A House in Provence Chapter 17

Neighbors

It turns out that we have some pretty nice neighbors. Most of them I have met are French and our converstions are limited, at least on my part, as very few of them speak any English. This has inspired me to start making an effort to learn French again. Octave, a very sweet little man down the road, is always so curteous and friendly and we can only exchange the most cursory of sentences. He is retired from driving a truck and walks up and down roads around our neighborhood watering plants and checking swimming pools when the owners are out of town. He has done it for us a couple of times. He should be getting paid for doing this service but doesn’t accept money. We bought him back a bottle of Kaluha from Texas as a thank you. I’m not sure what he thought about it but he says he drinks it with sparkling water. I told him to add some milk and then he would have a White Russian.
Octave took Maurice up the hill on the other side of the small highway to meet an English couple and eventually I got to meet them as well. The husband is English, the wife Australian and they turned out to be a font of information having lived in the area for years. They had a fabulous old house that they had built on to with a yard all landscaped and lovely with a breathtaking view of the countryside including some nearby vineyards.
As we sat in their garden they told us of a horrible storm in a February a few years earlier when it rained, hailed, and snowed-18 inches overnight-all in one 24 hour period. There was also a collasal lightning strike that took out a power pole. From our yard they pointed out a bare area where an unlucky farmer had tried to burn weeds in a ditch on a hot summer day and the fire had gotten out of control consumming the trees on most of the surrounding hills. At the time the local fire fighters were all in Corsica fighting a huge fire there so men were brought in from the Loire Valley. They didn’t know the area well and got lost needing the help of the locals to do their work. Since then, a lot of work has been done to prevent the spread of fires as well as detailed maps should this happen again. This couple even had to be evacuated from their home, although no damage was done. I look around our property now and am glad the brush and trees are not close to our house.
I think we will meet alot more English and Americans through this couple as they tell us there is a great group that meets once a month. I’m sure that having a lot of friends easy to talk with will add to my enjoyment of the area. It was such a pleasure to have a meal with them and not to have to sit there mostly in silence while everyone else chatters on in French. I also hope to get lots of advice on plants for our yard. The English always seem to have such great gardens. I often watch gardening shows on a BBC television station that we get and love it. Of course, the plants can’t be the same here with the hot summers that we get.
There is a nice young couple above us who have turned out to be great. The man and Maurice have exchanged much useful information especially as we were both building our homes at the same time. We’ve been to their house for dinner and they’ve been to ours. They know a little English so can usually understand me when I say something in English and we all manage to have a good time together. They have a huge dog that they named Spike who has befriended us as well but he always jumps on us when he sees us which is difficult. He also left a souvenir of big paw prints in some unset cement in our driveway. Both of them work at a company an hour drive away from our village and I wonder how they stand it. It is not on a big four lane highway but a narrow two way road passing through several villages plugged with heavy traffic every morning and evening. Maurice thinks it will eventually get to them and they will sell their house. They recently had a baby boy and I enjoy seeing him and comparing him to my granddaughter born a week later in the States.
A house was being built below us when we were building ours. It was another young couple, the man French, the woman English. They had three young children. The house was almost completed but they never moved in. We have seen people coming to look at it and sometimes we see one of them at the house but we have never found out what happened. Maybe it turned out to be too much of a financial burden. Some have speculated that they are getting a divorce.
One day I was working out in the back yard when a man walked out onto the lower area of our property. He asked for permission to walk across it. It turned out the he and his wife were going to buy the house. He was Spanish, she was French and they both worked in Belgium. They bought the house as a vacation house where family can visit them in the summers and where they can retire one day.
The couple right across the street from us, the ones whose tree had a branch torn off by a truck coming to our place, have lived in their house for 30 years. They are normally very friendly, speak only French and have a huge yard with olive trees, fruit trees, and all sorts of vegetables growing. The woman is always telling Maurice about the weather and rain fall and if it is normal compared to other years. She should know. We’ve never been invited over but they always say hello. I have to say the yard looks a little trashy to me with lots of discarded items lying around and piles of various debris, like they never finish projects. I’m not the greatest housekeeper or yard worker, but I love seeing a clean yard. The couple above us cleaned out a lot of brush and weeds from their yard which was promptly thrown down their hill behind their house. They can’t see it but we can. It seems to be the custom here to make huge piles of woody debris and then let mother nature slowly take care of it. Later, they did burn it all which made me happy. Next year we will plant some fast growing trees to start obstructing various views and the bare hill behind their house will be one of them.
We invited Octave and his wife over for drinks one evening. I was in the house and suddenly saw someone walk by in the back yard. I don’t know why but most people here don’t come to the front door but go around the back. Anyway, it was Octave, his daughter and her husband and young son, but not his wife. If he ever said why she didn’t come, I didn’t catch it. We had a nice time and I enjoyed their company. A few days later we were walking down the road by Octave’s house and he invited us to see his backyard. It was very impressive with a great swimming pool with a cover that curved over the pool so you could swim in it and extend the time the pool could be used. He also had a well fed by a nearby spring which I looked at with envy, all sorts of trees, chickens used for eggs, and a vegetable plot. We sat and had drinks. His wife arrived and waved at us from the door and went inside. She never even came out to say hello. I thought this was strange and a little unfriendly. Maurice just said she was one of those people used to being by herself and was very isolated like one of those characters you read about in books. She isn’t even Provencal but Italian. She walks every day to a village about 5 miles away to play patunck with some ladies. We did invite them for dinner some time after that, but she turned us down. I’m trying not to take it personally. As I keep saying, it’s just different here.

2 thoughts on “A House in Provence Chapter 17

  1. Did you ever find out why Octave’s wife didn’t come over for drinks, didn’t some say hello when you were at their house, and turned down the dinner invitation? She must be pathologically anti-social.

  2. I asked my husband why he thought she didn’t come over and he said that sometimes people in the country are rather anti-social. Her husband, Octave, is so nice and friendly that I was just surprised. One night there was a little musical show put on in our little village and most of the whole village showed up. She was there sitting in the front row and Octave said she was hard of hearing. That makes me think that maybe that is why she doesn’t want to be in social situations. I just wanted to give Octave a meal because he does so much for us. I’ve decided not to let it bother me and just accept it as her personal quirk. Still like living here so that’s all that counts. Linda

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