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.

Washing up

You realise the quality of the life you have led when you start to go deaf, or at least the TV is below your comfort level and you’re not concentrating that hard. “No dear. He didn’t say ‘Fuck a cold’. He said ‘button your coat'” All my mishears are either obscene or profane.
I was at a funeral Mass this afternoon, a packed house and lots of miserable descendants. You can’t ask for more. But the Catholic service is very foreign indeed. How could the priest doing the washing up after Mass have remained part of the liturgy? After the Russians, the French are the least godly nation in Europe but they turn out for funerals, the ancient ritual that has marked the departure of 50 generations. I agreed with the only Muslim present that the Catholic service was very hard.


A green Christmas makes the graveyard fat. The trouble is that Christmas is always green out here and so there’s plenty of business for the undertaker at the moment. There are also a remarkable number of people in the commune well into their 80s and 90s, most of whom seem very spry but they can’t last for ever. One of the recently departed has been shipped down from Paris so that he can join his kin in the family tomb. He’s in his coffin a dozen miles away until the funeral tomorrow but he’s not lonely since most of his relatives go to visit every day. He’s locked into a viewing room, but those who want to go have the combination to the door.
I’m not a fan of French death customs. The above-ground family tombs only hold so many coffins and older inmates have to make room for their more recently deceased relatives. Without worms to eat them up, corpses can linger far longer than if they were buried beneath the soil. I’ve attended one such reshuffle of the contents of a family mausoleum and it was not for the faint hearted. I investigated leaving my remains to some local medical school, which works a treat in the UK and saves one’s heirs much money. Here you have to pay to give your corpse away it and that made it seem rather pointless. I shall just have to be burnt and what’s left put on a rose bed.


Oh, joy! The UK passport will revert to blue. I read that it’s The Sun what did it. I feel sorry for anyone who gives a damn about such a piffling trifle. It would be more fun if Brits were fast-tracked through immigration if they wore blue plastic noses. I now have a French passport, curiously different from the UK one. For example it has personal details at the front rather than the back. The colour differs too. I also have a carte d’identité. I asked what the point of the latter might be and have yet to receive an intelligent answer but I am told to carry it wherever I go. It’s nicely laminated and my ID snap is quite fetching but it is bigger than all the other plastic cards I carry and will not fit in my wallet. I have a larger wallet that will take it, just, but that is too large for my pocket.
The village Christmas party was patronised by Brits, Belgians, Iranians and Portuguese. There were even some French. The latter are gloomy as there has been a significant death. The funeral will be next week in Lachapelle. I shall go, not only because the chapel there is by far the prettiest and most interesting place of worship for miles.
This site has received 593,282 spam comments this year. Quite bizarre.


I did the rounds of the commune with the maire to deliver invitations to the Xmas party in the salle de fetes. It’s a chance to find out who lives where and to hear something of their back-stories. A murder happened there when a guy found his wife in bed with someone else. That prosperous farmer went to jail for fiddling his taxes. And lots of shady shenanigans about inheritances. One track I had never noticed. A hundred yards with the grass in the centre a good 18″ high. In the midst of encroaching trees at the end was a building – half house, and half barn with its sides protected by plastic and chicken wire. We nosed round the side and a fat, very smelly Labrador came to say hullo. By the front door a magnificent cat stared imperiously from the head of a hand pump that had a ram’s head for its spout. An ancient lady with a shock of untamed white hair, bright blue eyes and armful of logs came out of a shed. She wore gumboots and lair upon lair of indeterminate clothing. Incomprehensible communication took place. It may have been Occitan or just a very thick local accent. We delivered the invite and drove carefully back down the track. ‘We must keep an eye her. She lives alone. She has no hot water and she cooks on a wood-fuelled range.’ I farmed in Devon forty years ago and by then nobody still lived like that.

We have some friends stuck in the UK for weeks with a sick relative. Their medication started to run low. They were told to sign on with a local GP but were turned away by two of them. Eventually they found out that the practice that serviced their relation was duty bound to take them on. They were provided with a 4-page form to complete and were told to bring urine samples. Sod that. So they phoned their pharmacy in France. ‘Oh, dear! We’d like to help but if we sent you the usual stuff we’d have to charge you postage. That’s OK? You can settle the bill when you return.’


The commune picked up three awards at Flowery Village dinner last night. It’s an interminable evening, introduced with lots of speeches from the great and good who thank each other a lot. This year the management decided to pause the serving of the food – magret tournedos – and turn out the lights between courses so’s we could properly concentrate on the wildly inappropriate cabaret. The average age of the 400 audience must have been 60, so they gave us a drag act with blokes in sequins, bras and suspenders mooning their naked bums at us and miming to ‘Hey Big Spender’, etc. It was excruciating and we walked out when they turned out the lights again just before pud. I don’t know whether it was a booking error by the organisers or something the jerry French love to watch. It felt distressingly foreign.