Monthly Archive for September, 2013


A pretty good run of thunderstorms last night. They gave an amazing light show on the rim of the valley before one squatted down overhead and dropped its load, but not for too long. It frightened the TV and the internet connection but spared them both.
My neighbour has taken his family to the 4th International Festival of the Nut half a dozen miles away – hazelnuts that I’m told are the 4th most valuable crop grown in the department. The postmaster, a man who is offended if you speak to him in French rather than English, is a Chevalier des Noisettes and has a photo of himself wearing his gold chain by the counter. I don’t know whether he has to join in the nut-spitting contest. Bizarrely a visitor said she saw last year’s festival on TV in Dundee. I have done most of the ethnically cultural thingies round here, once at least, but I am not tempted by nuts – nor garlic which is cause for another few days of celebration round about.
The village watches the grandson’s progress on his building site with interest. He will beaver away, hacking down or building up a wall or laying little paths. Then he’ll mix and lay a bit of concrete alongside his intimidating pile of sand and grave and roar away on a compressor or jackhammer. But then he loses interest and moves on to something else. Fortunately it’s just a weekend afternoon occupation, so the disturbance is fairly minimal.

Maid of Norway

Muggy today – 30 and overcast. The sunflowers are mostly harvested and the excess of melons lies rotting in the fields. Most of the local pickers are Poles. In previous years they’ve been Portuguese or from the Maghreb. It must be down to the skills of the gang masters, which must be a pretty terrible trade.
We take possession of Poonkie tomorrow. She has been here on day visits this week and is little trouble. It may not last but she seems to be ready house-trained, waddling out onto the lawn whenever she so needs. Cato was said to have been bullied something rotten by a pack of 25 fellow papillons when small and he has still to be convinced that other dogs can be anything other than pains in the arse. Perhaps this beast will melt his stony heart.
But for her untimely death, the King of Scots’ daughter would likely have been betrothed to the heir to the English throne in about 1290, leading to a union between the two countries under their successor. I am ploughing through a terrifying tome that relentlessly outlines the cost in gold and human misery of the 400 years of cross border affrays and warfare that stemmed from her unfortunate demise. With the Scots on their side, the Plantagenet monarchs would probably have won the 100 Years War and ended up kings of France. And I would be maire of this village. But pigs didn’t fly.

More choppers

I’m a week away from having new plastic choppers in all necessary places. A cousin had eight teeth pulled out a couple of weeks ago and he was moaning about the cost and grief of implants. I tried to sell him the lack of hassle and cheapness of plastic, but I suspect his vanity is too great, as well as having deep pockets. If I had not had crap teeth from an early age and had not learned to tolerate fakes, then I might be tempted down the same route. I had to report a catastrophe to my lovely dentist this morning, as the retiring falsies snapped under assault from a piece of chocolate a couple of days ago and shed a few molars. ‘Simple jealousy,’ was her diagnosis. Next week, with the news ones in place, I shall apply Araldite.
The village ordered CH oil that was delivered this morning. The driver is circular and increases in circumference with each visit. My neighbour had warned me that he’d be out by 8am when the tanker would call, so I acted as mate at the various drop points. .85€ a litre. According to my sums, it costs some €100 a month to heat and hot water the house across the year. I may have erred somewhere, as that seems much too little.


Early mist soon dissipated and turned into a very pleasant day. We lunched at Moissac, on the Garonne and there, as I should have known, the fog still sat and so we ate dedans rather than the intended dehors. The food in the restaurant is good, but the service can be very slow. This doesn’t matter if one is outside since there’s the changing spectacle of tourists and pilgrims round the abbey. A few fat Frenchmen inside do not equal it.
The puppy is still called Poonkie. Various attempts have been made to upgrade the name but it soon reverts. The neighbouring children deliver it round for an hour or three each day to get it used to the idea of living here, and then they remove it when it’s time for grub. ‘It is the stupidest of the litter,’ said one of them. ‘It is the most intelligent,’ said my neighbour. I hope it’s a simpleton as smart dogs can be a pain in the arse. Certainly it seems a placid little soul, content to doze on any lap it finds itself. Cato is indifferent to it at the moment. It’s a third of his size but its feet are like snowshoes so this may change.


Poonkie approacheth. There was a certain inevitability about it. Pussy, one of next door’s yappers, gave birth to four offspring by an underage Yorkshire terrier a couple of months ago. Three of them were found homes almost immediately and my neighbour has been working on me to take the fourth ever since. I have capitulated. Its fur stands vertically from the top of its head – hence Punkie, but with a French accent. We have been told that no objection will be raised if its name is changed. Its siblings are going to the postman, a passing builder and another member of the clan whose door is 100 yards away.
One of the 8 foot-high block walls built by the grandson as frontage for his garage has developed a tilt. The lean is about 6 inches from vertical at the moment but increasing, excitingly, with each passing day. Fortunately it is leaning inwards so will not collapse into the square. He has not done any work on the site for two or three weeks, so he may have become disheartened by the obvious necessity to demolish and rebuild.

