Monthly Archive for October, 2012


Les Grues having been flying over. Being an ignorant sod I had assumed the skeins of birds flying overhead were geese since that’s what I’m used to. But they flew too high and the calls were wrong. I managed to get a binocular fix on one of the 100-strong skeins and saw that they sure weren’t geese. Google revealed that one of the main migration routes of the common crane flies overhead in the same week it has done for centuries. Our lot come from the Baltic. According to Google, this regular path was what made them go ‘ting’ in the 18th century and start to wonder about bird migrations.
The short-toed eagles, which don’t actually seem to be short enough in the toe to qualify for an avian Paralympics, were also overhead wheeling their way south as I saw last year. The migrations add a dimension to looking at birds which was hardly appreciable in Scotland – bar the geese and the odd babble of waxwings.


Small grandchildren are over from London. It’s unsatisfactorily cold and windy, but probably better here than there. We’ve just been to the Garonne with nets to explore the choppy water margins to look for any life. It rather loses the point if every sweep of the net pulls out 20 little fish and shrimps. My neighbour offered me refuge if the unaccustomed noise and hassle of tiny people proves too much for me, but I shall not wimp out since they’ll be back home again in a day or three.
The gas bottle ran yesterday evening after 2.5 years use. I cancelled my application to the Vatican to have it declared miraculous. Feeling smug, I went to find the replacement but it had gone, presumably nicked since it’s not something that could easily be misplaced. But the village shop was still open and I fitted another.


My neighbour proved his worth by cobbling together the replacement of the fuel flap after I broke it when I tried to fit it. He leant on the window cill afterwards and gave me a lecture on punaises that are everywhere at the moment. Most are no problem, but the tiger punaise – and he opened my shutter to show a lurking specimen – attacks when riled by jetting a foul-smelling gas. I was told it is most upsetting when it crashes into you at night when in the midst of love-making. I did sniff one yesterday and detected a faint odour of almonds. Wikipedia tells me that the smell is rancid cyanide, but half a century of tobacco has not enhance my nose’s sensitivity. But it may be a step too far to try one as flavouring in a chicken thing.


I called into the mairie this morning. The maire is not a happy man. Unless the garage adjacent to this house, built by the sorciere’s grandson and heir without permission, is demolished in less than a month, he must deliver by hand an official thunderbolt. This seems to take the form of a decree from the Prefect sanctioning the use of the guillotine within ten working days. The maire made twirly motions beside his temple and shrugged. I sympathise although the fact that the grandson ignores me completely makes him a very peaceful neighbour.
According to Wikipedia, dogs are said to have a sense of smell up to 100 million times as sensitive as our own. Why then is it necessary to spend so long sniffing someone else’s turd so close up? I hope it’s not for pleasure.


TEEM’s fourth birthday is being celebrated. We went next door for champagne and vast quantities of chocolate cake, Since there was only a 45 minute warning, all I could find as a present was a small painted wooden duck which was swamped by a fleet of radio-controlled trucks, Porsches etc., which must have sorted out China’s balance of payments for the month. The clan had gathered and it felt an honour to be included. The guy who’s going to dig out the terrace was one of the guests – he’s a loose clan associate – but it didn’t seem to be the moment to ask him when he’ll begin digging. Wasps were mooching around but what got the table into turmoil was the sight of a punaise. Squash them and they release a foul odour but I have yet to squash one so I can’t confirm this.


The wind has gone and been replaced by dull drizzle. The gale’s final flourish was ripping off the flap that covered the car’s fuel inlet and removing the Tricolour from the front of the mairie.
The melons were picked about a couple of weeks ago from the fields that border the road a kilometre or two below the village. Travelling between them was unpleasant owing to the sickly stench of the rotting discards that were left behind. The land has now been ploughed but the melons survived intact and against the brown soil they look like scattered human skulls.
I had a drink with a French neighbour a day or two ago and saw that she had a large covered flower pot on the sideboard containing some 50 snails, the same kind that live in this garden. I have nothing against eating snails but they seem no more than a vehicle for olive oil and garlic. I prefer bread to serve this purpose rather than rubbery molluscs.


Today is filled with the sort of weather you just don’t get in the UK. 23 degrees and a thundering gale. It shut the electrics down for a few hours last night and is even stronger today. The roads are littered with twigs and I had to stop to tumble a substantial bough into the leeward ditch to make further progress.
This was after a visit to the sorciere who remains thoroughly miserable and now needs a zimmer. She wants to be in the sky with the birds and not cooped up amid fellow crumblies. She told me that one of my neighbours, the most aged clan member, had died. If this is so, which I doubt since I saw her tottering around a couple of weeks ago, the tom-toms have let me down severely.


£27.60 is now due to me through Kindle sales on ‘Any Fool’ books. This is most exciting since, bar the recent editing, I did the writing of them some 25 years ago. I am now in the top 120,000 of Kindle’s best selling authors. I might even be able to move higher on the list – if anyone knew they were there.
My neighbour’s neurotic little dogs, following merrily on his heels when he came in for a coffee, were ambushed by a brace of over-friendly Labradors that were visiting. For a wonderful moment I thought they might both suffer heart attacks and drop dead on the carpet. Cato was an interested spectator to the squeals, screams and barks but there were no serious casualties – bar the rugs that ended up in a corner.


It is not recommended to mention the War out here. One hears tit bits but the generations to whom it is anything but ancient history are fast disappearing. The French made a pretty good fist of it and suffered accordingly. The UK was saved by a damn good moat. A smidgeon this morning, chatting to a very old boy who told me he spoke German. I wondered whether he’d been deported to German as slave labour; I know of one local memorial that lists names of those who came back. But of course such men are long dead. He’d been in the army, occupying the French zone in 1946.
It’s mouse time and now I have learned to keep the poison on offer at all times. The stuff that comes in little pellets was fast disappearing and I was becoming worried that the house had a secret infestation. But I came across a cache of the stuff beneath a kitchen drawer. Poor little bugger; he must have thought he had struck it rich for the winter.


I am wearing socks for the first time since May & I moved into long trousers a few days ago. This is a reliable sign of the decline of the year. Last night the temp was in single figures and, first thing, there was a touch of white in the ditches at the bottom of the dips. Any frost here always settles on the car windscreen. My timings when I go to French lessons on Thurs mornings are now very precise but I tend to forget the time it takes to clear the screen – and keep it cleared when I hit the low sun. Perhaps I should delay the lesson for an hour. My teacher gave a shriek of excitement last time. ‘You used a subjunctive!’ I hadn’t meant to, as I don’t think I know subjunctives in French, any more than do many of the natives round here.
I’ll go 45 minutes to decent Chinese restaurant this evening. An Argentinean one has opened up quite close but I’m off Argentina at the moment, disliking both their history and their politics and I’m not really into chunks of burnt cattle.