We are up early to get sorted. Not only is it the first day of Summer, but with relief it is the day we leave Le Peyrail! The animals are fed early, things put back in place and the house cleaned to a point that it was better than how we found it. The bed stripped. Sheets and towels in the wash. The dishwasher put on. The log burner has been cleaned and the grate cleared of ash. Fresh kindling is set ready for the fire. Sarah leaves Jo a note.
We dust our feet and leave behind a trail of madness. People need to be warned before coming here. It is officially summer and travellers will be looking on airbnb and Booking.com plus other tourist organisations online. The property is totally and utterly over represented by the photographs on the accomodation sites. It is almost a crime and I feel for those people with high expectation when they arrive. There is no doubt in my mind that this is a beautiful part of the world and the property could be, perhaps in a day gone by was, stunning. But we left behind us a tired house full of cobwebs and dust. Weeds that have grown to about 3 feet high and hiding the paths. A swimming pool that is empty, dirty and ugly. Nowhere was comfortable outside. Animals that although loved, I sensed were not living in the best of conditions. I have to be careful because I have been a city boy for a long time and I know that life can be different in the country … but not so different that a standard cannot be applied and people treated with the intelligence and hospitality that they deserve.
Foot down, dual exhaust smoking, rubber screeching on the road we fly away from Le Peyrail like we are racing from the devil. We are deliberately early to minimise the pain and hoping the devil will be slow and bleary eyed, we head for Leclerc supermarket for a coffee and free Wifi. But before that we brake to a stop just at the end of the lane where there is a small junction. Almost hidden in the greenery is a very large crucifix that I want to photograph. Christ has been here all along to protect us. Shame he didn’t jump out of the bush to warn us when we first arrived!
The trip to Auriac-sur-Dropt seems quicker. Perhaps because we went the right way this time! As promised we arrive at 11:30am, but Janie and Hugh are far from being ready so we hang around like spare parts, entertaining Meg the little brown something-cross dog. Its difficult to settle down in someone else’s home when they are there. Eventually they depart in their Mini Cooper, via the old farmhouse for a bathing costume and then hit the road. We can unpack. This is a big unpack as Sarah wants to repack the suitcases to make more room in the car. This does give them extra weight though as I discover a few days later.
At the front of the house, on the lawn, are two stacks of what looks like tiles. Still in their wrapping. What are those for I wonder? Over the next few days I realise that this is a property where many things are started and many things remain incomplete. In my bare feet I wander out of the back door into the blazing Sun. Around the house is a tiled area which is kind on the feet. I don’t know why, it seems a blur now, but I stepped off the tiles towards the pool. As I placed my right foot down I screamed with pain as something sharp dug into the sole of my foot. The path leading down to the pool had been scraped, ready for the tiles neatly stacked on the front lawn. Now I know what they are for. Although scraped, there were still some sharp stones remaining and I just happened to tread on one sticking proudly upright like a knife. It literally sliced my foot and blood was everywhere.
Despite Sarah’s many, perhaps endless talents and knowledge of all things, nursing is not high on the list. Patience is close behind! Or is that patients? As a sort of Nazi Nurse I think she would be fine. Just as most of the modern world lags behind her due to her wonder woman attributes in speed, healing then is also a monotonously slow process for her in the average human being which is why she bounced back from her hip replacement like a dingo on a bungee rope. Funny thing is her caring nature is of legend so I suspect that it must be my pathetic screams and groaning when I am in pain that triggers the restlessness in her nursing. However, the plasters were surgically applied with precision after several barked orders to keep my foot up and still. Once applied I lost count of the number of times the words “I keep telling you to put something on your feet” were repeated!
Anyway, once this drama was over and the cases unpacked, we set off for a slow walk with Meg. A trip around the fields along the river. First of all though we have to go via the old farmhouse to switch the electric fence off. Apparently Meg can get a bit too close to it at times. This was important as I didn’t want to have to explain to Hugh and Janie how we managed to fry their small dog.
