It’s been an eventful week in Southwest France, despite lockdown and the associated restrictions. I don’t usually post on a Monday, but today marks 24 years since we first saw our house here in la France profonde. The SF (Statistics Freak) and I are always up for a celebration, so we indulged in a wicked pain au chocolat yesterday in anticipation.
When we visited in April 1997 to spend a long weekend house-hunting, we hadn’t really considered moving over right away. Rather, we sought a place we could use as a maison sécondaire with a view to retirement here later. That went out of the window when we viewed this house, having already spent a frustrating few days visiting properties that were well outside our spec.
While we sat in the airport café at Toulouse awaiting our flight back to London, we began to realise that living here full-time might be a possibility. The SF already worked as a freelance consultant and simply needed access to an airport. I was getting burnt-out in a stressful job and was looking for an alternative. The rest is history. Within four months, we had sold up in London, our belongings were packed into a pantechnicon and we were on our way.
The weather that April weekend was strikingly similar to the weather we’ve had this weekend: dry, sunny and very warm. We were beguiled into thinking it was like that here all the time. When we drove up to this house, a cuckoo was calling in the woodland to the West. The SF quoted a Swedish saying, “West cuckoo is best cuckoo.” And so it turned out for us.
You can read more about our house hunting adventures via the links below.
Vaccination à la française
I’ve already related our trip to Nègrepelisse last Friday, but not my vaccination experience à la française.
Fortunately, Nègrepelisse centre is compact, so we had no difficulty parking and finding the vaccination centre. I duly presented myself at the reception area, where I was asked if I needed any help with the language. Despite my best efforts, my non-French accent still gives me away. However, it was considerate of them to ask, so I can’t complain.
There were two queues, one for Médecin A, the other for Médecin B. I got B. To let the person at the front of each queue know when it was their turn, they had rigged up two musical signals, each playing a doorbell tune. Queue A had Big Ben’s chimes. We in Queue B were treated to the Can-Can theme from Offenbach’s “Orpheus in the Underworld”, transformed to a lively jingle.
The portly man in front of me pointed to the sign and said, “We have to do the Can-Can.” I had an alarming vision of him doing the splits, but fortunately he was called in before he had a chance to demonstrate.
The system seemed well organised. They got through us like a dose of salts, and in a matter of minutes I had been registered, jabbed and consigned to the waiting room to sit for 15 minutes in case I keeled over. Luckily, I didn’t, and none of the other vaccinees did, either.
Apart from a slightly sore arm and mild fatigue that evening, I experienced no side effects. Round 2 is in four weeks’ time. I wonder if I’ll be in the Can-Can queue again.
The final excitement was an encounter with a large pig. Nobody keeps pigs in our immediate area. Cattle are the predominant livestock. So while we sat enjoying an apéro in the evening sunshine, we were rather surprised to see a farmer neighbour cross his field wielding a stick in pursuit of a hefty porker. We wondered if he planned to diversify into bacon.
The farmer shunted the pig from his field into another farmer’s field behind our house and watched while it shuffled off down the hill. He came and leant on our gate for a chat.
Somewhat bemused, I said, “What are you going to do with him?”
He gave a classic Gallic shrug. “Nothing.”
It emerged that the pig wasn’t his. It was a pet belonging to people in his hamlet. The pig had learned to escape from its flimsy enclosure, which it did with increasing regularity. It then went walkabout in the vicinity until it decided to go home. The farmer didn’t want the pig on his land, so he escorted it onto someone else’s.
Although our land is mostly fenced, a determined pig could easily break through and blunder into the swimming pool. I pointed this out.
”Well, if he lands in your pool,” he said, “we’ll have pork chops.”
Such is the sanguine approach to these events around here. By this time, the pig was ambling contentedly across the landscape some distance away. No pork chops today.
Pigs always seem to get a bad press, although they are intelligent creatures. This perambulating pig seemed to be able to find his way home quite easily, for example. But a number of pejorative phrases in French take the poor animal’s name in vain:
- avoir un caractère de cochon – to be bad tempered
- manger comme un cochon – to eat like a pig
- écrire comme un cochon – to have bad handwriting
- c’est un travail de cochon – it’s shoddy work
- un cochon n’y retrouverait pas ses petits – a pig wouldn’t find its piglets in there, i.e. it’s like a pigsty
- de la confiture pour les cochons – jam for the pigs, i.e. to cast pearls before swine
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