Monthly Archive for November, 2015


The new regime in the Department is in trouble – and where it matters. 700 hundred people gathered to receive plaudits for their flowery villages at a banquet. A day or two later 250 binged with the pompiers – all on the taxpayer. The grub in both cases was lousy. Most of the 700 left most of their main course, and if you were one of the 250, you didn’t get your cheese till 2.30am and there was still pudding to come. Our representatives walked out early from both events and there have been mutterings ever since.
I was at the airport a few days ago and found blocked entrances and exits and concrete barriers barring cars from their usual deposit points. Most of the loos were shut and a new megobog has been created. I suppose it is riddled with cameras to scrutinise one’s privates to ensure one is not an underwear bomber but I didn’t think of that till I’d left it. I’m off to very foreign parts for the best part of a week but I have obtained sleeping pills that should let me float through the terminals and snore through the flight. A certainty is that I’ll have to cut the grass when I return. Things are looking whiskery already but I can’t face slithering across the worm casts at the moment.


We chopped the tree this morning and it’s taken me much of the day to recover from the exertion. A truck was left outside the gate so that the detritus could be put straight on and, without that, the job would be a nightmare. I buckled my nice new loppers.
I strive to add to the joy of being alive in small increments. The new light in the downstairs bog is a very tiny increment, but what is much more important is that my 6 year-old computer has a new hard drive and more memory stuffed inside it by a guest with the skills of a brain surgeon. The thing is transformed and I zip through my pooter chores with much less irritation at delays, hang ups and cock ups.
I spent the afternoon in the maire’s workshop encouraging him as he tried to change a tyre of the car. For some unfathomable reason, a couple of bolts refused to let go. They yielded only when an enormous nut was welded on top of the offenders and an iron bar a couple of yards long was used as a lever.


The Prefect summoned the maires and briefed them on the security situation. It was stressed that they were in the front line in meeting the public and should suppress panic and rumour. It all seemed pretty laid back. The local supermarket had a sign saying that customers might be asked to open their bags. What the couple of young checkout people were supposed to do if a mad bomber flashed them at was unclear.
With the temperature dipping, I have had pleasure in burning the excess diameter of the mulberry in the garden that was lopped off last year. It’s been pruned all its life and the great carbuncles where it has tried and failed to expand from year to year were not easy to hew into shapes that would fit in the fire. I look with alarm at the tree at the moment. It has made a mighty effort this season to compensate for its reduction and some of the shoots are a good fifteen feet long and look too thick for the loppers. The upper part of the garden is furnished with mighty concrete paths and the roots of the tree have begun to lift them. I don’t think I mind very much.


A for sure is that the Front National will do disturbingly well in next month’s regional elections. I have been assured by natives that another certainty is that the party could not win the Presidency. Even those naturally to the political right would vote communist if that were the only choice against Le Pen in the second round. I think that is true as the French are still anti-authoritarian revolutionaries at heart, often on the look out for another Bastille to storm.
Builders are here putting a basin into a small cloakroom & loo and filling the house with dust and bangings. To fit it in they have to insert it into an internal wall. It is mud brick and 18 inches thick, so the basin will not intrude into the room adjacent. I don’t like it much more than the dogs. The workers are Poles. I tried to communicate in French, but they speak not a word apart from ‘Monsieur’. Their English is marginally better.
Open a car door in the morning and there’s a patter on the tarmac as 20 roosting stinkbugs are dislodged from their accommodation. One remains careful not to squash them but it’s surprising how familiarity leads even the most bug-hating of people to brush them casually from their hair rather than scream and flap their arms.


