Diary Of A Film School - in Rural France

Sunday 16 May 2010


Photo: barry paton. At long last the spring time has come. At long last I have managed to get round to writing this update from the depths of France. Profound! After a month plus of snow and sleet, very unusual for this part of the world, the sun has begun to put its hat on! Even the cats have felt it with all the wet and white bits about. However, hopefully that is all past now and with the population poking their noses out and about, ourselves included, things seem to be springing back into life. And I am sorry for that pun!

It is at this point I must apologise for not having updated this for so long, there have been many and various reasons for this including a red wine spill over the keyboard, broken gutter repairs (not ours but a house that we look after ). This one has turned into a very long saga, originally starting off as a simple job but ended up taking several months and with many people involved. All this for a few tens of Euros and we still do not know if it has been done yet! The other thing about this is that how do you know if it has been fixed and there is no rain? Rain (and snow) have been falling in the last few weeks but no-one has been able to see if it has been fixed! It reminds me of that one about fixing the roof when the sun shines......How do you know it is fixed? Apart from the few excuses above many more things have got in between me and writing this which are all too tedious to start repeating here.

I am glad to say that Fiona's progress is going fairly well, albeit slightly slower than she would like. She has been attending the kine every 2 days and although slow it does seem to be working for her. The biggest problem that she seems to have is when lifting or carrying things then it affects her greatly. I suppose these things do take so much time to get over and I am doing my best to be understanding. My progress is going by leaps and bounds suddenly after a slight change in the nursing care that I have been getting for over a year! Does no one listen? I doubt it at all! Of the four nurses that have been attending me and my wound for so long now, each one has had a completely different take on the situation and consequently a different treatment/bandages every time. I have finally put my foot down (not meant as a pun) and we have standardised a procedure as far as the dressing is concerned and thankfully this has been agreed on, thank God! And, I am glad to say the progress has been remarkably good since we started this regime!

Photo: blue vehicle. A New Car in the Offing?

Or is it, I ask myself? A couple of months ago I got a letter from a firm of solicitors in England to inform me that I was one of 12 people to receive a legacy from someone who I had only vaguely heard of. This means that I will receive a few squid from his estate and therefore will be able to buy a new(ish) car. The only snag in all this is that he apparently died in 2005, the solicitors finally sorted it all out in 2009 and only informed me (and the others) in Jan 2010 so I am left wondering will I see this money in my lifetime? The unfortunate thing is that I have seen a car locally that I like but I cannot commit to as the vendor wants to sell asap! So we have to wait and see when the money comes. The extraordinary thing is that the gentleman who died was a descendant or relative of my mother's mother who died in 1914 and the lawyers that I am now dealing with I had dealings with in the 1980's. And they do not seem to have speeded up in their reaction to clients since then! So maybe I shall be able to buy an old car by that time!

The unusual thing is that every time I have bought a car before is that I have had the money in my pocket when I have come across a car that I decided was the one for me. This time I have no money as yet and so have the problem of making up my mind as to which will be the right one (and when), what colour, what size etc. . And now I can't decide!

Photo: convent salignac. Houses in Salignac.

The other day I was idly thinking about our road (sorry rue) and realised that we are the only permanent residents in our (admittedly very short) road between ourselves and the convent there are 4 houses that are not permanently lived in on our side of the road. The other side of the road has only 3 houses which are lived in all the time. The ones on this side of the road are all holiday homes although the house next to us is lived in every weekend because they are local people but the rest are owned by British and northern French people while one house remains empty all the time. When I first came here some 10 years ago all of these houses were lived in all the time and I just wonder what has changed since then that has made them more desirable as holiday homes? Have I maybe pushed everyone away? No I don't think so at all!

The photograph here shows the ground floor of the ancient convent (12th century) where Sophie and Phillipe live with their daughter Elise. Fiona teaches English to Elise and a friend of hers every week. As we are in the row of houses slightly further down the hill towards the Chateau in a way we are connected, certainly as far as the centuries are concerned! And the reason that I mention this is because Fiona was asked to look after their chickens and cats while they were away on holiday last week. Nice fresh eggs, though.

Rural France, I do love it. Honestly!

Barry Paton (c) May 2010. Salignac

Friday 5 Feb 2010

Data (and Sanity) Recovery

Photo: barry paton. Having spent the last few months in a sort of cyber limbo I am glad to be able to report that we are back in the land of living. All this had happened after Fiona's hysterectomy, my overdose of anti-biotics, the computer crash and no money from the Government as well as Christmas. They do say that things come in three's don't they? Well we certainly had a few years worth of dramas and problems.

