Saturday, October 14, 2006

Occitan (continued)

A barely legible sign hangs from a disused railway bridge near here. OCCITAN LENGA OFFICIELLE it says. This is not in pure Occitan, as "l'Occitan lenga oficiala" is the plea of the estimated 6 million Occitan speakers for official status for their language; maybe the French officielle is to guide the rest of us. Occitan signs appear locally from time to time, and in 2000 there was a large demonstration in Toulouse for Occitan as an official alternative language (which it was indeed during the Turin Olympic Games).

My friend the former police chief of Cahors spoke only Occitan until he went to school, where nothing but French was tolerated. His grandparents spoke Occitan and never learned French.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

The cedar tree

A giant cedar tree towers above the house. It's so close to the walls that one can imagine the effect that the roots have had on the foundations. The only recent damage that it has done is to block a valley in the roof with its needles: a pile of them plus a spectacular fall of hail formed a dam which sent water pouring into the roof. A bedroom was trashed from ceiling to floor and has only just been fully refurbished.

I asked a French friend if he could recommend a tree trimmer who would cut away the branches that overlapped the roof. An élagueur was found, who presented a devis of €1794. I should have been warned when he asked if he could dismantle an arch to get his machinery into the garden. Friends of the friend then found another group who would undercut le prix américain; their estimate was €1148. Unimpressed, I found the card of a local man who advertised in the garden store. His estimate was €538.20, which I readily accepted. He came on the agreed date and did the work most efficiently. He's somewhere up in the branches of the tree pictured above.

Friday, October 06, 2006


I was chatting to my neighbour this afternoon over the wall. He's helpful and I ignore that he raises red partridges for his dogs to hunt. After discussing the renovations to the house and the bee colony in the chimney that hampered the work, I asked if he knew of anyone in the neighbourhood who had problems with mice.

"No" he said. Then I said that someone had climbed up the laundry room roof while I was away and put a pile of mouse bait just inside the main roof. "I did that" he said, without missing a beat. "The neighbour over there" he said, pointing, "has rats running all over his roof. Big ones like this." His hands were almost a foot apart. "They live off his garbage." I thanked my thoughtful friend.