Monthly Archive for December, 2014


We did the ronde des creches with a US guest. He’s a mover and shaker in Cincinnati and decided that he could transplant the idea to his city and have competitions between neighbourhoods rather than villages. I see the idea of competitive Xmas tableaux originated in Havana so Cuba will be further enriching US culture. This year the theme was fairy tales and nursery rhymes. Peter Pan was the best but I’m not sure which category this was. One village last year had a very used slipper lying on a plank near the display. It was there again this year so I asked what it signified. I was told that Santa leaves a slipper behind in this country after he delivers his pressies.
The chateau has been playing peek-a-boo through the fog over the last few days and it’s hardly been in evidence at all today. It’s probably the least attractive aspect of the weather out here. Come to think about it, it’s not that jolly when the Autan wind sets in from the Pyrenees. At least it’s not a patch on the Mistral that afflicts the south coast.


Quite a good turn out for the Xmas do in the salle de fetes yesterday. The morning was spent sticking fiddly things on cocktail sticks and the afternoon becoming mildly inebriated.
The French enthusiasm for feuding is inexhaustible. As soon as on is settled, another pops up. Being expats we can normally sail serenely above them but one suddenly notices a frisson amid folk that have been frisson-free to date and a little delicate picking round the subject reveals some unfortunate happening that is usually rather silly but has led bad blood. Local alliances keep shifting. Last month’s deadly enemy is today’s best friend. Perhaps village life the world over is equally febrile and incestuous.
I’m writing an article on King Malcolm III of Scotland and his consort Queen Margaret. She was highly educated, achingly beautiful and so saintly that she was canonised after her death. He was ‘lusty, aggressive, barbarous, opportunistic’ and illiterate. She wanted to be a nun until he started snorting and pawing at the ground and you don’t say ‘no’ to a king, particularly one like that, when you’re a refugee princess at his court. I keep wanting to compare them to Shrek and Fiona, or Beauty and the Beast, but it’s not that kind of article. They enjoyed a life-long love match and eight children.


The sorciere’s grandson has a copine. The village is crossing its fingers, admires her fortitude and hopes she will stick. One cannot be too hopeful. He pressure-washed her car over the weekend and this included the interior. It may have been very claggy indeed but the vehicle has been abandoned in the square with its doors open to dry, and the drying conditions in foggy mid December are far from optimal.
We dropped in on his granny and dumped Xmas goodies on her. It’s not an easy visit since she is very deaf and no longer uses her teeth. I was never clear if she was speaking in Occitan or French even when she had them in so now we have no communication. However we take Poonkie who crawls all over her expansive bosom hoovering up the remains of her last meal and licks down her face, which reduces her to helpless giggles.
There’s a Council meeting at 8.30am tomorrow, a time that’s a bit grown up for me, but the clerk has been seedy and this is the only time she can manage before Xmas. I think we have to agree to spend some €100k on the old presbytery which we hope to rent out to tenants for an income once it is rendered habitable. Much is expected in subsidies. We also have to prepare for the Xmas party on Saturday. We will be taking plates of goodies round to those who are too sick or aged to attend.


We parked down the road some 50 yards from a small isolated clump of bushes in a field to give the dogs a final trot. The starling murmuration was doing its thing round us, emitting a sullen roar when enough of them banked to change direction. How does one estimate the number of birds in such a mass? There was a vulgar sunset behind them as they carried out their manoeuvres. What’s the point? I wondered vaguely on the kilogrammage of insects that must have been consumed to fuel their gyrations. Then flight after flight peeled off the main body, diving into the bushes and shuffling up to give the next ones room. It’s a good trick and once they had all vanished, only the air being ripped apart by thousands of birds all shrieking each other good night revealed that they were there. I suppose we were beside the road for half an hour without another car passing – typical French traffic.
The foreigners, three of us, on the Council suggested that minutes of previous meetings be emailed round beforehand. It does save the odd anorak picking over them at the start of the next meeting to ensure all was well while everyone else twiddles their thumbs. Consultations were had with higher authorities and it seems that this was not the French way and a bad idea. I cannot think why, although I’ve been trying.


One of the duties of a councillor is having to decorate the village. In my case it amounted to tying coloured bows on the fence in front of the mairie, and then joining in the task of suspending bands of twinkling lights to the front of the church, which required ladders, hammers etc. We ran 20 metres along the front and an extension cable down the length of the aisle, switched them on and they didn’t work. We electricians gathered again this morning, took the dud lights down and replaced them with a new set that the deputy maire had raced off to buy along with some rather snappier brackets to hold them in place. Then we switched on and they didn’t work. We dabbered and plastered for a bit and then went home. I’m not sure what the next stage will be.
Half the main road towards the motorway collapsed a couple of years ago. The resulting chasm has been coned off ever since and only one lane is operational. You can see if anything’s coming so you can do a nifty shimmy round the cones without slowing down. Except today. I had to stop to allow two cars through, the first time I’ve come to a halt there in two years.


It’s got to the stage that I rarely bother to answer the telephone when it rings because I know it’ll be a scam or a cold caller. Anything interesting will probably show up on an email. It’s bizarre that the system is disfunctional because it is infested with thieves. There doesn’t seem to be a call bar, but even that could hardly protect you from Kumar of Microsoft calling you from Madras. I know people who respond by asking whether the caller has embraced Jesus, or even ‘I’m sorry but I haven’t got a telephone.” I just hang up.
The tree munchers at the chateau were touring the walls of the barns chomping the ivy. In my experience you don’t need a machine to do that. A sharp tug will bring the whole lot cascading about your ears. When they had knocked off for the day, the barn owls emerged to hiss at each other and the evening. It’s gratifying that they haven’t been scared away.