A month after Fiona's op I went along to the doctor about the constant pain I was having in my leg and after having listened and looked at the problem I was prescribed a huge amount of anti-biotics. This certainly stopped the pain but sent me into a darkened room for two weeks, all of which meant I could not help Fiona with shopping and other things about the house.

Photo: computers. After coming out of purdah I then discovered that the computer was being a bit iffy and had to give it to Laurence our computer expert who returned it some days later saying that the hard drive was getting a bit unreliable with it sometimes connecting and sometimes not. Despite having an installation disk it kept on going funny and at the end of January it finally gave up the ghost and I realised that I had to do something dramatic like buy a new computer or something! After talking to a few friends I realised that having a hard drive give up was not that much of a problem (apart from the lost data) and I discovered that a shop in Sarlat had them for 45O so I settled on that as my first line of defence. Once the new drive was fitted (and a promise to myself to save everything in the future!) I discovered that it still would not connect to the internet, despite having a complete set up disk for my system. So once again a phone call to Laurence. He came with a USB key with some driver on it and within 10 minutes had it all up and running and connected. Wonderful! One problem sorted with the added bonus of having the system completely cleared out so have started afresh (albeit I had lost a lot of my previous files). In the process of waiting for my computer to be returned from visit to Laurence I had decided to do some tidying up on the desk and now have it stripped to the bare minimum.

Photo: bike. My Health and Wealth!

After my stint of two weeks with anti-biotics I am now feeling much better and I am pleased to say that my leg has almost healed up (even though the last op was 6 months ago) and am not quite so bothered about my health that way. It is still albeit uncomfortable to walk but I reckon that is as much psychological as anything else. The extraordinary thing about my new found spirit is that I decided to get the bike out from the cave and see if I could 'go it'. The bike has not been used for two years and obviously needed a bit of maintainance which I duly did and surprised myself by trying it out and finding that I was reasonably competent on it and, what is more, I really enjoyed it and although the weather has been very wet and there has been deep snow falls, I really do enjoy it and find it much easier than walking!

In September last year I became a pensioner (or so I thought!) and the French Govt. thought so also. This became rather strange when no-one thought that I existed and no money was forthcoming from any source so it left us with arranging an overdraft from the bank in order for us to live. Unfortunately this went on until 2 weeks ago when we were advised to send a recorded delivery letter to the authorities. By law in France anyone sent a recorded they must reply to a recorded delivery letter. Within a day or two payment was made so that was great but, when I look back and think about the number of phone calls, letters and e-mails that we have sent to both the British and French pension authorities without any result it makes me want to weep! But then one lives and learns......I think that I have gone through a very steep learning curve in the last few months!

Despite all the problems that I have listed here, and we have had many more than I have mentioned,

I am quite upbeat about life...mostly helped by Fiona's recovery which seems to be going well. Although she does not believe this because she has never had an operation before and I think that she thinks that it should be in and out and all is well, a bit like putting a car into the garage and out it comes and all is well! If only!

Fiona is getting better by the day and of course it will take time and with some kine (physio) at the moment for a few weeks, and time, will bring her back to normal fairly soon. I have every confidence with that.

The weather has been rather severe recently with snow and ice, torrential rain which has rather depressed us lately but at the beginning of February I think that I see signs of things getting better.
I certainly hope so!

Rural France? I love it (well sometimes).

C. Barry Paton. Feb 2010.

"A Washing Machine and a White Corset"

July 2006. Written by Fiona Alderman.

I am writing this monthly diary piece, because, Barry, unfortunately has had another tumble and is unable to sit at the old keyboard for too long. Due to moving an extremely heavy washing machine, he fell backwards onto our hard stone floor and crushed/ double fractured several of his vertebrae's. Ouch! The French emergency services were called, and I have to say they seem always to consist of very handsome men, and he was transported very speedily to hospital. Having been through this before, we knew what to expect? However there is always a "wild card " This being in the nature of Barry's fellow room mate. He would never lie still in his bed, twisting and turning all the time to get out of it and invariably unhooking his medical drips and setting off the room's alarm. He was eventually put into a strait jacket, which was even worse. Barry had little or no sleep during this time and was quite concerned about his own safety. Eventually he said in his own inimitable fashion " Merde, je m'en vais " in English", "To hell with this I am off!" one particular nurse, whom I disliked because of her uncaring manner, was not happy with this at all and we were treated to a great deal of French disdain. Barry is recovering slowly but has had to wear a white hard plastic corset, which makes him very uncomfortable as well as being extremely hot. The heat has been unbearable the last month or so, often in the late 30 degrees.

