Tuesday, 19 July 2011

The bells, the bells

Having started, I suppose I may as well carry on with the story. If you are new to this, you might like to read Saturday's post and then (if you still have both the time and the inclination) follow through the daily posts to end up back here.

- * -

Thankfully, Monsieur Moran's driving was much calmer than Clothilde's was to be – that pleasure was still to come – but just a few minutes later we were in the square of the next village along the road, in the middle of a crowd of people dressed up as if for a wedding, which indeed proved to be the case. It seemed easier to accept the carnation buttonhole than to explain we were not there for the wedding but only to view a house. Why is it that one Frenchman or Frenchwoman alone can be quiet and charming, but when two or three dozen are gathered together they sound like a flock of starlings at dusk? By the time we had fought our way through to the door of the house, the volume of their conversations had increased to match that of Wembley Stadium on Cup Final day. Things got even more out of hand when a procession of cars swept round the corner, each driver trying to sound his horn louder and longer than the one before him. I was approached by a trio of femmes formidables, all billowy and blowsy like ships of the line under full canvas. From the glint in their eyes I got the distinct impression that they were intent on revenge for the Battle of Trafalgar. Disengaging myself with some difficulty, I followed Monsieur Moran and Mrs S into the house as the bride descended from her limousine.

Did I call it a house? It was more like a rabbit warren, a delightful hotchpotch of rooms running off at all sorts of crazy levels. There was at least one room halfway up each flight of stairs. Stairs led down into a cellar which led on to a second with exits to both the garden and the kitchen. Somehow, the kitchen, which seemed to be on the same level as the rest of the ground floor, was also on the same level as the second cellar, despite the fact that we had descended stairs to reach that.

One thing it didn't have was a bathroom although in typical French fashion there was a shower installed on the landing. That problem could be solved quite easily, we realised, by converting the third bedroom or by utilising one of the rooms leading off the stairs. On the other hand, if a latter-day Bridget Bardot came to stay with us ...

Smiling inwardly, I went with the others to inspect the garden. This was, or rather could have been, a delight. Walled on all three sides, it had two mature pear trees and would be a magnificent sun trap. The well, fortunately, was in a shed which could be padlocked for safety. Mrs S has a passion for gardening, and it was difficult to restrain her from getting down on her knees to start sorting out the borders.

Going back indoors we admired the new double-glazed windows in the living room. The house stood in a very pleasant position at one corner of the village square, the front windows giving onto the square, dominated by the large church just to one side, and looking across to the bar on the opposite corner. From the side windows we looked straight into a farmyard complete with ducks wandering about. We had reluctantly decided that both house and garden were too large for us, despite the knockdown price, when a major disadvantage confirmed our decision by revealing itself. The wedding service in the church had just finished, and as the bride and groom arrived at the church door the bells started. Two minutes of that and I knew just how Quasimodo must have felt in the tower of Notre Dame. I shuddered to think of the peace and quiet of lazy Sunday mornings being so rudely shattered, especially those mornings after good nights at the bar.

Monsieur Moran seemed very philosophical when we told him we would think about it over the weekend and let him know. He had obviously heard that before, although others had doubtless expressed it more elegantly than my French would allow. He got his own back, however, by means of an underhand trick which we should have seen through but which took us in completely.

I forgot to take a picture the first time and it was raining when we went back to do so. As a result, the house looks terribly forlorn.

No comments: