Dancing in the streets at Chiottes la Gare….but only if it rains.

Let joy be unconfined! Sabrer le champagne!

As part of the shake up in the policing of France, responsibility for keeping the peace in Chiottes la Gare is being removed from the Police Nationale (the ones in caps with an office on the main road into town) and given to the Gendarmerie (the ones in kepis with an office next to the Lycee).

The commissariat of the Police Nationale will close….its occupants thrown to the four winds.
No, no such luck…they will be found posts elsewhere….but, as one opined soberly, these posts might be in – gulp – ‘les quartiers chauds’…the hot spots, the high risk, high crime suburbs of major towns…the ghettos for immigrants.

Well, if they are I don’t fancy their chances….they’ve got a quartier tiede…a lukewarm mini suburb…in their current jurisdiction which has hotted up very nicely under their control.
Where once the neighbours complained about loud music now they thank their lucky stars if they come down to find that their car has not been burned out.

They also have jurisdiction over a campsite for what are politely known as ‘gens de voyage’, ‘bohemiens’…known to the exasperated populace at large as ‘manouches’…the gyppos.
One resident took umbrage when the site caretaker asked him to clean up the area round his pitch which looked as if someone had lobbed a bomb into a used car showroom.
Outraged by this impertinence he started his chainsaw and chased the caretaker from the site….he later turned up at the caretaker’s house and threatened his wife and child.

Where were the Police Nationale?

Probably tucked away safely in their offices which, as they say, are open twenty four hours a day to enable people to lodge complaints while the Gendarmerie lurk behind locked gates, access controlled by an intercom on permanent answerphone.
Very true, but if they are too busy receiving complaints to go out to deal with what is being complained about it is no wonder that the populace regard them with a jaundiced eye.

They claim that they provide a presence on the ground….well, not when it’s raining. The first spot and they’re all back in the commissariat receiving complaints.

They claim that their action is social, as much as preventative…..as evidenced, I suppose by the experience of a young lady who, returning from a visit to her mother, her new baby strapped safely in the car, was followed by a police car all the way from the suburbs to her home in the centre, at which point they alighted and gave her a fine for having one brake light out.
She was unlucky with her weather.

Pause for appropriate music….

Local politicians will be, of course, sorry to see them go. Fifty officers and support staff…and families…will be leaving. Fifteen gendarmes will be replacing them.
I must take a look a the census figures to see if the maire is on a borderline between two rates of remuneration according to the number of people in his bailiwick.

But even if the maire does not suffer financially local bigwigs will mourn their loss….after all, they know how things are; how things need to be run.

They know that when an ex maire adjoint parks at the bus stop on market day they will issue a ticket and then cancel it. Appearances are saved…equality and all that…by the issue of the ticket; faces are saved by its cancellation.

They know that they are not to interfere with the social housing louts installed in the old town, where beautiful old buildings have been martyred to provide gimcrack flats for the ‘youf’ who have been displaced from areas of Paris where they spoil the ambiance for the bourgeoisie by parading their pitbulls and dealing in hard drugs.
Why do they not interfere? Because these properties are owned by the town’s bigwigs and they want no interruption in the rents paid them by the social services.

The Gendarmerie are a bit more unpredictable….they have rushes of blood to the head…and they are likely to claim manpower problems when drafted in by an ex maire to close a street to traffic while contractors unloaded materials to martyrise yet another beautiful old building in the town centre.
His beautiful old building, just like all the others on that side of the road.
The Gendarmerie might be prone to ask where was the authorisation from the council.
Not so the Police Nationale.
They closed the road.

I was interested, because I had bought an old house to restore in one of the side streets served by this road to which there was no access to take a lorry except through a garage on the road itself.

I needed to unload sand and gravel there…in quantity.

I went to the Hotel de Ville and asked for an authorisation. It would take at least a month, I was told.
In a month the Turkish building firm I had engaged would be on holiday…and time was of the essence as some of the work was urgent.

I consulted the builders’ merchant.

To hell with the council…his guys could unload the lorry right at the door blocking only half the road…they were experienced…they knew the town backwards.

I consulted the builders.

Yes, they would guarantee to have the materials shifted in twenty minutes if I would agree to them bringing two more men on the site for the job.

I rounded up friends.
Yes, they would act as marshals for the traffic.