What I have experienced, both with our French friends and neighbours, is the extent of kindness and offers of help. Because I don't drive, there has been even more probably. Even now it continues with their concern for us. People rally round to help in these situations without question. Maybe we have lost this in the big city life?

"Fossils and Old Trees"

One day, whilst on a little walk with a friend around the village, we found a discarded box with lots of goodies that had just been abandoned outside a house. Looking into it we saw a quite attractive stone with fish printed onto it. Nothing special. However, this has turned out to have some kind of significance. Experts have told us that it is a genuine fossil. There has been a quite astonishing flurry of excitement between museums and collectors all vying for first place to have it? It has gone to a Perigeux expert where it will remain probably for further analysis. My friend is to be interviewed and has already been asked to take a conference on this very stone! What to say? We found it absolutely by luck, not realising what it was and that is of course how the famous Lascaux Caves (near us in Montignac) were originally found. Two small boys were retrieving their dog from a cave and came across the most amazing treasures.

I would have never have believed I would be doing a guided tour (in French) of a 400 year old chestnut tree!

This is part of a local tourist attraction, which organises activities every summer, in which life and work in the olden days are explained and demonstrated. The tree weighs 40 tons, is 5 metres high with a diameter of 2/ half metres. An artist was asked to sculpt it. He dug out the interior (Wow, you can imagine that) to enable a spiral staircase with 35 steps to be built .It is called L'Arbre De Vie. I.e. The Tree of Life. The staircase represents the spiral of life and depicts the history of Salignac. The ascent is a journey through time towards modernity. You reach the balcony where there is a marvellous view of the chateau. Children love it of course but it is not possible to be a large size as it is very narrow inside. I worry every time I see someone a little bit big!

Until next time from rural France.

Barry's Post Script

As I am know able to sit at the keyboard for short spells I thought that I would add a thank you to Fiona for filling you in with all my troubles and woes. Two months after the accident things are beginning to ease up even though it is still difficult to get comfortable! Thank god I don't have to wear the corset anymore, though. However, depending on which surgeon I saw in the hospital, and there were three of them, I was told that it could take from 4 weeks to three months to heal. Take your choice! Apart from Fiona's job we now have a son of a friend staying with us for some weeks, as he is an apprentice at the local boulangerie/patisserie, this involves him getting up to work in the middle of the night returning about nine in the morning. Some life but he loves it. At least we get free bread every morning!

Rural France? I love it.

?Barry Paton & Fiona Alderman. July 2006

On the Road - May, 2004

Photo: Crew on location.Having been away filming on location recently has made me a little late in updating this diary. I was filming for a Channel 4 series in and around the Carcassonne area where, very sadly, the weather was not very good, the skies rather grey and dull and still with a biting wind. Not at all what you would expect from the South of France in May. Working with a very intense director was interesting, if hectic, as he had a different approach to what I normally expect. However, filming was completed successfully and the area is beautiful and one of my favourite parts of France with all the mediaeval villages, history of the Cathars and the Knights Templars.

It has been the second time that I have been filming in that area in the last couple of years though, sadly the hotel accommodation this time was not so salubrious. The hotel was set in an industrial zone near the airport with a lot of noise and no views apart from garden centres, DIY stores and hypermarkets. The phone did not work in the hotel room and I couldn't connect to the Internet, the restaurant was rather uninspiring so we ate elsewhere. Not very nice at all! I was very glad to get home to my own bed and the peace and quietness of Salignac. I really do miss the golden stone of the buildings here as well.

Much as I like filming on location it is very tiring with tight schedules, many people think that it is glamorous but it can be extremely tedious at times, especially if you are not actually doing anything while scenes have to be set up. I have, however, been booked for some filming in Paris next week, so I hope that the hotel is much better?.and soundproof!

When I returned home I found that Fiona has had quite a lot of (hopefully) fruitful enquiries and a couple for our Dance for Camera courses but very little happening on my ones. It does seem to be so slow this year in that direction. At least it gives me some time to do one or two essential things around the house. With the coming of the brighter weather, albeit slowly, I realise that all the windows need cleaned, our sejour could do with a lick of paint and the other mundane things that need done. Paying bills, buying new tyres for the car and all sorts of exciting things


Down to Earth

After all the nonsense of my 'inflationary' period recently, I am glad to say that I am now back on the road to recovery. I still need to see a specialist once we can get all our paperwork sorted out which is not the easiest thing in the world! With no two offices' opening hours being compatible it tends to make life a trifle complicated, to say the least!

