Just Merveilleux

Life at № 42

Small town life

A stunning sky in Mazamet

A stunning sky in Mazamet

It’s different. Very different. Sotogrande was small, but in an entirely different, urban way. Most people were originally from big cities, and so we carried with us that distance we learn to keep from each other in those places. Conversations mostly comprised of smalltalk. Your flowers look lovely, what lovely earrings, wasn’t that a lovely dinner last night. Thank you so much- that o being stretched out in what could only be called an affectation. There’s great safety in vapid politesse.

And so here I am confronting a new and very unfamiliar type of familiarity. The other day I crossed the postal worker on the street, “Did you see I left a package for you in the greenhouse.” Noticing my surprise, she explained I wasn’t home and so she came in through the garden gate. Perfectly normal, perfectly natural. (Meanwhile I was making a mental note to later google what the laws are in France regarding people just entering, rather than breaking and entering.)

People seem to learn one’s name, and expect we learn theirs just as quickly. If you ask me what my bank manager’s name was in Spain, the best I can do is say I think it started with an L. My current bank manager though, is another story. By the end of our first meeting, I knew she lived on our street. Her boyfriend was the kind man who moved his car so the removals people had more space to maneuver and bring our things into the house. She was born and raised in Mazamet and has the hearty accent to prove it- and she thinks the local food is much better than Spanish food.

Yesterday we were leaving the house when an elderly neighbour waved us down. She could see I was smoking a cigarillo and felt she had to tell me to stop. Her husband died 20 years ago of leukemia and she just knows it’s because he smoked. He passed away the year of his retirement. Terribly unfair for them both. She was forced to move from a house that had a garden she loved to a small apartment. And now she has no one to change light bulbs or fix things. Her son is an engineer, and so too busy to help, “or so he says,” she quipped.

One of the town councillors stopped by to introduce himself. A British eccentric who’s been here since the 60’s. He’s the author of Life’s not all Wine and Roses. He looks straight out of the Gloucestershire countryside. Tweed, important mustache, and the determined air of someone who just got separated from the hunt party and must get back to them immediately.

I’m finding it all amusing, even though I’m not quite sure of how to navigate in this world yet. I’m holding back as I observe and learn the dynamics. During our first month I realized my presumptions of what life is were mostly incorrect. So now I’ve stopped asking people whether they’re in one of the grand houses in town or in a chateau in the countryside. It turns out there are other options of accommodation.

The thing is in Spain people tend to only meet and socialize with people with similar backgrounds. Crossing those lines just doesn’t happen. A postal worker would never have stopped a Sotogrande resident on the street. Here it seems they take the Liberty, Equality, Fraternity very seriously.

I’m also reticent to invite people to lunch or dinner, because most seem to have strict schedules. The owners of La Villa de Mazamet serve dinner to their paying guests every evening. During the day they manage their business. I’m not sure how people work around these times. I’m not serving lunch within a window of a two hour lunch break. People wouldn’t even be able to drink properly.

I guess this means people only get to amuse themselves on weekends. That seems very limited to me. Oppressive even.

In Spain I used to only make us dinner, but I’ve taken to making lunch as well, so at least we can sit and have a glass of wine during the day sometimes- or perhaps many times (even if no one can join us because they’re working).

I also still do my private happy hour every afternoon. That’s always nice, but there’s still no music system running through the house. Oh- by the way, does anyone have the Sonos system? That’s what we’re thinking of getting. Is it easy to use?

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21 comments on “Small town life

  1. john zande
    June 14, 2015

    Who’s your local vet?

    Like

  2. Helen Devries
    June 14, 2015

    Stand back and check out the pecking order….who goes to the front of the queue in the post office…who is served yesterday’s baguette…who shops at which stalls on the market…

    Your town is more heterogeneous than mine, I suspect, but I used to be very wary of addressing people by name as they all looked alike thanks to the lack of physical mobility afforded their ancestors. All I did know was that if it didn’t look cloned then it was an outsider.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mr. Merveilleux
      June 14, 2015

      I go to the front of queue at the post office 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      • Helen Devries
        June 14, 2015

        Then it will be up to you to dish out the invites….

        It used to puzzle me that even the retired used only to feed in company on Sundays…..it was as if doing so on any other day was a heresy.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Mr. Merveilleux
        June 14, 2015

        How odd. I’m used to Sundays being a more intimate, familial affair- and other days are for everyone else.
        Aren’t charity events always on weekdays. How does that work?
        I never invite anyone or go anywhere on Sundays. It’s my day- the day no one bothers me. No phone, no doorbell, certainly no setting tables and ironing napkins.

