I live in a small hamlet in rural Pas de Calais in the far north of France. There are no shops, no bar and not much sign of life a lot of the time.
There are less than 200 souls in my village though many times more cows.
Each week a fish, meat and general products van arrives. They park in the courtyards of houses, outside front doors, in the road – not much traffic passes by so it’s not a problem. The bread van comes daily except for Sunday. Villagers, particularly the older ones, rely on services such as this as we are several miles from the nearest shop.
The ladies and men who bring the goods in the vans come all year round, whatever the weather. The man who drives the coach which collects kids from all the villages to take them to school in town is never late.
In the last few weeks we’ve had flooding in the village and part of the main road has washed away so to get in and out we have to go cross country up a steep hill behind the village church.
Now it’s snowing in our part of France.
Fortunately for us, because it’s farming country, the farmers are out and about on their tractors clearing the roads constantly because the cows, sheep, pigs and other animals in the fields have to be fed and the milk has to be collected whatever the weather conditions.
The bread man will be here late today no doubt, but there is also no doubt that he will be here. He knows that his customers will be waiting and he won’t let them down. Neighbours will be looking out for each other. When Bernadette on the corner fell on the steps of the church a couple of years back, it felt like everyone knew and did shopping, looked in on her and cared.
When 85 year old Mrs Thompson, the only other English person in the village apart from me and the OH, lost her husband, everyone rallied round to make sure she was okay. Neighbours cut wood, mended things, picked up her shopping when it snowed. She eventually moved to be with her daughter in the Loire Valley – life can be lonely for an old lady in an isolated village.
Living in rural France has downs as well as ups but the camaraderie and spirit of neighbourliness and helping one another can’t be underestimated and it’s one of the reasons I love it so much here.A bientôt Janine