Monthly Archive for April, 2018


Along with more than a hundred others we went to a ceremony at which we were presented with certificates of naturalisation. About half of us were brown or black and most of the rest were Brits shimmying round Brexit. It was very French. There were not nearly enough seats and we waited for half an hour before the Great Man, festooned in gold braid, arrived to make a speech that didn’t say very much. We then watched a film on a computer that sprinted through French history. Like the speech there was nothing new because we’d had to mug up that sort of thing some time back. Then we were summoned one by one to shake the Great Hand and that of a small henchman alongside. They got my name wrong, but they usually do and I’ve learned to answer to almost anything. I think we should have been there for an hour more, clapping everyone who received their bit of paper, but we sneaked out. It was evident that we were all French already and needn’t have bothered to turn up. But we did sing the Marseillaise. Fortuneately the words were on the computer.

The cracks on this house following the dry spell last year are to receive a donation of €14k from the state for their repair, which is very kind. They’re even providing a contractor to do it, sometime. The specifications for the work are very detailed and largely incomprehensible.


A neighbour received a summons to the gendarmerie earlier in the week. He couldn’t think of an outstanding sin but it is always wise to respond to such a request. A complaint had been lodged against him. It seems that around Christmas time he had called someone the French equivalent of a Social Security scrounger. He had no recollection of doing so and the concept of fair comment did not seem to be an option. ‘What happens next?’ he asked. ‘Rien.’ It cost him a morning and he is thinking of lodging a complaint himself for defamation.

I suppose the gendarmes must keep records of such things and there must be a room somewhere the size of a cathedral where they are all kept. They will be a treasure trove for social historians in the future. I certainly feature thanks to various altercations with the grandson. He’s been very peaceful of late, as has been the whole village, but I heard that his missus had tried to lay a complaint against me about a year ago but was told to piss off. I have no idea what her grounds may have been.


I once lived with a river at the bottom of the garden, quite a good one, with salmon passing through, dippers and otters. Whenever I decided to procrastinate, I would pick up the fishing rod that lay on the bank and cast a questing fly in the direction of Algernon, a small trout, or his neighbour whose name I have forgotten, that lived in an eddy behind a rock. I would quite often catch him and tenderly put him back till next time.

Here my equivalent is weeding the lawn. I hadn’t really taken much notice of it until an early visitor said something irritatingly snotty about its quality. So I decided to do something about it and bought a dagger-like tool. The first weeds I tackled were those that were prickly. Once it was safe to sit down, I moved on to dandelions. Then a couple of species with tenacious roots that I have never bothered to identify – and so on. A breakthrough came when a visiting native said in surprise ‘une pelouse anglaise’ when he came through the gate. I must have recently chucked most of the dog turds over the hedge. This year I no longer have to spend an hour tackling a couple of square metres but am merely picking off stragglers. Should I move on to daisies?


‘How do you feel?’ asked the doc. ‘I don’t think I’m ready for the Olympics yet.’ ‘Don’t worry. You have four years to get fit.’

The river at the bottom spread itself across the fields for the first time in months. They tried to put in the 80 hectares of melons adjacent and one wept for the work gang as they lurched across the field carrying a couple of kilograms of clay attached to each foot.

Most of the summer migrants are here, although orioles and swifts still have to show. And only one tentative nightingale. The winters seem tougher and longer than they were but I may just have forgotten the endless dark months in Scotland. Here it’s six months sweaters and CH and six months shorts and t-shirt. Transition from one to the other and you instantly forget what it was like beforehand.


The first swallow twittered over the village a couple of days ago. And the maire crashed in on me and said ‘Come. I am taking you to the doctor.’ and he did. He also attended the consultation, a first since, I think, my mummy last joined me in there. I came away with a clutch of antibiotics and a bollocking. ‘You are no longer a spring chicken. Such things are dangerous at your age.’

The maire was so concerned with my health because we had a council meeting this morning during which we set next year’s budget. Without me there would have been no quorum and democracy would have crumbled. It was a bit like those days in the sixties and seventies when ambulances full of moribund MPs turned up at Westminster to register votes before returning to hospital or the morgue.