Skip to content

Who’s that knocking at my door ….

It could be said that mine is a curious existence, living here in one of the least populated areas of Europe on my own.  I came here 5 months ago with horribly rusty French.  I came here with few possessions – so much either sold or abandoned along the way as I moved and moved and moved again.  I came here for love.  But my husband, my love, lives in Boston.  Yes, its a curious life.  One day I’ll explain.

The last week, though, has been punctuated with knocks on the door.  I inevitably feel a mild panic when this happens because it means I will HAVE to listen, understand and respond.  I am fluent in shopping as previously acknowledged but a knock on the door could herald anything at all.  Particularly an unexpected one.  Like the time when the post-lady brought a letter each for signature for Two Brains and I.  I managed to explain that he wasn’t arriving from the US til the weekend but I was so flustered I couldn’t find my passport as ID for her – she became equally alarmed as she thought I had permanently mislaid it and explained very patiently to me that I can’t travel out of France without a passport.  It was only afterwards that I began to wonder if she was alarmed at the prospect that they might not be able to get rid of me …..

IMG_2511

March 23rd is polling day in France.  Les Elections Municipales.  They happen every 6 years and will result in new Conseils Municipales and new Maires across France – some will be returned, some overturned.  In essence, we vote for the governing body for our Commune and they in turn will vote amongst their triumphant team for their leader and deputies.  We are fortunate in Champs – our Maire, his adjunct and the Conseil are proactive and hard-working.  I see the Maire tearing around the place at a rate of knots on foot and in his car.  He is very hands-on and has the most fantastic gaelic shrug to ice the bun.  I know him reasonably well as a person (he married us last year and graciously accepted our invitation to attend our wedding breakfast and is tireless in his support of the lightning lab.) and I know he has the interests of his, geographically very large, commune and its relatively small and scattered population genuinely at centre stage in his life.   As the ruling party, as it were, his get the opening crack at canvassing.  So the first knock was from ‘Dialogue et  Action’ and I was treated to two smiling faces, an acknowledgement that I know Monsieur le Maire and was left with lists, biographies, an overview of achievements and their manifesto for the next 6 years.

A few days later, the oppostion are allowed out.  A further knock and I am greeted with another pair of smiling faces, a further list of names, biographies and their manifesto for the next 6 years.  Of course on closer scrutiny they are critical of the old guard and it is not a surprise that their collective name is ‘Champs Avance’ with a strapline declaring an intention to donner un nouveau souffle a Champs (invigorate or quite literally give fresh breath).  That the opposition are highly critical of the old guard is hardly newsworthy.  This is politics.

I will not reveal my hand – both manifestos are interesting, my opinion is not.  Both highlight the issues facing this pays perdu.  I am priviliged to be allowed to vote.  I am European and I pay taxe foncière and taxe d’habitation so I am eligible.  I take the responsibiity seriously and have reflected hard.

In doing so I walked from Montboudif, a little over 10 miles from here, this little village is the birthplace of Georges Pompidou DSCF5458and the people of Cantal are justly proud of the fact.  Pompidou was France’s longest serving prime-minister under the fifth republic.  As a little girl, I loved his name – it was one to be uttered and repeated annoyingly to my mother (mummy, mummy, mummy – I can say POMPIDOOOOO) and I remember him as President and his death in 1974 whilst in office.  I also remember visiting Le Centre Pompidou in Paris first in 1977, shortly after it was opened, as a 17 year old and again on honeymoon with my first husband when he took a picture of me with my mouth wide open next to a huge funnel to demonstrate the size of my gob.  Let’s face it – the marriage was doomed from the start!

That Pompidou was a diplomat and chose peaceful means to resolve issues such as the angry student uprising in the late 60’s, is no surprise to me given his heritage.  It is also no surprise that he came back to the region often.  I imagine he breathed the fresh, fresh air and felt the beautiful fertile earth under his feet and returned to the frey invigorated as Two Brains does these decades later.  Along the way I chatted to two elderly men – one splitting logs with all the vigour of a man half his age, pointed out that his little tiny tangle of houses looks at the Monts Dor in one direction and Monts du Cantal in the other – he asked why he would ever want to live anywhere else?  I could only agree.

DSCF5444DSCF5432

The other, thrilled to find I live here definitivement told me to come look him up if I need a steer on houses to buy in Montboudif … don’t use an Immobilier, he said – they are all crooks!  I hastened not to comment, feeling that virtually in front of Mr Pompidou’s maison natal I should adopt the line of least contention.  But having local ears to the ground will certainly prove invaluable when we come to the search for Le Manoir ….

