Monthly Archive for April, 2013


I had an email congratulating me on the third anniversary of my arrival in France. It seems like a moment when I should share such insights that I have gained from uprooting myself and going to a strange land to live amongst foreigners. I haven’t really got any – bar that baguettes are overrated,  one should never annoy a frelon or a gendarme and make damn sure there’s a decent central heating in any house you buy  out here.

Granny is being tucked into a little, currently superfluous house in the middle of the village. There she can live on her own and has a dozen of her descendants within 50 yards of her front door to scoop her up when she tumbles down the stairs.


My neighbour returned from the half-term holiday in Brittany bearing a bottle of Medoc, lableless, made by one of his mates. His family is in the midst of trying to work out what to do with Granny. She’s over 90 and has her own small house in a nearby town – without any hot water – but needs a full time carer if she’s to stay there, which is what she wants. That’s not practical and the family will have to pay for whatever is decided. The state doesn’t pick up the tab. Granny is a long-term enemy of the sorciere. The latter has got it into her head that Granny died last year. I tried to tell her Granny was still in life, but this depressed the old bat so much that I haven’t disillusioned her since.
I counted five trilling nightingales last night. A couple close by and the others fading into the distance. At night the whole of southern France must be covered by the racket. They are obviously singing their claims to a certain patch of territory and it’s quite sensible of them to keep going when others are quiet as they aren’t drowned out by everything else. But when do they sleep? Wisteria has been running rampant at the chateau for a dozen years. It is over the roof this year and has spread itself across the ground to create a carpet of blossom.


Two sunny days, if breezy. I imagine some of the redundant houses in the vicinity have been rented to half-termers since a couple of groups of people in urban summer garb have picked their way through the brambles up the track to the chateau under the interested gaze of those drinking wine on the terrace of this house. The forecast crashes downhill from today with nothing but chilly sog for the next week. But the weather window has been long enough to let many of the farmers into their fields. Their tractors are behemoths, all four-wheel drive, double-wheeled and I even seen one with tracks to cope with the clay. They leave their spoor of clods as they move between the fields.
They’ve been rioting in Paris against gay marriage, part smart since the law permitting it has been passed. This neck of the woods is not sophisticated, even less so than the depths of rural Devon where I spent many years. Here they don’t like gypsies, Arabs, city-dwellers – particularly Parisians – Germans, witches or politicians but I have never heard the remotest angst expressed about homosexuality. In fact active benignity seems to be the common attitude. The protesters themselves are hamstrung with the difficulty that the constitution forbids a religious dimension to politics, so they can’t invoke God as a supporter. A large part of the fuss is simply down to the unpopularity of the government, but the anti-gay argument is bizarrely incoherent without an Old Testament and a few bishops to fall back on.


Since it’s half term, most of the village is off on holiday and it’s very peaceful. Even the next door dogs are sulking and can hardly be bothered to come out to yap when a car passes by. The sorciere had a ‘chute’ and is in hospital for an indeterminate period so visiting duties are light. The poor old thing does a lot of chuting but otherwise she’s as tough as old boots and is notoriously expected to outlive everyone else in the village, thanks to her judicious use of certain spells.
I see that a new sport is hunting for grooming paedophiles on line and then confronting them. It must have been about 1992 that I first obtained a modem and crept out into the brave new world of the internet and soon found myself in a chat room. I couldn’t understand why they all seemed to be arseholes. And what they chatted about was banal beyond belief. I wanted to exchange ideas that would change views of the world across cultures. Eventually when someone inquired about what boys liked best, I asked the questioner how old she was. I think it was something like 12. She asked back. 50. And I soon found myself all alone in the infinity of the world-wide web.

Tant pis

On the corner about half a mile a way a black dog, medium sized and rather pretty, leapt out to attack every passing car. I tried slowing but that just kept it gnawing at the door for longer. So I would accelerate to escape the damn thing as quickly as possible. For those who did not know it, it could give a nasty fright and the ditches that edge the narrow road are not forgiving. Its elderly owners, retired farmers with an extensive garden and poultry, tried giving it a ball and chain but the extra effort to do the chase only led to the animal becoming distressinglyy skinny. There was even an electric collar on it at one point. But it is no more. A friend of mine squashed it this week. Not fun for the friend but a collective flicker of relief ran round this corner of France. ‘Tant pis’, said the owner as he dragged the corpse off the road.
Under advice, I spent €50 this morning on a small selection of plants. Since a yellow machine will enter this garden this year and tear up wall that stops the lawn from sliding six feet into the bottom garden, it is not sensible to do anything serious. Perhaps plastic flowers would have been better this season and I could have taken advice from the matriarch who has drifts of the things in and around her house.

