Monthly Archive for April, 2017

Grand orage

We are all buckled down ready for a grand orage to crunch overhead in three hours. It’s forecast to be very grand indeed with the likelihood of hail. All cars in the village are huddled under cover to avoid it, bar mine, which is not considered worth preserving. I don’t mind some dents in the roof but I’d be pissed off if the windscreen goes. There have been half a dozen of these types of warning since I’ve been here and none have so far been particularly dire. I am most interested in what might happen to the scores of hectares of melons under plastic at the edge of the village. If hail passes over, the gangs of workers would have to start again.
How does ‘Liberté, égalité, fraternité’ fits into the philosophy of the FN? Perhaps Le Pen has ditched the motto because there’s no sign of it in her policies. When asked at my interview in Toulouse about becoming French what I thought about Brexit, I said I couldn’t see much fraternité in it and received an approving smile. We’ve four Muslims that I know of in the commune. Two we never see; one has become an important presence in the village and puts his hand to all sorts of tasks; the fourth is just a sweet, smiling old man. I get the feeling that the FN know they’re faintly disgusting. I don’t think the Tory Brexiteers have the same self-awareness.


The maire is mortified. The largest number of votes in the commune was cast for Le Pen. She received 42% of the vote. Macron was second with 26% on a turn out of 76%. It’s a long day in the polling station. There’s another day of it for the second round and, in June, two more days will be taken up for the election of deputies for the National Assembly. It seems unnecessary to have two rounds for them, but unless one candidate gets more than half the votes in the first round, then a second round takes place.
People trickle in one or twos to vote and linger for a good gossip. The dissident faction in the village, all nine of them, turned up in a mob and we looked at them sourly, knowing such knuckle draggers would all be voting NF. The clan patriarch has aligned himself firmly against them and made his feelings abundantly clear even though half the of them are his own descendants. One dissident works for the enterprise that is digging trenches for the cables. He had a 50-yard commute but made the error of whingeing about the maire. Consequently he was removed from the job and now has to commute daily to Toulouse. I don’t listen to the Archers but the drama in this community seems like a crude caricature of what goes on there.


The Theipval Memorial with its 77,000 names of missing soldiers was visited on a bright blue day. Not another soul was there, the only sound being wreathes clattering across the marble in the wind. Gt-uncle’s grave was eventually found in cemetery 78 of the 250 on the Somme battlefield. The ghosts there should be legion, but it’s just depressing.
We returned to local turmoil, not just the great machines lumbering round the village burying cables, but political turmoil. Two members of our council have resigned. One will not be missed, the other was a pity, but was too closely related to the first to stay on. We still have a quorum but it’s nip and tuck and the possibility of a by-election looms. There’s a meeting tomorrow to discuss staffing the mairie for the election on Sunday. The hours look like being long with so few councillors.


We’re near Le Touquet for a few days doing war sites where various kin had a horrible time. Today was a village called Franleu where my father was wounded and captured in June 1940. It’s a pretty little place as seemingly unpopulated as every village in France. His battalion was surrounded by the blitzkreiging Germans and besieged there for a day. The only apparent legacy lies in the churchyard that contains 27 war graves and those of four civilians who must have been caught in the crossfire. Only one is unidentified, a lance-corporal known unto God. My father was left behind when the battalion retreated and managed to escape and return to Scotland via Gibraltar by Jan 1941. As is so often the case, he never talked about it. Tomorrow will be Theipval and then home.


The tree pruners have done their thing and left lines of embarrassing naked lollipop sticks on the way into the village, but there’s no peace. The team burying the electricity cables has replaced them and they have a good half dozen machines that clatter, roar and heave all day. At some point they’ll turn off the power for the great switch over but we’ll get no warning. They will telephone to tell us about it, but the phone is never answered because it’s usually a cold caller.

I’m told that melons will remain a major feature of our local agriculture since the melon tycoons have bought up most of the land round about. At least they have to rotate the crop and I believe next year they’ll be across in the Gers and we’ll ne surrounded by maize and sunflowers. Fortunately all the plastic is out of our sight – just. We should be spared when they decide to build the semi-permanent plastic greenhouses that cover great tracts of land in Spain and Portugal. I’ve already seen a few colonies between here and Bordeaux, but they need flat land and that hardly exists locally.


The hoopoes are back, but I haven’t noticed either swifts or nightingales. It’s the latter that announces that summer is here. The kestrels get frightfully excited when the need to copulate overwhelms them. This year they have shifted their nest a dozen feet to the left. Perhaps the identical hole in the wall they had been using became just too disgusting after three years of occupation.
We have been told to block off our diaries for our stint in the mairie supervising the first round of the forthcoming election. The most important matter to be thrashed out was what we’d have for lunch. The polling station may be unique in France in that it doesn’t shut during that sacred hour and a half. We have to keep our ears open, but nobody round here is ill-mannered to come to vote then. Pizza was the first suggestion but I demurred, pointing out that we ate confit de canard and frites last time and I don’t like pizza. We have settled for a chicken from a nearby farm with a good reputation.


I did a drop and collect at the airport yesterday and had a couple of hours to wait. Security was provided by paratroops strolling around in bands of four. Much to the airport has been closed off and one wonders when, if ever, it will be back to normal. And how would one design a new terminal today?

The car alarm began shrieking away outside the house for no good reason – locked or not. I googled and found it may be caused by keeping coins too near the gear stick. It sounded like voodoo but I emptied a redundant ashtray stuffed with coppers and the car has remained silent since. I have been told that the biennial health exam for cars is going to be considerably tightened next year. Mine staggers through the current check, but it will have to be re-done before next April if it is to survive for two years afterwards.