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Barry Paton continues his diary of rural France and the film school

Photo: The Misty Chateau B.Paton
This part of France is now going to sleep in preparation for winter. The wood smoke fills the nostrils, the autumn sun shines low and glows off the golden stone of the area. The tourists have gone and our local café has been closed for a month’s holiday. The people hurry out to the shops and back in again, stoking up their fires and closing their shutters. The only sounds to be heard are the muffled voices and the murmur of televisions inside. How idyllic it sounds, and so it looks to the outside observer, a sleeping mediaeval country village in France

I was thinking about this as I walked down the deserted cobbled streets. What had happened to Nadine? The mysterious little old lady who lived above the café. The café had after all been closed for the whole of November while Cecile and Lillian took their annual holidays? Then it dawned on me, we were doing just the same. We were closing the shutters and withdrawing behind closed doors as well. Working away in the warmth in front of the computer screen, updating our web page and planning for next year. We have only had a trickle of people coming to us and we had been badly let down with a block booking from Nigeria. (That episode is far too long to explain here.) So, yes we have been quiet, but we are not the normal inhabitants of a small French country village.

I walked back down the road to our house and opened the door into the warmth wondering what drama or crisis was going to face me, because in the last few months we have had plenty of these. I suppose that the major one was when I caught some sort of virus, which laid me out in my sickbed for ten days. Curiously enough, the computer became infected with several viruses at the same time. My only wish was that my personal one was as easy to get rid of as the electronic one! Several weeks earlier, we had an Australian student come to do one of our ‘Dance for Camera’ workshops. She had been working in London for a couple of years and was now doing ‘The Grand Tour’ of Europe before returning home. During the period that she was with us she fell for a local man. And I mean fell big time. So all of a sudden we became substitute parents, dispensing advice which we knew would be ignored anyway, and generally making soothing noises to her. The man she fell for is most delightful and was one of the first in the village to make us welcome when we came here. A true gentle man indeed.

A Salignac street

When I was almost recovered from my bug, we had a teacher from Scotland arrive to help with our Nigerian lot. When they failed to show up, she had to have a enforced holiday for two weeks as it would have cost too much for us to change her return tickets. We were naturally worried by this but, by good fortune, we were aided and abetted by the return for a week of our Australian friend (because by this time, we had become good friends). She was en-route between Rome and Madrid but, of course, had really come to see new boyfriend. Fortunately they all hit if off well and of course they had the interest in dance in common so that took the heat away from us a little.

Because of my illness, I had not used my car for quite a while and on the morning to deliver our visiting teacher to the station some 20kms away at 6 am, guess what? Yes the battery was flat! Now we live on a hill but the car had been parked the wrong way round, so the sight on a very dewy but beautiful dawn morning of myself just out of bed, a sixty year old ballet teacher and Fiona in her night clothes frantically trying to push the car into position must have been quite something. However, all the shutters around were closed but this being a small village, I’m sure that the story has spread like wildfire. I got her to the train on time. French Railways must have known because very unusually the train was delayed by 20 minutes!

The following Sunday after everyone had left and peace and quiet was falling back in the household, I was preparing a leisurely evening meal, one of my hobbies is cooking as I find it relaxing, at ten to seven the gas ran out and all the spare cylinders were empty. Now, the only place to buy gas locally on a Sunday is at the supermarket about a kilometer away, which closes at 7pm. There then ensued a panic dash to get a new cylinder. Another calm evening was ruined.

In the meantime, I have been getting back to full health, well almost, but viruses have constantly hit our computer and, even though we have anti-virus software, somehow the odd one still gets through. Such a waste of time and energy getting them out again. It gives me something to do at 3 in the morning!

The Euro is approaching, with all the complications that it will entail and the bank workers are going on strike the day after the Euro becomes legal tender. Now that should be fun. The Christmas decorations have gone up in the village, slightly different this year and we think more attractive. Or is just because they have been designed and put up by our Australian friend’s new man who just happens to be our local council worker?

They do say that nothing ever really happens in rural France in the winter but if all this was happening behind our closed shutters, what was happening behind all the other ones. Love affairs, arguments, crisis, illness, running out of gas, worrying about the Euro? Or is that just normal?
Rural France. I love it.

Barry C Paton © 2001.
You can study Film in France with Barry at the Salignac Foundation. for further details or write to Barry Paton BSc Video Training Courses The Salignac Foundation rue Fenelon Salignac Eyvigues 24590 FRANCE +33 (0)5 53 29 94 06

SALIGNAC FILM Foundation France

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