Monthly Archive for May, 2016

Showers

Occasional showers on the weather forecast in Scotland meant that you might have a mildly soggy ten minutes. Here it means the sky darkens, the trees thrash like fly whisks, gutters overflow and the splashes are five feet up the French windows. We missed the worst of it here over the weekend but neighbouring villages received ping-pong sized hail. The maire knocked on the window and took our cars down to shelter in front of the church in case it arrived here.
A byproduct of the weather is that our internet was knocked out. I told the help line that I thought the router was OK but they disagreed, so I had to trek through a sodden landscape to the nearest Orange shop to exchange it. I arrived there at 9.30am to find that it didn’t open till 10, so I had a coffee for half an hour, returning just before the hour. A queue of 15 people was ahead of me and it took 90 minutes before I was face to face with one of the three assistants. Two in the line lost it and shouted at the unfortunate staff, berating Orange for their lousy customer service before stamping out. I endured because I had no choice. The new router still doesn’t do the job but a technician is promising a visit in the morning.

Grey

These days I rarely bother to answer the phone, and never the line that comes through the Internet. Any call will be a nuisance call and anyone who’s interesting can contact me through email. It’s curious how what was once such a vital tool is now useless because of the shit that’s poured into it.
I painted lampposts in the village today. There’s a big effort being made to turn us into a village fleuri but the new lighting system to illuminate the 48-hour long petanque competition when the fete weekend arrives offended even my colour blind eyes. It consisted of the bright blue posts that seem to be disfiguring many old villages round here. I whinged and found myself atop a ladder with a pot of green paint. Living here must be akin to being in Stoke Poges when Grey turned up to elegise. The world may be crumbling but what is important is whether the latest deceased who wishes to be placed in the cemetery has the right to be there.
A collared dove, of which there must be a dozen pairs in the village, has started a nest on the edge of the terrace. I’m pleased to see that the parents incubate in shifts and that the dogs now treat them as part of the scenery and ignore them when the birds sit beside them.

Mess

My identification of raptors is a bit iffy. One flew fast overhead in the direction of the chateau. I tentatively thought peregrine and watched it being dive-bombed by a swift. It rolled over, grabbed the swift and continued on its way. Most impressive.
Whenever the maire pops round and has a coffee on the terrace, he is faced with the chateau slap in front of his eyes and it makes him miserable. ‘C’est le patrimonie du village,’ but he can only watch it crumble. He has lots of schemes to do it up – a co-operative is one – but they require a willing seller and the owner is inert in Stockholm. He’s been given a very reasonable devis for the grass to be cut, but makes no decision and the policies become increasingly shaggy. I do not want the place to be buzzing with contractors and then inhabitants who will peer up at our terrace. But I no longer worry. The roof is within 18 months of collapse and when that happens, it’ll be all over for the building. The same applies to the grandson’s construction attempts across the hedge. It’s been a mess for the last six years and I no longer believe it’ll ever be more than the same mess whatever planning permissions he may obtain.
A recent visitor asked ‘What’s that bird? It has a crest and a zebra crossing on its back.’ ‘A hoopoe.’ ‘Ah! I was staying with a friend in Spain and saw one. I asked him and he told me that it was a kind of pheasant peculiar to the country. I thought it a bit funny at the time.’

Tax

One must duck and dive between showers in order to keep the grass cut. I added two extra Commandments to the list when I lived in Scotland. Never let the grass grow too long before cutting it, and when in doubt wear Wellie boots. The last doesn’t apply here since I wear crocs rain or shine, but the first still does. A third that I never quite carved into stone – do not assume that the person to whom you are talking understands what you mean – works even better in France than it does in the UK.
I received acknowledgement that I was granted a postal vote. A snag, though, was they promised to send the ballot to some address in New Zealand. I whinged and they say this has been corrected.
This year’s income tax return is filed – and on line. Tax returns here require lateral thinking since nobody is quite sure what should go into which box, particularly when you are declaring foreign income and our return become stuck into a loop. We ended up in the local tax office where a clerk brought up our declaration on her screen, poked a few buttons, tutted, and disappeared for 20 minutes. This led to some projected hostility from those who were waiting in the queue. She returned. ‘Wrong, now right,’ she said. ‘Do not look. Do not touch. D’accord?’ ‘Si.’

Feuds

It’s the third day of an Autan wind, relentless, dry, gusty, which the natives say drives people mad. The maire was inaudible as he read the speech in front of the war memorial to mark VE Day and the elderly farmer who wears a ludicrous wig had to hold on to it with both hands. We all smiled sympathetically when we caught his eye. The matriarch’s adhesive was made of sterner stuff or she may have guy ropes to hold hers in place.
A committee meeting to organise the fete weekend a day or two ago evolved into a boozy lunch in the sunshine in front of the salle de fetes for most of the village. Our guest achieved many brownie points by handing out gargantuan cigars. I have never lived in a place that has a stronger sense of community and, in spite of the labyrinthine feuds that can erupt, they are usually put aside in such circumstances.

Pussy Cat

The sorciere has just been laid to rest in the village cemetery within 24 hours of her death. Some 35 people attended – the church was not used – and an iPod played ‘Alleluia’ by Leonard Cohen, in English, and ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’ by that gargantuan Hawaiian. It has been the first proper summer’s day. Her shiny coffin had the sun on it and the turtle doves were coo-ing. Her grandson had pressure washed the family vault earlier in the day to receive her. I was assured that the vault would be hermetically sealed. A brace of professional keeners sang a hymn and quoted soothing Catholic words and we all stumbled through the Lord’s Prayer. From the commune, only four people turned out and two of those were expats. One felt that a lot of sadness was being buried in the place where it belonged.
Our latest visitor TGV-ed into Toulouse last night. It’s much more hassle than the airport. The train was an hour late and the station was completely snarled by hovering traffic. A couple of mornings ago he’d woken up to six inches of snow and today – blue and 23 – made him purr like a pussy cat.