The French have long been renowned for their diplomatic skills. At one time all diplomacy was conducted in French. It is good to know that those skills are still in use at local level. In our small hamlet there are four households. Ourselves and our French neighbours Giselle and Daniel are the only families to live here all year round. Our immediate neighbours are an English couple who have just bought the house next door as a holiday home and we see them at regular intervals. The fourth house is also owned by an English couple who come over to stay in their house roughly between April and September. This is the house down the lane. The fields next our house and the house down the lane are owned by a cattle farmer called Xavier.

You might think in a small and quiet rural hamlet with all that wine and cheese to be enjoying that there would be harmony as we all try to enjoy the delights of rural France. But no, unfortunately there has been, what might be diplomatically described as a boundary dispute between the house down the lane and our French neighbours and with the French farmer. The dispute can best be summed up by: 1 being about what you can and cannot do regarding the border between you and your neighbour (Giselle versus the house down the lane). And dispute 2 being what is the correct position of the boundary (Xavier versus the house down the lane).

Needless to say the disputes are complicated and made more difficult as the house down the lane do not have a good grasp of the French language. Last year the dispute reached an intractable position and the house down the lane complained to the local Mayor who has the responsibility to deal with such neighbour problems. Apparently the Mayor has access to a conciliation service and can appoint a conciliator to look into the complaint. The conciliator has a quasi legal role and if the parties to the dispute cannot with help find an amicable solution the conciliator can make a “judgement” based on French law and legal principles and effectively then compel the two parties to comply. In this case the mayor also arranged for an official translator to be involved to ensure that the house down the lane could understand what was going on and express their views.

It seems that the conciliator has determined where the boundary should be which favours the French farmer, Xavier who has now knocked in place a very large fence post to make sure everyone is clear about the boundary!. The house down the lane must now remove a hedge planted on land which was not theirs! It would also seem that the conciliator has advised the house down the lane that they are not allowed, without permission, to interfere with any wall or fence or barbed wire that forms the boundary if that is on someone else’s land. Hopefully a full diplomatic agreement has now been achieved and peace will reign!!

Although it must be reported that the house down the lane seemed to have adopted a scorched earth policy by setting fire to a whole load of dead and very dry grass. Fortunately it did not result in mass conflagration of the stubble in the surrounding fields!

Mind you it has been so hot over the past week that might cause tempers to boil over. We have had hot weather for the past month or so and virtually no rain. The temperature in the last week has regularly been around 30 degrees and we are all suffering. It is almost too hot to go outdoors. Fortunately one of the advantages of living in an old solid stone farmhouse is that is does help to keep the house cool. It is also nice and cool in the games room which is also in a stone farm building. In the house we are still boiling hot and our guests are dying from the heat. At this point a minor miracle occurs as we discover that the lovely family who were staying in the gite have left us two cold air fans which are now blowing cold air over our  guests who have revived considerably.

The heat wave and lack of rain is not doing the garden any favours. On the one hand it means that the grass has all gone brown but does not need cutting. Onthe other plants are struggling in the vegetable garden and there are massive watering exercises to be undertaken in the evenings although it is not much cooler in the evenings. Our tomatoes have however been thriving in the heat. From a position where due to the wet weather an attack of the blight was a high risk, we now have a glut of tomatoes. Mrs. Parish has declared that tomatoes must be eaten with all meals to cope with the glut. She is also making loads of tomato sauce and other stuff for cooking.

The dry and hot weather is also causing apples to fall off the trees which means that sooner or later I am going to have to go round and pick them all up. Why is it that chickens or cats don’t eat apples? There are plenty of wild animals around but none of them seem to like apples. Of course the only things that seem to like fallen apples are wasps and hornets. So going round to pick up the apples is a lot like Russian roulette in that you often can’t tell which apples have got wasps or hornets inside them until you pick them up. Gloves become essential tools in these situations.

Since I have been in France I have surprised myself by the number of new experiences I have engaged in. From the use of my own tractor mower to the use of log splitters, and a whole range of interesting equipment. This week my friend Ian has been organising a party for his wife Sarah for her 50th birthday. This involved putting up some drapes across the ceiling of a large barn on their property. The ceiling is so high that it required the construction of a large scaffolding tower. One of my tasks was to drive a dumper truck with various bits of scaffold on it. Of course being a French dumper truck it has been mended and has various adaptations so working out how to get it in gear and move forward and backwards was no mean task.  Still I managed without crashing or losing the load of scaffold parts. We eventually got the tower built and the drapes put up without losing Ian who was sent up the tower.

Dumper driver!

Scaffolder second class

The eventual party was a great affair and a wonderful mix of French and English had a great meal and lots to drink. After midnight the English went to the disco but a group of the older French friends turned up in the kitchen and started a card school with coffee and of course calvados.

The cats and the chickens have all disappeared off into shady parts of the garden and we are lucky to have so many trees that there is always somewhere in shade. The chickens however decided that this would be a good week to put into operation their escape plans. They had earlier in the week managed to sneak out of the chicken pen. But yesterday Mrs. Parish went out into the garden and came back saying she could not find the chickens. We searched the whole garden, including their usual hiding places and eventually spotted them out in the lane pecking the verges about 100 yards away making a bid for freedom. With some judicious bribery we managed to get them back in to their hen house. We discovered that the grass next to one of the gates had died as a result of the heat and allowed a gap for them to escape. 

Cats escaping indoors and crashing out

Well I am just finishing the blog late at night as we have been entertaining our guests, Candy and Brod. We have hardly been out of the house for the past few days as it has been so hot. We decided to have a barbecue and so the weather refused to cooperate and the wind got up and clouds came over. We were able to finish the barbecue before it got too cold. So we adjourned inside for our patisserie, coffee and whisky. Now I think finish the blog and then bed!!

Bon weekend