        Like

      • Helen Devries
        June 20, 2015

        Charity events on weekdays? Then the maire must be claiming expenses…

        Like

  3. Hariod Brawn
    June 14, 2015

    You have a private Happy Hour? What does that entail may I ask?

    Like

    • Mr. Merveilleux
      June 14, 2015

      It depends on the season. Summer is gin and tonic or campari. Winter is scotch. Spring and autumn can be anything 🙂 And olives or whatever else I find in the kitchen.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hariod Brawn
        June 14, 2015

        Oh, not too risqué then, other than during Spring and Autumn perhaps . . . 🙄

        Like

  4. Charmaine Martin
    June 14, 2015

    So, it’s true what they say: Work is the curse of the drinking class.
    Soon, your Sunday lunches will be the talk of the district. As in, “Don’t go to Mssr. E’s for lunch – you won’t be able to wake up for work the next day.”

    Like

  5. acflory
    June 15, 2015

    Moving to North Warrandyte was a similar shock to us. From politely ignoring the people just a short stone’s throw from our doors, we moved onto an acre and a half where the neighbours co-operate and come to the door with homemade scones and invite you to dinner within the first week. It’s also the kind of place where the shop-owners in the very small local village all know you and treat you as a ‘regular’ [as distinct from the weekend tourists lol] When the shock wears off though it’s a lovely feeling to be part of a real community. Let yourself enjoy it Pinky!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mr. Merveilleux
      June 15, 2015

      I’m definitely giving it a go, and I’m going to do my best to participate 🙂 I do like the warmth and good will. It’s much more pleasant than the combination of aggression and passive-aggression that we’re used to.
      At first I was terribly suspicious, just waiting for the thwack. Why is everyone being so nice? What do they want? But no thwack thus far, on the contrary.
      It’s made me realize that the lifestyle model that’s thrust on people through the media is utter rubbish. Almost everything we see on television and read in magazines pushes people into seeking an unhealthily competitive, unkind and antagonistic way of life. As if the success of one depends on the failure of the other, when it should really be about people helping each other.

      Liked by 1 person

      • acflory
        June 15, 2015

        Well said, PInky. I honestly hope you and Mike are as happy at Mazamet as the Daughter and I have been in Warrandyte. I love knowing my neighbours ‘have my back’. I haven’t felt this much at home since I was a kid and life was a whole lot slower. And kinder, methinks. -hugs-

        Like

  6. appletonavenue
    June 17, 2015

    Is it really the difference between France and Spain, or more specifically Mazamet, France and Sotogrande, Spain? I imagine you can find similar enclaves in France? It seems a bit like culture shock, but shock seems too strong a word. You are very wise to watch and learn, but I’m sure it won’t be long before you are sweeping the old ladies off their feet, and getting the freshest baguette. 🙂

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    • Mr. Merveilleux
      June 17, 2015

      There are certainly snobby zones in France, but there’s also a noticeable cultural difference regarding equality. Spain seems to me to be more hierarchical.
      An interesting example is when I was working on a house in Spain, and walked into a room where there were workman, they’d stop talking. In France, at least up to now, I haven’t noticed that variety of submissiveness.

      Liked by 1 person

      • appletonavenue
        June 19, 2015

        I had no idea. But then, most of us Americans are pretty ignorant of how the rest of the world lives.

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  7. Carmen
    December 31, 2016

    I’ve just stumbled across this post from awhile back, Mr. M. I have to raise my eyebrows at your reaction to life in the country. Since I’ve never lived in any city – and probably never will – the ‘small village’ scene is all I know. You’d probably be horrified to realize that we have never locked our doors (in fact, we don’t even know where the keys to the house ARE), we don’t take the keys out of our vehicles at night, and that hubby often has to call around to find out who has borrowed various items from the garage. . OH, and hubby has a box of plumbing supplies in the basement, which various members of the community regularly come to ‘raid’. I could go on with examples of life in the country . . . 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • We didn’t lock our doors in Spain either… it’s just that we all started out life in places where we had to! And I suppose we carried that urban vibe with us.
      Here the bank manager stops by if there’s anything for us to sign 🙂
      Happy New Year!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I think you are denying them the experience of the glamour you bring to the world by keeping the community at bay.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We’ve tried socializing a little bit more, but it’s very, very different from Spain. Whereas there by the end of the evening people have taken off their shoes and are dancing… here they’re super serious.

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This entry was posted on June 14, 2015 by in life, Mazamet and tagged , , , .
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