DSCF5157

The third knock came and I assumed there must be a third list.  I should have remembered my youngest daughter’s apharism that ‘assume makes an ass out of you and me’, but instead I opened the door onto the dark landing (I will tell you all about the unique nature of the electrical system here another time but suffice to say that the lights in the communal area were having a bad hair day).  There stood a slight elderly man on his own.  He did have a leather bag under his arm which I assumed (there’s that word again) as I hastily said entree s’il vous plait to get him out of the gloom, contained the list of names, biographies, and manifesto plus critique of the old guard.  Then I heard the words that strike terror into the hearts of most …. je suis le temoin de Jehovah.  Panic coursed through me – I had allowed a Jehovah’s Witness into the appartment and I needed above all to get to the boulangerie before it shut at 12.  It was now 10:30 – this could be difficult.  I smiled and told him I am Buddhist.  This has always worked in England.  It isn’t strictly true but I was married to a Buddhist for several years  and I do still live by some of the rules as part of my own gobbledegook belief system.  He smiled gently and asked how I explain the creation.

DSCF5428

Remember this is all in French.  Remember too that I was slated to read Philosophy at Cambridge when whatever God you attune to was still in nappies so I am hard-wired to theological debate.  Yet it was not combat but his gentle spirit that captivated me and I was away – all fear of spoken French disappeared and I passed what I can genuinely tell you was a lovely 30 minutes.  He told me his son in law (not a JW) spent 2 years in England and he would happily introduce me if I need any help with understanding documents and so forth, he listened as I told him that Two Brains is a scientist of some note – he was particularly interested in the Trous Noirs and hopes that the presentation will be repeated – gave me his number so I can let him know when/if.  He told me about a lovely Indian fellow who lives in Bort who has done some notable research into the workings of the mind.  I told him that my life is about learning, learning and learning.  I also apologised for speaking French comme une vache espagnole.  He said he liked my modesty.  It actually was not modest just simple truth but the comment was kindly meant.  He left after 30 minutes, did not give me a copy of Watchtower and I hope I run into him again.  Whatever his beliefs, you see, he is a kind and lovely fellow.

The two men on my walk were kind and lovely fellows.

A friend of mine mentioned a film called ‘Field of Dreams’ on FaceBook the other day.  If you build it they will come, says the voice.  I am fortunate to be in a place steeped in history with the most fantastic natural landscape (volcano?  Two a penny here mate!) and a population of genuinely content people.  The pity is that they are leaving, the young seeking employment in the cities because they have no choice.  I would like to breathe life back into this place. So that this place will breathe vibrantly for all the years to come.  I have started and little by little I will achieve what I can – how can I resist when I am surrounded by such simple charm?

  If I build it, will you come?

DSCF5495

PS: I have broken most of my rules in this post – don’t talk about politics, avoid talking about religion, step away from the too-personal but the one I would urge you all to adhere to is this:
Never, ever, EVER eat anything with surprise in its title, in a restaurant …..

46 Comments Post a comment
  1. jane king #

    Love reading your blog and what a gorgeous place you life in. I am flying to Grenoble beginning April to go skiing in Alpes d’Hurt – make sure there is still some snow

    Like

    March 24, 2014
    • Thank you Jane – I am very fortunate indeed. I will be in Grenoble 3rd/4th and 7th/8th April so I might see you which would be all around fabulous!

      Like

      March 24, 2014
  2. Jenny Adams #

    I feel as if I have met those amazing people too! Your prose makes them oh so alive.

    Like

    March 24, 2014
  3. I’m so pleased to read that, Jenny … and from you it is a huge compliment 🙂

    Like

    March 24, 2014
  4. I used to laugh at the name of Pompidou when I was small, glad to know it was not just me oh and the next time the Jehovahs call, wear black and put “Highway to Hell” by AC DC on always works for me! Love the field of dreams reference an all time fav. Another great blog I must challenge you with a title at some stage…….

    Like

    March 24, 2014
    • Challenges always welcome, Clive! So glad you enjoyed the piece 🙂

      Like

      March 25, 2014
  5. Interesting to read about your meeting with the Jehovah’s Witness. A very pleasant couple call here occasionally. They know they’ll never convert me, but are happy to stand and chat for half an hour about life in general, making them good ambassadors for their beliefs, rather than those who thrust The Watchtower down your throat.

