Monthly Archive for November, 2017

Maître

We gave a bed for the night to a 9 year-old neighbour. ‘How many teachers at your school? ‘Three.’ ‘Their names?’ ‘I don’t know.’ ‘Don’t know? How can you not know? You can’t say Hey you!’ ‘No, we call them maître and maîtresse’.
I’ve been bouncing to and fro from the airport recently and usually during the rush hour. The airport was so clogged with cars on one occasion that the usual car park for picking up was solid and closed as nobody could get out the other end. The French are normally very good about giving space to allow other vehicles to insert themselves into another lane, but I had road-ragey abuse hurled at me. It irritated me to the extent that I nearly barged my way in front of a shiny, fat-cat driven thing that failed to give me the usual wide berth. My own car has so many scars that I am utterly indifferent about bashing into obstructions and people that cherish their cars notice and avoid me.

Worms

I collected a fancy certificate stating that I am a naturalised Frenchman. It’s signed by the prime minister and the minister of the interior and I was told the signatures were in their own hand, but – thank you Google – they’re machine written. It would be odd if they weren’t. The fonctionnaire who dealt with me was strangely knowledgeable about my case. It transpired that the maire had badgered her half a dozen times to ensure smooth passage of my dossier. I now have to obtain a carte d’identité and have fallen foul of the rickety website that sucks you in for page after page of form filling before dumping you with a ‘contact the administrator’ after 20 minutes of life have evaporated.
I should be cutting the grass. The days at the moment tend to start out foggy with the chateau invisible and everything dripping with damp. It clears to bright blue in the middle of the day, but not enough to dry the grass into a suitable condition. In fact I can’t be arsed to do it. Next week there’s a 17-degree day forecast and I may brave the worm casts then. It’s still spookily rain-free.

Passion

We had a good turnout for Remembrance Day at the War memorial – four Brits, a brace of Belgians and some 30 French, all from this commune. This year it took place at 10.30, which is worrying for Brits since we expect it at 11 and here our one-minute silence takes place whenever the maire finishes reading the message provided by the Minister of Defence. Then everyone repairs to the salle de fetes for a drink and nibbles. None of the village dissidents attend since they seem to feel that by being there it would show support for the maire and the current regime. I spoke to one resident, originally from northern France, who said that he found it remarkable that so many places hereabout were riven with dissent. It wasn’t the same where he came from. I think it’s the same in every small community or organisation. Round here many people have hardly ever been more than a couple of miles from home and all their passions are poured into this tiny society.

Blue

The dispute with the grandson over the hedge is ongoing. He says he wants to build a 2-metre concrete wall round his patch and put in a garden. At least I think that’s what he wants to do. It would be most unlikely to ever happen and would be barking mad even if it did, since the land there is on a 45° slope which means that any privacy would be impossible, quite apart from it being sheltered by woods on one side and our mighty hedge on the other. He could alternatively continue building his garage – 8 years in the making so far – or even start on the house for which he has planning permission. But once an idea settles in his mind it is fixed. I could invoke the majesty of the law to sort it out but that would cost money, initially mine and then his, and I’ve grown to become rather sorry for him. He is actively unpleasant but knows no other way to behave. Life is a continual, befuddling battle in which everyone is against him and he hasn’t the capacity to understand that his difficulties are self-inflicted.
Cato has put out his back again. I was warned this was likely to happen and I carry him around much of the time. I expect it’ll sort itself out and his enthusiasm for food is undiminished. If that fades I’ll know he is in real trouble.
I fielded an old lady in the mairie complaining that the little cross that marked the tiny grave of her niece in the cemetery had disappeared. No one knew why or when but it’ll be sorted. She showed me a photo of the 6-month infant – a blue baby – in its coffin and we mourned together for a bit.

Prune

The annual prune of the mulberry took place. Experience has taught that the job can be done in some three hours and the remains taken to the communal truck by the front gate and removed. This must be done before the leaves fall; otherwise they are trapped inside the garden and blow around in great drifts. I now need two sets of loppers. The spread of the foundation branches was trimmed a couple of years ago and the tree responded by producing shoots of prodigious thickness. Another couple of years and it will need a chainsaw to cut them.
I went round the commune with the maire delivering invitations for the Remembrance ceremony on 11th Nov. It was a peripatetic constituency surgery. What has the little iron cross by my great aunt’s grave disappeared from the cemetery? Will you act as go between as I wish to rent a patch of my neighbour’s land? Do I need planning permission to change my windows?
Summer ended the day before yesterday. At the moment 12 tits are at the peanuts in front of the French windows. The nuts have been stored over the summer and are riddled with moth larvae, which seem to make the nuts even more popular with the birds.

Conflict

We were visited by the surveyor who was the author of the document that declared that the wall between this property and the grandson’s belongs to us and cannot be interfered with by him. The poor man nearly lost his rag and stumped off after an hour declaring that it was impossible to have a rational conversation with our neighbour. I could have told him that beforehand. The upshot is that the grandson must make good the damage caused to the wall and reinstate the original boundary but I may have to start legal things to make this happen. I would warn him of this, which would ultimately save him money since he would have to pay the costs, but there is nobody who can get through to him. Since the start of our dispute he has not made any noise across the hedge and, since peace is our ultimate goal, sleeping dogs will be left to lie for the time being. The village dissidents have championed the grandson’s cause and threatened the maire with an all-out war. Bring it on was his response. Living in a community many of whose inhabitants revel in conflict is tedious.