Added on Saturday 13 Dec 2003
I spotted in a catalogue that fell through the door recently, the latest Christmas gift idea from France! This combination watch and cigarette lighter would be ideal for someone with a large beard, wearing a woolly sweater and has hairy arms! I have a wonderful vision of someone in the pub being asked for the time, looking at his watch, pressing the wrong button and everyone sits back in amazement as his beard, sweater and hairy arms go up in flames! Only the French could offer this item in the shops without a health and safety warning, or am I just being cynical about the 'nanny state' that now prevails in Britain these days? Incidentally, this fascinating and to me, highly dangerous item, sells for only 2 Euros (?1.40). I do, however know several totally incompetent (or comatose) people that I would love to buy this for, both here in France and the Scotland! Only joking, folks.
With all this festive frivolity going on who would have thought that world politics would affect Salignac? The sleepy, and lovely, little French village of Salignac is quietly going about its business. The Christmas lights and trees are now lining the roads, the decorations are beginning to appear on every doorstep (although we are late this year) and a general mood of tranquillity and good humour is pervading the atmosphere all around. That is except for within the walls of our house at rue Fenelon! A couple of weeks ago we were asked to provide some training courses for a Middle East broadcaster to be held in Beirut. After getting the brief from the client I advertised for suitable personnel and was flooded by applicants from around the world and put in a professional quote for the job. The response from the client was good but with the added rider of would we do this in IRAQ! Not the most secure place in the world, so I asked all the job applicants if they would have any problems with this. 90% replied that they would not mind which was very surprising to me as I had my doubts about asking any one to go there at this time given the safety aspect. This obviously meant I had to re-structure our quote in order to take into account insurance, safety considerations, travel arrangements etc. All this time I was spending many hours getting very bleary eyed in front of this screen while trying to battle against the 'flu virus that seems to be clinging on to me with such great tenacity.
Lo and behold, out of the blue came the edict from the US Govt that people from the non-coalition countries are not allowed to be contractors or sub-contractors in the re-building of Iraq (for 'security reasons' no less!). This threw The Salignac Foundation into complete chaos as we are a French business and the yanks don't like the French according to their official documents (I suspect that they don?t like many other nationalities either) so this left us with a question if we could tender as a sub-contractor or, could we employ some one who was Russian, Canadian, German, French etc? We had plenty of suitable people for this job from all over the world that had applied. Clarification was sought, and none forthcoming! Everywhere we looked gave us conflicting information. Needless to say, the air was blue in rue Fenelon all this time and I was not kindly disposed to the authorities in the US. By the time you read this I hope that all will be clear and I will either be spending some time in the desert, being shot at, earning some well needed money in January or else taking up my usual position in the Caf? de la Place with a glass or two of ros? wine and putting it on my tab! It is such a great pity that the greatest world leader does not have a beard, nor have I seen him wear anything else than a Pringle type sweater (probably fire resistant anyway) and I have no knowledge of the hairiness of his arms.
Otherwise a two Euro gift might be winging its way to The White House this Christmas!!
What an interesting year it has been. We have had our 260-year-old elm in the square die. This has been most unfortunate (not only for the tree) but it has been used as tourist attraction for years and next years brochures were printed before it died! Salignac does have other attractions of course but this was one of the favourites for some reason. Phil Benson, I'm sure could turn it into one of his more interesting sculptures, certainly no one here has come up with any more constructive ideas as to what to do. It really is rather sad because it stands there naked, while in winter this is in place with all the other trees, springtime and summer will be totally different. I was filming the tree a couple of weeks before it died - incidentally I have a history of filming people just before they die, sadly one of my failures was Margaret Thatcher! - And an ex neighbour of ours, Jerome Hutin, has published a most beautiful coffee table book called "The Venerable Trees of the Earth" which has an excellent photograph of the tree, as well as many others throughout the world. Jerome is passionate about trees, almost a 'tree-hugger' but with a great knowledge and an excellent photographer.
During this year we have had a succession of students through our doors, only one or two have been 'difficult' so we are learning, many International enquiries, our new (part-time) neighbour, Pat from Ireland, who has most kindly donated some AVID digital editing software to The Salignac Foundation armoury and Fiona and I have made many more friends here. Some friends from Scotland have been here to visit us, which has been delightful. The computer has only crashed a couple of times. We started our B & B business which has been successful so far and we intend to pursue this much more next year as we were a little late in the season. Of course we had to suffer the death of our cat, Gemma, but our new 'Fifi' has proved to be an absolute joy and delight - although she does have one flaw in not liking jazz, Alain, our friend, still constantly astonishes us with his generosity - despite his genial moments of insobriety! But then - who am I to say that? Happy Christmas and a great New Year to you all - hic!Now where did I put those two Euros?
Rural France? I love it!
?Barry Paton Dec 2003