On another scorching day Elizabeth drove me to Southampton airport where I boarded a plane to Bergerac to be met by Lydie, waving her arms and striding across the tarmac to embrace me. She is, incidentally, about a foot shorter than me with the grip of a bear. I had to drop my bag. Before paying I asked her to deliver me to the Credit Agricole cash machine in the market square. Still dopy from the plane, I entered the wrong pin number. I had to search in my trouser pocket for the correct one, hidden in an electronic device. So well hidden, that by the time I had retrieved it I had run out of time. Lydie patiently waiting in the taxi. Me scrabbling in my trousers, concerned that I was keeping her waiting. An Englishman just off the plane. I had to start again. The machine gobbled my card.
I had given Lydie a list of trips for my friend Don, joining me next week, and me up to 14th. August, the first being in three days time. ‘No problem’, she said, ‘Saturday will do.’ Unfortunately this bank is only open two mornings a week , and tomorrow isn’t one of them. Any visit there also has to wait until Saturday. Now, my French account is with Barclays. I originally opened this in Bergerac. Sometime last year I discovered that that branch no longer does everyday banking. Without my knowledge my account had been transferred to Paris I could walk to Bergerac, but no way am I walking to Paris. There was, therefore, nothing for it today but to telephone my personal banking manager in Paris. Despite what it says on his card he wasn’t there. There followed conversations with two different, very helpful, women interspersed with holding, biligual, messages. Thank goodness, with their English and my French, we got by. My card has been cancelled and I will be sent a new one which will cost 16 euros. So far, so good. But. They can only send it to England, not to my house in France. If I could get to Bordeaux, two and a half hours drive away, I would be able to collect my replacement card there. Patiently, oh, so patiently, I explained that Bordeaux was a very long way away, I had no car, and NO MONEY. Ah. I can, however, use my chequebook, I am assured, without the card, although some people will not accept cheques for small sums like 2 euros. Throughout this I naturally remained my usual calm, unflappable, self.
I then drew 90 euros on my NatWest account. This, of course, will cost me a transfer fee. And I’ve just transferred almost everything in my current account in England to my French one in order to pay for replacement shutters and windows, the work to start in two days time. I may even go into overdraft, incurring another fee, despite having more than enough in a special interest bearing account which earns peanuts. Now I know why NatWest have changed their Gold Account to a Black one. Somewhat stymied.
It was definitely time to visit my friend David in Le Code Bar. David readily allowed me to run up a tab for the duration of my stay and let me have cash if I needed it. Given that this is a very recent friendship I would call that a generous display of trust.
Never mind. The house is as I left it in early June. The agapanthus is blooming for the first time; the lizards are basking in 38 degrees; and I am growing my own tomatoes on a plant which has forced its way through the boards of my compost bin. There are potatoes coming up in a bed I composted last year.
I’ve just missed the annual wine festival, the bunting for which will stay in the village for the rest of the summer. UK, of course, has been similarly festooned since the football world cup and the Queen’s jubilee, and now awaits the London Olympics, for which I will also be absent. I have exchanged Union flags for floral flourishes.
Once I’d settled in, I paid a visit to my friends Garry and Brigitte who live next door. Unfortunately for me their magnificent house is up for sale; sadly for them the market is depleted. We had what, for me, is essential, a pleasant conversation with people who speak the correct French I learned at school with a Parisian accent, delivered at a pace I can understand. It is good for my ears which cannot pick up the local accent. Rather like a French speaker trying to understand a Geordie.
In Carrefour I had a cheque accepted without a card.
This evening I dined alfresco at Le Bar. I sat under a lime tree sadly devoid of caterpillars (see yesterday). There were, however, a number of flies seemingly interested in my steak and chips; and the occasional wasp attracted by my Adnams Innovation. Take note of the latter, Don. Creme brulee was to follow. I was well satisfied.