Monthly Archive for June, 2014

Bannockburn

I’m busy playing the Highlander at Bannockburn today and tomorrow. There are 400 folk bashing the shit out of each other four times a day to re-enact the battle, but I am stationed amid the clans being awfully nice to huge numbers of Americans who are all busy rediscovering their heritage. It’s quite fun and could be my swan song at such occasions. The crowd is most interesting, consisting of folk in chain mail, Scots in all kinds of kit and a cream of chiefs sporting eagle feathers wandering around looking cool and important. The last Scottie occasion I attended was in Florida and the costume there was eye-popping, but it’s more so here.

We were placed beside a couple of Americans at dinner a couple of days ago, simply because they lived in France. But Brittany is a long way from Tarn and Garonne and we had little in common.

The Referendum is far and away the prime topic of conversation. I went across a convinced no, but now I waver towards a yes. Scotland will end up the most politically sophisticated country in Europe by the end of it. The Scot Nats are not respected and seem almost irrelevant to the process they have set in motion while emanations from Westminster miss the point entirely. The UK democracy just doesn’t work for Scotland and it could well be that the Union is rejected for that reason.

Tomato

‘Your face looks like a tomato,’ said TEEM this morning. Little bastard. There was I thinking that I was a fetching Sacha Distel brown and he blows my cool. I suspect he was parroting someone else. With a bit of luck this hue will soon fade in the face of the mists and drizzles of the Highlands that I face over the next few days. Next weekend we shall be staying within a few hundred yards of the battlefield of Bannockburn where there was much noise and discord 700 years ago. I suspect this will be the least peaceful few days there since then.

We had an efficient council meeting. We’re going to turn the commune’s house into a couple of flats and pay for it over five years. A hard time is to be given to the chateau owner. Apparently he is in bigger trouble should trees on the policies fall down than if the building itself does. There’s even a move afoot to add it to La Patronomie de la France. Whatever happens it should not interfere with my pleasure in watching the thing collapse. It is said that the mozzies that breed amid the frogs and the decaying sangliers in the derelict swimming pool are as big as partridges and go straight for the jugular when they flap into to one’s bedroom. Then they give you some nasty complaint. It’s not ebola but something similar.

Boom

It’s a bad summer for mozzies. The upstairs in the house is white and a patrol is made each evening to check the walls and ceilings for any lurkers. In spite of this, the only security to be found is to have a fan gently playing since the creatures cannot function if the air is not still. Last year I missed the golden few hours when every retail outlet in the nation is stuffed with fans. This year it became critical when one of the existing fans broke but it was safely replaced. It cost €15 and is one of the very few things that I have ever bought whose price was a pleasant surprise.

Once a week the air force practices round here. The jets travel in pairs and one of their regular runs splits the air above us. I’m used to it after the Highlands. There they skitter round peaks, graze ridges, hug the sides of glens and leave a wash as they skim down lochs. Here they don’t even dip to follow the contour of the gentle valley west of us. But they do occasionally let rip a sonic boom that scares the shit out of every life form for miles around.

IKEA

Thunderstorms were forecast yesterday with risk of hail – not that big a deal. Then the maire knocked on the window. ‘There’s an orange alert out. Has the prefecture phoned up? No? They have me. Dreadful storms are due. You must batten down all your shutters and make sure nothing vulnerable is left outside.’ So we did all of that and, since we were out for supper, left some nice classical music playing to distract the dogs. I even remembered to unplug the TV and switch off the internet. We ate outside three miles down the road with just enough cloud in the sky to prevent the sun from being irritating. The dogs were a bit pissed off when we got home. Then we had to water the garden since the rain god had failed us.

The comfy Lidl plastic chairs that I bought a few years ago to sit on the terrace are now held together with green wire and gaffer tape, so the very bust ones have been binned and replaced with some from IKEA. They would have charged €75 to deliver, so we went there to collect them. It’s only the second time I’ve been to an IKEA and it wasn’t too bad since we were in and out within 15 minutes and the full horror of consumerism didn’t have time to impinge. Their product was simple to assemble, is comfortable and may be able to cope with our chubbier visitors crunching down upon them.

Lederhosen

At last it’s short trouser weather, and should be till October. It was becoming critical since I’m due in Scotland in the foreseeable future and may have to don a kilt and it is de rigeur to have brown knees. I should make it. I haven’t tried on the garment for 18 months, so it may no longer be possible to wear it. I think it had its straps extended sometime in the 1940s, so there is no longer room for expansion. I am being pressured to wear it quite soon at a birthday party for a native in the salle de fetes. The fact that I have and very occasionally wear a ‘skirt’ is interesting to others on the village. I wonder if it would be the same if I was Bavarian and turned up in my lederhosen.

The maire’s manifesto included sorting out the abandoned chateau. I held my peace but the prospect filled me with gloom since I enjoy watching it decay and keeping an eye on the wildlife over there. The owner’s name, a Swede, was found and he was asked if he would be prepared to sell it. He said no. I can’t think why since his investment has done nothing but deteriorate since he bought it a dozen years ago but I am not complaining. The next step is to have a surveyor in to decide if repairs should be made in order to stop visiting thieves being squashed by falling debris and roofs. However that involves the departmental bureaucracy and it moves at glacial speed since it has so little working time between public holidays.

Nesting

The grandson opposite decide it was time he finished retiling his roof a day or so ago. He’d started the job last year but stopped. He extended his ladder as far as it would go but it didn’t reach the gutter, so he propped it up on a couple of concrete blocks for the added height and shimmied up to remove his chimney and all the tiles round about. Then the sky darkened, thunderclouds built up, rain and lightning played round him. He stood on the peak of his roof shaking the fist at the sky with water cascading down into his house. From here he looked very Shakespearian. He was up and down the ladder a few times and eventually he swathed the hole in plastic and retired, sodden, for the evening. He could have checked the weather forecast before starting.

The new maire is busy nesting down at the mairie, finding interesting bits of furniture in the adjacent sheds and making himself a little office within the office. The rather fine house beside the mairie that belongs to the commune was at last vacated and inspected. The squalor and stench inside defied belief. The first chore was to empty it, so a lorry holding a skip was parked alongside and the entire contents of the upper floor were tossed into it. The carpet in one of the bedrooms turned out not to be a carpet at all but a coating of dead mice. The loo may have been white porcelain once but it was difficult to tell. Gargantuan spiders had built thick curtains over the windows that cut out much of the interior light. The largest room on the ground floor had been used as a storeroom, mainly for stuff from the school that had closed some thirty years ago; some of the pupils’ records went back to the nineteenth century. To me it all looks like junk, filthy junk, but the maire reckons that it’s all local history and should be preserved. Once the place is clean, it’ll take the best part of €100k to make it habitable. It’s astonishing that it was ever allowed to fall into such a lamentable state.