Monthly Archive for November, 2016

Casserole

I grabbed a handful of grapes in passing and managed to spit out the punaise just before I crunched down upon it. A shame, really. I might have discovered an interesting new flavour to add to a casserole.

I was all set to shin down through the hole in the floor that was found in the next village to pull out the treasure, but the householders did a recce and found nothing but great quantities of concrete that had been poured down preventing access to anything interesting that might have been there. I think that is the common course of such discoveries.

The servants of the state are not easy to deal with if you are an expat. It was well known, for example, that if you had to face authority about cars or driving the sous prefecture in Auch was where to go. There the staff was relaxed and sometimes even helpful. In other places the letter of the law was applied and the letter of the law can go way beyond Z. It may be the 50th UK driving license that they have seen that needs to be converted, but a French translation, costing €40, can still be required. Sometimes a new clerk appears and the word soon goes round if they are easy going or sticklers. I have been told that the extension of the state of emergency has turned them all into jobs-worths. The local tax office is said to have undergone such a transformation but on my last visit rolling on my back and offering my tummy to be tickled produced a surprising success. In the UK such people need to be reminded they are civil servants. Here they are gods that need to be worshipped if you are going to achieve the result you want.

Vulgarian

A friend in a neighbouring village got rot underneath a bathroom on the ground floor. It needed to be ripped up. By peering through the joists they have discovered a couple of rooms and a corridor beneath to which they have no access. And they can see another level below that with at least one room with a closed door. I think it’s where the Templars hid their treasure.

The smallest dog lost its toy. She had actually left the thing in the garden but was convinced that it had been confiscated and hidden in the bowl that holds all the dog treats. The bowl was put on the floor to show her. She sniffed and was crushed with disappointment when it was not there. This dog would ignore a meal if it clashed with toy time. OCD? Simple obsession?

A neighbour travelled to Montauban to vote for Sarkozy in the Republican primary and is most upset by the result. Her other half is on the political left and thinks he’s a crooked vulgarian but fully respects her right to her own political views.

Ignorance

35 turned up at the memorial to mourn the dead on Armistice Day, followed by drinks and nibbles in the salle de fetes. The names of the dead are read out each time and I now know them by heart. I recall an American marvelling at the string of Macs on a war memorial in the Highlands. Where he came half the names ended in -stein or -wicz and the Scots ethnic consistency amazed him. Here it’s the same. The influx of people from Italy and Spain came between the wars and all the dead from this village have obvious French names.

My computer started misbehaving a few days ago. My first port of call in such circumstances is Google, which informed me the problem was caused by a flaw in the operating system that required much heavy lifting to sort out. By chance I discovered that the real cause was a faulty keyboard that was mentioned nowhere as a possibility.

It’s a pity that Americans speak English because it allows us to appreciate the full horror of Trump. The French have their trans-Atlantic news filtered by the language and their interpretations seems much less stressful. I know people who never follow current affairs and consequently live their lives in blissful ignorance.

Quorum

We trotted through a Council meeting, only just with a quorum. A few of our members have fallen by the wayside, usually because they’re unwilling to sit in the same room as a fellow legislator. The maire likes his expat members. Because of our inability to follow the nuances of the language we tend to keep our mouths shut and wish to hurry things through to get to the wine that always concludes our deliberations.

My neighbour took the car for its MoT and the one necessary part required before it passes will be fitted in a couple of days. When I first came here he couldn’t wait to sell me something shinier, but I resisted and now he shares my desire to keep the thing rumbling on for as long as possible. He was talking about its chances of getting through the test in four years time.

We did a trip of 30 minutes through three villages in the mid-afternoon. Not another vehicle was on the road._dsg6868_dv

About forty punaises were nestling behind one of the shutters. These days I can hardly be bothered to brush them off the arm of a chair. They are very amiable insects, if a little stupid. You just have to be careful not to squash them. I was told that this year there are very few tiger punaises. I’ve ever met one or two without incident, but the natives say they squirt you if they’re riled, and they have a short fuse.

Kite

imagesAn exotic new entry in the ornithological I-Spy book, a black-winged kite. I saw one sitting on electricity wires in Portugal and couldn’t identify it. In the last few days I’ve seen another a couple of times just west of the village. It’s one of those birds that has extended its habitat from Africa to the Iberian Peninsula and is now in France. Another such bird is the cattle egret that is now in southern England.

‘A good book?’ asked a neighbour.
‘Modified rapture’ I replied. ‘It’s been written by a friend who’s asked me to review it.’
‘He lives in Fife?’
‘Mmm…no.’
‘It was sent from there. I saw the cardboard parcel in the recycling bin.’

At the moment I’m trimming the laurel hedge round the garden to try to keep it from taking over. It had reached the stage of being so high and thick that I couldn’t reach across it with the hedge trimmers. My neighbour suggested I pay €150 and use the professional team that tidies up round the village, but all expats are poor these days. The hedge is producing a gargantuan quantity of clippings. Currently I’m dumping these on unused ground behind the garden and hope that all will be mashed up when the professionals’ tractor flails its way past with the mower, but I think this may be breaking the rules.

Today is when relatives of the departed trek to cemeteries to lay chrysanthemums by their tombs. In a recent white-line blitz, the village has installed a pedestrian crossing between the parking space and the burial ground to prevent the totterers from being squashed . Very few of the old families buried there still have kin in the commune, but folk come from all over.