20 years. Wine included it cost €22 a head. The prop/chef says that he has an adequacy of customers all the year round, so why should he change what works? And by now he’s quite good at cooking his repertoire.


I snatched a grass cut today, which seems to be the only dry day as far as the forecast can see. Even the farmers here are beginning to whinge a bit. It’s never very sensible rain but just enough to be annoying.
The window was rat-a-tatted this morning. My neighbour, one of his offspring and his partner all anxious to display her new car. A BMW, no less, which he said he got with a €10k discount. I oo-ed and aah-ed appropriately and asked how much he’s give me for my vehicle if I traded it. ‘€10 – and that’s only because I know it’s got good tyres.’
It’s only recently occurred to me that my car, as well as having the steering wheel on the wrong side, is probably the only one of its colour and kind within a 100 miles of here which is not very clever since I prefer to keep my head below the parapet. If I owned something modern, boxy and French I wouldn’t get knowing looks from passing gendarmes and wouldn’t have to keep scooping Cato off my lap and chucking him into the passenger seat before I nod politely back.


I have a visitor. He has a Windows-based computer. It will not connect to my wifi. You ask the machine to help and it communicates in technospeak. Thank heavens for Macs.
One would think that communication would be best served by supplying the information as simply, clearly and briefly as is possible. But it is bizarre how difficult this seems to be for some sectors of the community. I was aghast to read a literary friend’s PhD proposal a couple of weeks ago. The idea was very interesting but I would never have known it. The dreadful jargon is expected, he said, although he will ask if he can write his thesis in normal English. Similarly I receive a financial tip sheet which often contains a link to others selling something financial. All the pitches are virtually identical and always ludicrous – hyperbolic, doom-laden and wordy in the extreme. Or local council-speak, although, the French don’t seem to use it. Their bureaucracy may be legendary but it seems to be able to write clearly.


The Tarn & Garonne was a smidgen more fond of Le Pen than the average, a smidgen more keen to vote and a smidgen less fond of Sarkozy. This particular neighbourhood is not typical which doesn’t surprise me. Uniquely, so far as I can establish, one neighbouring commmune gave a majority to the Front National. Our 50 voters put Sarkozy first with 28% of the vote and Le Pen a close second.

Election day

Ignoring my instructions to the contrary the dog sprinted down the street to beat up the neighbour’s cat. The cat, a ginger job with only half a tail that he tried to palm off on me last year, stood its ground and batted Cato on the nose. His scream of surprise and outrage brought the children to their door. I think they thought someone had succeeded in squashing one of their little brutes which dice with every car that passes. ‘Have you voted?’ asked one of them. I explained I was a foreign devil and not eligible. ‘That is very bad. You live here so you should have a vote.’
The polling station is the mairie and it’s the one time that the maire has to sit in his office all day to supervise the 50 or so members of the electorate who may vote. I did see two cars parked outside so his day will not be totally wasted.


e only place you see election posters is in front of the mairies. There the ten candidates are all lined up looking sternly presidential. There’s even one, bless his cotton socks, who believes the Queen owes her wealth to drugs money, laundered by Jews in the City. But election fever does not seem to be sweeping the country. It is said that Sarko will lose because he broke the national consensus that this is a Socialist country. However right-wing aka Gaullist a politician might be, he had to pretend that he was really a leftie at heart and Sarko refused to pretend that he was and earned the visceral hatred of the overwhelmingly leftish press. This is the mouthpiece of the trendy chattering classes who run the country and rarely peer beyond the confines of their own bottoms to see what’s going on beyond the Paris Peripherique. Whatever the result, the country will remain plein dans la merde. Like every other country in Europe, economic regeneration is beyond the power of politicians. Even if they had the courage and authority to try to make the necessary changes, their electorates won’t let them