|Old Pierre's House Up The Hill|
You remember old Pierre – he’s the old guy up the hill who used to watch me every time I did something on the terraces or when I was up the large oak tree trying to cut bits of it down. He was always chastising me for various things – planting palm trees on the terraces, spraying weedkiller in the lane or even worse, when I let weeds grow over the markers which show the border between his land and mine. Sacre bleu! But then when I asked him for advice on something, he’d spend ages talking to me, not a word of it in English, and then go off and get me something to make the job easier.
He was probably typically French in that respect, quite difficult to get to know, fed up with all the Brits and Germans surrounding him in his 100 year old cottage, but when he was in the mood, he was quite amiable.
Pierre was in his 80s and had a double knee replacement a few years ago but still made the effort to wander around his terraces watering his plants and making sure I hadn’t pilfered any of his wood. I believe he and his wife who survives him spent at least 4-5 months each year in their Paris house so I reckon when he came back down south he had all that Parisian angst ready to unleash on me, particularly when the builders decimated the area next to his land.
‘You can’t run your water pipe along the lane, my wall will fall down’, was the cry one day (in French of course). Pierre wanted me to run the mains pipe all the way from the bottom road which would have cost thousands but in the end the builders ignored him and of course his wall continued standing.
‘That’s my tree, you can’t cut it down’, was another statement he made. I showed him the plans which quite clearly showed it was my oak and once he’d reluctantly accepted that fact, he was ok, even giving me permission to go onto his land to make the job easier and not many Frenchies allow you to do that.
‘Your weeds are growing over the boundary marker – please clear them away’, was another, regular diatribe, and you need to understand the paranoia that the French have with their boundaries to understand that one!
And then earlier this year he just disappeared. A young guy started cutting his grass which was a sign that all was not well and the house was shut for long periods and his lovingly tended fig trees started to go yellow in the summer heat.
I suspected he’d either had a serious illness and was convalescing in Paris or worse, that he’d passed away. It was very strange that he hadn’t been seen wandering around his beloved terraces and if you think it’s odd that we didn’t know what had happened to our neighbour then it’s a difficult situation. Not once in ten years has his wife spoken to us and as far as I know, not once in ten years did Pierre talk to any of my family, yours truly excepted.
It was when I ran into old Gunther (the German up the hill) last Saturday that I stopped and asked him about Pierre and was told the sad news. Apparently he was ok one week, the next he’d been diagnosed with Kidney Cancer and a few weeks later, he passed away.
I’ll miss the cantankerous old bugger.