Not much happens in our little village and my life in France is tranquil on the whole. However J-P, my neighbour and font of all knowledge, told me a great story with lots of hand action and face pulling about something that happened here and caused much scandal about ten years ago.
This is a very small village, there are about 150 people who live here though there is certainly room for more as many of the houses are empty due to France’s odd inheritance laws. Basically under French law property must be divided equally amongst children – you can’t leave it to one or the other, there is no choice and all children must receive the same. The problem is that when it comes to selling property unless all agree to sell then nothing gets done and there are many cases in France where property lies abandoned for decades. That’s certainly the case in my village where I reckon at least a third of the houses are empty and awaiting action due to wrangling between inheritors.
Anyway, one of these properties was looked after by a local man and he would check that all was well from time to time and he maintained the gardens to a high standard. Nothing unusual in that, the house next to mine is empty and has been for 25 years. This is because one of the son’s of the lady who lived there refuses to allow it to be sold despite the wishes of his siblings – he cannot bear the thought of giving up the home where he was so happy and his mother loved to garden. He carries on her gardening traditions and grows all of his vegetables in the huge garden and is a weekly visitor.
Back to the empty property, the local man had green fingers and everyone used to say how absolutely wonderful the garden looked under his care – so green and fertile and he was such an attentive gardener, there at all hours, protecting the plants from the frost and rain and giving them such loving care and attention.
But … and it’s a big but.
At some point during the spring ten years ago, Pierre’s cows broke out of their field which backed onto the lovingly cared for garden and they ate the plants.
You think I’m going to say that the gardener was mad with anger don’t you…?
The cows were found by Pierre in the garden acting very strangely. Some were not at all well, others were running around on wobbly legs but the majority were staring into space in a vacant manner.
It turns out that the green-fingered gardener was growing cannabis plants – hundreds and hundreds of them and the cows had made pigs of themselves.
The man was arrested and thrown into prison. Pierre waited for the cows to return to their normal less placid selves, and the garden turned into an abandoned, overgrown mess. Years later le cannabis scandal is spoken of still and the local department policeman (who visits this village once a month if that) always checks the gardens to make sure none of us try that one again and that normal, for that read calm, life in France is resumed!