Monthly Archive for May, 2015

Potager

I have kept a single peanut feeder and the idle tits that continue to use it are now bringing their young to marvel at this cornucopia of free food. The young tend to tumble in through the French window and squeak on the carpet for their parents to stuff their faces. The dogs quite like chasing any single ones that enter, but when they arrive in battalions, they just look at them.
The younger brother of the maire, the head of one of the seven households that actually live within the village, owns four houses. He’s doing up one that is better than the one he currently inhabits. He had a large farmhouse on the edge of the commune and has another property in the local town. Just down the street is another native who has inherited one farm already. He has another one due from an uncle and his wife collected yet another from an aunt. I grant that property here is difficult to shift but it is very easy to be deceived into believing that some of the locals live pretty hand to mouth on the black, but more than once I have seen one take out a very fat roll of €50 notes.
The grandson and his pretty, patient and saintly lady are creating themselves a lawn and potager adjacent to the one laboured over by the sorciere that he trashed as soon as she departed to her institution. They can be seen together tenderly watering their tomatoes. She has brought about a transformation in the man. His plot is as tidy as any plot can be on which sit seven rusty and unroadworthy cars. The rest of the scrap iron and building materials that used to be in your face are now hidden behind the walls of his half-built garage. All in all the two of them make easy neighbours and the entire village rejoices in their connubial bliss and we all worry if she’s away for more than a night.

Daisies

Summer has gone away for the time being. This is to be regretted because the grass continues to grow at alarming speed instead of crisping up beneath the sun. For the past four summers I have been weeding the lawns here in a desultory fashion, picking away at the mat of thistles and dandelions. Now it’s within the realms of possibility that a little sustained activity may rid the sward of all of them and something akin to a proper lawn might emerge. I have ordered a fiendish German tool from Amazon and shall take a crack at it. Then I may consider the daisies and buttercups.

Amazon.fr is a poor imitation of the British version. It’s not hard to know why since anything one might fancy on the French site can be ordered from the UK and be received for about 20% less. The douane are said to be more ferocious than the gendarmes. I heard of one mass stopping at a local roundabout recently and they were obsessing about soap, make up and washing powder rather than tobacco and alcohol.

The crickets have been fiddling for weeks but I’ve yet to hear a cicada. I looked up the difference the other days. Crickets are kin of grasshoppers, have mouths and fiddle in much the same rhythm. Cicadas are bigger and are sustained through tubes that pierce plant stems and suck the sap. And their noise is a sustained burst that can be impossible to live with if one should be sounding forth too close.

Louche living

An elderly couple of expats were in front me in the Lidl queue. Since I’m becoming seriously geriatric myself, they must have been pushing 80-odd, or were in lousy nick. ‘€9.70,’ said the lass behind the till. Panic ensued. ‘What did she say?’ said him to her. ‘I don’t know.’ The checkout girl tried again ‘Nearly €10.’ ‘Dix. Isn’t that ten?’ ‘I think so.’ A note was proffered and change received. I can’t imagine either living in or even visiting France with such a lack of language skill.

We’ve just had our first hot spell and the French have removed their winter clothes to show lots of flesh, often red with sunburn. It is untrue to say that they are still a slim nation.

The poplars are dispersing their seed that settles in white fluffy drifts by the side of the road. A mini-whirlwind enveloped a Maghrebi matron in the supermarket car park who stopped dead in alarm as she was festooned in down. The stuff is splendidly flammable. A large cluster floated past my nose as I was lighting a cigarette and I touched the flame to it – very satisfying, a micro Hindenburg disaster.
Ahlf stone a

My gt-grandfather is buried in Edinburgh beneath a large and vulgar gravestone, which is not his fault but that of his second wife. I came across a pic of it on line. It was taken by a woman, name unknown to me, who is another of his gt-grandchildren. If I click on a button I will be put in contact with her and other new relations. I didn’t. I have sufficient kin already. However I discovered that one of his sons by her, who was famous in the family for winning the Calcutta Sweep, a sort of lottery thing of its time and place, and blew the lot on louche living, went on to have a career in the Canadian Mounties. That was quite interesting but I resisted the temptation to find out the details.

Line dancing

With ten minutes notice we were whisked off and treated to lunch at trestle tables in the square in the local town. It was the annual fete day with lots of bands, stalls, po-faced line dancing from the matrons, a plateful of roast pork, and a table of pas-finis and their minders adjacent. The French are never chavvy and the young mix with their elders rather than operate in feral gangs. Our own village fete committee met this morning and we are promised three days of petanque and two discos. It’s not till August and the discos rarely manage to stagger on to their designated hour of closing. We hope that the vide grenier will be more successful this year. Last time we only had two stalls and the locals valiantly bought all sorts of shit off each other.
Two respectable and stout couples stopped their car at the entrance to the chateau below and went for a look. The dogs stood on the terrace and barked down on them but they were not perturbed so I assumed they had no wicked intent. They disappeared round the end of the building and then the alarm went off. With steam coming out of their ears, they galumphed back round the corner, down the track and away. Nobody but them – and me – took the blindest bit of notice.
The face of the stables, part of our view of the chateau, has holes in its brickwork. One houses a pair of jackdaws, another pigeons. A third has kestrels, a fourth a hoopoe couple and both barn and tawny owls live within the building. It all looks very amicable from here.

Belling

The very upmarket grandfather clock went b-doinggg and something snapped. I have collected the curved piece of brass a couple of inches long that fell to the floor but have done nothing about it. The chime no longer works and the house is much more peaceful. You know longer hear it brutally belling out the small hours on those sort of nights. I suspect that such a clock cries out for a bodger like me to attack it and replace the missing piece. I even know how to have a new one cast, but it doesn’t seem that important to make the repair.
The grandson likes strimming. He devotes an hour or so every evening to this hobby, lashing the vegetation on the other side of the hedge. You learn toleration. Every Eden has its serpent and this one is just thoughtlessly daft rather than evil. He still has his lady friend, who seems rather sweet. She sometimes can be seen cradling her face in her hands by his front door. She has not chosen an easy path in life.

Shell

A small white car wrapped itself round one of the plane trees that line the road leading into the village a day or two ago. I passed a couple of minutes later while M Le Maire was on the phone to the authorities. The car was a wreck and its driver, an octogenarian in blue overalls, was standing beside it swaying gently and looking a bit miserable. They say that drunks lead a charmed life and this one had climbed out of the mangled remains of his vehicle without a scratch.
The commune owns a large 19th century stone building that was once the presbytery. The shell is sound but the interior is a disaster. The council needs to find more than €200k to turn it into a couple of flats from which we could bring in a useful rent. The newly elected departmental administration is cutting back on expenditure – except from awarding themselves a 26% raise – and so the subsidies for such works are hard to get. The cost is more than the finished building would be worth but it will have to be done.