    Like

    March 28, 2014
  6. It’s so easy to stereotype but this was a good reminder of the futility of doing that because someone always comes along and proves you wrong. Your couple sound adorable and abosluteluy well said – they are the ambassadors who actually might have a lasting effect ….

    Like

    March 28, 2014
  7. I’m doing a little catch-up in your archives. I really enjoyed this post. It has a completely different feel to it. Almost like the essence of a fairy tale. It was a feel good article. BECAUSE of this post, I decided to download a French to English reverse app. This should cut about 20 min. off of trying to figure out what you are talking about 😊.
    I look up ‘Trous Noirs’ to try and get an understanding of the subject matter. Right? I got it and finished reading your post. I then looked to see what other words this dictionary had associated with it. Trous Noirs is right next door to the definition of ‘ASSHOLE’ and ‘HANDHOLE’. That sent me. I was gone 😂.
    What’s a handhole?

    Liked by 1 person

    February 14, 2016
    • Oh good grief! I suppose many expressions have more than meaning (I could certainly use Asshole to describe a number of the astronomers looking at Trous Noirs 😉 ) But a hand hole … I’d rather not even imagine this early in the morning!!!! Glad you liked the piece …. it’s my husband’s favourite actually 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      February 14, 2016
  8. I’m doing a little catch-up in your archives. I really enjoyed this post. It has a completely different feel to it. Almost like the essence of a fairy tale. It was a feel good article. BECAUSE of this post, I decided to download a French to English reverse app. This should cut about 20 min. off of trying to figure out what you are talking about 😊.
    I looked up ‘Trous Noirs’ to try and get an understanding of the subject matter. Right? I got it and finished reading your post. I then looked to see what other words this dictionary had associated with it. Trous Noirs is right next door to the definition of ‘ASSHOLE’ and ‘HANDHOLE’. That sent me. I was gone 😂.
    What’s a handhole?

    Like

    February 14, 2016
  9. Reblogged this on Half Baked In Paradise and commented:

    I’m in Europe until mid-August and although I will write some new things I hope you won’t mind me trawling the archives for some posts that you might have missed from much earlier in the life of this blog. I’m starting with a particular favourite of my Two Brained husband and hope you will like it too …. silver linings abound if you let them

    Like

    July 24, 2016
  10. Ahh had a lovely read of this, sitting in the shade of the giant Lime tree in the garden. It reminded me of so many of my first fears when we moved here, fear of having to speak French for one although I have yet to have any JW’s knocking on the door. Now in New Zealand we had many, indeed one of the most stunning girls I have ever met in my life was a JW and was our babysitter for two years, a truly lovely girl. Anyway, moving on, we conquer our fears by facing them head on, that’s how I conquered my fear of French!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    July 24, 2016
    • Feel the fear and do it anyway should be our motto. That and the fact that we judge people by their inner beauty not whatever cover they choose (or in the case of your beautiful babysitter perhaps have not had the opportunity to choose) to wear. Thank you for reading this and I am jealous of your giant lime tree 🙂 xx

      Like

      July 24, 2016
  11. How fun to read one of your earlier posts! And the Jehovah’s Witness, I have been caught in their trap – only once I think – never again! Hoping you are enjoying your visit and staying relaxed! Happy Day Osyth! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    July 24, 2016
    • I’m so glad you enjoyed it …. of course it’s lovely to be here but I think my French has gotten even worse!!!! The sun shines here and we have virtually no humidity even in the high 80s (which I know is an ice-bath for you guys) so it’s easy to stay relaxed. Bean says bonjour to Miss Roxy 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      July 25, 2016
  12. Ah, if I had a euro for all the times I opened the door to the Jehovah’s witnesses….! Despite my family’s being appalled that I give them the time of day, I cannot slam the door on anyone who believes, however misguidedly, that they are doing good. Enjoyed this early post from your blog that I had clearly missed, Osyth. Glad to have you back among us now and then. Enjoy your break!

    Liked by 1 person

    July 24, 2016
    • I’m exactly the same …. I can’t be mean to someone merely because I think they are mistaken (in my opinion). It’s so good to be back for a little while – apart from anything else although it’s hot we don’t have drippingly high humidity so I look less like a very large beetroot than I do in Boston!!!!

