Monthly Archive for February, 2015


I hired the salle de fetes opposite for a curry supper for 60-odd. As a local it cost nothing except for the electricity. My house insurance covered anything that might have gone wrong and the company issued a certificate to the maire to that effect. Such buildings are a good resource for a commune but seem generally greatly underused. Many of them round here seem to have been built about the same time, perhaps 30-40 years ago. The subsidies at the time must have been vast since there’s no way that they could afford to be built today. Ours is in pretty good nick and is kept clean, but some are otherwise. We face a re-roofing in the few couple of years that won’t be cheap and it not clear whether the spring in the wooden floor is to aid dancing or is rot. That’ll be expensive, too, and there are only a few score taxpayers to pay the bills.
A friend has a pine marten living in their loft. Since the house has been renovated there is very little access to what would once have been a cavernous grenier. The animal is not fairy-footed but the main problem is the stench. It seems to enjoy crapping up there and makes life below less than perfect. They are blocking up small holes to the outside and cutting back tree branches that could be allowing access. The best deterrent is said to be liberal application of Jeyes fluid. It has been brought over from the UK, as it is not available in France.


A clear sign of spring today. A woodpecker across at the chateau has been banging away on a sheet of tin. The noise is massive and it must scare away rivals from half the department and bring in all the ladies. Another sign was that I have been constrained to sharpen the blade on the mower and even hack away at the concreted worm casts that adhere to the machine’s bottom. The mower distresses me. I buy electric when I can to avoid the dreadful business of hauling away at a starting cord until one has a heart attack. The machine was the cheapest one I could find when I first arrived and it refuses to break down. I would prefer one that self-propels itself up the slope in this garden, but it looks as though I’ll be lathering away up the hill for at least one more season.

When the TV is bad – and when is it not? – I potter through the 150-odd episodes of the West Wing. It’s just coming to an end once more. The last time I watched it was a couple of years ago and it’s just as absorbing as it ever was. The first episode was broadcast 15 years ago, and it’s scary how many of the policy issues and crises that the cast agonise over are still with us today. The writers never got British grandees right. Her Royal Majesty, the Queen grates – as do the ludicrous titles and behaviour that they give to the British Ambassador. The characters do get shot or blown up rather more than one would expect, but not a patch on East Enders. All the newspapers tell me that some damsel has been murdered and it’s awfully exciting, but I am unable to watch soaps. I lie. I’m watching Wolf Hall, which is a bit sudsy.

I was once offered money to write for the Archers. Much as I tried to find out who was who and why and what, I was unable to spark the least interest when it was on. I ended up with the Sunday omnibus, but my attention drifted to the newspapers within two minutes of the intro music.

The bird feeders are still being well patronised. A cirl bunting has been calling by, which is no rarity in France, but is a few inches beyond the French window. The junior dog is unbothered by collared doves clattering down or the swarms of tits and sparrows, but let the female blackbird turn up and the animal batters against the glass in fury.


One of the problems about being monoglot is that it is hard to argue. I found myself against a French woman at supper who asserted that French was an infinitely richer language than English with a much larger vocabulary. Well worth going a few rounds on that, I thought, but I found it impossible to convey my most telling points without dissing her or her language.
We are looking after a neighbour’s dog for a week. This is a popular boarding establishment because it has a solidly fenced garden and this particular animal is no trouble, save for its habit of taking off from the floor to land on my belly, but three dogs do produce great numbers of turds. These I flick into touch into the grandson’s waste ground on the other side of the hedge. Frosty mornings are the easiest when they land with a bit of a clatter. Damp mornings are worst when they sometimes stick to the trowel.
The dead shower will be replaced within a fortnight. The guy we found to do the job is a Brit. He has a team of six Poles. He, and they, spend a month here working all hours and then they go back home for 10 days. It seems an efficient system.


There’s still snow kicking about, not very grown-up snow, but still snow. I went into the village this morning along the main-ish road and found them salting it. A transit van was stopping every few yards and a couple of blokes would get out and shovel grit and salt from the back. At least they try.
The hunts had a quota to kill 3,000 wild boar in this department during the season, which seems an astonishing number. I heard that one neighbouring hunt has had three of its hounds killed by boar so far this season. A neighbour’s two Labradors did a runner a day or two after the hunt came through last week and haven’t come back. It’s freezing at night and it is likely that the dogs got on the trail of a boar, well-razzled up by the hunt, and were killed. One cannot blame the boar, but it’s a bit tough on a couple of dumb fireside dogs following their instincts – and for their owners. I’ve long believed that a dog is a dog, but two dogs make a pack. Both members of our personal pack are no more than 10″ high and chicken to boot, so they don’t wander.


Three inches of snow this morning and this part of France stops. The maire called by at 8 and got on the phone to tell his colleagues not to go into the lycée where he teaches. But two of them were already in ditches and I should think they’ll be staying there for a while. It’s wet, heavy snow so it shouldn’t hang around long. No snow fell last year so this was the first that Poonkie has seen. She is unimpressed. The birds are pretty freaked as well and are queuing up round the feeders.

Gendarmes here behave differently from police in the UK. They are said to be more fierce and to be ready to repress the population on behalf of the state, but they do a lot of schmoozing. I went through the local town yesterday morning and the place was thick with them. A group of ten ambled by on their way to some reception in their dress kit with their képis and uniforms encrusted with silver or gold depending on their importance. They do look very smart but the junior ranks have to make do with a baggy jerkin and rubber-soled boots and don’t look nearly so cool. I haven’t had a cross encounter with a gendarme for more than a year and then I was shocked to see that he had a very dirty, dusty pistol. If you’re going to be shot, one would like to be shot cleanly.