Poker Dice

This website has been bust for several days. I’m not at all certain that it’s working properly now and I cannot find a suitable expert to make it good at the moment, so I apologise for hiccups. Anyway, this post has been lurking so h/w.
TEEM, now aged fiveThas taken to coming through the French window when he returns for school to visit for ten minutes or so. I feel it my duty to teach him bad habits, so we play poker dice. He has a ruthless streak and would like to argue my decisions about which of us is the victor. I am encouraging him to raid his mother’s purse so that he turns up with a decent stake.
It’s been open day today when lots of historic buildings, many not usually open to the public, welcome visitors. We went to a local chateau that dominates the skyline for miles around. It’s been in the same family for 300 years. I asked how they had kept their heads in the Revolution. Himself was a member of the National Assembly and didn’t turn up to vote for the execution of the king, so he was decapitated as well. A trusty servant saved the children and although they lost much of their land all, save Papa, lived happily ever after. The chateau is built on Roman foundations with three columns supporting the floors above the basement. Here they’re the Gallo-Romans, acknowledging the fact that they were natives who participated in the advantages of the empire. In the UK, they’re just Romans which conjures up a caste of Italian immigrants that became the aristocracy of the time. I’m sure they weren’t.
Afterwards we went to a choral concert in the church a couple of hundred yards away. Their pianist didn’t make it and there was lots of dissonance – all way above my head, and we sneaked away before the end. I’ve been to performances in that church before and experience has taught the wisdom of bringing a cushion. It’s always been swelteringly hot. Today it was bloody cold & it’ll be a week before the temp will return to the middle 20s.


My neighbour has begun a part time job some dozen miles away and the village today was utterly deserted until the children returned from school. Even the yappie little dogs next door had nothing to do and not a yap has been uttered.
As part of my recent corporeal maintenance programme, I am due at an optician next week. There is a history of glaucoma in the family and I have neglected to have my annual check up for too long. There’s no equivalent to the UK High Street chains here. There are so many of those that it is obvious that money is to be made in the business. Here, as in pharmacies, a tight grip is held by those already practising the trade as it is the route to a very good living indeed. I was told there was a 10 month waiting list for anyone who can do more than sell you a pair of spectacles, but the matriarch is a friend of the nearest opthamologist, some 30 kilometers away, and I have no problems getting to see him. Visually, I’m in an eerie no man’s land at the moment as a lifetime of short-sight has been cancelled by age-related long sight. For the first time in my life I don’t need spectacles. Long may it remain so.


It’s turned damp and a bit nippy, at least by local standards. There should still be a bit of summer to come but the forecast is no longer cloudless and 30 as far ahead as can be seen.
On still days, a nearby farmer who is said to be well into his 70s sails into the sky from one of his fields on a parachute wing from which is suspended a seat with a busy little engine behind. The noise is not too bad from ground level but it must be a bit irritating if your 18 inches away from it. The first few times I saw him, I thought it looked quite fun but once you’ve looked down on the neighbourhood once or twice it would pall for me and I’d prefer Google Earth. He normally potters over the chateau, disappears for 15 minutes before returning, cutting his engine and gliding back to his landing strip. This is complete with a windsock since he has a tiny little plane of some kind that he uses on special occasions. It turned a bit breezy shortly after take off the other day and I watched him being blown way off his normal course and disappearing deep into France profonde. To the best of my knowledge he never came back.
Swallows and house martins are blizzarding through here at the moment on their way south. They tend to pause here for half a day, swooping over the village and chateau to refuel and sometimes coming into the house to tour the ground floor before going off again. I read that a pair of swallows had nested for the first time ever recorded on St Kilda this year. It’s 40 miles from the next bit of land and one wonders whether these pioneers were very smart or very stupid, and how one persuaded its mate that the trip could be worthwhile.


Dropped by the sorciere in her institution yesterday. She looks healthier every time I see her. She was sitting in a flower-filled garden where she is placed in her wheelchair a couple of days a week. She says she has made no friends, that nobody visits her, nothing to do but wait for death, etc., but the staff seem genuinely fond of her; one even stroked her chin and she giggled like a girl. She asks after her grandson. She says she still owns the bottom half of the house that she inhabited on the opposite side of the square from here; he has the top half. But he hasn’t visited her and won’t give her a key so she cannot go there. One of the staff said that they’d take some of their charges in an outing and drive through the village so that she could see what’s been going on. She asks anxiously after her local enemies and is disappointed if told they are still in life. Understandably she is much more pleased to see the dog than me.
A woman five minutes down the road died yesterday when she overbalanced out of a window while trying to close her shutters. I have some that require me to hook my foot on something and lean out while sitting in on the ledge. I know that shutters are ubiquitous here but I’m still unconvinced that they’re a good idea.


Over the last couple of days, the grandson has taken to parking a bloody great lorry in the square alongside his garage over night and departing with a roar of ill-serviced diesel engine at 6 am to some unknown destination for some unknown purpose. This is contra the orders of the maire, who is retiring next year, probably because he can no longer cope with the grandson. But on Friday, his worship signed a document – an arret? – which will cause to be erected a signpost at the bottom of the village forbidding the entry of trucks of the size of the grandson’s. At first sight of the vehicle, one should summon the gendarmes and they will come rushing out and he will lose his driving license. I am very grateful that I don’t have to act as point – I am his nearest neighbour – in the dispute between the entire community and him. This morning, on his way out, he couldn’t be bothered to turn his lorry in the square and go down the street to the main road. Instead he went out through the narrow lane opposite. It goes between the matriarch’s two houses and he demolished her line of much-loved pot plants. Oh, woe! Deep shit beckons him.
The half a dozen small people in the village are back at school. My own small descendants had a whale of a time with some of them in my neighbour’s pool. They’re very civilised and nice to have around.