Sunday, August 24

Dirty tricks

24th August
Old Landlord (see Fish Pomade)stories are getting darker, I have now understood that he was a scrap merchant. Buying and selling anything that could turn a profit: including textiles, scrap iron, old bathroom fittings … Animals too but applying the same ruthless business sense. One year he decided to keep geese for the Christmas market - as did everybody else, so the market price dropped. Old Landlord burned his barn down with the geese inside.

When the women in the village mention Old Landlord they shudder - and I’ve picked up some good vocabulary here too. At village dinners one of his party tricks was to put stuff he didn’t want on his neighbour’s plate (gristley bits of chewed fat, gnawed bones etc.).

I’m also starting to get a picture of the social rifts in the village. Grievances with roots so far back that no one can remember why they fell out in the first place. Elections are the earthquake zones where new faultlines are created and old ones deepen. The Salle des Fetes was built some years ago amid bitter controversy, half the village didn’t want their taxes used this way and when it opened the Young Turks of the village set up rival events at the bar as a spoiler to anything going on at the new place. The incumbent Maire was ousted at the next election because of his support for the building. Earlier this year when two groups put themselves up for the local elections (a list of about 12 people is put forward to support whoever wants to be Maire), it became apparent that there were more than one set of fathers and sons opposing each other.

The village has less than 100 souls in residence, the elected council has the power to tidy up the graveyard, plant flowers, put up a road sign – and that’s about it. In the face of not needing to have policies the candidates indulge in personal mudslinging, rumours of torrid affairs mostly, but the main slogan against the Bontettes was: THEY HATE OLD PEOPLE. Elections are won on the basis of who is considered less evil by more people - thus it has always been the case that one half of the village will have nothing to do with the other half.

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