Hugh and Janie have an interesting set up here. Janie has been in France 28 years. Hugh not quite as long. Janie’s mother returned to the UK a while ago after also spending many years here. They purchased what appears to be some small parcels of land that include the farmhouse and barns … large barns. As you approach their property on the right they have built a fairly new bungalow, where we are staying and “frenched” it up a bit with shutters. It is the perfect size for a couple and would be great as an airbnb Gite. You then continue down the lane and the remaining land is basically all theirs. An enormous old barn on the left full of building wood, door frames, a tractor and other assorted agricultural plant. A gap of 10 metres and then another huge barn that is simply an Aladdin’s cave of stuff from old paint tins to ride-on-mowers. It reminds me of Dad’s old shed, but this one is on steroids! On the other side of the lane are more small buildings where I think Janie’s Mum may have once intended to live. It is derelict and full of things. There looks to be a toilet basin on the outside wall that actually looks plumbed in.
Back across the lane and beyond the barn is the old farmhouse. When it is finished it will look stunning, but for now it stands as an old elegant lady that needs a bath. Hugh keeps a french radio station blaring 24 hours a day to make believe there is someone around to keep away unwelcome visitors. It varies from classical french, opera and jazz. As you approach it creates a haunting feeling. Like you see in those movies where there is no one around. Things are left as if they just got up and walked out. Abducted by Aliens. The radio breaks the silence … a french woman with a sultry voice, full of emotion. I have no idea what she is singing. It is especially quiet because the lane ends at the farmhouse and they get many people driving down there thinking there is a way through. Over the weekend of our stay we realised how true this was with many people doing a u-turn at the military-like red and white chain that Hugh has positioned across the lane. Its like a checkpoint during the german occupation and you expect a nazi weilding a machine gun to appear from behind the trees. It makes it more spookier.
Hugh and Janie are restoring the old farmhouse, but seem to be using it for … well I don’t know really … its odd. Janie asked us to take the key out of the front door when we go down there. It is one of those large cast iron types that people buy as souvenirs and hang on hooks with a jailers authority. If you put it in your pocket you would probably tip over. We needed some washing powder as there is none in the Gite so we went inside. This is the weird thing. They have a lovely little house just up the lane, but also seem to be living in the farmhouse as well. But it is far from complete, untidy with stuff everywhere. Papers, tools and bottles and bottles of what looks like homemade lemonade. Some floors have been dug up to the point of just being soil. Its an oxymoron world. Amongst it all is a computer, a modern, yet incomplete kitchen and a magnificent designer fridge freezer. Its a mystery. Its bizarre. Its curious. I think that Hugh spends a lot of time down here working and may use the shower, but Janie also has some clothes here. Its just a funny thing.
Around the farmhouse there is equipment and plant everywhere. Wood chopped and stored. Bricks and stones of all shapes and sizes sorted. Behind the farmhouse is an above ground swimming pool. It seems to be from another age, a previous dynasty. I can hear the silent laughter of children on sunny days splashing and screaming. Now it is lifeless, black, eery. Long forgotten. A few steps away the small wooden chicken house sits. The cockerel and the 2 hens are not in residence so we lift the top lid and then the smaller hatch. There are 3 eggs there. One of them doesn’t look quite right, but Sarah gently and lovingly lifts all 3 and places them into the egg carton that we brought with us.
On returning to the house I take the eggs from the carton and write the dates on them so that they are consumed in the correct order. I go to enter the date on the odd looking egg, but something isn’t right. It is a bit oblong, slightly larger than the others and has a grain on it. That’s because it is made of wood! Idiot. Its the fake egg to encourage the hens to lay!
Hugh said that we needed to shut the hens away at 9:00pm so that they are safe from the night wildlife. They will be in the chicken house so just put the food tray in there and shut the hatch. Easy. Oh yeah? They are running around as if possessed. Like they know I haven’t done this before so are going to make it fun …for them. I run around for 20 minutes trying to herd them in. No chance. Not even on the threat of being Sunday Roast do they cooperate. Bloody hens! The cockerel is running around in his flashy long coloured feathers, strutting away like some big shot and squawking like there is no tomorrow. Bugger. I’ll come back later. I did. And they were quietly in place. I think Hugh got his timing wrong. More like 10:00pm for bedtime.
Until next time 🌏