We were away.

The lorry arrived on time and tipped the material accurately. Only half the road was blocked. The builders were busy with shovels and barrows in instants, the friends were at each end of the obstruction, explaining and apologising.
There was no problem…it was a quiet time of day….it was all going swimmingly.

Then the Police Nationale arrived. They parked their car alongside the diminishing heap, thus blocking the road completely.

You’re blocking the road.
Shovelling proceeds

No, you are.
Shovelling proceeds.

You’ll have to stop.
Shovelling proceeds.

Nonsense.
Shovelling proceeds.

By this time hooting has started from the cars at both ends.

You’re causing a public nuisance…listen to that hooting.
Shovelling proceeds.

No…that’s down to you. You can park in the side street and talk to me.
Shovelling proceeds.

You can’t tell us what to to.
Shovelling proceeds.

No…have to be a local bigwig to do that: then we’d see you hop!
Shovelling stops as voices are raised.

I’m warning you…this is outrage to a properly appointed officer of the French Republic! Where’s your authorisation from the council?
Shovels are put down to allow shovellers to give the scene their full attention.

I don’t have one, just like the ex maire for whom you blocked the road last week.
Shovellers close in a bit for a better view.

Don’t chance your luck!
Shovellers pick up shovels, scenting trouble.

I don’t have to.
Tahsin! Can you give me Osman and Ramazan a moment please?

Hefting their shovels, the edges silver and sharp as knives, they stepped forward, Ramazan built like a brick shithouse, Osman nearly double the size, stripped to the waist, bandanas round their brows.
They moved forward again.

Don’t you ever pull a stunt like this again!….

And the Police Nationale were off…or would have been had they not been blocked in and forced to listen to somewhat unflattering views on their probable paternity before making their escape.

I don’t give much for their chances in ‘les quartiers chauds’

——————————————-

And if you want a bit of fun, follow this link and see what the wonderful Coluche, founder of the Restos du Coeur, thought of ‘les flics’….and here‘s a link to the video if you want to try your French

Illustration from http://www.victorianweb.org.

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Some things are too good to keep to yourself….

We are building an extension which does not entail anything like the disruption to daily life experienced with the kitchen makeover, as it is, after all…an extension.
On the end of the house.
Away from me.
Dust is blown away into the garden…..
Nothing has had to be moved out to remain infuriatingly elusive for weeks….

The Men need feeding, true…but they do anyway.

We had planned to build a new house up in the cafetal and had gone so far as to have plans drawn up, install a septic tank and plant trees in readinesss…..and then we thought…
No.
The views are beautiful up there it is true and we would still be sheltered from the strong winds of December by the mountain behind but we’ve grown to love this little house and the garden we’ve made around it and, at our age, what on earth do we want with a whopping Italianate villa on two floors with a tower!

So…the extension.

The Men are at the stage of painting the inner walls and yesterday, having a number of things to do in town, went to buy more paint to match the wall they had started on, taking the paint lid with them as well as the mix number.
The young man in the shop set up his machine…and looked puzzled.

It’s not the same.

He called his boss who confirmed that it was not the same colour. The Men concurred.
My husband suggested that perhaps one of the nozzles was blocked.

No, no, I’ve done everything properly.

But we’ve started painting….

The boss intervened.

I’ll tell you what….I’ll give you double the paint in this colour for the price and then you can paint over what you’ve done and it will be all right.

Agreement was reached and, other errands accomplished the Men returned in the late afternoon to take coffee and discuss the next day’s programme.

There was the noise of a motorcycle engine and the Alsatian took off…he is not keen on anything disturbing his slumbers and a motorcycle rates at the top of his dislike list.
The engine stopped somewhere up the road and a voice was heard calling.

My husband went out to find the Alsatian sitting at the gates and the motorcyclist standing very still behind his machine. While actually a peaceful animal the dog has a certain way of sitting and looking that reminds one of the immovable object…and it was clear that the motorcyclist did not intend to be the irresistible force.

It was the young man from the shop. Cautiously he held out a small plastic wrapped packet.
It was paint, to add to the mix to get the proper colour. The boss had dismantled the machine and found that, indeed, one of the nozzles was blocked and this was the colour that should have come from it.

Just mix it in and you’ve got the paint you wanted.

