Monthly Archive for July, 2016


The chasse lunch took place on Saturday. 150 people sat down and nobody became incoherent or objectionable through strong drink. Chasse lunches are one of the few occasions in this country when such behaviour is not uncommon. The average chasseur gets tanked up, often on a lethal home-made eau de vie, before he sets out on a hunt, gets further tanked over a long lunch and celebrates some more at the end of the day. It makes for a dangerous sport and one that rarely results in large bags. But our chasse has perfected the art of cooking boar. I think there were eight courses.
The kestrels have raised four young. Two are scrambling about on the roofs of the chateau. The other two still stand like sentries at the entrance to the nest hole, but they all seem to snuggle up together at night.


When it gets too hot we become troglodytes. The French have always done so but it still feels faintly perverse to shut all the windows and shutters and turn the lights on. Inside the house peaked at 26 degrees while 35 was going on outside. My neighbour uses an air-conditioner in his bedroom but it looks like a bottle gas heater and sounds like a tractor.
The flowery village judges came and went. They were scheduled to stay for 15 minutes but instead were here for more than an hour. We live in high hopes of gaining a star. Such people always grimace at the sight of the chateau, beached like the carcass of a great whale at the edge of the village. Who would be daft enough to buy such a thing? It needs a brainless oligarch who can sail around in a yacht for three years until he has expended the few million needed to make it reasonable. The worst solution would be its purchase by a bodger who reckons he could make money out of it.


The local swifts all disappeared on Bastille Day. I hope it was in response to the couple of autumnal days we had rather than a harbinger of the rest of the summer.
Without the news continually trickling into our myriad of electronic toys, it would be very easy to know nothing of the turmoils of the world when you live here. The tranquility seems eternal and unchanging. When the news travelled the country at walking pace, one didn’t need to get one’s knickers in a twist because by the time you heard about it the crisis was long over. I once heard a few ancient Devon farmers discussing their memories of the war. What they best remembered was that the summers were very good and the prices for produce excellent.
The judges are round next week to decide upon the village’s efforts to become flowery. The gardeners are almost entirely expat and they have laboured long and hard. The ambition is to win a sign with a star on it. It would make a third as you come into the village. One with the name of the place in Occitan has recently been installed.


The chateau is on the market at the stonking price of €700k. Schemes are already afoot. It is thought that one might get it for half the asking price and, if everyone in the commune took a stake, we could turn it into a co-operative. Once it was done up – the cost estimates vary between €200k to €2m – then it could be let. A hot contender would be to delinquent youths. One could pack it full of lots of them and enjoy a sensible return. I can foresee drawbacks. If the thing can’t be left to peaceful decay – my preference – I would like a fat cat to buy it as a holiday home. I could bear a helicopter pad and, with luck, the purchaser would buy me out for a vast sum to stop me staring into his bedroom through my binoculars.
I need lots of paperwork before I face the first interview for French citizenship. Amongst it should be my mother’s birth certificate. She was born in Ceylon in 1916, a child of the empire. She isn’t in Somerset House, nor in Scottish Record Office in Edinburgh, nor in the colonial list, nor on any the genealogical sites and she has not been hoovered up by the Mormons. It may be that she’s in Sri Lanka but that seems to require turning up there with a handful of rupees to initiate a search. Their records are not computerised or centralised and termites are said to have consumed many of them. She had a passport, so I’ve asked that office if it’s possible to access their records. Otherwise I’m running out of ideas.


One of my Remain motivations was a preference for a claque of grey bureaucrats riding shotgun over British sovereignty. Sovereignty is not a concept I have much time for. My hairy ancestors’ sovereignty was over the home glens and barbarians began the other side of the hill. Then they were mostly Scots for a century or two before becoming British. Civilisation progresses when the first tier of power is removed from local politicians and handed to a higher authority with a broader view of the common weal. Most British politicians are truly grim. Posturing egotism is their common attribute and they seem overwhelmed by the task before them.
Becoming French may be trickier than I expected. Bookings for the first stage interview that takes place in Toulouse have been closed due, no doubt, to overwhelming demand. Meantime the pile of necessary bumf continues to grow.
I had a great uncle killed on the Somme. He had a wife and child, was an elder of the Kirk, ran the local Boys’ Brigade and was said to have been a sweet and gentle man. Then he became a tombstone in Flatiron cemetery.