Monthly Archive for September, 2015


The gang of forty-odd migrant workers have almost finished harvesting the melons that cover the fields west of the village. A neighbour chatted up half a dozen of them who were waiting for the bus that brings the majority of their colleagues from their sleeping quarters and shuttles them between fields throughout the day. They were friends, three Croats and the others Indian. They had two cars and emerge from beneath the vast acreage of plastic that covers southern Spain to follow the harvest up the country and into France. Their year peters out as they near Paris.
I performed the sysiphean task of clipping the hedge that surrounds the property. I’d declare myself too old to do it these days if I could find someone else to carry out the work. The main difficulty is that the hedge is too wide. To trim the top requires me to teeter at the peak of the ladder, thrust a pole deep into the middle of the foliage on which to lean and then waft the cutters in one hand at the edge of my reach. I have to tape the safety cutout to keep it going since the tool is meant to be inoperable without holding it with both hands. I only chopped through the flex once, which is an improvement on previous years.
A mammoth fishing competition was underway during the latest visit to the lake at Beaumont. Perhaps 40 fisherfolk were trying to catch the world-weary carp that live there. Each angler had two or three 40′ poles, most of which were laid across the path. Poonkie wanted to hurdle them but was not very good at it and kept tripping. The pole owners were very patient. No fish seemed to be caught.


SorciereThe sorciere was miserable yesterday. Since her single tooth allows her only vowel noises she’s incomprehensible as well as stone deaf but she seems to still have her wits. When Cato wasn’t gallantly licking her extremities, much of the time she was in tears. One nurse said that the doctor had stopped her anti-depressants; another said that her bad days were outweighed by the good. Her sadness seemed centred on her house, which she knows has undergone changes. The maire says that she still has her full rights to the place, but they’re difficult to exercise if you’re well into your 90s and stuck in a wheelchair. She doesn’t seem to interact with other inmates who were busy having a birthday tea party but has respect as being an archetypical peasant, hands and spirit calloused by years of fieldwork.
It’s punaise season when natives scream and run for fear of crushing them and releasing their remarkable stench. They’re indomitable insects that haven’t really cracked the art of flight and buzz around crashing into things. I’m quite fond of them, as I am of hornets and humming-bird hawk moths. About the only bugs that I dislike are houseflies and mosquitoes – and those damn moths that try to turn my bird peanuts to dust.


Since I swither on the border of glaucoma, I made my annual visit to the optician today. He’s very cool, bald and speaks perfect English that one is expected to strive to avoid. I saw him having lunch in a restaurant a month ago and received a cold look in response to my weak smile. I suppose he must have half the Tarn & Garonne in front of him each year and most of the time he’s peering into the back of their eyeballs rather than seeing faces. He did a 30 second scrutiny of my retinas – retinae? – and puffed some air at my eyeballs. I was out of there in five minutes and had to find €28 cash as he doesn’t accept cards. I’m paying for expertise and it’s less hassle than being cosseted by eye damsels in the UK trying to flog you specs.
I had few requirements when I sought a property in France. One was a dog-proof fence and another was the facility to pee al fresco in privacy. For an aged male, this make life less troublesome. My most convenient spot is overlooked by the grandson’s bedroom window. I doubt he ever looks out of it and I’m sure he wouldn’t be bothered if he did. The roads are lined by pissing Frenchmen during the village petanque competitions.

Cap du Loc

I am insecure about the air retention capacity of one of my tyres and check it fairly often – or try to. Some petrol stations round about have no air pump. Many of the remainder have air pumps that don’t work, which includes those that demand money. I have a regular round of three or four and can usually find one that functions but I now carry around a can of air and foam for when I’m out of luck. There ought to be a law – perhaps there is.
We have two new STOP signs to slow down the agricultural lorries that can thunder much too fast along the road at the bottom of the village. We also have some new benches, which make a total of eleven. One in the square, I was told, is just for us. Two of the older ones have been placed on our official viewpoint from where, on very occasional days, one may glimpse the Pyrenees. It has a panoramic map, pointing out places one cannot see, and also a picnic table. It’s about 80 yards from our front gate and it was three years before I noticed it. I’ve never seen anyone up there. It is called the Cap du Loc. I asked what the name meant, but nobody knew.


In the midst of an airport run down the motorway, an unexceptional little car barrelling along in the fast lane a couple of cars ahead veered off the carriageway and smashed into the central barrier. It bounced back onto the road, accelerated and repeated the performance. It must have done this four or five times with other cars ducking, weaving, braking and trying to avoid each other before it finally came to a halt nestling against the crash barrier. As we passed, the driver seemed unscathed, still holding the steering wheel and gazing resolutely ahead. 9.30 am is an odd time to be pissed, but I can’t think of any mechanical complaint that would lead to his vehicle behaving thus. Ambulances, fire engines and police surrounded him as I came back.

Pruning season is almost here. My hedge trimmers bust, so I have new ones. The same goes for loppers to attack the mulberry tree which has compensated for having its spread curtailed by some five feet all round by producing vast numbers of stout shoots. The loppers are odd. New ones cost less than £20 but the old ones vanished. They can only have been nicked.

The maire turned up in a bit of a tizzy. With a neighbour he patrolled the village in the small hours after a car cruised through and the two of them heard it start up and depart. Burglars, undoubtedly gypsies, must have been casing the joint. But they were surely after more than a 30 year-old pair of loppers. I don’t do security here, relying on yappie little dogs. Not infrequently I find I have failed to shut the front door overnight. The only lock I ensure is secure is on the shed where the oil tank lives since malefactors drained that just before I came here. I’ve lost the loppers and an empty gas canister so the animals are doing a good job.


These are the magic days when it is cool and night and bright blue during the day with the temp 23/4. I once looked for places where such perfection is permanent. Some island twixt New Zealand and Oz seemed the only candidate but the society there sounded ghastly. I suppose one could jet to catch the seasons but such wealth has passed me by.

We’ve done a few of the usual tourist spots with our current visitors. A couple of weeks ago they would have been infested with school children; now it’s guided tours of geriatrics. One group today were proudly flourishing their walking poles, a sure sign that they were tottering along at least part of the pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela.

We had folk round for a curry. A monoglot visitor was impressed that the conversation moved between English, French…and Arabic. I suspect that the latter had something to do with accents.



A crunchy storm passed through and did lots of damage locally. I had two emails, one from the electricity company saying that we were likely to lose power and one from Orange telling me to turn off the internet but they both came in after the event.

Poonkie falls upon visitors with cries of joy because they throw her ball – endlessly. We tend to get a bit sick of it since she normally demands proper participation from us by pretending that we really, really want to take it off her, but if she won’t drop it within reach we don’t bother. In such circumstances she will pick it up and stuff it beneath the sofa or under the gate and moan loudly until we come to retrieve it. But guests are willing to wrestle her for it and this is simple-canine bliss. The maire is probably her most dedicated playmate.

CHATEAU POUPAS 1913We had the local gaffer for the chateau in for a coffee. The secretive Swedish owner has apparently demanded devis for an complete makeover. Once it is immaculate he will live there for 2 weeks each year. Today he could buy a similar building in perfect condiditon for half the amount he will have to spend, so I’m not holding my breath. The pic was taken a century ago.