Victor…A Word…

john-piper-mosnac-dordogne.jpgOn a wet afternoon in western France a gendarmerie van pulls into the farmyard…its sole occupant gets out shouting

Hoy, Victor! A word!

Hello Jean-Yves! What brings you here? I’m in the barn…just a minute while I shut the doors and we’ll have a drink…

No, don’t shut the doors, Victor….it’s about what you’ve got in that barn that I’ve come about.

On your own, I see.

Yes, I’m trying to do you a good turn….let me see what you’ve got there. Yes, just as I thought!
Victor, you’ll have to get rid of it…put it back where you found it…and quickly.
There’s all hell to pay.
Everyone’s out looking for it and they’ve even taken us off speed traps and breathalysers.

Must be serious then!

Yes, it is!
Apart from you having stolen property in your barn…what the blazes do you want with a bulldozer that size? You haven’t got enough land to make it worthwhile – and how did you get it here from the new bypass anyway?

Ah! Typical!
Us farmers are getting robbed all ways…..diesel syphoned off, animals killed in our own fields, tools stolen, irrigation pipes nicked – even whole crops gone!
Look at that poor guy who had his whole field of garlic nicked….and the forty hectares of grapes that went missing overnight….not to speak of combine harvesters vanishing into thin air!
And where are the Gendarmerie? Breathalysing some poor sod who’s been out drowning his sorrows!

Well it’s not my fault….only a few more years to the pension, thank goodness.
It’s not what I joined for I can tell you…

No, I know Jean-Yves.
When you started there were still bars in your stations – and you were a hell of a lot nicer for it! I reckon that the rot started when they closed down them down.
You turned nasty about then…applying the law to people you knew…
Still, what I mean is that us farmers can have our stuff nicked left, right and centre…but let some big roadworks contractor miss his bulldozer – you’d think he’d got enough, wouldn’t you? – you’re all on red alert!
No wonder we’ll all be voting Le Pen in the elections!

That’s as maybe…but I can tell you that a big firm like Crapule gets a lot more attention in high places than you lot. Might be different if you were cereal boys…in the big league…but you’re not!
The firm thought the ‘dozer had been whipped off to Germany….like a lot of other stuff. You boys are lucky you’re not nearer the frontier.

Clever buggers, the Germans.

What do you mean?

Well, they worked out they didn’t have to have a war to get what they wanted this time….they thought up the E.U.
See, in the war they had to go round requisitioning…this way government – our government – does it for them.
They get cheap veg and flog expensive cars.
Bit like Vichy, really, but more efficient. Very hot on efficiency the Germans…

Come off it Victor! You’re not telling me the Germans are using the E.U. to nick combine harvesters and fields of garlic…

No, but they run the show, don’t they! Remember when Hollande got in and what he was going to say to Merkel?
Turned out to be ‘Jawohl’, didn’t it…
No, the E.U. lets these crooks from Transylvania in and they nick the stuff, take it to Germany and the Germans get it on the cheap…
Clever buggers, like I said.

Never mind all that! You’ll have to get it back there…or dump it somewhere…and sharpish!

Well, we’ve finished with it now anyway, so I’ll get Laurent to run it into Ste. Conasse tonight, dump it round the back where it’s dark. Just make sure you’re not out breathalysing between here and there.

No, all right…but who is ‘we’? You and Laurent?

No! There’s me, of course, and Jean-Antoine and Popaul…here, you’re not taking notes!

No, just interested to know what’s going on. That’s what policing used to be about…
So what the blazes were you three geriatrics up to? Put together you don’t have enough land to make that ‘dozer worthwhile…

That’s where you’re wrong!
It’s the eco tax…you know, the one on lorries that comes in in January. Going to be taxed by the lorry…tollgates going up all over the main roads…
Gerard over at the roads department in Benitierville put us wise! There’s going to be one between us and the abattoir! It’s only down the road…but we’ll have to pay as if we’d been coming from Normandy!

Well you weren’t thinking of using the ‘dozer to knock the tollgate down, were you?

No! We might be old but we’re not stupid!
We had a word with Olivier down at the abattoir and he reckons that we can get in on the back road from St. Ragondin round by les Deux Biscouilles without any problem.

But how are you going to get to St. Ragondin? You’ve still got the main road to deal with.

Ah. that’s why we wanted the bulldozer.
We’ve made a road across our fields to link up with the footpath that brings us out just this side of the village….where the old railway line used to be. A bit of hardcore in bad weather and we’re sorted.
So they can stuff their tollgate…we won’t be paying!
Eco this, eco that….just another word for tax!
It’s bad enough with their blasted windmills…electricity bill up through the roof…but a tax on going a few kilometres is a step too far!

Well, just get rid of it Victor…tonight! You don’t want anyone else knowing you’ve got it…the adjutant is up the wall!

Hang on a minute, how did you know to come round here?

Well, it couldn’t have been the manouches….they were having a face off with our boys with chainsaws at the campsite that night… the only other alternative was a totally irresponsible idiot…and that’s when I thought of you!

That evening, at the gendarmerie station, the adjutant answers the ‘phone.

Here, says a voice, I reckon you should know….

Know what?

Well, that windfarm at the back of Ste. Conasse…someone’s driven a bulldozer in there and there’s a hell of a mess….metal all over the place and the gyppos are carting it off by the truckload…….

The illustration is ‘Mosnac, Dordogne’ by John Piper.


