Monthly Archive for September, 2016


I spent two hours in the Prefecture in Toulouse wading through the dossier of paperwork required if I am to be permitted to become a citizen. We faced only one potential international incident when the document declaring that I had been free of sin in the UK was deemed unacceptable since the Scots police rather than their English equivalents issued it. I pointed out that I’d been in Scotland for 20 years before I came to France, that anything English was irrelevant and I could get Nicola Sturgeon on the phone to back me up. My interlocutor disappeared for 15 minutes to discuss the matter with a higher power and took the point. I was asked my opinion on Brexit. Contrary to the French principle of Fraternit√©, I replied, and an English thing, not Scottish. I’ll know the outcome of the interview within a year.
A pretty sinister crack has appeared in the loft as a result of the dry weather. It may be that this house will have to join the myriad of others in the locale that is pinned together with iron bars. A natural catastrophe is being declared that will give a smooth ride through the claims department of the insurance company.


There were a scary couple of days when mist crept up from the valley and long trousers were needed. But no longer; all is back to blue, the temp seems set for 25 and higher ahead and we’re on the terrace again. The swallows are still tooling around but other avian wimps have all gone south.
I go to the prefecture next week to see if I’m worthy of becoming French. A letter has been slipped to le Grand Fromage of the department, now a minister in Paris, asking him to fast track my application. In my experience, admittedly in the UK, such attempts to influence the process can be counterproductive, but I’m told it’s the best way to achieve the desired result in France. I know one American and another Brit who have such interviews next week.
At the moment we have four dogs here during the day and three at night. In the mornings the sky can rain shit as I flick the latest harvest over the hedge from the turd trowel. The smallest dog was at the vet again earlier in the week, this time to remove a twisted claw. The animal is fearless and loses any instinct for self-preservation when in pursuit of its favourite toy. I was puzzled by how fast it can run, keeping up with and even passing dogs that would be expected to outpace it. But I looked at it the other day and noticed that its back legs are disproportionately long, a bit like a hare’s.


I rise from my bed about 7am, come downstairs and potter through the online newspapers. I also hitch up my nightie to show as much leg as possible and zap any mozzies that are attracted with the electric tennis racket. Normally they don’t bother me much but over the last week I have been well nibbled.
About a dozen melons and about 15 kilos of plums are the latest freebies that have come our way. We know nobody who would do anything other than scream with horror should another melon turn up on the doorstep. Plums are not quite at that stage yet – but 15 kilos? I had a friend, a South African academic, who in apartheid days would buzz round Johannesburg on a motorbike throwing tomatoes at policemen. Melons, rotting melons, would have been even more fun.
The matriarch has return from hospital to a changed environment. A couple of her sons have spent days with a chainsaw and a digger hacking their way through the jungle that she encouraged to grow round her house. Surprisingly she didn’t go ape as everyone expected. Her second house is more of a problem. She has a daughter who has need of it but it is so crammed with stuff that she has hoarded that one can no longer get through the front door. I have been told she has a maladie.


We’re used to mice scurrying over the false ceiling that covers much of the ground floor, but I’ve just heard one pad across above my head like a prowling lion. Perhaps it’s time I called in the chasse. The collared doves now come to schmooze with us when we’re on the terrace. They’re also often at it like rabbits on the railings. A visiting Frenchman marvelled at the phenomenon and said that the hunting season is open on them until the end of February. I won’t shoot them myself and I hope that they will stay sufficiently close to the village to come through it safely. At the moment they are as interested in water as seed since this is likely the driest spell I’ve experienced since coming here. The natives whinge about the heat, but I close my eyes and think of Scotland and manage to cope.
My interview – said to last an hour and a half – at the naturalisation section of the prefecture in Toulouse, begins to loom. I am unable to complete all the required paperwork but I hope that a letter proclaiming my wonders from the maire may compensate a bit. I have managed to identify a few mega great uncles who were killed fighting for France against England at the battle of Verneuil in 1424 which may also help, but I won’t talk about the Napoleonic wars when various greats did a lot of French bashing – and looting.


The melon harvest is beginning to wind down. This is a relief since many hectares are rented in the vicinity and tractors and trailers shuttle from the fields to unload their cargo at the depot a mile or two west from here. The two buses that carry the field gangs spend much of the day in the large car park at the bottom of the village. Their drivers are monoglot Spaniards and spend the day processing gently round the hamlet. Occasionally they are called upon to pilot a tractor. It is difficult to know how many tractors and trailers are involved in the operation but eight roared through the village in procession at the end of yesterday.
To sort out something dull I went to the doc yesterday. We had our usual brisk exchange and he picked the telephone to make an appointment for me to see a consultant next Wednesday. The delay, he explained, was to allow time for the results of a blood test to be available. I agree that the French system may not be free at the point of delivery but the amount of money one pays is not a consideration for anyone – native or expat – that I know. And I would prefer not to be marooned in the middle of some months-long waiting list and be at the mercy of whatever strikes come to pass.
The doc has decided that I speak good French and he takes no prisoners when it comes to conversation. I have noticed that people consider that I speak better French than I do. It may be due to having a reasonably convincing accent. This is faintly disturbing since I can find myself too often skipping from noun to noun when someone speaks to me, a bit like jumping across a pond on stepping stones without much idea of what lies between.