Added on Sunday 12 Oct 2003
It is with very great sadness that I start this month?s update with the news of the death of our very much-loved cat, Gemma. She died, suddenly and peacefully, during the night last week. Gemma, who was thirteen in September, came from the West End in July 200 and she happily adapted to French life immediately, bringing all sorts of trophies home. Mice, voles, dormice and one-off?s such as a frog and a snake were all part of her happy and contented life here. Because she was the only tortoiseshell and white (an ?Isabella? in French) cat in the village she was well recognised in her travels down to the orchard, fields or just sitting on our doorstep waiting for passing tourists, something she loved doing!
Gemma was brought up in the west end, arriving when she was just a few weeks old, and became a very much loved cat. Gentle and welcoming, she made her way into many hearts of those that knew her. This she continued to do in France and with our students coming to Salignac she began to have a fan club from all over the world. As we have kept in touch with most of our students we receive occasional e-mails from them and they all ask about Gemma! In fact when we e-mailed the news of her death we were overwhelmed with messages of sympathy and how they all remembered her.
As with the village, the news spread very fast and we were inundated with offers of a kittens. After a week of deliberations, Fiona and I decided to go for one, not to replace Gemma ? no cat could do that ? but to keep some life in what had become a very quiet house. She had become infested with fleas this summer (an normal occurrence every year) and after treatment had lost some weight and that, combined with the exceptional heat this summer had suddenly aged her. She was in no pain and her appetite was normal but had become very thin, though on the night that she died she sat on my knee purring normally. The next morning I found that she had died peacefully in her sleep.
Gemma is buried across the road from us on the top of a hill overlooking her favourite hunting grounds and some locals (unknown) placed some flowers on her grave, which touched us greatly. Such was her presence in Salignac.
Apart from having a new kitten to attend to, called Fifi after Fiona, we have some interesting projects in the pipeline this autumn. Next week I am supposed to be doing some aerial filming for the BBC though, as always when filming something gets in the way! This time it is the weather, up till now it has been fine but the chosen days for filming are not looking promising and this must take place within the next week ? I am just keeping my fingers crossed on this one! I have a student coming for a video course at the end of the month, he sounds a very interesting guy and is looking for a slightly more advanced level of tuition than I normally do. He will also be staying with us for dinner, bed & breakfast so it should be an interesting week here in Salignac. Also, I have been asked if I am interested in directing a feature film, to which I have said yes. I cannot say too much about this as yet but it is a fascinating story with the script being finalised at the moment and it is to be shot in Edinburgh and France. The budget is ?3 million so this will be one of the largest projects I will have worked on for quite a while.
Wearing our other hats, we have been asked to do some property management (cleaning to you and me) for some houses in the district. Meanwhile the village is quietly settling down to autumn now that most of the tourists have gone. The local hotel closes for the winter at the end of the month and the Caf? de la Place closes for two weeks holiday in November (always a difficult time for me!). The first wood smoke smells are beginning to hang in the air and the trees are just about ready to turn their beautiful colours, another week should see that. I always find this time of year so lovely and peaceful after the hectic, and very hot, summer despite the fact that we are not quite so busy. However daily life goes on as normal in the village and after the death of Gemma we have become even more established here in Salignac. Fiona and I cannot thank the locals enough for their support.
Rural France? I love it.
? Barry Paton Oct 2003