French Maids, Marijuana and the (Wo)man from the Ministry
Hello, Alain! You look a bit harassed!

I should think I do…yes, a glass of Claude’s rose, please; that should lay the dust.

So what’s the problem?



Yes, he’s down at the gendarmerie….under arrest…in the clink.

Not Zizi! He wouldn’t hurt a fly! What happened?

Well, old Mme. Turbine called me when I was having my coffee….she said there was a horde of gendarmerie running about over his vines and a lot of shouting inside the house, so I went over to take a look and she was right!
There was some woman there I didn’t know pointing at him and calling him a pervert, and he was calling her a liar – among other things – and there was big Jean Paul between them to keep them apart while there was a vanload from the station at Benitierville tramping through the vines and rummaging in his barns and outbuildings…
They told me to clear out but I saw them take Zizi off in the paddy waggon with the woman following in her car.
And then some other woman in a car turned up and they told her to clear off too.

So what did you do?

Well, I ‘phoned Clement….being a notaire’s clerk he knows what to do and he knows Zizi…and asked him if Zizi had a lawyer and he said he didn’t but that he’d get on to it himself and so I went back and the gendarmes had a load of plants and were taking photographs and they told me to clear off again, so I thought I’d better and then old Mme Turbine came round to see what it was all about and you know how she goes on….

Yes, like an old fashioned dentist’s drill…yes…

So I thought I’d drop in for a glass or two and a minute’s peace and then go to see Clement and see what he’s found out.

No need, he’s just coming up the street.

Hello, Clement! Busy day by the sound of things! What’s happening to Zizi? Claude’s rose?

Yes, please, and another for Alain….though why I’m standing you a drink after all the trouble you’ve given me, I don’t know!

Well, I thought you’d know how to get to the bottom of things better than I could…and Zizi’s a nice old boy…

No, it’s all right! Take no notice…it’s been a bit wearing, that’s all.
I telephoned the gendarmerie and was lucky enough to get the Adjutant, LeBoff. Not bad for a Breton, and you can talk to him.
Anyway, he said it had taken quite a time to sort out, what with Zizi shouting and the woman shouting but the whole thing started with a mix up.

Some mix up to have Zizi in the jug!

Well, you know that though Zizi sold his vines to those young chaps he kept his arable land…brings in a fair bit with the subsidies, after all….and he keeps his own seed from year to year.
Well, to be legal he has to pay a voluntary contribution..

You mean a fine …

Well, yes, it is really but it’s supposed to support crop research and you have to pay it if you keep your own seed. It seems that the European Union now want to ban anyone from keeping their own seed and the woman you saw, Alain, was from the Agriculture Ministry who was making a tour of all those in this area who were declared as keeping their own seed to put them in the picture.

I bet Zizi liked that! I’ve heard him on the subject of the E.U….he can give Mme Turbine a half kilometre start and still pass her in minutes when it comes to them and their high jinks!
He must have given the woman an earful….but how come she was calling him a pervert?

Ah! That’s where the mix up comes in!
It seems that Zizi was expecting a visitor…but not this one.
He’d signed up to a service that sends women round to do your cleaning…

Whatever for! He gets a home help three times a week from the council and I know Monique who goes to him: you couldn’t criticise her work…

I don’t think Monique would be too chuffed to do what these women do…

What, you mean sort out his washing? Those coms of his are a disgrace: have you seen them on the line?

No, not the washing.
There’s a new service set up called ‘Z Maids’, run from Belgium I believe but operating in France, which supplies their clients with women to do the cleaning dressed in anything from ordinary clothes to nothing at all via latex and leather….and Zizi saw this in the paper and signed up.

She’s right! He is a pervert!

Well, you’d have to be to sign up for something like that! But he thought this woman was the cleaner he was expecting and told her to hurry up and get her clothes off…he was paying by the hour and he wanted his money’s worth… then she started screeching and he poked an old feather duster at her and told her to get on with it or he’d complain to her office at which point she called up the gendarmerie.

Well, there’s nothing that couldn’t be sorted out, was there?

No, not if her call hadn’t landed on that idiot Malfrat…you know what he’s like and he’s had it in for Zizi since that near miss with the tractor…so he calls out the boys and decides it’s a good opportunity to give Zizi’s place a going over…learn him as it were.
So while Jean Paul was trying to keep the two of them quiet, Malfrat and his boys were turning the place over…and what do they find in one of the outhouses?
Electric lights and pots of marijuana plants!
So he comes in and accuses Zizi of producing drugs, Zizi swipes him with the feather duster and he’s hauled away for drug dealing, sexual harassment and rebellion and outrage in that he swiped Malfrat.

So what’s with the drugs? I can’t see Zizi planting dope…not while there’s wine.

Neither can LeBoff. He reckons it’s something to do with the young chaps who took over the vines and he’s looking into it – as he says, they’re using the outhouses and they pay the electricity bill which is on a separate meter. As he says, you can’t see Zizi forking out for electricity like that…

So he should be all right there, then.

Yes, and with a bit of luck Plouc can sort out the rest for him.

Plouc? Your boss? But he’s a notaire, not an avocat, even if he is a big wheel in politics….

Yes, and if he wants to stay a big wheel he’ll get this sorted….
He’s also signed up for the services of Z Maids, and charged it to his office expenses!

How do you know?

His bookkeeper told me…Zizi’s neice, Dominique.

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… 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.

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