My husband thanked him and went to get the money for the extra paint they had been given.

No! The boss said it was our fault….and he sent me out straight away in case you had started to use the paint.

Would the young man take a coffee…a beer?

No…he would not. He had to get back to work….and, once the gates were closed between him and the Alsatian, that is what he did, his motorcycle kicking up dust and stones on the road up the hill.

To me, this is something too good to keep to myself….that a shopkeeper is not only willing to get you out of a mess by giving extra materials…but also sends his shopman out with the pukka gear to get to you before you’ve started with the new stuff…..
Not just service…but thoughtfulness.

It wasn’t the only good thing that happened yesterday…..
There’s a new prosecutor at the Fiscalia….and he’s been getting to grips with his job.

My husband had been summoned to see him by telephone that morning and dropped in on his shopping trip…to find about half the inhabitants of the Three Valleys in the waiting area.

The new prosecutor had unearthed the files on the would be developer and his Mr. Fix-it…The Neighbour.

The people giving us all trouble with our water supply.

The new prosecutor wanted to know why all the complaints had been filed and parked in a cupboard.

From the noises coming from the offices it sounded as though these were not the only files parked out of sight and out of mind…….

From the noises coming from the offices it also seemed that the new Prosecutor was not very happy….

Secretaries came and went at the gallop…people were ushered in and out of offices at speed….my husband’s turn came.

Did he uphold his complaints ?

Yes, he did.

Sign here.

What will happen?

Well, the files won’t be going back into the cupboard….

So, a new judge up at the court and a new prosecutor at the Fiscalia……The Neighbour had better watch his step.

And the best of all…an improvement in my husband’s health.

He has been diagnosed with something enchantingly known as Miller Fisher/ CANOMAD…..which always has me thinking of Noel Coward singing ‘Mad Dogs and Englishmen….which is related to the better known syndrome Guillain-Barre.

What it means for him is that should he catch a ‘flu, his antibodies – instead of going for the intruder – go for the sheathing of his nerves, leaving him progressively paralysed.

And it’s a quick progression.

From a tingling in the hands and lips it can be complete paralysis and coma within  two hours. Treatment has to be fast and has to follow a particular cycle to avoid death or permanent damage to the nervous system.

Well, over the years, over many attacks, the treatment hasn’t always been fast enough and the cycle hasn’t always been respected.

There are many consequences, but one in particular has been that his blood pressure swings alarmingly from high to low and back again…migraines at one extreme, faintness at the other. It doesn’t make life fun.

We’ve always taken precautions against high blood pressure…I don’t use salt, I use as few prepared foods as possible….but it’s the swings which have proved insoluble.

Until recently.

He has been reading  up on blood pressure and discovered that it is controlled by three elements…the kidneys, the nervous system and sodium and potassium ‘pumps’.

Well, the kidneys are fine…but the nervous system is shot to bits…so he reckoned his potassium levels needed to be upped to compensate.

He bought a tub of salt substitute…potassium iodide and potassium chloride (I think)….sprinkled it on his food…and not only is his blood pressure stable but it is that of a young man.

With Mad Dog syndrome he could still drop dead tomorrow…..but in the meantime his quality of life has improved out of all measure!

That is certainly something too good to keep to myself!

 

A Passing Moment in La France Profonde

http://savvysommelier.wordpress.com/
http://savvysommelier.wordpress.com/

On a wet winter afternoon in La France Profonde the van of the Office Nationale de la Chasse et de la Faune Sauvage (ONCFS) with responsibility for hunting, fishing and wildlife in general turns in to the farm and pulls up at the farmhouse door, which opens immediately.

Jean-Yves! Come on in out of this….

And the garde chasse, armed representative of ONCFS, nothing loathe, follows his host into the kitchen where the television is muttering to itself on a shelf by the door and the newspaper is open on the table.

I was wanting to see you…..but it wasn’t urgent exactly. I told the office that….

Well I was coming out this way anyway Victor….no, I’d better not have a drink…oh well, all right then, but not eau de vie…

Oh, coming to have a go at Alain again, were you…that’s a bit much…it’s persecution, that’s what it is. The office should be ashamed of itself!

Well, you know what I think about it…but that’s the job. He doesn’t have enough land to entitle him to shoot wild boar, even if they are ripping up his fields….