Bleuet28 people turned out at the war memorial for the Remembrance ceremony. The Brits, of which there were a fair few, become uneasy when the church clock strikes 11 and everyone is still milling round exchanging bisous and small talk. But the event is not time sensitive and anyway we are ahead of British time by an hour so we can’t freeze in uniform silence at the same time as they do in the UK. Our memorial holds nine names that the maire reads out – six from WW1, two from WW2, and one killed in 1962 two months before the end of the war in Algeria. This last one was added this year on a proper marble plaque rather than as an afterthought. That war killed 25,000 French soldiers.
Brits turn up with their poppies and we buy the French equivalent, the bleuet or cornflower, through a collection tin. I was surprised to see a woman refuse the bleuet and the collection. For whatever reason the bleuet just not such a big deal as the poppy. I checked and found that the poppy appeal raised nearly £40m in the UK. The bleuet raises not much more than £1m and something like a quarter of that is raised by the French in London.


We rattled through business at the recent Council meeting. The maire’s job is no doddle, coping with the flood of documents produced by the nation’s grandiose bureaucracy. We councillors act like a board of non-executive directors listening to the report of the CEO’s machinations to receive as much subsidy as can be extracted from the various agencies. Our signing of multiple copies of the minutes moved to another dimension when we inscribed our approval in a large tome with gilded lettering on the cover announcing that it was our minute book. It’ll likely end up in the national archives for future historians to admire our wisdom organising the ‘Le goût de Noël’ festivities, due the 19th December.

Two nights in the Camargue was about enough out of the bird migration seasons. It felt more like Florida than France with flamingos instead of pelicans. One can be caught short at this time of year with the temp seesawing ten degrees from day to day. The towns were still buzzing with tourists. Since the sky was cloud-covered and being French they were in scarves and anoraks – and furry boots that made mildly self-conscious in my crocs. Many of the restaurants had plastic-shrouded their pavement space and put in flame throwers to keep the evening at bay. The local mozzies are made of sterner stuff and were still relishing fresh blood, even during the day. A notice board said that they carried no nasty diseases but they raised welts that put our local variety to shame.


About once a week TEEM, now seven, likes to hide and cause uproar when the population of the community goes round the environs yelling his name at the top of their voices. He was once found hiding beneath a table in the sitting room here, but that was exceptional. It only took ten minutes before he answered the call just now.

‘You will sit with me in the mairie to watch and count the vote next month.’

‘What’s the election?’

‘For regional councils.’

‘Who are the candidates?’

‘Local councillors. But you don’t have a vote.’

‘But why not? Foreign residents voted for the local council.’

‘It is not logical, but you are in France.’


At the moment the temp is 21. This is good because it means the French window into the garden remains open. Poonkie remains ball obsessed. She drops it, usually, at one’s feet and with the door open one can, usually, manage to hurl it outside and bury it in the hedge. This is perfection for the dog as she has a satisfying hunt before bearing it triumphantly back to one’s feet. Sometimes that takes more 30 seconds. Come winter, the door will be shut and one has no alternative but to ricochet the ball round the room. Only one glass has been broken so far. There are no-go areas. If the ball goes under a sofa, and the dog has been known to give a sneaky push to get it there, she sits and whinges till one fishes it out with a walking stick. Cato’s only obsessions are food and barking at cars that pass the window. Fortunately there are only half a dozen a day.


The autoroutes have signs telling you that the maximum speed is 130kph. Except when it’s wet when the maximum reduces to 110kph. A friend tried to find out what the definition of wet might be. Was it when the road surface was damp? If there were a few spots on the windscreen? Or only if there was a deluge in progress? Nobody could tell him, not even the gendarmes. But it must have been through the courts a few times and a definition emerged? Nope. French law doesn’t work like that. The next magistrate might think differently. And a charge is up to the discretion of the police. Hmm. I think I prefer the UK system.

At geological speed this house seems to be moving inexorably east. Long after I am dust it may crunch against the maire’s house and they can provide the foundation for a new mountain range as the tectonic plate that carries it rears skyward. A couple of years ago I filled in the gap at the bottom of the wall where it is beginning to ease away from its current location with expanding foam to keep the damp out, but it’s now broken some tiles as it progresses. I have a builder coming tomorrow, ostensibly to relay the tiles but I don’t think this a long-term solution. Perhaps I can stake the house down or fill its nether regions with super glue.