Monthly Archive for July, 2018


After nearly breaking the dentist’s heart, I have functioning teeth. They came with a becoming lisp but my tongue seems to have adapted. I still have a very few, well-eroded gnashers of my own. If I had none at all I might never need to visit a dentist again and I’ve seen far more than my fair share.

Grandchildren came visiting and the best local swimming hole was out of action. We managed but it required a pair of budgie smugglers for one of them and he was not a happy bunny. I would not recommend the Cité de l’espace on a hot day and I don’t think I would on a cool one either. Space seemed mostly about garbage and how to recognise that it was Tim Peake’s eyelash from 2016 floating by you in the space station. The little jobsworth on security refused to let me in with my penknife and said I must take it back to the car. He thought it cheating when I put it beneath a nearby hedge and collected it on the way out


They know each other well. They kiss each other on the cheek when they meet. ‘But I will never do business with him and I always call him vous and not tu.’ This is far too clever for me. I never know which will come out of my mouth and I never notice what anyone else calls me. I noticed a mildly surprised reaction when I found myself tutoying the much gold-braided personage who shook my hand and made brief small talk when I became French.

The boar was a little chewier than usual at the chasse lunch, but the passing storms made it impossible to use the spit, which affected the quality. Such gatherings are often unsatisfactory because my French is just not good enough to fully participate in conversations and yesterday we were the only two Brits. I usually console myself by reckoning one only properly takes on board 50% of what one hears in English and make up the rest, but in French the proportion understood must be considerably lower. Mishear the initial subject of the conversation and one can be utterly lost.

I found myself in a Brexit conversation across a dinner table the other day. The subject of Trump also came up. And that was likely the end of a friendship.


The village watched with great interest as the grandson erected an awning in front of his house, a little marquee, to cover the smart white car that is the most important thing in his life. The consensus was that it cost him €250. We considered the wind that can throw a gust of 110 kph when a storm comes through. He considered it too as he anchored the six poles with two concrete blocks apiece. A storm came through the afternoon after he finished putting it up. He was lucky that no gusts accompanied it but he had not counted on the rain that came with the thunder and lightning. Within a few minutes of the aerial plug being pulled, the awning began to sag with the weight of water. He and his missus rushed from the house, Himself in his Y-fronts, and poked ineffectually at the bulges but he was too late and they were too great. The legs began to bend and the roof touched the ground. With much yelling and bellowing the legs were dismantled and the cover was left lying on the ground until the downpour stopped. Then the whole thing was rolled up and disappeared inside his house.

The chateau improvements continue. Most of the roof is now watertight and the workers are now settling in the pool that arrived yesterday. This was prioritised to keep the long-suffering children sweet. A white Alsatian-type puppy has also arrived to be trained to maul intruders. It is called Orsay.

Plumb tree

The French are largely heathen, even more so than the Brits, and yet round here virtually every village has an ancient church, its walls covered by enormous, deeply dreary paintings. I have never noticed one that has been turned into a burger bar or converted into flats or an antiques warehouse. There’s even one on the horizon that had mostly slipped down the hill but it’s now being restored. The French don’t seem that interested in their heritage and the listing system for old buildings is nothing like as comprehensive as the UK’s. Nor is there an equivalent of the National Trust. Churches, like all religious property, were taken over by the state in 1905. If ours is anything to go by, they have become the responsibility of the communes. Ours may be used no more than once every couple of months for a baptism or a funeral and yet we voluntarily spend a large proportion of the village’s revenue to keep the building intact. I’m not sure why the difference.

‘Do you want to die in France or the UK?’ That’s a key question for aging Brits. I heard of an octogenarian with a pacemaker who has been back in England a year and has still not succeeded in seeing the doctor with whom he is registered as a patient. It’s not like that here. Drop in to the surgery and you come out with appointments with specialists for further examinations and drug prescriptions. I have 24 printed labels with my name on them to stick on the little jam jar when nursie sends off my blood to be tested. I never remember a single such test in the UK. Sometimes I feel like Gulliver ensnared by a myriad of Lilliputian medicaments that are said to be keeping me alive. Which are really worth taking? Does this one reduce the likelihood of a heart attack tomorrow by 3% or 60%? Does this concoction of peanut oil and African plumb trees really help me pee more easily? How much more easily? And is its benefit worth the hassle of spending an hour in the waiting room because the doc is behind time again to obtain it once more?

I have another week to wait for new teeth. I seem to have a bite like Jaws, so these one will be reinforced with titanium to prevent them become shards when I chew with too much enthusiasm.


A daughter of the village had an 18th birthday party this week. A celebratory lunch was held in the salle de fetes for relatives and selected locals. Speeches were made and much wine flowed. I tried to work out who was who but both parents had new partners and new kinsfolk and it proved too complicated.

The new chateau owners were present and we went round there in the evening to examine the work carried out. I was told that the living space there amounts to more than 2,000 square metres, which means nothing to me. Himself’s computer was powered up so that he can run his business and a shower in the cellar has hot water. Some of the roof is now watertight and a machete has been hacking its way through the worst of the cobwebs. But with very rudimentary services, very limited power and very little furniture, it all looked a bit bleak.

I go to a new dentist in an hour or two and will spend more than €1000 on new plastic teeth. The last ones I had broke half a dozen times and this should not happen. I have had dreadful teeth all my days and if I’m lucky these should see me out. I’m distressed to see that NHS falsies are capped at £244.30 but it’s too late and too complicated to fly to the UK to be sorted out.