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.


I can neither tell the sex of a collared dove, nor recognise individuals but there is one that now potters over the threshold into the house to check if there’s anything worth pecking up from the carpets. I assume it’s the same bird each time. The dogs ignore it but something caught and ate one the other day, leaving nothing but a sinister single clawed  foot on the bird table. I doubt it was a cat as the dogs terrorise any that dare enter the garden.

The government advises Brits living in France to acquire a carte de séjour, a residence permit, which ought to give some security after Brexit. This is obtainable from the local prefecture but a formidable quantity of supporting documentation is demanded. The government website has a list of what is required. It has also issued a different list to all the nation’s prefectures. And the prefecture has a list all of its own which is different yet again. One’s success really depends on the bureaucrat who confronts you. Some will carefully go though each document and refuse you because the translation of the birth certificate is four months old rather than the expected three. Others will make executive decisions and happily issue the carte even if many of the ‘i’s and ‘t’s are not dotted or crossed.

The company working on the chateau was founded in 1919 by the current boss’s gt-grandfather. It’s a sweet operation and has four of its workers on the roof at the moment. The owner will retire next year and the business will close down as nobody wants to take it over.


M. Chateau did a bit of toy throwing and will not be coming here until there’s a phone line and wifi installed. Orange work at their own pace which means that Mme Chateau could be here on her own for weeks, living in some vast dusty room with nothing but a single light bulb and a microwave for company. At least four natives feel sorry for her and are taking it in turns to feed her.

A few days ago I watched a kite hunting over a well-grown field of barley. When it dived for prey it raised a splash. The field was still covered by 6 inches of floodwater and the bird was catching frogs.

In one of the recent storms, a neighbour lost a poplar that came down, crushed a shed and ended up across the swimming pool. To remove it and refurbish will be expensive. We have a spruce that now looms over the house. It’s valuable because it casts shade on the terrace but when the squalls hit it during storms it thrashes alarmingly. I consulted with local experts. The one who planted the tree thirty years ago thought I should cut the top off. Another said that if it fell, it would fall away from the house and it would not look nearly as pretty if decapitated. Google says that spruces like a good thrashing and that the wind goes through them rather than knock them over. That sounds like the cheapest option and I’ll go with it for the time being.


There’s little good that can be said about the weather. The forecast keeps postponing summer, now not due for a week. A couple of nights ago a storm went on for a couple of hours with continuous thunder and lightning. The dogs did their usual cower/shiver/whimper and then got bored, went back to sleep and haven’t batted an eyelid at thunder since. Curiously it’s today when it hasn’t rained for 18 hours that the river at the bottom of the hill has burst its banks. Yesterday I coincided with the chief pompier at a Brit-owned mill on the river and translated while he issued a flood warning. The Brit knew it all and was dismissive but he moved his vehicles and today the road to his property is inundated.

M. Chateau has returned to Orleans for the time being to keep his business ticking over. His missus has taken his place and is working in the building by herself, save for the blokes doing the roof. She is invited here this evening for supper, as it must be both lonely and a bit spooky to be living there alone. As far as I know the electricity supply is still dedicated to producing hot water rather than light.


We had Scots guests for a couple of days and the weather was usually good enough to sit on the terrace. The chateau currently provides great entertainment as the bits we can see are covered in scaffolding with three and sometimes four workers stripping tiles from the roof and re-doing the bits that have rotted away. Health and safety does not seem to be an issue. The favoured way of getting up there is being hoisted up in the bucket of a yellow machine with an extendable arm. Otherwise they monkey through the scaffolding or use a ladder. Nobody wears a hard hat. I suppose the employer has insurance in case of accident but it all seems refreshingly casual.

Carpenter bees are impossible to miss. I was admiring one foraging for nectar on some lambs ear when it took off, performed a couple of dizzying spirals a few inches in front of my face before it crashed to the ground and waved its legs in the air. I took a closer look at the plant and found half a dozen bees on or around it in a similar drunken condition. They seemed to recover after a minute or two and beat an uncertain path out of the garden but either they soon returned or else there are an awful lot of carpenter bees round about. Perhaps a few flowers added to a stew would make for an interesting meal.

I live in an information bubble. I don’t read anything favourable about Trump, or anything positive about Brexit. It’s lamentably obvious that those who disagree with me have their own bubbles. Otherwise they’d know my opinions were right and theirs shockingly wrong. How can this ever be reconciled?


An apparent downside of growing melons is that rain is channelled down the field between the lines of plastic cloches. And if, as over the last few days, there’s a lot of rain, much of the topsoil is washed down with it. And if the field is on a slope, it all ends up at the bottom and on the road. This morning we were held up by a council tractor that got stuck trying to clear it. The driver misjudged the extent of the tarmac beneath the foot of mud and lost one of its front wheels into the invisible ditch. It took another tractor with a chain to tow it back to dry land.

I’m told that ¢40k is about to be invested in the chateau roof. That will take experts and machinery. Otherwise it looks as though its renovation will be largely DIY by the owner. He has placed a shower in the cellar to which a power line has been jury-rigged from the road. At the moment he has a brother helping him but that is temporary. It should take him no more than a decade or two and I hope that his business, now being run by his wife, does not suffer.

This magnificent alien thing is a lizard orchid. It pops up in odd places each year and each year I have forgotten what it is and have to look it up again.


Would I represent the village at the Carottes ceremony? That’s the local commemoration for the Resistance. I do my best to avoid Frenchmen giving speeches and, since nobody would know who I was anyway, it would not bring shame to the commune if I were not there. So I won’t be.

Digital Camera

My conscience is reasonably clear but it’s hard not to twitch a bit when the gendarmes park quite so close to the back window for more than an hour. I only know three or four of them by name but neither of the two who were visiting the village. Like British policemen, they get younger by the year.

At the moment a queen European hornet is quietly cruising the interior of the house looking for a place for a nest. They are peaceful, courteous creatures that will hover in front of you for a moment or two before moving on. When their curiosity is satisfied they fly out the window with none of the frantic battering and buzzing of lesser insects. Or the panic of a bird that comes in by mistake.


Proper summer at last with cartoon clouds floating in a blue sky, that Goldilocks interlude before it becomes too hot later in the year.

A neighbour called by yesterday and professed no interest in the wedding. I pulled up a few pics on the computer and I couldn’t get rid of him for half an hour. The UK does the royal pageantry thing so well and yet is making such a cock-up over Brexit. It’s a shame there’s not an international living to be made through doing such Gilbert and Sullivan.

I went to dump some rubbish and was surprised by a dead fox in the bin. The chasse had been doing their thing and I suppose it was a reasonable way to dispose of their kill. It felt unseemly just the same.