This brings me back down to earth in the sense of having to get back to the keyboard in order to get some more publicity out on the World Wide Web. Although we get enquiries from all over the world, our bookings this year are substantially down for some reason, though I gather that this is a general trend in France this springtime. We have several friends who have holiday homes to let in the area and they say that the bookings for them are down as well.

However, now that I am feeling better, I can escape to the local caf? for my tea-time drink and chat with some of the locals. I have also received many kind offers of sympathy from a lot people after my last article?that, at least, means that this site is being read in the Salignac so the fame of the Glasgow West End spreads to this little corner of France. Battling with bureaucracy has become our major task recently and it is slowly paying off, although it has been a long struggle so far! I often wonder if it would be the same for a French person coming to live in Scotland - my guess is that it probably would.

With the weather being so changeable this year I was somewhat heartened by the appearance of flies in the house last week, normally a sign that the weather is improving, but sadly it is back to being cold and damp again. I don't like flies, incidentally, but they come with the weather and, as long as one is armed with a can of Raid fly spray, they are usually contained. Unfortunately the supermarket had a special offer of this product so we bought a large can and started spraying it about - it took a while for me to realise that it wasn't being as effective as it normally is until I read the can properly - It was for cockroaches, not flies, I must pay more attention next time. However it does mean that we shouldn't be troubled with cockroaches this year! Not that we ever have been!

Rural France? I love it.

Barry Paton ? 2004

2 confits &1 magret

As everyone surely knows, The Perigord is world famous not only for the wines but for its duck and goose foie gras. We are surrounded by it here and, while I like it very occasionally, it is very difficult to avoid these delicacies in any of the local eating-places. Rightly so, as it is one of the major tourist attractions for the area. It unfortunately involves the force-feeding of corn directly down the gullet of the poor animals and demonstrations of this technique are happily carried out at farms and fairs all around the area, what's more these demonstrations are extremely popular with visitors. In fact we have several local producers of the product in the village of Salignac and for 3 weeks in the year we have a fair held in the hamlet of 'Barry' just below the Chateau here. Incidentally, the name comes, not from me, but from a certain Madame du Barry (a slightly more illustrious person than I) though I am happy to live at the top of rue de Barry!

I digress. The reason that I mention all this is because over the Christmas season we were given several presents of foie gras, magret du canard and one tin of foie gras with truffles, another highly expensive delicacy. All this costs a fortune but it is just considered normal practice for present giving over the festive season and we appreciate the thought and kindness greatly.

Having had these pressies we decided to make use of them and despite my prior avoidance, I realised that I actually liked it, my taste buds have now become acclimatised to French life! However, I must be careful of overdoing it, as I seem to remember that is why I rarely chose to eat all this touristy food, as I was once a tourist in The Perigord! We still have several large tins left so, maybe tonight?????

French paperwork

After having being in Salignac for almost four years we are now well and truly caught up with French bureaucracy with a vengeance. Having to regularise all our paperwork is what we are all about at this moment. This in itself is not a great problem, we after all, are members of the EU so all this should be straightforward enough (freedom to work, travel etc within the community) - not here in France where they have more civil servants per square inch than in any other country! Our biggest problem started with mis-information, a classic case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing, especially as the law in France changed recently and even they don't know about it. That combined with the different opening hours that each and every office or department have tended to make us ever so slightly frustrated. For example, we have to visit several offices in which are located next to each other and we have to do this in a certain order (or so we are told) one is open from 9 am to 3pm (unknown in France to be open over lunch) the next office we have to visit closes at lunchtime, which is when we will have left the first office, and is not open in the afternoon at all. This is further complicated by the fact that we have to visit several different towns and it seems that we never have the right paperwork with us. The French bureaucrats do love to see lots of bits of paper and take great delight in asking for something that we think is unnecessary and, of course, we don't have with us! All this for a few rubber stamps.

Neighbours and things

The demand for property in Salignac has suddenly increased recently and the house next door to us has been let to a Welshman who is married to a Frenchwoman and they have two delightful children. It is nice to see, and hear, the house being lively and they seem charming people and our other new neighbours, across the courtyard, arrived at the same time. This is a French father and son who have asked us in for a meal once they get settled in so we are looking forward to that. Mr Dubois, our Mayor, in his annual 'state of the Commune' bulletin commented on how many new people and businesses are moving in to Salignac these days. He forgot, or declined, to mention that it is mostly due to his efforts to make Salignac a thriving community again. He has been incredibly helpful to us, recently we had a slight crisis and went to seek his assistance, a few phone calls by him to the right people sorted the problem immediately and he has asked us since how things are. What a man?far too good to be a politician. Mind you, it is election year?or am I just being cynical?

