Monthly Archive for January, 2018


The chateau buyer has withdrawn. One began to have doubts when he asked for ideas to bring in revenue while it was being renovated – camp site, market garden, small holding were his own suggestions. The land has a value and there might be a few quid in scrap value for its building materials but, as has been the case for years, it needs someone with money to burn to fall in love with it, as there are plenty of smart buildings around for half the cost of putting it right. And that cost continually rises as it decays. Whoopee for a peaceful summer, although there is a dark cloud on the horizon in the shape of another interested party.
I heard of yet another village that is riven with dissent, the cause being the prospective sale of a €15,000 pigeonnier. Such strife seems to be the norm. Our own dissidents have broken all contact with the rest of the community, which prevents any more clashes.

Grown up

At this time of year, strange listless days flow into each other. The weather is often not worth going outside to look at and the dogs gratefully hunker down to avoid it. I use the time to break the back of articles that I can tidy up for later in the year. That’s when I’m not doing bugger all.

The only hard evidence of the prospective sale of the chateau is the frequency with which the alarm goes off when another expert goes over to produce advice, estimates etc. I was about to be given a tutorial on how to turn the thing off but yet another expert interrupted it.

I’m due to give a talk to the clan in Scotland in the summer. ‘What’s the title of your talk? Do you need a projector, a screen? A computer?’ Oh, dear. It’s beginning to sound a bit grown up.


Although not every detail is yet completed it appears that the chateau has new owners. He’s a Scot and she is English. Who’d’ve thought it?
Another curiosity was the examination of the headless corpse meant to be that of the decapitated Lord Lovat executed in the Tower in 1747. My US-based coz – now in his late 80s and unnaturally perky with it – is supposed to be descended from his younger brother and thus has been robbed of his rightful inheritance. This week the corpse turned out to be that of a young woman, hence no useful DNA could be found to establish the truth – or at least the likelihood – of this claim. However this has concentrated minds of those who are interested and various researchers have come, blinking, into the light of day and seem to have proved the claim correct. I don’t think this adds much to the grand scheme of things but my coz will be shepherding a gaggle of old ladies to France this summer and I will be properly respectful.


Like most of rural France we burn logs. We also have oil heating, but the idea is that the system uses much less oil if the fire is lit and the fuel expense comes out much the same. I have never tested this theory and know nobody who has done so. This season we have been supplied wood of outstanding quality. I’m told it has been seasoned for a minimum of five years and never emits the least crackle or pop. Because the logs are so good, we light the fire more often use more of them. We buy €70 a time and this could be a cord, a stere, a cubic metre, or a tonne, or even half of each. I have no idea about such measurements. But our consumption is much greater than in previous years. I’m hoping our oil bill will reflect this. There can be few service industries whose sales are so directly related to the quality of the product.
I had a friend staying. In the afternoon he’d begin to twitch and then take himself to pound the local roads. I inquired why he felt this need. Because his fitbit told him to. This device is strapped to his wrist and tells him whether or not he is dead. So far the news has been good but to maintain this status he has to take 10,000 steps a day. He recommended I get one but there seems little point in trying to keep healthy so long as I keep smoking.


I collected someone from the airport yesterday evening and found myself mixed up in with the Gloucester rugby team coming off the same aircraft to play Agen. I travelled out with them once before and was awe-inspired by the sheer quantity of beef of which they were constructed. This time they didn’t seem so tall but their bulk was just as impressive and it seemed rather odd that so many of them were travelling in short trousers and displaying their mighty thighs since the temperature was no more than 7 degrees. They were met by fans bearing photographs of individual members of the team who hunted through the crush to find their desired player to sign his likeness. Apparently the flight was mostly the team and their groupies and most of the time they were taking selfies of each other.
My visitor watched them play some French team in the UK. Afterwards the fans all got pissed together. Most of the French missed their flight home and spent the night with their UK counterparts.


I went to get my few remaining teeth checked last week and managed to offend the dentist’s receptionist. Such things are very easily done. I bonjoured her but omitted to do the kisses. I hadn’t realised we were on bisou terms – another complication – and I left her cheek hanging. The first time you see anyone each day, you have to bonjour and bisou if they’re known female and shake hands if they’re not or male. If you have mucky hands you have to proffer a forearm to be shaken. I often forget. And if you’ve forgotten you’ve already bonjoured someone and do it again, they think you’re potty. I have an arrangement with the clerk in the mairie that I’m excused physical contact and we are allowed blow kisses at each other across her desk. I have also arranged fist bumps with Tim next door who’s now 9 and have stopped kissing his big brother as I consider it unseemly to snog a 15 year-old bloke with spots.
This house usually has the pleasant smell of wood smoke at this time of year, but I was hit by the combination of rotting mouse and squashed punaise when I went to find a tool. The punaise I don’t mind that much, but mouse is no fun when the deceased is behind panelling. The air mercifully clears after three days. It’s a grim way to control the mice but none of the other ways seem any better.


A temperature of 17 degrees, as today, is outrageous at the beginning of January. The damn grass shoots up between the towering pyramids of worm casts and even the dogs slither across them in search of a secure footing to drop a turd. The last bout of wild weather brought down an important dead tree at the chateau. With the electricity poles gone and the cables underground it was used as a perch by every passing bird. Jays would sit and glower at adjacent buzzards and every branch could be festooned with collared doves.
An extra 8 cents was added to the cost of diesel at the pumps at the beginning of the year. Bloody Macron, I was told. I thought he was doing rather well with his poll rating back above 50% but no. Unemployment benefit would be cut off if claimants refused more than three jobs offered to them. I said I thought that sounded not unreasonable, particularly if the government loosens bureaucracy and allows more jobs to be created. I was wrong. If a man is a baker, why should he accept any other job? Thatcherism has still to catch on here.