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Everybody needs good neighbours

A small village surrounded by fields and tall trees in northern France

Thank you to everyone who wrote to me last week after my newsletter telling you about Thierry the farmer crashing his tractor into the telephone pole outside my house (if you missed it, you can read it here). Quite a few people were surprised at how well I’d taken the destruction of the woodshed roof just a year after we fixed it. But… there is a reason for that!

First, I was grateful that Thierry didn’t hit the former pigsty (now my little writing den) where I was sat working! And second, Thierry is a lovely neighbour.

When I first came to live in France with my husband Mark, we had a disaster. Moving in day is always exciting but for us there was an extra layer of drama. Our septic tank exploded. It wasn’t quite the welcome we’d expected. We had no telephone, no mobile signal and no idea what to do about it.

Luckily we are surrounded by friendly farmers in my little rural village and as they are unquestionably practical people, we knocked on the door of one of them for advice. He offered to come and help us clueless newbies. By the time he arrived in a tractor towing a storage tank, the septic tank had emptied itself all over our garden. After a blip, when his assistant managed to push blow instead of suck on the long pipe which stuck out of the tractor tank, the big clean up began and the farmer celebrated with us and the neighbours who’d come to join in the fun. I subsequently found out that the villagers had given me the nickname “Madame Merde.” It has stuck!

Thierry later turned up and helped us fix the septic tank saying he would make sure it never happened again. It hasn’t, though we’re still not sure why it happened in the first place. We tried to pay him for his help, but he wouldn’t take anything saying ‘neighbours help each other. That is all.’ It was an important lesson for a couple of ex-city slickers moving into the middle of nowhere, rural France. We’ve never forgotten it so we wholeheartedly forgive Thierry  for his mishap. The rest of our neighbours however have enjoyed teasing him all week and find it hilarious that the replacement telephone pole is a fake-wood metal one: “indestructible” said the builders who installed it. It is now known as ‘Thierry’s Tower.’

Bisous from a village of good neighbours,


Janine Marsh is Author of My Good Life in France: In Pursuit of the Rural Dream  and My Four Seasons in France: A Year of the Good Life and Toujours la France: Living the Dream in Rural France (April 2022) all available as ebook, print & audio, on Amazon everywhere & all good bookshops online.

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