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Happy New Year from the middle of nowhere rural France


Hope you had a lovely Christmas.

Here it was a quiet Christmas as usual, not too much razzmatazz in the middle of nowhere rural France. Farmers carry on as normal, early mornings, milking cows, feeding livestock, though not much work in the fields as the ground is either frozen or sodden this time of the year.

I’m very pleased to tell you that the goose I have been feeding on my morning walks with the dogs – lives! I was worried about fattening him up for someone’s Christmas but, non, he is alive and honking! (A few people have asked for a photo of him so here he is on Instagram!) …

In the village, shutters are closed and it looks like a ghost town as not even a peep of light shows through the cracks. Inside the houses – it’s a different story. Yesterday I popped down the hill where I live to wish a bonne fin d’année, happy end of the year, to my neighbour Marie-Claude. In France, you don’t wish Happy New Year until after midnight on New Year’s Eve, bonne fin d’année is acceptable though!

Marie-Claude lives in the basin of the village in a long, low farmhouse. It was dusk, a freezing night, the pale winter sun was just disappearing over the hill, rosy hues lit up the sky, mist hovered over the fields and great balls of mistletoe stood out in the surrounding, leafless trees. I couldn’t tell if Marie-Claude was even at home but when the door was opened, a blast of hot air fell out! I hurried in, so as not to let the heat escape. I was ushered straight into the kitchen as is the way when you visit people here, a glass of wine poured before I could get my coat off, the fire stoked up and the dog told to stay in its bed.

“Would you like something to eat?” asked Marie-Claude. “No thanks” I said. Which is pointless because Marie-Claude takes no notice and always puts food on the table when someone arrives. Out came a little dish of green olives, spiced walnuts, slices of saucisson, salty Comte cheese, little rounds of baguette, a pat of salty butter on a wooden board, tiny cakes, Financiers and Madeleines, crystallised fruit.

“Now” she said as she sat down “How is your next book coming along… drink your wine… try those olives… the cheese.” She gabbled away in fast rural French and before I knew it, an hour had gone and then another as we chatted away about this and that. People here are not rich in what they have in the bank, but in terms of kindness, of caring, of neighbourliness, we picked millionaire’s row when we moved to this tiny village no one has ever heard of in the 7 Valleys in northern France.

To all my French friends, I wish you a bonne fin d’année and to everyone else – a Very Happy New Year…

Bisous from France,

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