I woke up this morning to a frost so deep it seems to have temporarily frozen the pond outside our windows. I’m afraid I just missed photographing the little hen that was scratching around the outside of the pond just before I took this picture. Once again I couldn’t believe my luck that we get to live here in rural France.
Yesterday in a desperate attempt to escape the children for five minutes I made my way down to the local village to buy a baguette for lunch (Les Petites were left with Le Marie, not alone with a box of matches to play with). We’ve been here a few times, always aware of the curious looks we got and the words of our friends ringing in our ears; “The French are very nosey, they’ll want to know everything about you.”
I don’t know if this is any different from an English village; perhaps the sheer mass of people now living in England has meant this personal knowledge and curiosity has been somewhat reduced, transferred to celebrities like Brad and Angelina. But in France there seems to be a real paradox. On the one hand rigid social customs – introducing yourself by your surname and title, the use of vous, formal greetings as you enter shops etc – on the other side this formality doesn’t deter the seeking out of personal information or curiosities to spread around the village.
Our friends have become used to being an object of village fascination. A neighbour who drives a white van always deliberately slows the vehicle down as he passes their drive in order to better peer in; what are those crazy English up to now? Who’s staying? They are often met with other neighbours informing them of their knowledge of who has recently come to visit as a result of these observations.
One thing the European Union had given me was a sense of closeness with old Europe at least; that they were cousins rather than mere strangers. But I think to many in rural France there is something exotic about an English family coming to live among them. That’s hardly surprising as we have a population of just over 500 people, many of whom have lived here all their life and married the girl or boy in this or the next village.
So as I went into the little bakery yesterday I greeted the baker and the male customer, and the latter literally looked me up and down with a curious smile as he left the shop. My accent as I’d greeted them had been a dead giveaway of course.
The baker herself asked me if I lived nearby. Our landlord lives 1km down the road and we’ve already tried to pay the mayor a visit (he was out, we only managed to speak with his secretary). When I said yes she asked where and which house. Very exact. So, I guess this will now be public knowledge, if it wasn’t before.
It’s kind of exciting to think that we’re beginning to become a part of this villages life.
For more information on All About France you can take a look at the introductory post I wrote here. This linky will stay open until 11.55 pm on Wed 11th Jan and be back again on Thursday 2nd February.