Monthly Archive for March, 2015

Cats

Most of the cats at the top of the village have gone. Baited boxes were laid out and perhaps eight were captured and removed. One hopes they went to good homes on the Riviera but it doesn’t seem too politic to ask. Cats are never neutered here. I suppose it’s simply cheaper to deal with the after effects of copulation rather than pay a vet to sterilise them.
Round two of the voting today for the local elections. We have a very clear preference since we hope for serious grants to renovate the old presbytery that is owned by the commune. One candidate is only interested in the big towns; the other is willing to spread money around. The first voter this morning turned up with a large carafe of coffee and a bag of croissants. It was a little early for breakfast since it was still 7am if one had forgotten to change the clocks, but the coffee was welcome. One has to watch the voting slip being placed into the ballot box and ensure that the bell is pressed and the counter registers the vote. Then, as the law demands, one must clearly say ‘a voté’. My most important task as a councillor is to unfurl the Tricolour and the EU flags in front of the mairie. I’m the only one tall enough to reach and unfankle them since the wind wraps them round their poles. There’s a third socket but we haven’t got round to fabricating a flag with the commune’s coat of arms upon it.
I need to prove my identity to the French bureaucracy. To do this I must supply a birth certificate that is less than three months old. In vain does one tell them that in the UK a birth certificate is for life so a new one will have exactly the same information as the old. I believe all life events are noted on a French certificate, which is why they like them, up-to-date. But I have to order a new one anyway and then get it translated into French. Since there will be no date of issue to be translated, I don’t know how I’ll be able to demonstrate that it’s new. The British government does issue a very important-looking document which states, in French, that the UK administration does not issue the same quantity of paperwork to its citizens as does France, and thus Her Majesty requests and requires that her subjects may attest on their honour that just because they cannot produce a particular form this doesn’t mean that they do not exist. Whether the wee man in the back office of the prefecture takes note remains to be seen.

Guernica

The first round of the departmental elections took place yesterday. I was down at the mairie by 7.30 ready for coffee and croissants before the polls opened at 8am and spent several hours there supervising the process of behalf of the State. The left won 46% of our votes and the Front National only 16%. The local cheese who is rightish is not beloved in the commune as it is thought he has already accumulated too many profitable positions and is too big for his boots. He failed to make the cut for the second round. So we did OK.
Elections bring out people one never normally sees and most of them are ancient and delighted at the chance to talk to a captive audience at the polling station. The trouble, as always, is incomprehensibility. The older the native the more impenetrable the accent. Even the presence of another supervisor who is virtually bilingual didn’t help much. One ancient went into a long riff about the war in this part of the country, which is a subject that is rarely discussed. His parent came up from Spain in the 30s and he even remembered seeing German aircraft on their way to bomb Guernica. He talked of the German patrols that would come through the villages and various encounters between the resistance and the occupiers. The polls closed at 6pm and then I had to hang around to sign my name eight times on various documents to confirm that everything had been above board. I suppose the whole process will be repeated next weekend.
Do kites migrate? I hadn’t thought so but a squadron of a dozen birds sailed past between here and the chateau at rooftop height.
One of my duties is keeping the grass under control at a nearby house that is up for sale. A sit-on tractor/mower is provided and I have some contempt for the machine. It’s undoubtedly quicker and idler than using a mower that one walks behind but the damn thing seem to be contrapted rather than built. A belt broke just as I was getting going. Fortunately an expert was just across the fence trying to mend the machine next door and I was able to flag him down and watch the ludicrous process of taking off all the bolts and baffles to get access to its bowels. Under his instructions I chopped half the safety covers to bits with my Swiss army knife so that it would be easier to get at next time. So the grass will grow unhindered till a new belt can be fitted and it is dry enough for another go at it. The mower next door was dead and a new one has been ordered for huge quantities of euros.

Clairvoyant

The phone rang as I went passed it. I picked it up rather than ignore it, which is more usual. A jolly voice told me that the caller was a seer and a clairvoyant and….I hung up. The silly sod didn’t foresee that.
There’s no question that the normal standard of courtesy that I was brought up to practice is inadequate in France. I went to a tyre specialist, wished him a pleasant good morning and he put the vehicle on a machine that showed that Angle de Poussee was out by a tenth of a degree. I expressed the requisite horror and then sat peacefully reading a book in a corner of seating area in reception while the problem was rectified. I watched other customers enter, shake hands with all and sundry and dart nervous glances at me. ‘Il est Anglais’ explained the receptionist to explain why I failed to issue glad cries of greeting and high-five everyone who entered. I still don’t quite know when kissing is necessary. I must kiss neighbouring children and many but not all of the local old ladies, but I don’t know at what point it becomes inappropriate to kiss the boys. When they erupt in spots, perhaps.

Chemical log

Another mighty tranche of money is about to be spent on the chateau. This time it’s the windows. M.le Maire, who has just serviced my car – bless him – suspects that it may be put on the market and he further suspects the price could be €400k. I wouldn’t rush to make an offer. The way things are going the current owner may have to spend a fortune to bring it up to saleable condition.
There are three fires’ worth of logs left. They’re really a bit of an indulgence since the CH is quite capable of keeping the cold at bay. The sums required to discover if a fire can be justified through the saving in oil is way above me. One is supposed to have a sweep call annually to keep the insurance company happy but the smoke goes straight up a metal tube and any deposits could merrily catch fire and burn away without doing much damage. I tried an artefact called a chemical log a couple of years ago and all sorts of things pattered down the chimney for days afterwards. I’ve used it twice since, but nothing much has happened. I’ll take the fire to bits in a week or two and see if I can peer up the tube. It took me ages to work out how to dismantle and reassemble the device the only other time I tried it and of course I’ve forgotten how I did it.
Either R4 or Accuradio is normally in the background in the house. Now there’s a change. The generic classical station is now Classical South Florida. It has the benefit of always having an agreeable weather forecast.

Button

We visited the Garonne for the first time for a couple of weeks. I took binoculars and there was bugger all worth looking at. I had assumed it would be jostling with migrants on their way north, but I’d either missed the critical week or they’d all taken off at first light to continue their journey. It appears that we have left winter behind. The temp is forecast in the high teens during the day and nothing like cold enough for a frost at night.
A couple of village children – 11 and 15 – are off to Dublin for a week with the school. The parents have to stump up €750 apiece…that can’t be right. Perhaps it’s that sum for the two of them. Whatever it’s still a lot and tough luck on those whose parents can’t afford it. Why Ireland? It wouldn’t be my first choice.
My neighbour, a man with a ride-on mower, was whingeing about having to cut his grass. The battery is dead and it’s awkwardly long. I pressed my button yesterday and managed to cut it all on my side of the fence with only three forced pauses to scrape off the mud and soggy grass.
Departmental elections are due soon. The structure has changed and cantons have been amalgamated. It means that local bigwigs have to fight their neighbouring equivalents in order to preserve their salaries. Their fight may be in vain since it is likely that the Front National will sweep all before it.

Garage

An unexpected consequence of aging is that a cough will often turn into a sneeze. It didn’t use to happen but it’s an improvement since a sneeze is much more pleasurable than a cough.
Her Majesty is giving pensioners a raise this month. We’re already feeling rather smug since the pound has been doing wonderful things against the euro over the past few months and is up 15% over the year – 25% since I came to France. As far as I am concerned this is good but it means that the house I’m in has suffered a similar decline vis-a-vis sterling and is now worth little more than a garage in the outer suburbs of London.
It’s going to be wettish for the next week. It’s a tedious time of year when everyone is waiting for some warmth and sunshine. But we can’t complain. Snow has been one soggy dump that was gone within 24 hours and frosty nights have been few.
A hawfinch turned up on the feeders. They’re not a rarity but a first for here. A dozen goldfinches also called. A good reason for stopping feeding in summer is that one wouldn’t like to be surrounded by bird crap when one’s sitting out on the terrace.