Despite the date, the weather, as I set out for a walk in the early afternoon, was almost sultry. Already feeling sticky under my open jacket, as I walked through Minstead on the Shave Wood loop route, I thought the domesticated horses in the fields looked decidedly over-dressed. As I approached Football Green, a young man sped past me on a noisy moped. The staccato roar of his vehicle was similar to those I sometimes hear tearing down rue St. Jacques in Sigoules. Unless the law has changed you can ride a moped at fourteen in France. There is a little square further down the road from numero 6 where there seem often to be a number of teenagers. They enjoy speeding up and down the steep gradients of the road.
It was the reputation of these young motorcyclists that deterred Nicole from moving to Sigoules from Bergerac. I met this woman who lived in Bergerac, one cold and wet Easter Sunday as we were both traversing the pedestrian crossing by the village square. The custom locally is to greet anyone you meet in a friendly manner. As Nicole passed me I uttered ‘bonjour’. This, for some reason, sent her little white poodle incandescent. It barked repeatedly and snapped at my heels. I must have been a little perturbed because I used English for the first three words of my next sentence. Addressed to the dog, this was: ‘I only said bonjour’. This made Nicole very happy. She jumped at the chance to practice her English. We had a long chat, the rain dripping off her waterproof hat, and off my equally waterproof scalp.
Bergerac, which I had previously only known as John Nettles’ early television detective character, has become familiar to me as the town 16km from Sigoules. Olivia, the young Frenchwoman who bought the upper floors of the house in which I lived in W2, had an English boyfriend who, by coincidence, grew up in Bergerac.
As I continued into the forest this afternoon, I carried on Wombling (see yesterday’s post). Straightening up after picking up a couple of cans, my head almost collided with that of a pony which had crept up behind me, no doubt intrigued by my strange activity. This made me jump a bit. As I gingerly gathered up the second of a scattered pair of thin rubber medical examination gloves I thought that Becky’s 2011 Norbury Wombler who wore the protective variety was probably quite sensible. I was decidedly less squeamish about the more substantial single gardening glove that lay further along the verge. So now you know, Beck, what to get me for my birthday. I could try a grabber, like those the volunteers use in Morden Hall Park, but I would then be deprived of the pleasure of repeatedly bending without having to think of what else I could do whilst down there.
Before setting off in earnest today, I had delivered photographs of their horses to Berry and to Audrey Saunders. Berry was delighted with hers. Audrey didn’t seem to be in. Her front door was unlocked, so, rather than risk disturbing the other elderly resident again, I opened the door and left the pictures where I had placed the first set. By invitation, when I returned home, I took Flo round to Berry’s to plan a horse ride for the morning. Berry was amused at Flo’s fear for the poor 14.1 hands Poppy having to carry her, who normally needs a 16 hands horse. ‘She’s a New Forest Pony’, was the answer.
Flo was also aware that she may look rather like her Uncle Mat on Alda’s Shetland pony Max. I imagine Mat looked rather like a Victorian child on a hobby horse.
This evening we ate Jackie’s cottage pie variant. ‘In deference to Flo’, this had crusty roast potatoes instead of soft mash topping. Nice. Revamped bread and butter pudding was to follow. The revamping was required because someone stripped the crusty bits off yesterday’s leftovers during the night. Since the back door was locked, it can’t have been the deer. I drank Carta Rosa gran reserva 2005, and Kalu snored and muttered in his sleep on the carpet.