Added on Wednesday 8 Dec 2004
The last six weeks or so have been a bit difficult for us here in Salignac. However, I won't go into details apart from saying that Fiona has not been well with a dreadful cough/flu, I was out for the count with a serious cold, the computer seemed to be affected at the same time with some sort of virus as well, in the process it lost my entire inbox, several visits to hospital for me (where I was told that I have a screw loose???I could have told them that years ago!) and the kittens had a bad bout of fleas. Oh! And French bureaucracy is driving us mad once again. 'Nuff said!
During the summer our neighbour, Arthur, bought a canoe, which had been stationed in our courtyard. Somewhat of an embarrassment as it turned out to be just a little bit too big for his garage, and an obstacle as canoes are rather large when out of the water. He decided on a fairly radical solution to hoist it up, davit style, to his balcony which houses his patio. The plan was formulated and some old tyres were placed fairly high up on the wall, Alain was called in to help as well as one or two others. I, for once, was glad of my injury and could only watch, take photographs and shout the occasional word of encouragement. After a lot of pulling on ropes, shouting, running up and down within an amazingly short period of time the mission was accomplished and we now have a bright red and white canoe hanging on its side some 15ft up in a mediaeval courtyard. Very appropriate! I'm not sure what happens when next spring comes but at least we have a lifeboat handy if the winter proves to be wet.
The photograph that I include here shows its final resting place on the balcony. Fiona suggested that 'Hot Lips' should be painted on because it looked like bright red lips. The amazing thing is that none of the locals have commented upon the sight of a canoe hanging in mid-air. As a protected village I am sure that it is probably breaking some by-law such as?.. "Hanging canoes is strictly prohibited by section 245, para. 3, section 12" perhaps? I think that would be too much for even French bureaucracy. Even I don't notice it anymore when passing.
The upshot is that Arthur is happy, no one trips over a canoe and no one seems to care at all. Such is life in Salignac.
As anyone knows when you have a Hi-Fi or computer system, there are a lot of cables. Masses even! I do not understand where they all come from but they are there. Usually black, always behind things and they all hopefully work. Not in the case of three Salignacois kittens!
I have tried to write this several times but have been thwarted by the attempts of little balls of fluff that insist on wanting to know what all this does. No amount of telling them seems to sink in and every so often I am plunged into darkness or that bit of cyberspace that one can never recover from. Recently, and co-incidentally, I decided to transfer all my transparencies, photos and film from my era in Ethiopia & Sudan when I worked with Band-Aid, Save the Children etc. All this archive material has been lying in our attic for some years and it was time for it all to be transferred to the computers. I had not realised that it was 20 years ago that all this material had been shot until I heard on the news that Band-Aid were doing a new release. Phewww! All that long ago and still nothing changes!
The kittens don't know that, even though I am respected in the village for my efforts so many years ago. Having set up my equipment to do all this, the kittens decided not to let me continue. Pulling plugs, chewing cables etc. (I know that you are saying that we should have given them away by now). However, after battling through quite a lot of my archives, I do realise that not a lot of changes have happened, despite the great concern from the public and governments worldwide. I spent 20+ years of my life in sad situations in the world documenting, filming and photographing in the hope that things would improve???.sadly it hasn't. And I complain about the kittens? My rant is over now.
I am frequently asked, by French and strangers alike, if I like living in France? Do I miss Scotland? The answer is yes to both questions. I have not been back to Scotland for nearly 5 years, mostly because I have not been asked to work there. France, Switzerland, Spain, yes but not Scotland as yet. I have often wondered why that is but have not come up with an answer. I still have many friends there and many, many friends here in Salignac. It may seem a sleepy backwater here but, as I dodder along to my dotage, it suits me. The scenery reminds me of parts of Scotland but with the added attraction of mediaeval buildings and a very laid back atmosphere, the people are friendly, the air is clean, the wine and food is nice (and very much cheaper!) and the bureaucracy stinks. The kittens don't know any better (but they are French anyway) as they sleep on top of the mouse cable as I write and the log fire is burning away giving a nice warm feeling on a rather chilly night. I really must tidy up these cables though once my arm gets a bit better!
Rural France? I love it.
? Barry Paton. December 2004