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Hydrangea thieves strike in the heart of rural France

hydrangeas in france

There was an urgent knocking on my front door one day this week. I know it was urgent because, living in the middle of nowhere we don’t get many people at the front door. Neighbours and friends tend to wander through the gate which is clearly marked “Attention Chien” – beware of the dog – and round to the back of the house and enter through the kitchen. Even the man who comes to read the water meter which is down a hole in my hall just comes round the back and yells through the window.

Most of the time I love this informality and feel that this must mean that I am accepted in the village though there are times when it bugs me – like when I’m concentrating really hard in the garden. One time I was sowing lettuce seeds, trying to get them in a straight line, not too deep. I was smiling away to myself imaging the big plump lettuces that we would enjoy – as would my ducks, when I started to feel uneasy. I shrugged off the feeling and moved along, mumbling to myself. After several minutes I stood up to stretch my legs and gasped when I saw J-P my neighbour just standing there watching.

“How long have you been there?” I asked

“A long time, but I didn’t like to disturb you” says J-P. I must admit it freaks me out a little bit.

Sometimes I see the farmer who puts his cows in the field at the bottom of my garden. Not unusual to see him you might think, this being a village of very few souls (about 142 of us in total). But, I sometimes see him actually standing in the bucket of his tractor peering over the hedge into our garden. People seem to be very curious about what’s going on in the house of the only Brits in the village.

Anyway, back to the knocking at the door.

It was J-P, breathless and pink with excitement. He came through the door at great speed babbling away in his usual Ch’ti (a local dialect) and I had to tell him to stop and speak French!

It seems that the hydrangea thieves, who are the talk of the region, have struck in our village – they have stolen his deadheads!

This very odd story hit the news a few months back when it was discovered that indignant residents of the Pas de Calais region were reporting the theft of their hydrangea flowers. After a bit of delay on the part of the gendarmerie – they thinking that there might be more important thing to investigate, it seems there was actually a problem. The police say that those responsible for nicking dead hydrangea flowers are smoking the petals to achieve some sort of high. The furore over this decadent behaviour has died down lately but now the whole village is agog with tales of J-P’s loss and who might be responsible.

Small villages are a hotbed of gossip and tittle tattle and rumours are rife about who might be responsible for the theft of J-P’s hydrangea heads. Personally I think the removal has improved the looks of the village – the old flowers were looking decidedly rough. I do wonder if Madame J-P might not actually have pruned them and hasn’t the heart to tell her excitable husband the truth. J-P is clearly loving being the centre of attention, telling everyone and anyone the story.

Not much happens around here and I wouldn’t have it any other way…

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