Wild! They’re not wild! It’s that notaire, Plouc…breeds them up there at Montcul for his fancy friends to shoot…too mean to keep his fences in order and then he kicks up when Alain takes a gun to one of them.

Yes, but you know how it is. He’ll probably be the next depute so no one wants to tread on his toes…

I wouldn’t be so sure…this guy we’ve got now, he might be a Socialist but he’s all right.

All right counts for nothing as well you know….by the time this government’s finished licking the banks’ backsides and sending guys out to die in Africa to keep a bunch of crooks in power just because they’re our crooks it won’t matter how all right he is…he’ll be out on his ear, with the rest of the party. So Plouc has to be kept sweet, according to the office.

We had a Revolution to change all that…not being able to shoot animals that were destroying our crops….

Well it didn’t work did it! Then they were nobles…now they’re politicians, businessmen, notaires… and all we can do is shut up and pay up!

They want putting up against the wall, the whole crew….and that reminds me of what I wanted to see you about. It’s those English.

Now come off it, Victor….this gun is to finish off a wounded animal or to defend myself…and whatever you think about your English neighbours they’re not wild animals and they don’t come within the scope of my duties!
What’ve they done, anyway? Complained about your chemicals running into their stream?

No, no..well, yes they have, but that’s not it.

What is it then if you don’t want me to shoot them…?

Well, when they came over in the autumn they had a friend with them who spoke some French…apparently he’s in the wine trade in London..and I gave them a glass of Albert’s white and there was a misunderstanding and they thought it was mine and the man was all enthusiastic and said he could sell it…

Good news!

Well it would be if Albert hadn’t got esca in his vines and is having to pull a lot up…
Anyway, he wanted to see my vines, so I showed him my plot down behind the sheds and he got all enthusiastic and said he could see it was organic…which is what they’re all crazy for it seems…

How could he see it was organic?

Well, it was a bit overgrown…you know how it is, with the farm to run I can’t be everywhere…
And then he asked how I made the wine…did I use special yeast, or sugar.
Well, you know, I’ve always made wine the way the old dad did…no point buying expensive yeast when it’s there already on the grapes…and I don’t use sugar…what’s the point, it’s not worth pushing up the alcohol level for a bit of vin courant for everyday drinking.

Apparently these organic buggers are as tight as a duck’s arse…won’t cough up for sprays or yeast or sugar….

Don’t you spray, then?

Course I do…bit of Bordeaux mixture left over from the potatoes – but he says that’s all right…that’s allowed.
Anyway, he reckons I could make a bomb if I advertise for people to ‘own’ a row of vines…they can come over and join in the vendange, have special labels for their bottles – whatever they like. He can organise that.

But what about the wine! Yours is nowhere near as good as Albert’s white….

They won’t know that! I haven’t worked it out yet but either I can buy in some good stuff with what they’ll be paying me….or I can just say it’s a bad year…or that organic wine doesn’t travel…
Look, if they’ve been boasting to their friends about having their own vines they’re not going to admit it’s shit…are they?
And there’s a fair bit of shit sold as top chateau wine, come to that!

True enough! I reckon Depardieu’s leaving for Russia before all the people who bought his wine want their money back!

Then he came up with another idea…and this is where you come in…

Oh yes! What’ve I got to do?

Well, he reckons organic is out of date…old hat…and the coming thing is biodynamic wine!

What the hell is that?

I’m not sure I’ve understood it all….but there’s some Austrian nutcase…

Hitler?

No..another one, but I expect he’s vegetarian too….
Well, anyway he came up with all this stuff about the harmony of things…you know, the rythmns of the moon and whatnot.

We all know that. You get your lunar calendar from Rustica and from the first quarter to the full moon you plant above ground stuff and from the full moon to the last quarter you plant your root veg…so what’s new?

Well these bobos…these trendies… don’t know anything about Rustica, do they! They want something exotic so they can think they’re spiritual or superior or something…
Go for anything if it costs an arm and a leg…but turn their nose up at something ordinary…

Anyway, he says this Austrian has special preparations to add to the soil….or to compost heaps.
I’ve plenty of nettles…

Well who hasn’t!

And there’s a clump of horsetail to make sprays…

That stuff!

