Monthly Archive for March, 2017


We have a guest who expressed a desire to see the Dune de Pilat at Arcachon. So we bundled to dogs in the car and did it. Never, ever again. Once you’ve seen one heap of sand you’ve seen them all. The steps up to the top were closed off which meant one had to climb up the sand. Both dogs decided this was a bad idea and demanded to be carried. Three-quarters of the way up, I had a road to Damascus revelation. I was too old to behave like this and didn’t have to, so I came down ignoring the hordes of sneering school children that infested the place. It was also outrageous that the thermometer was at 27 and that the car park exit refused to accept my card for a single measly Euro and wouldn’t take cash and wouldn’t lift the barrier. I was pretty thin-lipped by the time we drove away.
The fields north of the village have always been popular for growing melons, but this year the hectarage covered in plastic is three times more than I’ve seen before. There’s a farm track we walk the dogs down to an old farmhouse set in a bosky couple of acres that is an expat holiday house. They are in for a nasty shock when they next turn up since they are entirely surrounded by plastic. Apart from the aesthetics, theirs is the only possible place for the workers to pee or eat their lunch with any shade or privacy. The only positive is that the harvest will not need to be trundled through the village on strings of tractors. But there may be more melons further afield that I have yet to spot. It’s the least pleasing crop to have around, unless you’re a melon farmer.


There are 42,000 Grand Electors in France. They are the Great and Good and sponsor candidates for the presidency. Most of them are maires and most remain inert. But ours was one of the 1829 sponsors of Macron. Fillon got most with 3535, Le Pen a mere 627. It augurs well and if our boy does good, he will be reminded of his sponsor. It is odd that so many leading politicians these days seem actively unpleasant. Macron looks rather a petal, but we don’t yet know him very well.
Our tree chopping gang are functionaries, employed by the department. Their days start at 8am, but that’s when they report in to their yard. They arrive in the village about 9 and take some time setting up shop. They get a bit of work in till lunchtime and manage to get in a bit more afterwards before they have to pack up their kit in time to knock off at their depot. They wanted the village’s electricity supply cut for a week, but it’s been haggled down to five hours on a Friday morning. I once watched, transfixed, when a similar team descended on a street near the British Museum. They and their chainsaws swung like gibbons from tree to tree. The remains were fed into shredders and they were gone in a couple of hours.


The two main routes into the village are lined by 80 plane trees, all in rude health. Today the bi or triennial pruning has begun. The job will likely take three weeks and diversions will be in place for the duration. The pruning and its cost has depended on dextrous work on the maire’s telephone. The longer I live in France, the more I understand that who you know is what makes things happen. It may be the same in the UK, but perhaps I knew nobody of influence there, so never encountered similar networks. Here I came across it with my first speeding ticket a month or two after I arrived. I wrung my hands for a day or two before seeking advice. ‘Why did you not come to me straight away? I could have contacted my friend and it would have been annulled.’ Bullshit, I thought to myself. But I am an innocent no longer.
The simplest daily dog walk is along a farm track a few hundred yards down the hill from the village. This year it will be taken over by melons. Great swaths of plastic are being laid out across the fields by teams of immigrant workers. These people keep the countryside functioning and it’s hard to understand why Le Pen has so many rural supporters when the need for them is thrust in one’s face. ‘I couldn’t live on a farm,’ said a neighbour. ‘The poison from all the sprays is very dangerous. Here in the village we are safe.’ I could do with a bit of local spraying to keep the mozzies down but it might be more effective if a householder a few doors down the street did something to stop his septic tank erupting in the field behind the mairie. He thinks the commune should pay for the repair. The rest of us don’t and things might eventually turn ugly.


We sat outside a cafe on the first warm evening of the year while Scotland was comprehensively filleted on a 10-foot screen inside. A mournful 50 year-old riot policeman told us he was probably going to lose his job since he had been caught too many times pissed on duty. A grim life, he said, but very well paid. He spends time stuck in barracks in places like Corsica waiting for chances to beat up those who trouble the state and there’s nothing to do but drink. You can’t hold on to a wife since you’re away too much for unlimited periods. Since he fell down some stairs and hurt himself in front of his commanding officer, he’s been suspended. His employment prospects were bleak. Everyone knew that you hung on till retirement because the benefits and pension were so good. An ex-CRS man must have sinned in some spectacular way and nobody would hire one.
A rat came to the bird table, a first. The mairie holds a crateload of poison and some this has been placed on top of the oil tank in the shed, which seems to be its route into our property. I don’t mind rats but others do.


The Satnav threw a wobbly in the midst of a maze of narrow streets in Montauban. They were all one-way and there was no apparent reason which direction they should choose to go. So we followed a car that seemed to be going in the right direction. Mistake. A couple of hundred yards further and the road was barred by bollards, so was the next and the next. They were automatic bollards barring any but residents with the correct gizmo on their cars from accessing their compound and we had followed a resident, fortunately before the bollard thrust its way through the floor of the car. After a bit of hand wringing we found the woman we had followed and she did the business with her gizmo and set us free.
Spring has sprung, the grass doth grow and the grandson has begun work on putting up his garage/ workshop next door. His gallant copine is his navvy. It’s not too noisy so far but I can foresee a summer with a churning concrete mixer over the hedge. That assumes he’ll keep going and doesn’t damage himself. He was off games yesterday after he dropped a log on his foot.


We have a meeting in late morning tomorrow to discuss this year’s village fete. About thirty locals will be there. The clan patriarch was round a couple of days ago to take our lunch orders, paid for by the surplus from last year. The choice was restricted to pizza, not my favourite, but mine should be seafood. I hope without whelks.
The matriarch is at that stage of life when she yo-yos in and out of hospital. She’s home at the moment. One of her sons told me that a cousin of hers had died a day or two ago and will be funeralised in the abbey at Moissac. He was a bit dodgy apparently but left a large litter. I asked how many cousins he had. He shrugged. His mother comes from several generations that all had a minimum of four children apiece, often with a variety of partners. This tradition has continued is still continued. His cousins will be counted by the hundred.
A string of 100+ cranes passed over yesterday heading north. They fly higher than geese and there are more of them in a skein. The noise, utterly different from geese is what makes you lift your head.