Monthly Archive for June, 2017


The electric folk are finishing up the burying of our cables. Yesterday the concrete poles within the village were removed and the difference is quite startling. The sky has opened up, no longer seen through a cat’s cradle of wires. The ancient plane tree across the square now has a chance to grow and spread rather than being chopped back each year to prevent it damaging the lines above. The main losers are the collared doves. They used to coo all day from the myriad of vantage points, rivalling the roar of the grandson’s mowers, grinders and compressors. Since the wires went they have been bizarrely silent. Come to think on it, so has the grandson. I hope the birds recover from the trauma and that the grandson doesn’t. He’s also about to be pressured to remove some of his car wrecks.

I took the maire’s tractor a day or two ago to cut the grass at the chateau. Five minutes in, a baby roe deer came trotting across the see what the noise was about. I removed it from my path with a couple of adults leaping above the grass in consternation. A few yards further on and another couple of fawns lifted their heads to look at me. I gave up at that point and will leave for a few weeks until the next generation of deer grow sufficient wits to get out of the way instead of risking being turned into venison burgers if I don’t spot them.


We have a railways policeman in the commune. Beyond the boundaries of the rail network, he has no more than the powers of the ordinary citizen and, unlike the gendarmes, he has to check in his gun when he leaves work. I would have thought it quite useful to have someone around with a pistol and trained in its responsible use in case of emergencies, but I was told it would be unnecessary. Quite apart from the chasseurs, many of whom have considerable arsenals, the countryside is awash with illegal weaponry from the last war, all kept well oiled. One chap was found to have had 27 guns, from Lugers to machine pistols, when he died.
We attended a meal in a neighbouring village to celebrate the arrival of summer. The belief that the French are moderate in the consumption of alcohol is belied on such occasions. After we devoured the spit-roasted lamb and when the atmosphere was well on the way to becoming raucous, my neighbour, a comparatively recent arrival in our commune, told me that he sculpted in clay as a pastime and pulled out his phone to show me. I thought this – Victor Hugo – was pretty good. One wonders how many others hide similar lights under bushels.


Heaven be praised! That was the last election for three years. Sitting in the mairie in the heat waiting for our few voters to turn up is soul and body sapping. The commune ancients hang around for a bit of company and a gossip, but my French is not up to interpreting most of what they say. I doubt it ever will be. My job during the count was pulling the ballot slips out of the envelopes. I observed that LREM voters simply folded their votes in half. Those for the FN scrunched them three or four times. We had one empty envelope and one where the voter had gone to the trouble of sourcing and enclosing a blank slip. Rather than a couple of bottles of wine and calvados, we made do with a single bottle at lunchtime – prawns and a risotto – but we had a fridge to keep the drinks cool.
The kestrels have abandoned their nest. I think the female went AWOL, probably hit by a car. This was the third year in the nest hole that had produced 8 chicks. I hope one of them use it next season.
The village gardening group is all British and it’s going to be a struggle for it to keep any colour alive until Judgement Day on 3rd July. Chances of a good result were marred when the tractor mowing the verges ran across the most impressive bed. I don’t think I’ll be allowed to attend the very fat dinner that is put on for the contestants this time. I only squeezed in on a cancellation last year.


We had a large octogenarian, red-headed Scots visitor for a few days. He found the best way to cope with the heat was to consume a couple of glasses of wine and doze peacefully in front of a fan. We did a few of the local sights. In one village the only other people foolish enough to be on the street at midday were a brace of pilgrims. My companion doffed his Panama hat at them with a flourish and said bonjour. ‘I bet that gave them a fright,’ he said comfortably.
A large tanker turned up to empty the septic tank, the first time such an event has occurred in the seven years I’ve been here. Normally a patch of grass on the lawn, nourished from the outflow, grows lush throughout the driest of periods but it went brown. The expert had to smash the concrete lid of one tank and told me everything was jammed solid and on the point of erupting and his visit was just in time. The outflow is blocked by a ‘biomat’ but by the time that the 3,000 tank fills up again and flows out, it should have dried up and disappeared, or so he said.
The dog continues to confound expectations by getting better. I let him out for a totter in the square. He bowffed a cat and came trotting back looking smug.


The dog is gently on the mend, still well short of being bouncy but does not seem to be in pain. He will visit the vet tomorrow when his drugs run out and we’ll see. I think it may be a case of anti-inflammatories for the rest of his days. He’s 10 and already outlived his predecessor of the same breed.
We were all day in the mairie yesterday for the election and had only 28 voters, a 40% turn out. The sitting MP who had the wit to become a Macronista won 13 votes and the FN no more than 4. The gendarmes came by for their usual coffee and the Communists turned up to ensure their candidate’s ballot slip was on offer. Alas, he did not attract a single vote and he was not the only one. Our regular lunch finished with a bottle of calvados, not a good idea, and one of our scrutineers spent the afternoon snoring in an armchair. The temp was 33 and it’s not forecast to fall much for the next couple of weeks. The French were moaning about it as much as the British would. This sort of weather can be expected in late July and August, but it’s considered pretty outrageous in June. The village flowers need to be kept alive for another three weeks until the judges turn up to mark them for the competition and there’s not even a likely storm to give a break from watering.
British politics has become a depressing pigs’ breakfast. Nations should be like oil tankers, ploughing steadily along with legislators making gentle adjustments under instruction from the electorate every so often to keep things on course but, as with the US, boorish political vandals can crash a nation and make it look ridiculous in the eyes of the world all too easily.


The fluffy dog is on the blink, suffering from partial paralysis in his back legs. The vet has given various medicaments, but says that if there’s no improvement in a week the only solution is a spinal operation that would take many weeks of recuperation. I don’t think that’s an option. To put him through that might worth it from my point of view but not from his. The downside of dogs is the heartache when they die. If he doesn’t perk up, he’ll enjoy a chicken and liver dinner and the vet will visit just as he’s cleaned up the last morsel. From bliss to oblivion in a few moments would be the kindest treatment and, who knows, I might even manage it for myself one day – without the liver.
I stopped counting workers in a melon field after I hit 30. And this is just managing of the plastic that covers them. New teams will be needed when harvest comes. All agriculture used to be like that. Gangs of jolly villagers would come to reap the corn or turn the hay. I even did it myself on holiday as a child. In the middle of the day would be cider, bread and cheese and a bit of canoodling in the hedgerow with a damsel. Nowadays farming is normally the most solitary of occupations with endless hours stuck in tractor going to and fro. But the melon gangs – all men – don’t look as if they have much fun. The number plates on their rusty cars come from every country in Eastern Europe, which cannot make conversation that easy.


There’s a castle on the horizon, in iffy nick, that is the ancestral home of a lugubrious Parisian. His father bought it in the 1950s after a few centuries of some interloper’s ownership and the family have been doing it up ever since. He’s in residence at the moment as the flag is flying – red with either a gold dragon or a lion but it’s too far away to be certain and I forget to look when I’m any closer. I think I’ve eliminated albatrosses from my life and I do not covet his.
Triggered by the noise of the mower cutting the grass behind the mairie, the first cicada of the year sounded off yesterday. It’ s been silent since for which I am grateful. It’s a toss up between the grandson’s drill across the hedge and a cicada when it comes to destroying the peace of an afternoon.
I discovered that Macron has given his backing to our sitting Socialist in the forthcoming election. I really hope she walks it. Otherwise we face an extra day in the mairie for the second round. But the Front National blitzed the village with a leaflet last week when she was here, accusing her of nepotism. I was told this was a grave charge, but it seems as commonplace here as it is the US.