Monthly Archive for October, 2014


My neighbour was at the mairie the other day, registering his son’s godparents in some official ceremony. Why? I asked. What’s the purpose and function of the relationship? He shrugged and couldn’t come up with anything. He then suggested I become his godfather and leave him some money. I told him to piss off. He told me he had a British friend, some ten years older than me and thus 30 years older than him, who returned to the UK before I arrived. This Brit asked to become my neighbour’s godson and was officially registered as such. I am confused.

A splendid machine called a Scarab wuffled its way round the village all afternoon sucking up the loose gravel following resurfacing last month, and compressed what was left. It obviously had the afternoon to fill and covered the same ground many times. It was loud with a great variety of noises issuing forth, and depressed the neighbourhood dogs.

We have Poonkie’s big sister coming to stay for a few days while its owners are away. This is First, pronounced Fearst since she was first-born. She is very similar to her other siblings but half as big again. Cato enjoys her visits since the sisters rabble themselves to exhaustion and he gets a break from having to plod round the house with Poonkie hanging on his tail.


We tend to sit on the terrace with a glass of wine and admire sunlit France rather a lot. We thought we’d better do something last weekend and went to a pottery market. Vast amounts of stuff, all highly priced and arty forty. They may shift stock when the tourists are around, but none of the stall holders seemed interested enough to hang around and try to sell. I had a windy moment when my hip thumped against a laden trestle table. There were a couple of others examining to objects and we all watched in horror as everything rocked on its individual plinth before settling back into place with sighs of relief all round.

The chimney had its ceremonial sweeping. I refuse to pay a chimney sweep for which I receive much tutting since one’s insurance is invalid post conflagration if you don’t. But the chimney is a metal tube and I could easily squirt some water down the top in an emergency. I use a log suffused in expensive chemicals that one sets alight in the grate and that is supposed to do the job. Last year soot rained down for a day or two afterwards. This year – nothing. I don’t understand why, but I shall assume that the tube was already perfectly unsullied.

The car that knocked its nose in on a cherry tree a few days ago was driven by a 92 year-old. The sun blinded him so he failed to make the corner. He was not badly hurt. As in America, here you seem to keep your licence until you’re dead, no matter how blind or gaga you are. This prompts me to remember to change over my driving licence to a French one before I hit 70. I may then pick up points when I’m caught speeding but I won’t have to bother a doctors certification that I am still fit to drive.

Cherry tree

An elderly bloke in a white van with a brace of passengers has just carefully aimed his vehicle at a stout cherry tree at the bottom of the village and driven into it. I as alerted by the siren of the approaching ambulance and went out to the terrace to watch the drama. I also alerted the maire who was thrilled. The driver was carefully levered into the ambulance. A couple of fire engines and a police van turned up and lots of cones were scattered over the road. The drama appears to be over now, but the maire has not dropped by to report how and why the driver managed such a remarkable piece of bad driving. He may well have skidded on the lovely new gravel that we’re so proud of having strewn across the village.

We had friends for lunch yesterday and ate outdoors. 27 degrees. It’s much the same today but I think this will be the last of the hot weather. It’s kept going nearly a month longer than is usual. The grass has never stopped and has need a weekly cut since April. I bought a bottom of the range electric mower when I first arrived with the idea of replacing it with something more appropriate when it bust, but the thing appears indestructible even when I abuse it to try to hurry its demise.



It’s still bizarrely summer with mid 20 temperatures predicted for the weekend. Is it like this each October? I can’t remember. ‘Glasgow seven degrees,’ says the radio. Yuk!

It’s the season for stink bugs, the punaise, and one can find little clusters of them lurking in corners. They strike terror in the French but my nose does not find their smell disgusting but just very odd and totally unexpected. To really bring out their full aroma, one must squash them and I’m reluctant to do that but the web describes the smell as anything from extreme coriander to backed-up sewage. My neighbour tells me that there’s horrifying variation of the common variety that pounces from dark corners to spray its essence up one’s nostrils. However I can neither identify such a thing, nor am I sure that I believe his information.



There are two great annual tasks in this garden, clipping the hedge and pruning the Mulberry tree. I did the first over the last couple of days. It should no more than tedious since I have electric hedge cutters, but they have a loose connection that cuts them out intermittently and I have yet to sort it. The other complication is that the hedge is just too wide for me to reach the far side of the top. Normally I’m forced to thrust a leg from the step ladder into the depths of the laurel to balance myself. Sometimes my foot finds no support and disappear into the interior of the hedge and then have to disentangle myself. This year I shattered all the safety rules – if such things exist in this country – and wired the controls so that I could waft it about with one hand at full stretch. This worked quite well. I sneaked the detritus off the premises and hope the wind blows the dead leaves across France.
The Swedish owner of the chateau turned up last week to view his wreck of a property. His profile is so low that nobody knew he came but he is said to love the place very dearly and will likely be putting in another €100k to secure the envelope before deciding what to do next. He could have saved himself an awful lot had he not let it fall into disrepair in the first place. He is aware that he could buy a lovely chateau in spanking condition for a fraction of the price he’ll have to pay for doing up this one, but his love is very great.


This is a funny time of the year. Everyone and everything is waiting for the end of summer. I’ll replace shorts with big boy trousers and dig out socks, but it’s not quite yet. Well into the 20s is forecast as far ahead as can be seen.
I suppose everyone has points in the week, the month and the year that mark the passing of time. I used to recognise Thursdays as the day I must put out the wheelie bin. One of my monthly landmarks has been the need to produce an article for a news magazine in Perthshire. I’ve been doing it since 1996 and I’ve just sent off the last since the publication’s print edition is closing down. It’s always been a bit of a chore – but so is any kind of work – and has seemed bizarrely irrelevant since I moved to France and nothing I could write really had much application to Perthshire. But the editor told me I should keep going so I did. I won’t miss it, but I may have to replace that marker with something else to avoid drifting aimlessly on the sea of time until I fall off its edge.


The Tarn and Garonne went right earlier in the week. Le Grand Fromage lost his senatorial seat when the opposition stitched together a coalition that defeated him. The GF had been there forever and M. Le Maire had an inside track to him so we tremble for our grant to install a petanque arena behind the mairie. There are more elections in six months locally that will probably go the same way, so there may be change in the department, but not a lot. Hollande has a 13% approval rating but the interest groups immediately block anything he or any other politician tries to do to loosen up the economy. Faced with the possibility of losing their monopoly on selling aspirin to the supermarkets, the pharmacists, for example, went on strike yesterday. The threat was withdrawn before their strike, but they still closed for the day. The French political system doesn’t work because the voters won’t let it. They won’t let the right do any more than the left, so even if Le Pen does win the next presidential election, she’ll be no more able to make changes than the Socialists. Meantime the Euro drifts lower and expats find their pensions go further.
The thermometer is expected to remain in the high 20s as far ahead as can be forecast. Each day it remains so is a day clawed back from turning on the central heating. The annual oil delivery here was a couple on hundred litres lighter than it should have been but a delayed winter may allow it to last. The nights are no longer warm and this leads to dew that means it’s afternoon before the lawn is dry enough to cut. The grass never stopped growing this year and probably won’t stop unless we have frost.