And I can dig up the old woman’s cat to ferment oak bark in its skull as long as she doesn’t find out…
No problem for cow’s horns either… or the manure to ferment in it, though the mesentery might give problems with the way things are at the abattoir these days….

What are you gibbering about?

Well, he gave me a list. You do all this stuff then stir it all up and spray it on the soil..or compost heap..or on the plants and it’s supposed to put the vineyard in harmony with the universe.

You must be stark staring bonkers!

Well I’m not going to do all that, am I…but I need to have the stuff to show the punters!

And that’s where you come in.
I’ve got to use yarrow…well, I’ve got that along the hedge…but I have to ferment the flowers in a stag’s bladder and I was just wondering if…you being with ONCFS and all…. whether you could get me one when they have a cull…..

It’s not all doom and gloom…..

versatileblogger111djmatticus of the matticuskingdom has been kind enough to give me the ‘Versatile Blogger’ award…..and following the Perpetua rules I shall be fairly relaxed about the dos and don’ts……

Not only do I thank the giver of the award – I urge you to go over to the kingdom and take a look for yourself….you don’t even need a visa.

 

 

Now…fifteen blogs:

Sandysviews is a must, and not only because he was kind enough to give me the same award elsewhere!
He writes about whatever strikes him…and writes about it jolly well…a real pleasure when a new post pops up.

roughseasinthemed blogs about life in Gibraltar, travels in Spain, politics, history, food…and geocaching which I hope I have spelled correctly. Oh…and Falklands memories too….

And while geocaching is in my mind don’t miss Ken Brownon ‘where the fatdog walks’…not just for geocaching – his secret vice – but for dogs and walking the hills (mostly soggy) of Scotland.
And when you take a look, gee him up for another post…even for a Scot his Hogmanay break is over extended and I want to see more photographs of Mabel.

Frightened of going into hospital and catching something worse than that with which you went in? Read Carrie Rubin’s novel ‘The Seneca Scourge’ and you’ll have the habdabs…..but her blog will have you laughing.

Pooch has one careful owner – status viatoris – now based in Italy, but who is currently writing about her early experiences…in every sense of the word…in Spain.
Unmissable. So’s Pooch.

And a word in your ear about Sue Llewellyn’s ‘A Word in Your Ear’. I’m not normally a fan of photography – probably jealous – but this is a beauty. A recent post on Flinders Street station has me going back continually.

Back to Bodrum gives a varied look at life in and around Bodrum in Turkey….with the bonus of archeology! How often a post will make me wish i’d spent longer there and done more looking around.

Croixblanches will introduce you not only to ‘Nowhere-on-Thames’ but also to a village in the French countryside featuring cannabis growers, German occupiers and elaborate roundabouts….

Before you grumble at your other half for losing things nip over to ‘Where’s My Effing Pony?’ and catch the work of an master of the art…The Artistic One…and his not at all suffering wife. They go to some lovely places…with or without his passport.

But don’t bother reporting the loss of your passport to the police in England: Inspector Gadget will tell you why…the inside story of policing.

And the inside story on the life of a magistrate ‘The Magistrates’ Blog’ may enlighten you as to the harm being done to a system of justice which used to be marked by independence…..

Something more cheerful? Then you need ‘Linda’s Lair’ where a great lady battles her depression by lifting ours with her videos and photographs…there’s some interesting architecture in there when the weather is fine enough for her to go out, as well as shrubs, flowers and – my favourite – ducks.

Emerging from his cave to chronicle his life and times is Adullamite who has a lot of stuff I like going on….troopships, steam trains…and a wonderful post on the difference if you marry a Scottish girl!

Brilliant photographs…even better text from Susie Kelly on ‘No damn blog’. Animals, travels, daily life…all seen from her own angle. And she writes super books, too!

And whatever else you do…please visit The Slog. 3-D bollocks deconstruction, to get a not-as-pubished-in-the-media view of what’s going on in the financial and political world.

We’re all doomed……so have a good read before you go!

Off the tourist trail in France

It’s a day for trying new things…..thanks to Kerry Dywer who featured a WordPress challenge to embed and use a Google Maps image on the blog.

Those who know my lack of intuition, ability and patience with anything to do with computers – especially Ayak and Perpetua – prepare to sit down before you collapse….as I’ve actually managed to download a map!

