You’ll have heard of the Cod Wars in the 1970s and then of course there was Star Wars and now there’s Wood Wars.
A couple of years ago there was a fire on greenbelt land not too far from our house. Afterwards, the council, as per their own legal instructions to householders, cut down a number of trees which were too close to buildings and the wood was just left lying.
In those two years I’ve looked at those wood piles several times a week as they lie beside the lane down to the main road but for one reason or another I haven’t made a move to take it. I was unsure if the nearest houses had first claim on it – a sort of unwritten French bye law if you like. But as amazingly, I appear to have enough wood to last me this winter, I haven’t been too worried, thinking that as the wood hasn’t moved for 2 years, it’s unlikely to move anytime soon.
Two weeks ago as I headed into the village on my scooter to have a ‘boys lunch’ I noticed that the council were cutting down some small overhanging trees just around the corner from our house. As they felled the trees, they were cut into two foot lengths and were being loaded onto the council truck. I thought fleetingly about asking the guys if they wanted to sell me the wood (for next year’s fire) but previous experience has taught me that they generally ask too much almost to the point where you could buy seasoned wood for the same price, so I left it and headed off to the Bar Midi.
As I passed the wood-cutting spot on my way home, the truck had gone but there was a large pile of cut logs lying beside the road. Never one to miss a trick, I carefully loaded a few onto my scooter and headed home. The trip was just to see how easy, or difficult it was to make the 30 second run back home on the scooter but it turned out to be quite straightforward. J was out in the jeep and there’s no way I would sully my Alfa with cut logs so I decided to do another run in my scooter, and another and another. I did five trips in all and had almost collected all the wood, when on my 6th trip I was stopped by a older guy in the ubiquitous white Peugeot 207s they all seem to drive here.
He jumped out, shouting about me taking his wood and I just stood there quite calmly – for a Glaswegian! After all, in ten years here I now know how the redneck natives behave – they immediately start off by shouting at you, hoping to intimidate you. I just smile. Then they write your number plate on the palm of their hand as if they’re going to trouble the police by reporting a wood problem. It’s hysterical – they all do it. Even this guy who looked as if he’d just finished the dirtiest job in the garden managed to find a pen on him and write the number down. Nowadays, I grab their hand and check to see if they’ve written the number down correctly – they hate it.
Anyway, this guy made such a song and dance about the few remaining pieces of wood which were left, that I let him have them, despite thinking that I should have told him to **** off and go have some Frogs Legs. After all, I’d already taken 90% of the wood! He called me a ‘chapeau’ whatever that is – nobody seems to know – and we went on our respective ways.
Fast forward to this week and I’m working down in my ‘jungle’ and the same guy passes on a small tractor with a trailer and gives me a knowing look. 30 minutes later he’s back with his trailer loaded with wood – he’s obviously decided that the wood which has been lying further down the track for two years is now not safe and so he’s been collecting it. He’s been doing these runs now for almost a week and every time he passes he gives me that French look – the look reminiscent of finding something messy on the sole of your shoe.
For my part I just smile and wave and think he’s a complete wazzock.