Monthly Archive for July, 2012

Crash

There’s a lull in agricultural activity at the moment with the combines having done their duty for the time being. Sunflowers is the next biggie although some desultory melon weeding is going on.
The car which was written off by the clan’s senior daughter was brought into the village today and some thought was given on whether it should remain here as an interesting sculture. She skidded and hit a concrete bollard and the vehicle did its best to swallow the thing. Her passenger was unhurt and she got away with some nasty bruises. The matriarch is lighting candles for her daughter’s survival and, judging by the state of the car, it was pretty miraculous.

Chemicals

The village was dead until lunch time when some of the natives blearily emerged into the street and began a gentle game of petanque. I suspect that heavy-duty gambling is involved so I will not join in until I am certain of the local rules. The next serious meal is next Sunday when it is the village repas as opposed to that of the chasse. It may not be quite so carnivorous and duty demands my presence at it, just as it did yesterday.
I frequently pass a farm on very much a back road that explodes into chickens and cats as you approach. He has some lovely Blonde d’Aquitaine cows and, at the moment, they often have egrets plodding up and down on their backs when they cud, industriously hoovering up the flies. In my farming days, I had to use noxious chemicals to do the same but this seems much better. The cows sometimes move from field to field and they all file neatly along the verge of the road. The farmer and I are now on nod and grunt terms. One day we may graduate to ‘Bonjour’.

Lunch

The chasse lunch began at 12.30. I wimped out at 5pm, after courses of salad, salmon, veg, barbecued boar, boar sausages and there is still cheese and pud and Christ knows what all still to come. I have handed on my tombola tickets to deserving patrons. It’s queasy making stuff, but awfully ethnic and fuelled with rather dodgy wine that is served in lemonade bottles. The winners are the local dogs as I have learned to bring a vast cool box with me to fill with the quantities of pig that are left over. Cato is comatose for a couple of days afterwards.
The local clan runs the lunch since they are the chasseurs supreme. There are domestic upsets within their ranks and, to add to their problems, senior daughter wrote off her car on the way here last night. I am about to serve coffee to refugees on the terrace. It’s cloudy today and not much more that 80 degrees

Dabbering

I’ve dug out the fans over the past couple of days. I bought them during my first summer here when it remained in the high 30s for some time. Last summer they weren’t needed but the temp reached 95 on the terrace yesterday which leads to uncomfortable nights. A thunderstorm cleared things a bit last night and more are forecast but today remains blue and hot.
The matriarch turned up yesterday evening, dabbering and plastering on account of the heat, and made off with a great bunch of lavender. This is to be made into bouquets for each of the women who attend the chasse lunch tomorrow. She has begun calling me ‘chef’ and I’m not certain if this means she reckons I’m a great cook or something else. It could mean ‘boss’ but this does not seem appropriate.

Desiccating

More wicked doings by the sorciere were imparted to me today. She wished dead some old boy at the bottom of the village, and he died. She scattered bones from the churchyard alongside a house belonging to an enemy and… and…and…well, that’s it really – just a bit of bone-scattering. My French is now almost good enough to be able to sustain a conversation starting off with my response of ‘What utter balls!’ to the information. I ran with it anyway
The village is gearing up for the Chasse Lunch on Saturday in aid of funds. 150 people will be fed wild boar in many different guises inside the salle de fetes opposite this house. It’s a very jolly, well-lubricated ethnic event. The snag for me is that the drains in the street send foul odours into this house when the salle is in full use. I shall refill all water traps tomorrow. It’s 90-odd today and things are both desiccated and desiccating.

Coad stone

The village patriarch and a couple of his family called round yesterday evening. He stayed till 11.30, showing an expat-like appreciation for the wine on offer. Given a few more such visits and my French will be well up to scratch. He began life in Normandy and his French is crystal clear compared with many round here.
I went round the inside of the chateau again yesterday, this time taking a large torch. Granted it would take some €5 million to bring it back, but much of it is still in quite good preservation. Some of the rooms are huge and beautifully proportioned. It must have been built primarily for entertaining – and in summer, since fireplaces are few. The grand staircase is built of Coad stone which probably dates it to the early 19th century. I thought ‘fake marble’ but discover that the lions in Trafalgar Square are made of the stuff along with fancy bits of the Brighton Pavilion, St George’s Chapel Windsor, Buckingham Palace etc.
The building is said to have been built by the d’Arbieu family. Unfortunately I haven’t the first idea who they were and Google is little help.

Buffet

By the salle de fetes on the pavement opposite sits a bench. During the day it’s in the shade and is usually occupied by the neighbour’s dogs ready to bark at any car that comes up the street. After dark one sits there, smokes and chews the fat with the locals. I was told yesterday that I had been very wise to choose to live in a village rather than out in the countryside like so many expats. There they have nobody to talk to and become isolated drunks and often go mad. Which, I suppose, is worse than being a socialising drunk and going mad just the same.
The matriarch rolled up her skirts to show me her knee, swathed in a lurex bandage. She had been in her garden and was bitten and the knee swelled up. Was it her husband who bit her? I asked, and was given a Dick Emery-style buffet.

Glow worms

I came back from Scotland with some magic gunk, donated by the car’s previous owner, that covers scrapes and scratches on the bodywork and makes it look like new. The drawback was that it requires the vehicle to be clean and I have washed it once since I came to France. The gunk has been giving me reproachful looks for weeks, so today I hosed the car down and applied the potion. Utterly and totally useless. My neighbour came to watch and, being the expert on anything automotive, told me the stuff didn’t work – not rocket science, that diagnosis – and he has the very stuff in his garage which he is willing to lend. We shall see.
I saw glow worms in the garden yesterday evening, the first sighting since I’ve been here. I can’t think where they’ve been till now as I had noted their absence. I was last in this region of France 20 years ago and they were everywhere. I once saw a few in Somerset and they do add considerably to the gaiety of a dark night

Spiders

In Somerset, when the tedium of word processing became too great to bear, I would step outside, pick up a fishing rod and make a few casts into the river that ran by the edge of the lawn. Here all I can do is pace the estate – and that can take 30 seconds or less. Still, there are curiosities to see. I enjoy the hummingbird hawk moths that twitch their way round the lavender. Or the pearly-white spider, its arms outstretched amongst it, ready to grab any bee that comes too close. It seems to be mimicking a white snail that also sits on the blossoms. Just now three wall brown butterflies landed on the concrete path in front of me in a neat line. The one in front seemed the largest and best marked, the one at the back was very scruffy with a ragged wing. They sat there for 30 seconds and the front one took off, landed on the lawn and twitched its backside seductively. The other two made a dive for it, collided with each other and then spiraled up in combat, disappearing over the hedge. The other stayed put, waving its bum and waiting for the winner for some time but neither of its potential lovers returned, so it flew off.

Upheavals

Still hot and blue, 90 on the terrace but 72 indoors with the windows and relevant shutters closed.
In a Homer Simpson moment, the largest tree felled opposite came down across the roof of a shed. I was tempted to cross the road and advise him to consult Google.
There are domestic upheavals taking place in the village. I had previously considered myself as a very detached observer but I find myself drawn into the unhappiness and wishing the power to make it go away.