To be fair, the instructions were very clear!

It’s nowhere near so elegant and professional as the map Kerry has on her blog post….but for me it’s a triumph and I can try to improve the technique for future posts.

What you have below…though I suggest that you click on the larger map facility as I made a horlicks of downloading a larger version….is a map of the country south of Saumur on the Loire and what I propose is to turn my back on the well trodden chateaux trail and wander upstream on the River Thouet, to look at what can be learned of French history in the hinterland.

The guidebooks are clear on what there is to see in Saumur….the chateau, of course, the town hall, the streets of the old town, the cavalry museum and the wonderful tank museum…..

The well known image of Saumur, from the Tourist Office site

I would add taking a tour on one of the traditional boats….a gabare or the smaller toue…

A meeting of traditional Loire boats, from the tourist office website

While for anyone keen on horses a trip to the stables of the Cadre Noir is a must…even if you’re not there at the right time for the performances.

A wonderful image from Wikipedia

You’ll find the Cadre Noir out in a suburb of Saumur…St. Hilaire St. Florent where on the marshy land of the then delta of the river Thouet where it joins the Loire, people were living before Saumur was founded.

So let’s follow the Thouet back into the quiet countryside of vines, woods and white villages which lie behind Saumur.

Leaving town on the straight road running through Bagneux – and visiting or not its well known dolmen in the grounds of a caff – at the top of the hill take a turning on the left which will turn into the D360 for Munet and…our target, Artannes sur Thouet which has one of the nicest videos of its commune that I have come across…do follow the link, it is a sheer joy.
This quiet little village bears signs of early human passage….

magalithic bridge at artannes

other bridge

pierre fiche

as witnessed by the neolithic standing stone and the two megalithic bridges tucked away in the quiet woods and streams around the village…..while its romanesque church dreams on among its trees.

All photographs from the website of the commune of Artannes sur Thouet
All photographs from the website of the commune of Artannes sur Thouet

You won’t find crowds of tourists at Artanne, just a living village in a beautiful setting.

As you leave it on the D360 you will see a turning to the right which would lead you to another world…to le Coudray Macouard perched on its hill….

le coudray macouard

The village, which grew within the fortifications of the old chateau, is a model of modern tourism….from it’s windvane exhibition

windvane coudray

to the silk exhibition…everything from worm to fabric.

silk works

It is so self consciously charming that you begin to wonder if its inhabitants are real…or whether they are as ephemeral as the actors in the historical sound and light shows given in the season.

Instead of taking the turning to the right, we are going straight over the crossroads…as I’m taking you somewhere else.

To Bron. To see this.

aerial view of the lock at Bron by Jacques Sigot
aerial view of the lock at Bron by Jacques Sigot

This aerial view shows best why this lock is important, marking progress in controlling the level of water needed by boats travelling up and down stream.
The earliest locks were gaps left in solid dams, blocked by a gate which had to be raised to allow boats to pass. As can be imagined, this process let water through in a great rush…the boats shot forward on a waterfall and having to have a line attached for safety, while upstream the millers cursed as the levels lowered dramatically, disabling their mills.

This dam is an oval enclosure, with gates at each end…..limiting the water loss upstream and making the passage safer for the boats and boatmen. A step towards the modern lock which revolutionised fluvial transport.
There are three on the Thouet, dating certainly from the early years of the seventeenth century and possibly earlier…and, according to the local expert, not many elsewhere.

Taking the country road through the fields we will pass the chateau of la Salle, where there is another such lock and the little river port of Ste. Catherine, marking the limit of navigation, crossing the bridge to enter Montreuil Bellay under the walls and towers of its fairytale castle.

wikipedia.fr
wikipedia.fr

This is tourist country….wine tasting in the chateau’s barn, restaurants by the river, a camp site….but we’re not staying in the centre.
We’re going out on the road to Loudon to see the remains of a camp.
Not a Roman camp…but an internment camp.
Not ancient, but modern.

Jacques Sigot, a school teacher and local historian, came upon the remains while fossil hunting and his researches showed them to be part of the biggest internment camp for gypsies in wartime France.

