Monthly Archive for January, 2015


I found myself in Waitrose in the basement of John Lewis in Oxford Street at the weekend. I wanted a bottle of plonk whisky, so weaved my way through the throng to the drinks section. A supercilious young man in a 3-piece suit tried to inveigle me into sampling his wine and, by the whisky, a TV crew was interviewing a bloke in a kilt while a piper stood at attention beside him. Not the same as our own dear Lidl, I thought. London becomes more depressing each time I visit. I can no longer cope comfortably with the crushing hordes of humanity. ‘Have I searched you already?’ asked the security man as I queued with grandchildren to get aboard the London Eye. The 40-man Gloucester Rugby team was on the aircraft. 25 players and 15 support staff. Rarely have I seen to much beef on the hoof. I had two 6’8-ers alongside me in the emergency exit seats where I automatically gravitate in order to get more legroom. I communicated enough to find out that they’d beaten all the French teams they’d come up against.


One of the showers in this house is dead, having developed a leak, possibly in the drain, that sends water down the wall below and is beyond my power to sort out. It was a lousy shower in the first place, so I intend to replace it. Here lies the problem because finding someone to do such a task is difficult. The French will give you a devis and turn up a year later.
The car staggered through its`controle technique. The necessary replacement of frayed brake pipes was left a little late and something else, well rusted, bust during the repair, which meant that a new part needed to be ordered. I need the vehicle this weekend and was looking unlikely to make the cut. To make matters worse, the grace period would have run out on Monday, after which the thing would need a new test and a new charge of €60. Then my neighbour got on the job. The garage was razzled up, as was the controle technician who said he was too busy and couldn’t squeeze in the re-check in time. He was told to piss off and I have just collected it, all legal-ish once more. The -ish comes from the tyres. The tracking is off and one tyre is worn at the edge. I would have thought that straightening things out would require no more than a crisp blow from a sledgehammer, but I’m told it is a two-hour job. I might just find myself a sledgehammer.


Some guy has been out with a can spraying FN – Front National – over some of the road signs. I don’t suppose it proves more than the party has at least one oafish yob within its ranks. It’s just as well it wasn’t on our signs for I’d likely be detailed to get out there and scrub them off.
I once visited a house that had a pram facing the fire in the sitting room. On it was a tree trunk that was being fed, inch by inch and day by day, into the flames. This year we have been using the woodburner and getting through logs alarmingly quickly. Perforce I have become a nerd at lighting the thing and extracting the maximum useful calorific content from everything I put into it. I have just discovered that big is better – and pramfuls probably the best of all. Our logs come in a uniform size but a neighbour allowed me to come and pilfer her pile of those that were too large to fit into her grate. I’ve just had to remove the bark from one mighty chunk of oak to squeeze it into the fire and the south face of the slab is glowing at me behind the glass doors like a rose-red model of El Capitan.


There’s something faintly outrageous about having to cut grass in mid-January. Some of the lawn doesn’t get sun at this time of year and this I avoided. There the worm casts are more like molehills and one has to scrape the bottom of one’s shoe with a knife to get the clingy mud off before one can approach the house. A mole did its thing a month or two ago, turfing a couple of cubic feet of soil over the floor of the shed from beneath the oil tank and then going round a pebble path. Using my wiles I managed to guide it out beneath the gate at the back and it is still producing mounds a hundred yards the other side of the hedge.
Ten times as many people die in traffic accidents or in run-of-the-mill murders in Paris each year as in terrorist incidents. Unless one is an obvious target for the pitiable souls who believe a Kalashnikov is the key to heaven, I cannot understand why anyone should fear being involved such events.


The local town came to a stop and midday and people gathered in the square for a minute’s silence. I can’t speak French well enough to understand the emotional nuances of what the Paris shootings mean to the natives and I’m pretty sure the British media don’t either. The few people I speak to are all too aware of the consequences of a backlash against Muslims but there a fair few rural knuckle draggers about who are prepared to vote Front National. I was surprised to see a wraith-like elderly Arab turn up to vote in our election for maire in the summer. I asked what his story was but nobody seemed to know. In the small town where I lived in Scotland a black man turned up to work on the scaffolding as they refurbished the co-op. One old man stopped, pointed and uttered inarticulate cries of amazement as I passed. We don’t have blacks round here and precious few from the Maghreb but aliens are still aliens, particularly if they’re Roma.


Xmas and New Year passed very peacefully. The fog lifted to give a couple of blue days and then it came down again. Such conditions promote banked up fires and hibernation. The salle de fetes was taken over by the village young at New Year, poor bastards. Making whoopee meant putting a dozen people into the large, chilly room with a very loud disco. They sit at a table at one end and every so often one or even two of them get up and bop. It was all over by 1am. We were first footed by our neighbours. They brought a dog with them and the canine low life at ground level seemed to have more fun than the grown-ups. I have tried at least four different ways to keep the rugs in place on the floor, but rabbling dogs invariably leave them rucked up in a corner. Poonkie had to go to the vet as she damaged a claw and was miserable with it. The vet is retiring this year. He is old enough since he looks at least 50. He is much patronised by lady pet owners round about since he is prettier than the usual rural French male and has no obvious partner.
Various little things are beginning to wrong in this house. Half a dozen floor tiles have cracked, I think because the base on which they are laid has moved. The electrics have never been quite right. The kettle and the oven cannot be used at the same time without the switch tripping. The base of a shower is now watertight only thanks to gaffer tape. I have been trying to flag down the appropriate odd job man for more than six months without success. I was told that it was a mistake to have bought the fridges, freezer and washing machine when I moved in since holiday houses invariably are stocked with the cheapest and nastiest of their kind that will inevitably soon need to be replaced. But all have been operating successfully for the four years I have been here.