Monthly Archive for August, 2015


At a nearby abbey a storyboard told me that my 5 greats grandfather was there for a tea party in 1814. After fighting its way up the Peninsula under Wellington his regiment was stationed a few miles away and the locals invited the officers to make decorous whoopee. What could they have talked about? And would they have asked the Germans when they were there 130 years later?
For most of the average day one could hear a mouse fart in the village. But for half an hour first thing in the morning it’s noisy. Shutters crash open, little dogs yap, TEEM is naughty and bellows, cars pull up to confer with each other, mobile telephones ring, are loudly answered beneath our window and family members shout at each other across the square as the day is planned. Occasionally the matriarch is pissed off about something and she has a voice with a unique penetrating quality that scatters cattle a mile away. Then all goes quiet and the sun stuns even the birds to silence.


Our latest visitor went to and fro from the station at Agen, a nice change from the airport. I may be one of the few who still winces when people go to a train station rather than a railway station. Before waving off our guest, we lunched in a good Japanese restaurant opposite. I was uneasy about the racial identification of the staff – Cambodians, it turned out but I don’t suppose the average round eye would notice the difference. Apparently the station eatery, perfectly adequate if infested with foreign travellers, was patronised and praised by Rick Stein.
Perhaps it’s not surprising that no work has been done on the chateau since the place crawled with yellow machines chopping trees etc. That cost €42,000. The commune could have organised the same job for €15,000 but the owner has professional agents. The kestrels seem to have produced a second brood of young since they are yipping all over the chateau with excitement. They chose a different nest site since I missed the run up.
The maire turned up yesterday with his binoculars to show me that they were better than mine. They were certainly big. He told me the name of the village on our furthest horizon. It’s about eight miles for a crow – half an hour in the car.

Show jumping

A large tipper truck piloted by the grandson of the sorciere turned up in the square last night and dumped what seems to be most of a second hand house onto the plot across the hedge. Upon investigation it is not a whole house but the woodwork from one, with complete floors with the parquet still intact. His ways are usually inscrutable but I suspect he will spend happy hours with a chainsaw turning it all to firewood. Building magnificent woodpiles is one of his least offensive traits.
The storms have woken up the grass. I am responsible for trimming half an acre that has its dedicated tractor-mower. Both it and the half-acre are temperamental. The grass has ruts that need to be handled carefully otherwise one becomes stuck. One is slashed by brambles and bludgeoned by low branches. The machine has a non-functioning almost new battery and needs to be jump-started. It has something not right internally and loses power and to rectify this one has to bounce on the seat to cut the engine so that it snaps out a backfire. It’s a bit like coarse show jumping. The obvious solution is to get the machine serviced but I have yet to discover the secret of achieving this.


I found myself in the gallery of the church this morning, looking down on a funeral run by a black priest with a ghetto blaster containing appropriate music. I counted 46 mourners, a dozen of whom I knew. The deceased was an ancient farmer whose portfolio of land and property is inherited by his grandson who lives a couple of doors down the street. My job was to press three buttons to toll the bells when the coffin was wheeled out. I had a windy moment when it looked as though I might clash with the 11 am chimes, but the priest had the grace to delay things a couple of minutes. It may be that I have established a niche as the village Quasimodo, not a position I could have imagined half a dozen years ago.
We were skirted by a magnificent thunderstorm yesterday. We caught its edge but the main display was to the north behind the chateau with a spectacular son et lumiere show. The dogs find such things hard to bear. Today it’s grey and merely 22 degrees, but the thermometer is due to climb back to the high 20s over the next few days.
Someone I know is in his eighties and has been teetering on the cusp of the hereafter for the best part of a decade. The NHS has done a truly lousy job, making his life miserable and never quite going the extra few inches to sort him. As a result he keeps being expensively ambulanced back to hospital as an emergency and takes up a bed for another week. It was thought he may have made it out of this life a fortnight ago but he failed. It is now proposed that his feet should be amputated since negligent care has turned them rotten.
A GP here failed to read his patient’s notes and proscribed a drug that sent her to hospital with serious internal bleeding. Doctors do have a difficult profession but sloppy errors are hard to forgive.


A rare Scots day with mist, cloud and persistent rain. It looks like being enough to turn the general brown into green. Two 14 year-old girls are staying. They’re young enough to be happiest splashing around in water but today they spent the morning baking and much of the rest of the time Facebooking. They are popular with Poonkie being willing to keep throwing her ball as long as she is willing to chase it – which is all the hours of daylight.
My car was removed by the maire, who changed the oil and filters as well as replacing three bulbs in the large array at the back. I rely upon him to tell me when to dispose of the vehicle. The electronics seem shot with random warning lights coming on but it still does what I ask it to after 250k miles.
HornetAsian hornets are common this year. They are elegant, peaceful insects and cruise the flowers in tandem with the hawk moths. A neighbour received half a dozen stings last week when he stumbled upon a nest and made less of a fuss than one might expect. Until recently the job of eradicating their nests came within the province of the mairie, but the state has given up and they are now part of the native fauna. They are supposed to be beastly to honey bees, but these also seem to be more prevalent this year.


The fete came and went, a success. A new plaque was unveiled on the war memorial giving added prominence to the unfortunate native who died in the Algerian war. Perhaps a dozen maires from nearby communes attended, all wearing their sashes. There was a real priest saying mass in the church and an honour guard of flag-wielding veterans. 120 sat down to lunch in the salle de fete and the eternal petanque match resumed in the evening.
This house makes a convenient refuge from the festivities and we tend to house escapees for varying lengths of time. The final one, an acquaintance, turned up at 10.30, swaying on the garden path to announce in barely comprensible French that his wife had done a runner on foot after a barney. He’d searched the ditches and couldn’t find her. I took him to find the maire who was able to report that she’d been seen striding along the road a couple of miles away. The inebriate disappeared into his car in search for her. If he had an accident – more than likely in general opinion – then the maire and his council would be held responsible. So I joined the latter in his Land Rover and we sped off to head them both off at the pass. He was found first, weaving his way through a nearby village, told to park his car and wait. She was fielded, pretty cross, a couple of miles further on. We reunited them and refused them permission to start their fight until after we’d taken them home. I took one of the pair, the maire following behind with the other in their car. We left them at their front door 20 minutes away and returned, marvelling at the folly of mankind.