Once again it is time for Cecile and Lillian at the caf? to go on their annual ski-ing holiday for two weeks, which leaves us without the option of a quick saunter up the road of an evening to enjoy a drink and the banter that makes up caf? life here. While the other caf? (cum petrol station, betting shop and Tabac) is equally nice and welcoming, it is just different and we don't tend to go there so frequently for some reason. Not that we have a great deal of need to do so as our friend, Alain, frequently turns up at our door clutching a bottle of wine so that we sit round the table, glass in hand, with the fire roaring away while he gives us all the gossip that we don't hear from others while out and about in the supermarket or the shops. We were recently over for dinner at Fred and Lucy's, our friends who have bought and converted an old farm into great Gites and now about to become a cookery school. Fred is being rather nervous about his first customers, as the school part is not completely finished; all needs to be ready for the beginning of March. I don't envy him at all but I'm sure it will be ready for his customers then as they both work tirelessly towards that.

Elsewhere in the village, certainly since I first came here, I get the feeling that there is a certain air of optimism and expectancy around despite our bookings being much slower to start this year. Maybe, once we have all our paperwork problems solved, it will be better for us. By the way, we did have the duck last night and it was delicious!

Rural France? I love it.

Barry Paton ? Feb 2004

Archived features 2002 - 2003

Weblog archive

Where to begin!: Sunday 22 Nov 2009

Holiday times!: Sunday 25 Oct 2009

Music al Treat: Tuesday 14 Jul 2009

Operations: Friday 22 May 2009

Computer problems and other woes!: Wednesday 11 Mar 2009

In with a bang: Thursday 29 Jan 2009

A Time to Reflect: Friday 19 Dec 2008

The Big Day: Wednesday 12 Nov 2008

Medical Matters and Celebrations: Tuesday 29 Jul 2008

Dreich weather: Monday 19 May 2008

A success story or two: Monday 24 Mar 2008

2008!: Saturday 2 Feb 2008

The Winter Blues: Monday 3 Dec 2007

A New Arrival: Wednesday 31 Oct 2007

A Hectic Summer: Thursday 27 Sep 2007

Just call me Barry!: Monday 16 Jul 2007

Summer in Salignac: Monday 21 May 2007

Sunshine and Cobwebs: Friday 23 Mar 2007

Black and White: Saturday 3 Feb 2007

A curious state of affairs.: Wednesday 20 Dec 2006

The Good Life: Thursday 26 Oct 2006

Fridges and a Funeral: Wednesday 20 Sep 2006

A Washing Machine and White Corset - July, 2006.: Friday 28 Jul 2006

Pregnant Paws, Problems and Plumbers: Friday 2 Jun 2006

Springtime in Salignac: Wednesday 12 Apr 2006

Kangaroos, Cats and a Lamborghini: Sunday 26 Feb 2006

Hunting and Gathering: Tuesday 24 Jan 2006

Busy, busy, busy: Tuesday 29 Nov 2005

Goings on in Salignac - Computers, Caf? for sale and more .....: Monday 26 Sep 2005

Sleep Dancing!: Monday 29 Aug 2005

Flaming June: Saturday 16 Jul 2005

Salignac: Saturday 4 Jun 2005

Fiona\'s Return: Wednesday 30 Mar 2005

Winter Blues: Thursday 17 Feb 2005

Home Alone!: Monday 17 Jan 2005

November - Where did it go?: Wednesday 8 Dec 2004

Sooner or Later?: Tuesday 28 Sep 2004

Birthday\'s and Kittens: Sunday 22 Aug 2004

Summer in Salignac: Saturday 10 Jul 2004

On the Road - May, 2004: Friday 14 May 2004

Hot Air in Salignac?: Sunday 21 Mar 2004

2 confits &1 magret: Tuesday 17 Feb 2004

Diary Update - 17th January, 2004: Saturday 17 Jan 2004

Blowing Hot and Cold: Saturday 13 Dec 2003

Sleeping in Salignac: Tuesday 18 Nov 2003

A Very West-end Cat.: Sunday 12 Oct 2003

Rural France - hot And bothered: Sunday 5 Oct 2003

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