From Jacques sigot's own archives
From Jacques Sigot’s own archives

This camp had originally been designated to keep Spanish Republicans, fleeing the revenge of Franco, under surveillance and then, when the Germans invaded, to house French POWs before shipping them to Germany and also to house British civilians rounded up in France.
Before the invasion, the French government had forbidden gypsies to travel, regarding them as a security risk, and the German authorities in their turn introduced a policy of internment.

Little was left of the camp when Monsieur Sigot came across it…and most of the remaining walls were destroyed – needlessly, he felt – so that the place and its purpose was scarcely remembered….a part of France’s wartime underbelly that was not meant to see the light of day.

Single handedly he has changed that by his tireless research and quest for publicity.

Chapeau Monsieur Sigot

Leaving the fortifications of Montreuil Bellay behind we are going to visit Saint Martin de Sanzay.
Not for the church, not for the chateaux and the old commanderie, but for the old flooded quarry…La Ballastiere.

deux sevres tourism
deux sevres tourism

Here is where you will find real France enjoying itself….the salle de fetes houses dances nearly every week end; the huge marquee can hold weddings, reunions…you name it; car rallies meet there; you can picnic by the waterside; you can fish…..it’s a slice of French life, and not on the tourist track.

Away again on the D158 and the D37, to the wonderfully named Ste. Verge and its church with the rare inscription on its walls

fondation patrimoine
fondation patrimoine

Then turn right on the side road towards Pompois and the Reserve Toarcien, conserving two old quarries where in 1849, the paleontologist Alcide d’Orbigny defined the stratotype of a layer dating back to the Jurassic system, the “Toarcien”. This level materializes a time interval comprised between 183 and 176 million years ago…..and to me is always associated with the ammonite fossils found all over the area.

ammonites etab - ac. poitiers

Then you are in the sprawl of the suburbs of Thouars, a town which is a very hotch potch of history.
From changing hands between English and French in the Hundred Years War, to being taken by the Vendeens in the post revolutionary civil war, to becoming a railway town with a vast locomotive plant – and then losing heart and energy and declining into the stagnation in which it now finds itself it, the town could stand as an example of many in rural France….but it has so much to see, from the fortifications

communaute de communes thouarsais
communaute de communes thouarsais

to its churches

communaute de communes thouarsais
communaute de communes thouarsais

its chateau overlooking the river

communaute de communes thouarsais
communaute de communes thouarsais

not to speak of the railway buffs’ delight, the Eiffel viaduct

communaute de communes thouarsais
communaute de communes thouarsais

that this wander upstream on the river Thouet will end here…to encourage you to investigate Thouars over a glass of its very own aperitif…..Duhomard

barewalls
barewalls

Find out the story behind the name and I’ll stand you one in the Cafe des Arts. This could bankrupt me…

A Muddle of Mentalities

costa rica phone lines www. happierthan a billionaire...

I suppose culture shock only exists if you have enough of a handle on the culture concerned to realise that it differs from your own…..and that culture doesn’t have to be foreign.

I remember being on holiday in Luxor years ago where my husband taught me to swim….well, to keep afloat…in the pool at the hotel.
There were not many guests in the hotel, but those around the pool seemed all to be British….middle aged couples and a few families with children, most of whom were in the pool, throwing balls about and enjoying splashing as much as swimming.
We were reading in the shade when we became aware that a little girl was parading round the surrounds of the pool and that in her wake people were gathering up their belongings and heading for the hotel.
Our turn came and we too skedaddled.
The little girl was pulling forward her swimsuit bottom and asking if we wanted to see her willy.

Whatever was going on there, it was certainly culture shock and we wanted no part of it!

Running recently between Costa Rica, France, Spain and England I had an exposure to different cultures – so brief in the case of Spain that I hardly had time to register more than that the cleaners all seemed to be of Arab appearance and the ticket clerks laughed and said ‘Pura Vida’ when I booked my train journey using my best Costa Rican Spanish.

In France friends told me of their troubles with their bank…..who did not take out the standing order which paid their mortgage and promptly took them to court for non payment.
They were lucky enough to have a tough minded retired Belgian lawyer friend to stand up for them as it was clear that the court was minded to ignore the fact that the bank had not taken the money in order to concentrate on the non payment……

How French!

And I have just read the latest episode in the dreadful saga of the Hobos in France blog…apologies, but I cannot get a link to work…which bears out my own and others’ experience of the French legal system…if in doubt lose the papers and if all else fails…lie.

