Posted by: kathandroger | August 6, 2017

The Frenchman’s Castle.

The best thing about France, for me, is the French. They have been so welcoming and helpful, and even tolerate my poor language skills. Everyone seems to have a smile, and we have been fortunate to make many French friends. But the French are different from us.

For a start they are the most regimented race I know. Things are always done on the same day, often at the same time, and for no good reason. Hence the huge traffic jams at holiday time, when they all emigrate to the coast together, at the same time. And when we cycle with our club, the routes are always in the same direction; and suggestion of doing them in reverse is met with scorn and disbelief. The television is always on in French homes, and any social occasion takes place with the dreaded machine in the background. But the most obvious feature of the personality of the race is the walls and gates that seem to be an essential part of any French home. No sooner has a house been built, often with a fine view, than a huge and often ugly wall is built around it. IMG_3811There must be something in the psyche which involves cutting the home off from all outside influences and interference. The height of the walls is always about two metres, enough to prevent prying, and they are usually made of those ugly cement blocks. This house belongs to one of the council employees, who is a delightful and congenial chap. but he obviously feels he needs his own castle. Incidentally the bonnet of my old banger in the picture shows my own furtive attempts at photos through the windscreen. The noise of the beast would be enough to waken any inhabitant. so a quick snap was taken before a hasty retreat! And gates are very important to the French as well. Often they are the first sign of a building being constructed, and sometimes they remain for years without any building appearing. Maybe money had run out, or some disaster has occurred, but the countryside is littered with fine looking entrances to nowhere.IMG_3812 (2)

All this isolation is a contrast to the more open living we had in the UK, when chatting over the low fence or hedge and waving to the neighbour  seemed to be normal behaviour. But this is in contrast to the countryside, where in England the fields tend to be small and bounded by endless hedging whereas in France fields are often huge.

There are exceptions, of course, to every rule. We have a very well kept and quiet cottage owned by some English friends over the road from us. It is very rare for anyone to walk down the road, and vehicles are once an hour. The garden is difficult to see into, and as it is on a tricky bend there is no time for a driver to look about anyway. The owners regularly relax and sunbathe for hours in complete solitude and are unburdened by intruders. So it is with some wonderment that for the second year we have been amused by another couple who hire the house hiding behind the open and veiled doors of their car, strategically parked, not in the garage, but to obscure their deeds. What can be going on behind open doors?

IMG_3810 (2)_LI


  1. I once asked a friend why gates were always kept firmly shut, even though it is a pain when you (or your friends) are coming and going. The response was that it was ‘to keep the gypsies out’.

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