Monthly Archive for March, 2014


I feel as if I’m trotting across a rather squishy midden and just hope I can make the other side before I sink to my knees and have to laboriously wade my way through the rest. It’s money of course – specifically tax. I just can’t be arsed to point my head at the stuff and have paid inordinate amounts over the years to professionals so that I never had to. But I’m still in the process of changing jurisdictions and neither of the ones I use seems capable of marrying France with the UK. It may be up to me to make sense of the forms from HMRC that dribble into my post box and fill them to avoid being taxed at least twice. Neither the United Federation of Planets, nor the Culture has need of money. It may be that I was born a couple of millennia too soon.
The weather seems set to be about 20 as far as the eye can see, and after that we should be on the edge of summer, so I have filled the bird feeders for the last time. The garden is growing with a lot more stuff in it that it has been used to and the dawn chorus wakes Cato up early so that he jumps on my head until he gets his breakfast. With a bit of luck the clock shift on Sunday may make him sleep a little longer.


We went down to cast our votes in the local elections yesterday. The retiring maire, who was not standing although he would have liked to post again, was lurking around looking miserable. The two guys in charge of the ballot box were offering chocolate croissants and coffee to early voters. Since my own name was on the ballot paper I assumed that those present might have an inkling of how I’d vote so it did not seem necessary to enter the curtained booth to fold the paper and slip it into its envelope but the scrutineers seemed aghast that I carried out my democratic right in plain view. Our team won more comfortably than was expected but it was not a great shock considering there was no opposition. Abstentions were the fear since the ancien regime was being overthrown but there was an 82% turnout and more than half the voters came out in support. I am confident that power will not corrupt me than I wish to allow.



I received this view from his window today from a kinsperson near Montreal. I hadn’t the heart to tell him that it’s 21 degrees here at the moment and the garden is being thoroughly watered after 10 days without rain – and that the lawn has had its fourth cut.
I’m busy doing French income tax. It took me 40 years to have any idea of how to do British tax so I have little chance of getting things right. I have a Paris accountant but I’ve a nasty feeling that he is not much better at it than I am. However he does provide a layer of insulation between the bureaucracy and me.
There are a brace of hoopoes in the garden at the moment, the first of the year, and I don’t think they’ve ever dropped in before. They’d need their powerful beaks as the soil has already turned to concrete.


The only thingie I brought back from Florida was a hose that caught my eye in some hardware emporium. I hate wrestling with python-like coils of plastic and this came in a little plastic box and weighed less than a tin of beans. It was supposedly retractable, elasticised in some way so that it would extend to 50 ft and then shrink back to its resting insignificance. It was used today to water the garden and, remarkably, it behaved exactly as advertised. The farmers are beginning to water their crops. It was only a fortnight ago there were floods and the Arrats, half a mile down the hill, is swollen with Pyrenean melt water.
I’m a time nerd so can say that it was precisely 25 seconds after midday that I tried to enter a garden shop to buy compost to find the door barred for the next 2.5 hours while the staff enjoyed their lunch. I am intolerant about such inefficiency rather than give the usual rueful shrug because it’s the French custom. Lunch is for wimps anyway. The French are just as fond of money as the Brits, but most haven’t sussed that there’s more to be made if they open when the customers want.


The days have turned blue and warm. My neighbour comes in to whinge about the gentle breeze that he describes the L’Autan, the dreaded wind from the Pyrenees. In days of yore one took care to delay strangling one’s wife until it had been blowing for a few days as it was generally agreed that it could drive men mad and thus excuse crimes of passion.
I put my back out, something that happens two or three times a year for no good reason. Once I did it when I bent down to pick up a feather. Experience has taught me to take a few ibuprofen and things get back to normal in a couple of days. This time I had none and suffered more than I cared to until I could get to the pharmacie and replenish my stock. Now it’s just about tickety-boo. I know of no other over-the-counter drug for any other ailment that has such a miraculous effect.


We went with a visitor to see the Roman villa at Seviac. In spite of the website saying otherwise, it was shut so we climbed over the fence. There wasn’t much point really since the mosaics were covered in a foot of winter soil but the dogs had a wonderful scuttle, peeing on the few bits that were above ground level. I doubt whether we’ll return. We also took in Larressingle, the nearby mini Carcassonne. I suppose there are a dozen individually owned houses and shops within the walls. None were open and half appeared to be up for sale.
The salle de fetes opposite hosted a disco last night. It’s a very occasional disturbance and the double-glazing on this house keeps all most all the noise out. But it doesn’t keep out the smell. The water supply there is rarely used and its first use fills the drains with the rankest possible odour and that does creep into the house. Perhaps I’m getting used to it since it was less offensive than usual and lasted less time. We have one underground sewer in the village running down the middle of the street to cope with rainwater and the stuff that comes from kitchen inks and washing machines. It is the home for rats and, at the bottom by the church, a dynasty of stumpy-tailed cats. Every so often my neighbour chucks a cherry bomb down there and the resultant bang almost lifts off the tarmac. I don’t know if deaf cats and rats are less trouble than those that can still hear.


I went with my neighbour to the sub-prefect’s office to register him and those on his list as candidates for the maire’s election. He has 11 names, three of whom are expats – including me – and five are women. About a dozen would-be maires from all over the arrondissement were in the waiting room, each with a folder containing the immense number of forms that are required to register. They were a highly diverse bunch, some in suits, some with mucky jeans and an odour of dung, most were elderly, two were women. The officials poured over our paperwork and found an error. A birth date for one of his candidates was incorrectly entered. The fault lies with our mairie and the 40 minute trip back to the office and a long wait in the waiting room will need to be repeated with the correction. Our retiring maire sent round a letter, paid for by the commune, to announce that he would not stand this time. He’s well into his 70s, so it was no surprise. Now he’s changed his mind and will be a candidate.