Monthly Archive for September, 2014


It’s the time of year when the summer migrants have flown off and only a few stragglers from the north are passing through. The insects have done their breeding and they mooch about in the sunshine waiting for the first cold snap to kill them. I reckon one in three of the hornets that are around are Asian hornets. They only arrived in France 10 years ago and have obviously proliferated. They kill bees and, sometimes, people but I spent ten minutes sharing a glass of wine on the terrace with one and it made interesting company. Another natural curiosity is a large dragonfly that has decided that the living room is part of its territory. It comes through one French window, cruises around and thrilling the dogs, before sailing out through the other.
We have a guest who gave space in her flat when a student to the Scottish Nationalists’ pirate radio station. They would erect their equipment, broadcast their message on the BBC Home Service after the National Anthem, and then scuttle off before the police arrived. I was expecting her to be in mourning after the referendum but she is surprisingly chipper.


Over the weekend most of the interesting buildings in the country had open days. We had never been inside the chateau that sits on our horizon so the opportunity was taken. It was one of those buildings still under reconstruction, having been bought by its ancient owners half a century ago and being restored bit by bit during weekends from Paris. The current incumbent was still grafting away. I’d’ve thought it a horrifying legacy to receive. We looked round late morning, the first visitors of the day.
The car, our neighbour pointed out, needed new tyres. Under instruction I ordered them on line. They were delivered the next day at 5pm and he fitted them without charge before 7am the following morning.
Five out of five in the I-Spy book yesterday when a Purple Emperor butterfly paid the garden a visit and did a bit of posing on the hedge. It’s only the second I have see, the other amid woodlands by the Garonne.


We faced a contested election at last night’s council meeting. Two people wanted to become an adjoint. The holder of this post can stand in for the maire and receives what could be called an honorarium. It’s still money and foreigners cannot stand. It was a secret election. The two candidates had their names pre-printed on slips of paper. We were given both slips and an envelope. We went, one by one, into the outer office of the mairie, placed our selection into an envelope and fed it into the commune’s ballot box. The box was then recovered and the count made. We all knew who was going to win and who would vote for whom before the meeting. Just in case the odd thicko was round, the votes were retrieved, examined and counted in the same order that they went in and we had filed out to vote. 7-3 was the result. It wasn’t the referendum but the dynamics were quite exciting.
Over the past day or two thunderstorms have been trundling through. I’m fond of them but the dogs find them hard to take. We are housing a guest beast at the moment, so three tend to end up on my lap or under my feet if BADOOM happens overhead. The lights and net connection flicker away but nothing has been cut for more than a few seconds do far.


I was warned yet again about serpents when going across to the grounds of the newly mown chateau. I’ve chased a few serpents in my time to get a better look. I even kept one once. That was a boa constrictor to which I fed piglets born dead and it converted them to cash. In those days boas sold at £5 a foot. And I was once advised that the snake I was trying to put into a biscuit tin with a soup ladle was a young mamba. So I was robust in face of the threat. There are plenty of grass snakes round here, but I’ve never seen anything more interesting, The locals have a healthy peasant horror of snakes and beat them to death when encountered.
I think I shall subside comfortably into the acceptance that my French will ever remain crap. I conversed with a native yesterday for 15 minutes and a couple of times I could respond with no more than a vacant grin to what was clearly a question. And an entire thread was lost when I confused coucher with cacher. Some words stick but others remain for fleeting moments. Tant pis.


M. Le Maire is prodding me towards becoming a Frenchman, not for the good of my soul but because he could then dump some job on my shoulders which is reserved for the Chosen Ones. I looked up online on the advantages and disadvantages of becoming French and there seemed to be none, bar a vote. I suppose it boils down to how important it is to my sense of identity that I remain British and/or Scots. Not a lot, really. The view of the United Kingdom from my point of view is distasteful whichever way the referendum might go. Of course this will be transitory and in a generation or two all will have changed. But, at the moment, I’m not that proud of being Scots, or British. But the soul of France is not much prettier these days. Of course, says a native, France would never elect le Pen, but something will have to break here and stranger things have happened. I’d rather have Farage as my leader than Le Pen.
A tractor with the most ferocious brush cutter has been buzzing about over at the chateau clearing the way for the heavy machinery that will eat trees that is due next week. A wander over showed that there’s a lovely bit of parkland there with some beautiful old trees. It some places the clearing operation will be a bit like spillikins as they unpick the trees that have collapsed on their neighbours. The tractor man said that he had been herding pissed-off sangliers into the neighbouring maize field all day.


I’ve always believed that those who reckon the world is going to hell in a hand basket are doing no more than showing their age. The good old days were never good and every generation in human history has whinged about the inadequacy of those who come after them. So I must now be officially old since I have joined the ranks of the doom merchants. It may be the result of being in the UK recently and sitting next to a haut bourgeois Englishman who thought that UKIP was doing no more than expressing the real values of the Conservative party. Or the bitterness that is manifest in the run up to the Scots referendum. Or the news that Le Pen is top of the poll to succeed Hollande. Or Putin. Oh woe! All I can do is sit on the terrace with a glass of wine and look at the countryside in the sunshine.
It looked like being a flawless trip back home yesterday from the UK. Usually there’s a delay, or I have to fight in the aircraft to get enough room to fit in my knees, or the hire car firm decides that I have misused their vehicle. But all was set fair until I hit the exit of the P6 car park at Blagnac. I leant across to stuff the ticket into the machine on the way out and it went the wrong way. Instead of being sucked into the slot it managed to slip down inside the outer casing of the machine. I made a stab at it with a finger to stop it disappearing, but it went. I was the only human being in sight so I spent a while dabbering and plastering before I found a button on another machine nearby and pressed it. A disembodied French voice spoke to me and I explained my problem. I put my bankcard into a slot and it spat out another ticket. This time I took great care that it went into the right hole and I was released after only 10 minutes of panic.


We flew into Heathrow and hired a car for a wedding in Cheshire. We could have flown in to Manchester but the cost was excessive. The country only barely works these days. A trip up the M6 that Google maps said should take three hours took twice that with a string of hold ups due entirely to the volume of traffic. What’s the point of a motorway if the average speed achievable is little better than that of a byroad? There are plenty of twee villages, but ruined by the double yellow lines and the garish steel river that roars between them 24 hours a day. This is footballer country with Rolls Royce showrooms along the country lanes and Kentucky Fried Mansions behind steel gates but comfortably within earshot of the traffic.
We ate in Knutsford in a narrow street choked with Porsches, Bentleys and 4X4s and lined with pubs and clubs with affluent over made-up young spilling out onto the pavement to converse since this would have been impossible inside any of the premises thanks to the noise of the music systems within. The food was very good, just as good as anywhere I’ve eaten in France but the ambience was akin to a Roman orgy.


The weather’s warm, the sky blue and the tourists have gone. Both schoolchildren and their parents are back at work. Peace reigns. After the rain of the summer the landscape is still green. France it at its very best this month.
This village is heathen but we had to muck out the church as the peripatetic priest held a final mass there before he retired. He had a good turn out with the car park at the bottom holding some 30 vehicles. The car park was originally designed to serve the café but that has been shut and for sale ever since I arrived here more than four years ago. It was one of the three premises in the village on the market then. All of them still are.