Black holes

My 10-year old car went through a rough period this time last year. All sorts of niggly things went wrong and I seriously contemplated euthanasia. However I gave it a period of TLC and it has run beautifully every since. Granted its electrics played up a few weeks ago, but I gave it a sharp kick by a tail light and which seems to have sorted out all its little problems. I’m going through such a patch at the moment and it’s rather tedious but I look forward to sunny uplands. I’m off to foreign parts in early May and have put off medical matters until I return. After all the car spent a couple of years emitting clouds of black smoke before this was rectified, so no mechanism need be perfect in order to function.
I once heard a radio interview with a jazz musician, Huey Long, who was asked to what he attributed reaching his centenary. He put it down to ‘100 cigarettes a day and nothing but fried foods’. The medics always shudder when I tell them I’ve smoked for half a century but the only damage I have noticed so far is to my shirt fronts. I tend to lie virtually prone in front of the computer and shower myself with ash. Most of my shirts are spotted with little brown holes. Fortunately I had gleaned enough shirts from demising kinsfolk to last a lifetime before I arrived here but these stop being respectable alarmingly quickly.


The nightingale was doing his thing for the first time last night, but no crickets or cicadas yet & the resident swallows have not arrived. I suppose they mooch around further south leaving it to those birds that have to travel to the north of Scotland to bustle through here first. A redstart is trying to build a nest above the front door and making such real pig’s breakfast of it that I doubt it’ll see the job through to completion.
I note a report saying that French medics spend too much money bouncing their patients on to specialists rather than making diagnoses themselves. Certainly I have seen more experts and had more tests here than I have had in a lifetime of health care in the UK. This may be a consequence of advancing age rather than difference in medical practice. Now I have proper insurance, it doesn’t matter that much although I am tired of traipsing to the astonishingly extensive medical quarter of Montauban. I go to see a surgeon, I think, tomorrow, clutching sheaves of reports from other experts on the subject of a very boring lump. I tried to persuade the GP that I had decided to incorporate it as recognised portion of my anatomy with all the rights and privileges that accrue to such an honour, but he wouldn’t wear it. Come to think on it I had a lump between thumb and forefinger that was removed in Perth, unpicked by a mournful Muslim surgeon with exquisite care under my interested gaze. In the midst of the procedure, the gaggle of nurses shuffled across the operating theatre towards the radio which announced that the brown bombers who had tried to blow up Glasgow airport with their Range Rover were doctors in the NHS. Everyone looked at him, but said nothing.


Went up the Shard this morning, visited Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum on Friday, which is quite fun, saw a puppet theatre on a barge in Little Venice yesterday as well as getting cold and soggy amid the well-wrapped mummies and daddies at the Princess Di playground beside KP. It’s lovely to play grandfather – but not too often.
The weather was not actually too bad in London this morning but wild horses wouldn’t get me to move back to a climate like that. To a foreign country bumpkin, the metropolis is a bizarre place. I once drove down the freeway between Chicago and New York City and was told by a waitress in a service station that we were not real people, just thruway people. Real people worked in the service station and lived round about. I found myself having discussions with Tube workers & lift attendants in an attempt to make them think that I was a real person, not one of those indifferent hordes all around. I think I must be too used to saying ‘Bonjour’ to virtually everyone I pass by.


I BA-ed into London for a few days yesterday. The plane was late taking off as the one originally offered to the pilot was dodgy so he demanded a better one. So we missed the landing slot and circled over Heathrow for far too long. Then they could not take their place next to the terminal and the buses were busy with another flight and there were no steps to download us from the aircraft. I loathe flying, so none of this was a surprise to me but some of the other passengers became very restive. Most of them seemed to be missing onward connections. It’s better on Easyjet seemed to be the consensus which is a dire indictment on any airline. And then there was that ludicrous queue to go through immigration. I blame the Daily Mail for turning the UK into such a miserable unwelcoming country.

Three butterflies

So far this blog has received some 50,000 spam messages that go straight into the appropriate box on their way to oblivion. Just occasionally one catches my eye, such as ‘Three butterflies together mean good luck. This works perfectly when either the muscles in my neighbours. Hooping makes me mad.’
I haven’t quite wriggled out from under the doctor yet. I went for an ultrasound yesterday and met the most miserable medic I have yet come across. He had one of those unfortunate double chins that are only emphasised by the beard sported to conceal it. He slithered all over an almost imperceptible bump that the local doc referred for examination and obviously had no clue about what he was looking at. There was a helpful and huge relay screen, obviously intended for pregnant ladies to count tiny toes. He gabbled a report into tape recorder in medical French and left me none the wiser. He grunted something at the receptionist on the way out. ‘Pardon?’ she said, but he had already turned his back. She lifted her eyebrows at him and we exchanged smiles.