Coming from a background of English law, it shocks me…but I have a nasty suspicion that the English legal system has now gone so far to the dogs in terms of accessibility that it is emerging at the nether end.

The Costa Rican legal system has…so far…been good to me and I do like the attempts made by the judge to reconcile the parties…..as far as possible from the English mindset where it is thought that if the parties have come to court it is because no reconciliation was possible and the court is there to try the matter.

But there is a general reluctance in Costa Rica to have an open disagreement….it is seen as impolite and uneducated to brawl and shout the odds.
You express your disagreement non verbally…by not doing whatever it is that the other party wants.

So I followed the Costa Rican cultural norm when considering what to do after a conversation with another immigrant who lives up on the mountain between us and the town.

He is an American, or, as I have now learned to say, North American, and is a lawyer.
He bought his finca from another North American, and became distinctly disgruntled when he became aware of the difference between the price he paid and the sum his seller originally handed over. In consequence he has become somewhat of a dog in the manger where his property is concerned.

I met him on the back road to town and, amazingly, he stopped his car and got out. He does not usually speak…I suppose as he isn’t being paid to do so he spares himself the effort.

Bypassing the usual courtesies he informed me that the poles bearing the ‘phone line which passes over his property belonged to him. A man had offered him a good price for these poles….but he would give me the chance to buy them, in order to be able to keep the ‘phone line.
Unimaginable…that he thinks I’m stupid enough to come up for that, and that anyone would even contemplate threatening to remove someone’s ‘phone access.
Not to mention that there are several others on this line…among them men with machetes…

My first instinct was to tell him to stuff the poles where the monkey stuffed the nuts…..but, being in Costa Rica, I smiled and said I would think it over.

Up in town I dropped into the ICE offices (electricity and telecommunications) and recounted my tale to Don Carlos on the desk. He telephoned someone in the back office who emerged, print out in hand, to demonstrate that the poles belonged to ICE and that any attempt to meddle with them would meet with disapproval.
He then attempted to sell me a mobile ‘phone to be able to contact them should any such thing occur.

So, sure in my rights, I did nothing.

But if he comes the old acid again I shall encourage Don Antonio to remove the copper cable whch runs over his land, carrying the power for the North American’s water pump.

Pura vida!

Left Hand and Right Hand

tropical beach
Now…you’re in the tropics.
It’s warm and you want to take the family to the beach so you pack a picnic, including a cold box for the beer and soft drinks.

You find a wonderful site under the palms, the swimming is safe inshore and you settle down to enjoy yourselves; loungers, sunglasses, a glass of something cold….the only blot on the landscape being the two chaps who’ve set themselves up a bit too close for comfort, smoking and throwing the cigarette butts about.

The police arrive…..you know smoking is illegal in most public places in Costa Rica so you hope that they will tell them to stop.
No…..they don’t.

They have come to tell you you can’t take beer to the beach.

You give up.

Next day you take the family to the fair and bull ring at Zapote, a suburb of San Jose.
In the arena, drunks career about waving their shirts while bewildered bulls do what comes naturally…chase the nuisances.

The Red Cross treat over one hundred idiots injured by goring or trampling….their task complicated by the the idiots’ state of inebriation.
Outside the ring the police arrest fifteen people for smoking in a public place.

Shops are open, people are going to work…but government offices lie silent, awaiting the return of their normal occupants to participate in the ceremony of taking down the creche after January 6th.

One group of people are impatient for the return to governmental work to come about.

Fuel tanker companies have been waiting for more than five months for the Environment Ministry to renew the licences for their vehicles. They have undergone inspection, have brought their fleets up to scratch…..but no licence renewals have been forthcoming and the expiry date is January 31st 2013.

They are seeking to discuss the situation with the appropriate officials…who will not be available until the creche has been dismantled.

No licence renewal, no petrol stations supplied. No transport, private or public.

They have decided that if no early discussions are possible then they will have to take action.
Not blocking the roads to inconvenience the public…but blocking off the Environment Ministry.

It will be interesting to see if the government try to deploy their unpopular riot police again when faced with tough lorry drivers as opposed to health workers……

The only question is:

Should they block the idle sloths out?
Or should they block the idle sloths in?