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Barry Paton of the Salignac Foundation
on village life in France

Well, I am now settled in with partner, cat et al. The rural bit begins to take bite in the form of the local bus. As Fiona doesn’t drive and she values her independence, we check out the bus situation. This is not a simple operation. The French have a wonderful system of public transport. On time, cheap, clean, and efficient. This is fine in theory. The only trouble is that in rural parts they are inveterate car users, not helped by the fact that last year the French Government abolished the equivalent of Road Tax. Imagine HMG doing that? God knows what this does to pollution.

The point of this is that the French do not know about buses in rural areas. As it turns out this is hardly surprising, as there aren’t any! Well, almost nothing. It turns out that there is a bus that passes through our village at 1.20pm on a Saturday going to Sarlat, our nearest large town. The only drawback is that it does not return except for the next Saturday at 1.20pm in the same direction. Now, this is obviously a problem. A problem that we have not yet resolved! It also poses the question of where does it go in between?

Another problem that I have discovered about living in France. Possibly this exists in other countries but I have developed an aversion to any packaging that says ‘Easy Opening’. Anything with this label on is designed to drive me mad, as by it’s very nature, it is any thing but! There is one exception to this and I discovered it the other day when the ‘hole in the wall’ disappeared from our local bank. Very inconvenient when the nearest one to us is ten miles away. Four days later the Gendarmes came to our door asking if we had heard or seen anything unusual during the last Sunday night/Monday morning. Saying "No" it was then explained that said machine had been stolen! It apparently took only two cars and a bit of rope to remove. Now that’s what I call ‘Easy Opening.

One of the, many, local characters that we have met includes a lady called Nadine. Nadine is a bit of a mystery. Let me explain. She is small, of indeterminate age and quite jolly. However, she has a large house not far away, which I believe to be about 10 miles or so, in which she will not stay a night. She is driven to our village every evening to stay in one of the rooms above the local cafÈ and returns in the morning to her house. For some reason she will not sleep in the family pile. This apparently has been going on for many years now and nobody seems to know the reason. Was it something nasty in the woodshed? Will I ever know? I feel that there is a story there. Watch this space while I make up something.

Meanwhile I have been trying to organise the business, website, publicity and so on and going to the local cafÈ occasionally, which is where I met Mike. At the risk of offending English readers, I tend to avoid the English Abroad (this is because as I mentioned before, I am a Scot) but Mike is English. Not a bad chap at that. Last summer while the local community where doing up the village square we have a very go-ahead mayor who managed to get the funding. I parked my car in the direct line of a reversing JCB. At the time I did not realise this, but I soon did when I heard the crunch. With a lot of gesticulation, shouting and drama the problem was sorted out, after they helped put the back bumper, one of the light clusters and odd bits of trim on to my 15 year old French car and we repaired to the bar. During the soothing process during which I had made best friends with the local council workers, Mike walked in an introduced himself in a very British way, "Sorry to hear about your spot of bother Old Chap, can I help?" I looked out of the door at my wreck of a car and said "Not a lot, now but you could buy me a beer.?" Which he did. A year on and the car is still running but Mike had a hip replacement a couple of months ago. Does that say anything about French engineering?

While I have been talking about the local cafe, they had a very successful season last year and decided to develop it more into a brasserie and they employed a Portuguese chap, who has been in the village for years as a general builder. This involved moving the bar to the opposite end of the cafe and installing the eating bit at the other end beside the kitchen. Unfortunately, he is rather partial to Pastis and the opening/finishing date drifted from February through until 3 weeks ago. I suspect that he forgot to mention in which year the February was, when he quoted to Cecile and Lillian, the owners! Cafe de la Place if you are ever in this part of the world. The best hand-knitted pizzas around!
Photo: Jaques Tati in Jour De Fete

Now for some of the other characters, There is Jan, the crazy Dutchman (aren’t they all?) he makes number plates in Shri-Lanka, a Belgian and an Alsatian (not a dog!) with web businesses, Mssr. Dubois the mayor (he has blue eyes) and many others including a long distance lorry driver that brought tea from Turkey to the UK to be turned into teabags only to be exported back to Turkey.

But then that’s rural France for you.

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© Barry Paton May 2001
email: barry

barry.paton@worldonline .fr

Read more about the Salignac French Film School here

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