Today is the 15th August – a national holiday here in France. It is quiet, so very quiet. The holiday is to denote l’Assomption of the Virgin Mary into heaven and seemingly was not part of the religious system until the sixth century. However, this day and the wider period has many attendant notions and sayings. Most important is the one that says that the cuckoo loses his voice…although I haven’t heard one since June. Other sayings relate to such things as “Lift a stone at this date and you will find the cool beneath.” It is a general belief that Summer is now on the wane and the cold darkness begins to close in. Well – these guys know nothing. Even in southern England it is dark until 9am and dark again at 3.30 pm in winter. If the Charentais had to live there they would have reason to be pessimists. And on this matter I must say that I believe that French people are more pessimistic and more accepting than Brits. A Frenchman thinks things will get worse for everyone and that they will bear it. An Englishman thinks that things will get worse for everyone else and it is their own fault if they cannot bear it.
I planted my grape vines. Gilles dug up areas of his terrasse – not without some muttering. Each of his 2,100 stones were placed by hand and carry his blood and DNA. Since he is French he can scorn le Tribunal de Terrasse because only if you are one of a certain group can you mock them. An ex-viticultrice swung by to denounce my vines and the possible positioning. Luckily she was distracted by some Leylandii conifers in a neighbour’s garden. “Oh yes – there are zee regulations and you will be needing zee courts of law…” Actually I needed a drink. I will sit in the darkness of the Leylandii shadow as my withered vines fester with very complicated diseases unknown to Anglos. I will drink to the Virgin Mary as she ascends into heaven and voiceless cuckoos fall dead with frost at my feet. I believe that the hunting of a bird called La Caille opens today. They’re a bit like grouse or quail. Bon courage les oiseaux.
When does some awful event pass into legend and the opening of the whimsy season? Time is a healer they say – but is it? A few days ago I was rabbiting about Boadecia fighting the Romans with toilet rolls. Now, those were bloody times of unimaginable suffering and yet Boadecia jokes do not appear to arouse passions, denouncements or have social workers kicking down doors to take away the children. In France, the ghastliness of the Revolution does not prevent all manner of guillotine references. A few days ago you may recall a lady of the village told me of the death of her dog. Now, apparently the mother and father of the dead dog have combined again to produce an identical litter. The grieving owners agonise over whether or not to try and replace their dead pet. I asked some English folk if they had any views about re-incanination. The shock waves of horror had them staggering. If ever there was any chance of ascending into heaven I’m afraid I blew it. Lift off will have to be from some place without pets.
Emma thinx: Re-incanination – it’s a dog’s afterlife.