Monthly Archive for September, 2012


The gendarmes, understandably are cross with my neighbour’s missus for drawing them into her domestic conflict by accusing her man of barbecuing unbaptised infants. She’d had one bollocking already and is due next week to receive another. They’re fierce, the gendarmes, but I have suggested she pleads insanity if a thorough licking of their boots fail to suffice.


An old boy occasionally turns up here bearing baskets of fruit. He’s French, a retired academic and looks for conversational stimulation amongst the ex-pats. He does not speak English so trying to satisfy his requirements is very exhausting. We talked yesterday of lemurs, Big Bang, JK Rowling, pre-Raphaelite painters, Descartes and peaches. And then I lay down with a cold compress on my forehead.
It’s the first pullover day of the autumn. My morning was spent squeezing in and out of the tiny hatch to the attic to try to make function a daft radio-controlled couple of lights and attempting to understand the downloaded manual of a slightly different system. I have failed and now need to replace them or find an expert.


The dénouement of the domestic drama that has been happening next door came in a rush. Last night the bolting missus returned home and now sweetness and light reigns supreme. Both parties have learned through the experience and expect better times ahead. The two of them have lost more than 30 kgs of excess fat. It’s a very extreme diet to follow just the same. There are a few outraged kinsfolk still around but they will simmer down.


A twinkly old man and his canine familiar turned up on my doorstep and told me he could stop me smoking. I demurred since I enjoy this vice but he gave me the necessary incantation just the same. ‘I invoke the Force of Light etc.’ I must say this once a day for nine days and I shall no longer want either tobacco or alcohol. He then told me that that my upset stomach could be cured by smearing it with egg white, that a blocked nose could be sorted by balancing a kettle on my arse, that night cramps were cured by placing a cake of Marseilles soap at the bottom of my bed and asthma was banished if you did something that I failed to understand with a tortoise. He offered me a free bible before he left but I have several lying about so I refused that as well.


My visitors demolished a bush for me today and, after dumping the remains and we pottered round the village. We were ambushed by a clan member and summoned into the Temple of Delights, which is the headquarters of the chasse. There we drank armanac that had been distilled in the 1950s from an enormous carboy It came in a full plastic cup, had a proof of heaven knows what and tasted like paint stripper. Our host tried to demonstrate some French expression about hiding one’s husband in one’s armpit to my monoglot guest who had left her husband behind on the terrace. He lifted her arm and peered beneath. A serious misunderstanding could have resulted but we skated through it.


The temp was an equable 25 at lunchtime. Inside the abbey was a gathering of some fifty, mostly young, men and two women lined up silently in the rows of chairs opposite a side altar. One had to skirt round them, feeling rather guilty for being a tourist while they were there on God’s business. They came out when we were eating and I asked the waitress who they were. She made a moue and told us they were Roma, regular attendees at the abbey for their own service. What was remarkable was that women were present; the first time she had seen any there. The men and women live separately, she said, in blocks of caravans apart from each other.


It’s 30 months since I arrived here. It seemed a good idea to de-ice the freezer for the first time and clean the fridge, although the latter’s at least an annual chore. I found a lurking haggis, which I put back. My heirs can work out what to do with it. Last spring I thought the gas bottle that fuels the cooker was about to run out so I obtained a replacement, but this has not yet been needed. The longevity of the original cylinder has become faintly spooky and it’s not as if I don’t use the thing most days.
My latest visitors reappear tomorrow. Lunch in the square in front of the abbey of Moissac on Sunday is on the cards, but the temp is predicted to be 34 degrees. Would this be intolerable for a couple of Scots who say they don’t like heat? I replaced the battery the thermometer the other day. Beforehand it could only register Fahrenheit; now it can only do centigrade so I am back to thinking of heat in this new-fangled foreign scale.


It’s busy these mornings. I come downstairs in my striped pajamas, let out the dog, make a coffee, scratch a bit, yawn and sit down at the computer to skim the papers. Then there’ll be a knock at the window. When the children are with him – most of the time – my neighbour doesn’t come into the house but instead stands leaning on the widow sill and sups his morning coffee – instant, black, fiendishly strong, no sugar and lukewarm – with an ear cocked for any untoward noises from his own house. All his doors and windows are open first thing to allow the wind to sweep away the night’s fug.
We pass the time of day and he fills me in on the latest twist of his saga. He’s now 22 kgs down and back wearing his clothes from his prime years. This morning his younger brother came ambling down the street, still pre-dawn, and he had a coffee, too. These interludes rarely last more than five minutes.


Sitting peacefully on the terrace yesterday, an Asian hornet bumbled by. They are recent arrivals here and are more irritable than the standard frelons. They are lethal to honey bees and kill the odd human who gets up their noses. This one put on its air brakes as it passed over my glass of wine and went down to investigate. I leave such creatures alone but this one tested my patience by crawling into my glass and taking great drafts of its contents. It slipped at one point and I though I might have to fish it out, but it recovered, crawled up to the brim, took off and beat a very erratic course over the hedge. The wine tasted just as good when it was gone.
I went to buy an obscure cooker part today from a small B&Qy sort of place on an industrial estate. I have learned to avoid the lunch hour when the country closes down and so arrived at the depot a minute before 2pm when it was shut. At precisely 15 seconds past the appointed hour, a bloke arrived in his white van to open up and, simultaneously, a procession of four more vans, blue and emblazoned with the firm’s logo, drove out of the yard and went about their business. It was an impressively co-ordinated operation.


It does seem extremely odd that we are all suffering shock/horror at the public airing of the Duchess of Cambridge’s breasts. And she’s so cross about it. I grant there’s a privacy issue but if she’d been wearing a frock it would not be worth raising more than an eyebrow. It’s the breasts what done it. But why should breasts be rude bits? In fact should any rude bits be considered rude bits in the first place? Was it Jehovah getting ratty with Adam and Eve who started it? I suppose rude bits are rude because they become involved in rude things, but breasts are innocents. And since rude bits are universal, one would think we could cope with those of others.
Perhaps I should pass my next decade, should be granted to me, as a French Naked Rambler. It should be warmer than doing the same in Scotland. The trick may be finding how to avoid being incarcerated in padded cells.