The other day our neighbour Jean-Paul who we call JP, came and asked to borrow the OH (Other Half) for a bit. He didn’t say a bit of what – just… a bit, this is quite normal round here in our part of France.
It’s always an adventure when JP takes him off somewhere – it’s usually to help catch an animal that’s escaped or to try a new wine. Sometimes I am included in the invites on these jaunts but definitely not when it is a gathering of a group of hunters, naturally all men, or to catch an animal – my squeals apparently don’t help.
The OH came back twenty minutes or so later – JP went past the gate in his old tractor waving as he wended his way off to who knows where…
It seems the tractor, which is ancient, has a starter problem. The OH being an ex-mechanic amongst many other things, thought he was needed to discover the cause of the problem and maybe fix it. But no – JP wanted a push-start.
The tractor is big and heavy. It had a trailer on the back. JP has a dodgy heart and can’t really do much physical stuff so his plan was that he, JP, would sit in the tractor. The OH would push said tractor – and trailer just for added fun – out of the gate and down the hill and then JP would push-start it!
The tractor weighs several tonnes and I have no idea how much the trailer weighs – enough to make it a bit of a challenge.
The OH is a big bloke, well over 6 feet tall and weighing many stones/kilos (he was a body builder and boxer too – I told you he has had many jobs/hobbies didn’t I?).
He admits it was a “bit of a struggle”. He pushed and pushed and was starting to feel faint when suddenly the whole lot started rolling forward – out of the gate… JP turned the wheel onto the hill and with a flash, a billowing of smoke and a low growl the decrepit old machine started. The OH heard a little voice say “merde alors” – he looked down and saw… JP’s mum. She is in her late eighties and tiny hence he had to look down. She was brushing her hands off and cursing like a trooper – she had come out of the house and pushed alongside the OH and he is convinced that he was getting nowhere until she came out and helped. He thinks she could be a contender for a “Strong man” competition or a “Strong old lady” competition at least.
JP’s mum Mathilde is one of those old French ladies who get old and wrinkled but don’t appear to have any other side effects of old age. She drinks like a fish, gave up smoking 10 years ago, eats pork belly for breakfast and gets up at 5.30 a.m. She takes her ancient brother out for promenades in his ancient wheel chair and pushes him up and down the hill. I once asked her if I could help and she told me she needed the exercise; it is a steep hill – I get my three dogs to pull me up it. She grows her own veg, she keeps chickens, ducks and geese. She is amazing.
I want to be like that when I am old. I think I had better start eating pork belly and up my alcohol intake straight away. I’m not sure that I can do a big glass of home-made cider when I get up first thing in the morning though – which she says is her true secret!