French Letter


This latest Slogpost aims to show the connection between the anonymous steerage citizen and the titanic forces of unelected cops, multinational companies, Generals and bureaucrats. Even if Big seems unsinkable, we can all take heart from the continued success of the Iceberg.


Everyone at some point in their lives goes through a period of calamity, when a series of mishaps collect in a wobbly pile day after day until one wonders where it might end. For me, one of those times began the day Parliament agreed on an election date, and culminated (I hope) in a bizarre repetition of history four days ago.

During those nineteen days, the Velux skylight in the Maison d’Amis suddenly turned into a water feature, flooding much of the sitting room; we had a 110 kph tempest that brought down two huge silver birch trees and sprayed branches from one end of the property to the other; a family of Loirs decided to take up residence in my study; the two farming brothers whose land coincides with mine at the north east end managed to hack through a tree, collapsing a fence I spent much of Autumn 2018 constructing at the back of my writer’s retreat there; the dishwasher performed normally, up to but not including washing anything terribly well at first, prior to finally winking at me with its little red light and doing nothing at all beyond that; the washing machine started flooding the kitchen; the gas company refused to supply me with gas until I’d sent the money in advance….because my bank wrongly bounced a cheque four years ago; and a deer decided that a blind corner on the way into my local village was its own personal pedestrian crossing, causing me to swerve, lose control of the car, and wind up in a ditch.

While trying to sort such things out, you learn an awful lot about what works in a culture, and what doesn’t. The bottom line in France is that most beings human surprise you with their generosity, and pretty much all things systemic screw up.


The Skylight issue requires a Time reverse back to 2014, when two young Polish gentlemen fitted it. I was sure the roof gradient was too shallow for a Velux, but they demurred. The nearest they could get to pronouncing my name was “Dthern”, which has one letter in the correct place but is otherwise inadmissable in games of Scrabble. “Dan woyyee Dthern,” they said, “Z’or-keu, noeio prerblongue”. Then they disappeared.  I still have 15 square metres of mock-wood flooring as a result of Polish mathematics: it’s in the cellar, bending a little more with every year. I can’t see it being of much use in stopping the skylight leak.

We get howling gales here every Autumn, so I have enough kindling to start domestic chimney fires from now until my youngest granddaughter gets married. You can visualise how many twigs that involves by the fact that Rosa is three years old. Wooden burning material as a byproduct of storms sounds like a free gift…..until you’ve hauled huge lumps of rain-sodden wood to a point that’s within range of your mains electric saw. After the experience, it feels like a pain in the arse, arms, legs, shoulders and back. Cutting 1.2 hectares of grass is a chore; clearing all the wood away so you can cut the grass puts you into Stations of the Cross territory.

The French rodent Loir is a cute little cross between a mouse, a kangaroo and a shitting machine. You know when you’ve got them, because their turds dwarf mouse droppings, and their ability to chew curtains, nest in your writing desk and galumph around noisily above the ceiling is unsurpassed by any species of which I’m aware.

By the time I discovered my stowaways, they were five in number – Mr, Mrs & three kids. I threw a collander over one infant before releasing it in the next county. The other four were tempted into rat cages by the use of gala or golden delicious apples and Tomme cheese. Your loir is something of a bon viveur, and thus almost certain to reject cooking apples, French emmenthal cheese or conference pears.

The Quintet had all been evicted as of yesterday afternoon. I don’t like to think about the petrol cost involved in their relocation.

My immediate farming neighbours are the offspring of what local legend insists was a family engaged in the practice of incest. Although I have no evidence to support such lore, the siblings concerned both have those beaky noses and close-together eyes one associates with Hillbillies plucking on banjos while sitting in Kentucky trees. I shall not be seeking redress from them, or indeed any other form of Deliverance.

So, via kitchen durables and the corporate truculence of monopoly gas heating suppliers and incompetent banks, we arrive at last Tuesday’s thrilling duel between a Peugeot 207 and a deer.

The Peugeot came off worst, being – it seems – a write-off, whereas the deer escaped intact. I was left trapped behind jammed doors in a ditch. I can only be thankful that it wasn’t a Borisonian ditch, for I am alive to tell the tale.

Within seconds, various buses, cars and motor bikes stopped, my car doors were prised open, and normal human beings asked with genuine concern if I was alright. Every one of them had a deer near-collision episode to talk about. (As it happens, the last French car accident I was involved in thirty years ago was the result of avoiding deer).

One chap very kindly gave me a lift into the village, where the local épicerie staff rustled up a rescue bloke à toute vitesse for me. He too was a diamond, delivering me back at my own door and hauling the car off to his garage.

And from then on, everything went pear-shaped.


I’m insured with Peugeot, and only ever deal with my local Peugeot dealer. He’s a nice bloke. Having this personal connection has always seemed important to me. But he works for a global combine, and after a certain level upwards there is a mantra that goes like this: “You being merely a client, and the fuckwit who totalled the vehicle in the first place, must of course do all the legwork”.

Liaise between Peugeot Assistance and Peugeot Assurance; find an assessor in our internecine organisation and give him some dates to come to your dealer, then check to see the dealer is OK with that; get your dealer to fill in our form to allow you to have a courtesy vehicle; find your own way (without a car) to get to the dealership; fill in another form to give us the exact inside back leg measurement of the deer, but apply to get it online because we can’t be bothered to understand the phonetics of your email address and send it to you; look, stop moaning – we’re a busy car manufacturer and you need to lose this ridiculous sense of entitlement you have.

Central to an understanding of contemporary French culture is the yawning canyon between les citoyens – as typified by the Gilets Jaunes – and the increasingly corporocratic State headed (and lauded) by Emmanuel Macron and his banker/ENAC mates. The GJs resent unjust taxation by Paris, and lousy service from “privatised” monopolies: unfortunately, there is no credible anti-Establishment figure to unite the Opposition. And thus, without doubt, Macron the centrist fake will be reelected.

This isn’t a purely French thing: as the Mob gets bigger, the individual small guy becomes almost invisible to the élite.

But here’s an analogy to chew on: without question, the biggest threats to the existence of Homo sapiens in the post antibiotic 21st century are only visible through a microscope.