Added on Friday 23 Mar 2007
Much as I love this time of the year when the sun rises over the roof of the house opposite and it streams through our front door, it does have its disadvantages. It shows up all the dust and the cobwebs that have collected over the last few months as well as the streaky windows and the somewhat lacklustre paintwork and the inevitable signs of smokey traces from our wood-burning stove. It is a painful reminder that some essential maintenance is required in the next month or so. The future shopping lists are going to have to include some pots of paint, window cleaner, cloths and industrial type cleaning liquid. The looking out of the paint brushes and rollers is already in hand; the only thing lacking is the motivation! Our house faces due south and the upper two floors gets light in all year round but our sejour on the ground floor is blocked from direct sunshine by the house across the road for the few months of winter that we have here.
I am not grumbling at all as it is such a joy that the sun starts to stream in at the beginning of March and starts to show up all these defects but I am always amazed at the number of cobwebs that we have been living with for the last few months. All this is going to be necessary prior to any students that will be coming to us this coming year, can't have the place looking scruffy for them. I must look out my sunglasses and go up to the caf? for a wine in order to get in the mood!
While on the subject of caf?s and wine, every Wednesday our local port of call, The Caf? de la Place, closes for the day. The reason for this is that the previous patrons had a small child and, in France children do not go to school on a Wednesday, some one had to look after him and Pilippe the current patron has continued this tradition even though he has no kids. Because of this Fiona and I sometimes visit the other caf? in the village. Now, this is not just only a bar but is also the local petrol station, the tabac, the betting shop (PMU) and the lottery station. As you may know, the French are a nation of smokers and gamblers, so this makes for a very lively atmosphere with people coming in every 2 seconds to buy their cigarettes, place their bets, fill up with petrol or buy their lottery tickets, especially on a Wednesday! Such a huge hive of activity with the large screen TV showing horse racing, small screens showing instant lotto games constantly and people just having a drink certainly makes for a much more different environment than we would have at the other caf? which is altogether a much more laid-back and relaxing sort of place. Perhaps because of my advancing age I find it quite exhausting with all the hustle and bustle after an hour or so but much more fascinating as one meets friends as they go about their business. Francois, the patron, is a very energetic character, which he needs to be, and with his young female staff copes admirably with all the comings and goings.
Some 20 odd years ago I owned an hotel with 2 bars for some years and I know only too well the stresses of the licensed trade and I am fascinated in the contrasting styles of management of the two caf?s in Salignac. One is rather laid back and the other is somewhat more high powered and both attract different sorts of clientele with some crossover between them. In the village this seems to work well with regulars of both caf?s and I am glad that we have the choice here, after all variety is the spice of life as they say. However I must put the sunglasses away and start painting!
Once again I have had a run in with the local bank, nothing unusual in that but the last month has seen such incredible incompetency and bad management. It almost seems as though we are doing them a favour by being a customer, I am sure that this is probably quite common almost everywhere, but the fact that they ignored my instructions, lost some of my money for two weeks and the hole in the wall refused to accept my new bank card. All of this was greeted with a shrug of the shoulders as though nothing could be done, no apology has been offered even after me shouting ?zut alors' to them. All this is compounded by the fact that the bank only opens in the mornings, something to do with the 35-hour week I believe! On talking about my woes to the two patrons of the caf?s I discovered that they have, independently, removed their accounts to a different bank in Sarlat because of their dissatisfaction with the new bank manageress. I also understand that the local hotel and several other local businesses have done the same, surely someone in head office must realise that they are losing customers or do they really care? Somehow I doubt it.
Rural France. I love it.
? Barry Paton. March 2007.