We’re over a week into lockdown round 2 in France. This time, we don’t have quite the same feelings of anxiety, of life closing down, as we did during the spring confinement. Perhaps this is because we now know what to expect and had already developed strategies to deal with it on the previous occasion. We are still just as careful but not quite so obsessive about wiping down all the shopping with bleach or power-washing ourselves and our clothes after every trip to the shops.
A smashing time with the wood burner
Why do we break things during lockdown? Our wood delivery this year from a new supplier included large chunks of tree trunk. Instead of sensibly opening the front doors of the wood burner to place them on the fire, we simply dropped them in from the top. Result? One smashed door pane.
We expected the wood burner to be out of action for at least a week, if not longer. And, naturally, the screws securing the pane had become impossible to budge, so the whole door had to come off. Imagine our surprise, then, when a glazier in Villefranche cut and installed a new pane of glass in the door on the spot.
This is probably a sad reflection on the lack of custom for small businesses at the moment.
We are again confined to walking within a 1 km radius of the house for one hour maximum. With the help of the CovidRadius website, we carefully worked out where we could go, and set off for a circular walk on Thursday under blue skies in balmy temperatures.
Our route took us to a place where I am ashamed to say we have never walked in our 23 years here: the hamlet where our neighbours live (neighbour being a relative term here: they are 1 km away as the crow flies and 2 km by road).
We have cycled through the hamlet, but we have a rather silly, and now quite outdated, reluctance to walk there. Our neighbour, Mme F, was the local busybody. Nothing happened without her knowing about it. She even stood on her balcony scanning the surroundings with a gigantic pair of binoculars, like a naval captain on the bridge in a WWII film.
Once when the SF was away, I drove to a nearby cinema. I was spotted. The next time I stopped to say hello, I was grilled about where I had been and why. I explained about the film. “Et la télé?” Mme F said. Leaving the house to go to watch a film was beyond her comprehension. No doubt she speculated that I must have been up to something else. We certainly couldn’t get past on foot without her seeing and engaging us in long and somewhat disjointed conversation.
Sadly, Mme F died a few years ago, leaving her lonely husband, a frail man in his nineties, whom we can no longer visit because of Covid. In a strange way, we miss Mme F. Her forthright speech and complete disregard for what people thought of her were amusing, if disconcerting.
Mme F’s younger sister, a widow and equally direct, lived in the house opposite. They affected not to like each other, but if you told one something the other would know about it in a trice. The sister also died, only two years after Mme F.
Mme F’s sister owned this rather splendid pigeonnier and had it restored. A little owl lives in it and often sits on the stone outside the upper window surveying its territory. A bit like Mme F, in fact, but without the binoculars. I love seeing the owl, but it wasn’t at home when we passed by.
We stopped at the top of the hill to look back over the countryside. The leaves are turning but have not yet attained their full autumn colours, and the grass and spring corn are bright green. This view is always different, and when we drive over the brow of the hill towards home, we call it “our country”.
Further along, we had a tantalising view of the hamlet of Félines with its church and former presbytery, nestling among the trees.
We are probably supposed to walk only on roads, like last time, but we nipped up the footpath that comes down the other side of the hill behind our barn. I can’t see what harm we’re doing. We are less likely to meet someone there than on the road. But don’t tell the gendarmes.
P.S. Tell me below if you got the reference in the title. You probably have to be British and of a certain age! It has nothing to do with France, in fact.
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The posts below relate more vignettes about Mme F and other local personalities.
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