Monthly Archive for January, 2016


I came across an expat yesterday who’s been living in the same large village for about 10 years. Four years in, he and his wife realised they knew nobody in the same street, so they decided on a party and put invites into all fifteen post boxes. Everybody turned up on the dot, more than thirty of them and had a whale of a time. It transpired that many of them didn’t know their neighbours either, or had lost touch with them. Now they have a street party once a year and it rotates between peoples’ houses.

Took the dogs a walk for half an hour within full view of the main road up the motorway. Not a car passed. It’s probably horrendous round Paris but this part of the country has roads less busy than the Isle of Lewis on a wet Sunday. It remains one of the pleasures of living here.

The expats have taken over the village flowers. Last year our thin entry dossier for the village fleurie competition included a photograph of the maire’s garage without a single flower in the shot and the few half-starved spindly blooms dotted around were mostly dead by late summer. This year plugs – I think I know what a plug might be – are being ordered from Jersey and the nursery below a south-facing wall where they are to be grown on ready for the planters has already been fertilised and dug over.


Bizarrely there has not been a ground frost so far this year. The sages are all shaking their heads and prophesying doom next summer when legions of bugs and pests that have overwintered satisfactorily burst into copulation. The clement weather has not prevented the tits demolishing a line of fat balls every day. I will not to re-stock with a fresh sack of peanuts since moth larvae will consume anything left at the end of the season. I still have two-thirds of a tank of oil, although the consumption of logs has increased. The fire is mainly aesthetic and the log pile will need replenishing twice, which is no problem as the vendor, paterfamilias of the village, lives just across the square.

Last week, the grandson shuffled his cars around, demolished his beautiful log pile and rebuilt it less than a yard from its original site. He has seven vehicles that still have their wheels and a few more in bits. He labours away on one or other most weekends, and often succeeds in triumphantly revving the engine at the end of the day. Then off comes a door or a cylinder head and the vehicle is left to rust for a few weeks or months.


I brought back a thing that looks like a tennis racket from South Africa. It has batteries; the striking surface consists of parallel wires and there’s a button at the side. Hit a fly or mozzie with it and there’s a flash and a satisfying crack and offending insect spirals, dead, to the ground. It could be a wonderful thing and summer will test its worth. At the moment most possible victims are punaises and it seems overkill to target them since they’re really rather sweet. The maire was a bit snotty about it, so I used it to taser him. It now fills him with fear and he wonders whether it should require a permit.
We attended a small Burns supper last night. It was fun and MacSween’s haggis is always palatable – is there another brand? – even though I had to recite ‘Wee sleekit cow’rin tim’rous beastie’. Burns has lasted because he was a Corbynista, which is always a way to achieve popularity in certain circles. One of the French guests was a retired economics professor who came out with some verse by Burns’ French equivalent. I failed to understand a word and there was a discussion after the event on whether the poem was in Occitan or old French.


I wear crocs whenever I reckon I can get away with them, but they don’t work very well in snow, which demanded a visit to the park with grandchildren where we hurriedly hurled the stuff at each other and built a muddy snowman before it all disappeared. But crocs are great for zenning through the hassle of air travel. A well-groomed businessman sat beside me on the flight. I was at the window, he on the aisle. He appropriated the seat between us with his jacket, passport etc and pulled down the table. His chosen tipple was tea and tomato juice. This slid off the table. Most went onto his jacket, the rest onto his trousers. He mewled in distress and I gave him what moral support I was able as he scrubbed away with everything the cabin staff could provide till we landed.


I’m in London having the shit beaten out of me by a grandson on some Mario racing game on wii. I haven’t played with a wii before but that’s not the reason why I have no hope of success. It’s the colour. I’m mildly colour blind, which I’ve never found to be a problem until faced with this damn game where I find myself unable to work out where the track is. This is a good thing as it means I can never win and thus can easily boost the self esteem of my descendant without faking it.
Next week I am expected to don tartan and recite an appropriate poem at a Burns supper. Bar the poems, the evening is to be conducted in French. I’ve never been to a Burns supper and have never been much of a fan of Burns. I recall a Clan Gathering where the US contingent proposed some Burns celebrations and they were howled down by everyone else. Burns was Lowland and hence a sassenach and thus naff by definition. People who put on kilts to attend such functions are likely to wear white stockings.


I was given a passionate speech by a local. He is appalled by the state of his nation, the increasing power of the state, the erosion of civil liberties and trigger-happy police and troops without sufficient training who shoot anyone, however limited in mental capacity, whom they perceive as a threat – and being labeled heroes afterwards. And he continues to be alarmed by support for the Front National and the increase in racism in the rural population, who still get five points in their I-Spy book if they ever spot a black man. I could not reassure him. I have no more idea than anyone else on how to sort out the refugee problem, but I do know that any opinion put forward on the Daily Mail site is not it.
I had a different conversation with an expat who was fulminating against the Scot Nats. Ghastly woman, that Nicola Sturgeon. And their MPs are a disgraceful bunch, disruptive, disloyal and a stumbling block to progress. I’m not a Nat, but I pointed out that they were just doing the job that they were sent to Westminster to carry out and that polls show that Sturgeon is the most popular person in Scotland. Democracy can be a real bastard when you disagree with its outcome.


The village has a stop sign at either end. It’s to try to slow the traffic on the road through that passes in front of the church and were installed as an alternative to speed bumps. It’s not a natural stop and an irritant to those used to swishing through at 60kph. Consequently we are regularly visited by the gendarmes who park by one of them and try to catch lawbreakers. We took down the decorations festooning the church yesterday – those that had not blown down – when the gendarmes were lurking. The locals obviously know at which end of the village the ambush lies. The stop signs were ignored at one end and obeyed at the other.
I have replaced the computer’s hard disc and increased its memory fourfold. It now zips along. Like all such things, one becomes used to the improvement and forgets how tedious things used to be. I played host to some dozen people about 20 years ago who came round to share in the excitement of the first time I connected to the web.
My machine is now half a dozen years old and still does all I require of it. It’s held together by gaffer tape, which makes it of no interest to potential thieves. The constraint in the village is the wifi connection. Although fibre cable has been laid, we can only achieve 2 Mbps and Orange say they have better things to do than link us up.


Rainbow copyI fielded a phone call from the maire, staying just south of Luxemburg. He’d had a call from Paris, who had a call from Toulouse reporting that a man was to be seen standing at the bottom of the staircase on the security camera in the chateau. I peered through the window at the building. All seemed tickety-boo and no car was parked in the spot always chosen by trespassing ne’er-do-wells. I was unwilling to go and bowff someone myself or pass the responsibility to a swat team, so I reported the likely presence of a ghost, which seemed to satisfy everyone.
The pic was taken yesterday morning.