Memories from France - French Faux Pas

Updated: Oct 5, 2019

More like crossed wires really, but boy the memory brought out of cobwebs and dusted off is still a little embarrassing.

My memories of the Farm house rental in Normandy are often bitter sweet, but this particular memory is just red faces all round.

The landlady was a very bossy Australian (more about this another time) married to a French man and now living back in Australia. Can't say I always got on with her, but then I do understand the difficulties of running a cranky French farm house from thousands of miles away. Not easy.

The house was a bit of an artists wet dream, the family all being artists, and this collective gift had spilled over effusively into the decor of the house. There was a rustic artist studio at one end of the property, and pretty much every room was a tad over-themed. it wasn't to my taste, but I enjoyed the difference.

The walled garden was my favourite place in the world to be, but pre and post op I wasn't really up to doing anything much in it, sadly. Still, the old veggie patch needed turning over so I asked the Landlady for her help in finding someone to do it for me, and this is where it all went wrong! I mean, every week without fail some mysterious toothless chap would appear in the garden and snip, trim and mow. I just believed she would communicate with this garden fairy and it would magically be done.

One day in late April, my first month in France, I got back from the butchers to find the veggie patch all turned and ready for planting. The Landlady had left me an email to say she'd asked the neighbour to do it for me. How kind.

My neighbour directly behind was the Mairie and her adult son was her immediate neighbour. Their houses shared the same drive and gated entrance. I rarely saw either of them except when they'd left their gates open, and their huge hairy mountain dog terrorized Bertie and I. Of course I let the Landlady know that the work had been done and she emailed back reminding me to pay the chap as agreed.

So of course, I carefully considered a thank you note, added the cash, sealed it in an envelope and popped it in their post box. Feeling pretty pleased with my best written school girl french and happy that my male neighbour was so helpful! What a nice guy...........only he wasn't. Nor was he the magic gardener!

A few days later I was out walking Bertie past their house and their stupid big barking dog, when the Son came rushing down his drive shouting to me. To be honest I hadn't a clue what he was saying at first but I knew it wasn't friendly. When he caught up with me, he was pretty harassed, angry even. He shoved the envelope back into my hands and babbled something I couldn't quite catch, but it probably wasn't very nice, and with that he was gone.

I just stood there gobsmacked.

Somehow I had offended him?

Was I not supposed to pay him?

I was confused and a bit upset, so headed back to the house to write an email to the Landlady, hoping she could tell me what I had done wrong?

Her reply was waiting for me the next morning.

'Oh sorry! Yes. Turned out my Father in Law did it for you'.

Oh dear. Oh bloody hell and that was that, my male neighbour avoided me like the plague!

Then there was the farmer with the young bulls, one farm down!

Being on my own most of the time, I liked to keep the gates to the property shut. For one thing it stopped the dog from next door visiting and marking his territory and two, it stopped Bertie wandering off on his own French adventures. That worked for a while but then the interim post lady got all shirty about the gates being shut! So I decided to open them every morning and I'd wander down the drive with my coffee, tie them back in good time and be confident I wouldn't get a verbal battering from Madame postale!

Only, every so often I would find them shut again. Honestly I thought I was loosing my marbles. On one particular morning, I opened them, tied them back, wandered back to the house for another coffee, turned to look out of the window and they were firmly closed again!

Well! Insert expletives here!

Someone must be playing a prank on me but why! Off I went down the drive totally exasperated! Opened the gates. Tied them back and marched back to the house, immediately standing by the window to watch this drama further play out. Imagine my surprise when a small young blond bull hurtled into the courtyard only seconds after I had shut my front door! Next came the Farmer trying to catch him!

Yes! It finally dawned on me! It was the farmer that was shutting my gates when he was moving the bulls from field to field and I had narrowly missed being chased around the walled garden by a rather angry little French bull!


My final memory for today, is coming home from the pharmacy to find a little yellow van, emptying the contents of one of the barns! I closed the gates and stuck my car on an angle to stop the perpetrators leaving with the loot. If I get angry or scared I'm a pretty fierce force to deal with, and on this occasion I suddenly went all 'Popeye the sailor man' on the unsuspecting would-be thieves! I used my best french to speak to the driver who I think said he had authority! So I rang the police. More poor franglais and I handed my phone reluctantly to the driver. Eventually, we got to the bottom of it. The owner's Brother used the big barn to store his art in between shows. Apparently, he had just had a gallery showing and his team were putting some art back and taking some out of storage for the next show. Thankfully no one was being robbed blind, least of all me! Again, the Landlady knew, but she just forgot to tell me! Arghhhhhhhhhh!

Oh I miss these adventures!

More soon.....

D x

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