      Liked by 1 person

      July 25, 2016
  13. I started to wonder what would have happened if your JW gentleman had indeed been standing for the council …and that the JWs had won…and he had become maire…
    Would the mairie have been renamed la tour de guet?

    I’ve never found the JWs offensive wherever I have lived…can;t think what people find obnoxious about them
    Mormons, on the other hand,, with spotty faced junior ‘Elders’ I can live without…

    Liked by 1 person

    July 25, 2016
    • Don’t get me started on the Mormons – it’s a post for another day since the tallest church in New England is down the road from us and is, you guessed it, a Mormon temple. JWs are not offensive, just insistent in my experience. As for having the fellow as Maire – I think many communes would benefit from him … he was hugely well read, well educated and wise and I do hope I meet him again some day 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      July 25, 2016
      • Oh do get started on the Mormons!

        Liked by 1 person

        July 26, 2016
      • Oh I promise I will – all in good time …. I need to try and get inside the Temple but this seems to be harder than getting a pass to Fort Knox or the Monasteries on Mount Athos!

        Liked by 1 person

        July 26, 2016
  14. Having come to your blog recently, I am more than happy. Having a house in Aquitaine, I identify with your rusty French trepidation. Enjoy August

    Liked by 1 person

    July 25, 2016
    • I’m glad you are enjoying it as I am yours. One of these days I will write the inevitable post on the faux pas I have made since living here. But first I will do one on the equal amount of bloopers I have made in the US!!

      Liked by 1 person

      July 25, 2016
  15. What a wonderful post, Osyth! You brought me straight to Cantal. You have inspired me to write a funny story about Jehovah’s Witnesses but I laughed out loud at you inviting a French one in. I am going to the Texas Medical Center for some tests for my chronic fatigue (there is something physiological going on, as well as psychiatric), so I might be a bit hit and miss with blogs. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    July 25, 2016
    • I’m so glad you enjoyed it and I will look forward to your JW story in due course but first of all look after yourself …. I am keeping fingers and toes crossed (since I can’t walk well at the moment this is not at all dangerous) that they find a physiological cause that is easy to treat and helps you. don’t worry about the blogging – it’ll all be here waiting when you feel up to it. Gros bisous à toi xx

      Liked by 1 person

      July 26, 2016
      • Thank you so much, Osyth. My gut tells me it is a hormonal problem. I am trying to work with it, slow but sure. Hugs K x

        Liked by 1 person

        July 26, 2016
      • We can be slow and sure together … I’m definitely the tortoise at the moment for different leg related reasons which I am fortunate to know will heel eventually …. I’ll egg you on from the sidelines veeeeeerrrrrryyyyy ssssslllllooooowwwwwllllyyyy!! x

        Like

        July 26, 2016
      • Ha, ha, ha. I am writing this from bed at 3 pm, 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        July 26, 2016
      • Exhaustion doesn’t have clock 😉

        Liked by 1 person

        July 27, 2016
      • It’s so frustrating, especially since I can’t exercise and get the old endorphins going! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        July 27, 2016
      • You’ve hit my nail on the head with that comment …. I’ve been such a trial to HB2 since I mashed up my leg and it is all because I can’t exercise. Those pesky endorphins – someone needs to find another way of releasing them (and yes, I do know one but the blues tend to put that on hold too)

        Liked by 1 person

        July 27, 2016
      • LMAO – I tried the latter at the weekend but the effect was fleeting…but very pleasant. 😻

        Liked by 1 person

        July 27, 2016
      • Very pleased to make you laugh and very pleased to here you’re still dancing the light fandango 😉

        Liked by 1 person

        July 27, 2016
  16. Isn’t life grand….I love your post, I love meeting people, there stories and words of wisdom can be part of the bigger story…..safe journey home my friend….xxkat

    Liked by 1 person

    July 26, 2016
    • I’m a shameless hussey when it comes to talking to people … sometimes they are a less good surprise but mostly they are a good surprise. This was a VERY good surprise. All safe here in la belle France 🙂

      Like

      July 26, 2016
  17. Oh Osyth – what a wonderful insight into a beautiful world… Thanks so much and there you go.. human kindness abounds! x

    Liked by 1 person

    November 3, 2016
  18. Thank you Wendy …. I’m very thrilled that you liked the story. It is a most lovely place. Gentle. Which begs a chicken and egg question – are the Cantal human’s kind because of the place or is the place gentle because of their human kindness? Xx

    Like

    November 3, 2016

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: