6–7th December: Arrivals and Departures


(Mark Sampson) #1

It's official. The table-tennis season is over. This weekend, in a biting wind, my wife and I folded our blue table and put it under wraps for another winter. It has joined the wood under tarps to protect it from the elements to come. Debs finds that the tail-end of our track looks like a building site. We have discussed the situation and conceived of a little straw-bale shelter with a single-pitch roof to echo the parent roof above my head. It will require drawings and a déclaration des travaux for a start-off, but we can say that the project has now officially gone into pre-production.


While on the subject of productions, we've watched half of a film about the making of King Kong. That's the Peter Jackson version with Naomi Watts as the maiden in the hand of the oversized gorilla. I've never had much yearning to watch the film itself, satisfied as I am with the clunky original, but I picked up a double production journal on DVD in Cash Converters for a derisory 50 cents, thinking it might shed some interesting light on the film-making process.


I was not wrong. Not only has it cast Peter Jackson himself in a very positive light, given a valuable lesson on how to mimic the extraordinary New Zealand accent (with its transformation of, say, yes into yiss and film into furlm), but it has also underlined the mind-boggling attention to detail involved in creating the modern blockbuster. You realise the significance of those endless credits that roll past at the end of a film. Just how many people did it take to create Skull Island out of polystyrene, or 1930s Manhattan in plywood, or a jungle using models and computer technology? The film industry is just that: a veritable industry.


We've reached December 2004 and the point at which the whole teeming multitude of cast and crew breaks for Christmas. We're not there yet this year, but it's coming on fast and strong. Arriving soon on platform 5, en provenance de Toulouse, the Yuletide shebang. Calling at all stations for Paris. All aboard! We had intended to celebrate Christmas on the other side of the Channel for the first time in years, but hadn't reckoned on the decrepitude of our poor dog. The Daughter is desperate for an extended family Christmas, but I've experienced a few in my time that have gone dangerously wrong. So it shall be another child's Christmas in the Lot this year.


If Alf makes it that far, it will be his approximate 14th birthday, which just about makes him a centenarian in human terms. On Saturday morning I wasn't sure whether the old boy would still be here when I got back from Martel market. All day long, he would wander outside, then come back in for a minute or two, limp to his water bowl and then back out again. I watched him through a window, sniffing the air and wandering aimlessly like a trembling and bewildered soul. He seemed to prefer to curl up outside in the cold than inside by the fire. It seemed to me that he had sensed his imminent departure for the Promised Park and couldn't equate this with his role as guardian of the family home. They say that animals have out-of-body experiences towards the end, as if they are able to send their souls off on voyages of discovery to report back on the afterlife.


This lasted all day long and I couldn't settle any more than he could. I am prepared for his death, so long as it's a natural one when his time has come, preferably of course in his sleep. But when it seems that he is perturbed, even suffering, you wonder whether you should be making that phone call to the local vet. As it happened, his mistress did some 'surrogate tapping' for him after she'd finished her day's travails. I know from personal experience that EFT can work wonders, but am still sceptical about this surrogate notion. Nevertheless, Alf settled almost immediately and went to sleep for the evening. Indoors.


So there was no need to cancel our Moke Memorial Dinner on Saturday evening. Our friend Moke is going back to the UK after approximately seven years in France. I've lost count already. He bought a renovation project in a beautiful spot overlooking the hills around the red-stone town of Meyssac. He bought it, though, just before the bottom fell out of the French property market. Over the years, he has laboured – sometimes it seems like Sisyphus, with one finished job only leading to another, bigger one – to turn the house into something suitably saleable to meet the demands of the current market. Now, finally, he's done it. A couple from Paris will benefit from his handiwork and an attention to detail worthy of a Peter Jackson film.


So the house is sold and the debts repaid. It has been hard, relentless work. But the seven or so years over here have represented such a rich and rewarding experience – particularly at a social level, with countless new friends among the local and international community – that he is already talking of buying a pied à terre that will allow him to divide his future time between London and the Corrèze.


We had hoped to meet up with him again late on Sunday afternoon when Debs and I decided to take in the annual Christmas market in Meyssac. Moke, however, was too busy finishing off some finishing touches before the sale goes through early next week. So it was just the two of us who wandered through the thronging alleyways of this delightful market town. The whole place was aglow with fairy lights and we were particularly taken with the use of old lampshades all the way down one of the busiest thoroughfares. It's probably a little late in the day to start a collection for our own festivities.


The commercants oversaw their wares in little temporary wooden huts, which now seem de rigeur for municipal Yuletide markets. Despite the crowd, I wondered just how many people were opening their wallets to support their local craftspeople. I felt their pain as people perused and then passed on by. I suspect that most spare cash was spent on waffles, candy floss and rides on the little merry-go-round in the square.


It was all very nicely done and the locals had clearly done their bit to guarantee a good time for one and all. Some of them had even dressed up in medieval garb to take part in tableaux vivants depicting scenes from local life long, long ago – when Christmas was a religious rather than a commercial holiday. It was cold, though, and it worried me that they were outside and not moving – like our poor dog. One wouldn't want the arrival of colds and flu to coincide with the coming holiday and the end of 2014 AD.


(Mark Sampson) #2

Thank you, Caroline. And yes, you're absolutely right. They never entirely leave.


(Caroline Morris) #3

Good ole boy, long may he be with you. Not that dogs ever leave us, they are always somewhere in our hearts.

I shall pass on Debs' details to some friends who are having a bad time at the moment.


(Mark Sampson) #4

Thank you for your enquiry, Caroline. Much appreciated. The old timer had a little stroll with me this morning and is now sleeping soundly with Daisy the cat on his old duvet bed. He's still tucking into his food, which is why I like to think that he's not suffering to the extent where the unthinkable has to kick in. Debs treats mainly French clients, by the way, but has her share of international clients, too. She had a Skype client last year in Botswanaland, I believe!


(Mark Sampson) #5

How interesting Peter. Debs uses reflexology and aromatherapy in her armoury, according to a client's needs. I used to call her my back street aromatherapist, because she could have been shut down at any moment. The times have indeed changed, although she is still registered for her cotisations with a code that includes prostitutes. In other words, we don't know what to do with them and we'll give them minimal rights in return for their money. Thank you for passing on her contact details, by the way. It all helps keep her good-for-nothing husband in the style to which he has become accustomed.


(Peter Bird) #6

Thanks for the info Mark, sounds interesting. I'm also a trained reflexologist and used it along with my chiropody clinic in the '80s but stopped both when Irealised it would be impossible for me to become 'legal' in France. The times have changed fortunately...

The french Fibromyalgia association advocate EFT & EMDR and are currently doing a drive to make their members more aware with conferences etc.

I have passed Deb's details to my friend, thanks again.


(Caroline Morris) #7

That sounds fascinating. Does Debs have French and English speaking clients?
I’ll have a look at her website.
How’s Alf?


(Mark Sampson) #8

Hi Peter, hi Caroline. I'm not quite sure about the science of EFT, but I do know that it's linked to the acupuncture points in the body and is about shifting blocks and moving energy. My wife works with very astute questioning and kind of verbal repetitions (while tapping on the different points in sequence). She works a lot with clients who have experienced some kind of trauma (whether major or apparently minor and often linked to childhood). While traditional psychotherapy will re-visit but sometimes reinforce the trauma, Debs uses EFT to re-set it, so to speak - in other words, to find a different way of looking at it. My own experience with this was particularly profound in working with a rather toxic relationship with my mother. I wasn't sure whether it had actually done any good until the day - while walking the dog - when I suddenly realised that the dialogues I used to have in my head (with her) had actually gone silent. I simply don't have them any more after years and years of fruitless repetitions and such like inside my head.

I'm going to work on her website over Christmas, but you could have a look at her current site - www.deborahsampson.net - as it might give you an idea of how she works (along with her contact details). I know I'm very biased, but that girl is good. She's had half the Corrèze come through her doors and one day they'll put up a statue to her in the centre of Brive. (She also enjoys working with clients via Skype.)


(Peter Bird) #9

I would be very interested to know more too. A friend who suffers from Fibromyalgia is consiering EFT and EMDR - can either help ? She is in Cahors and is looking foor a suitable practitioner


(Caroline Morris) #10

Poor old Alf. Time to go but nevertheless a huge hole in your lives. I didn’t know about EFT, and have just looked it up online. Mark you say you know it works from personal experience, it sounds interesting - can you tell us about how it worked for you, or is this something you would rather not talk about?
Well written as always!


(Peter Bird) #11

I much prefer Meyssac. Collonges is ok with it's touristy image but I think charging for the parking was taking the biscuit ! Well worth a visit tho', especially the church. Some impressive stonework in the village.

Beaulieu/D just down the road is ok too with some nice restos.


(Mark Sampson) #12

Quite so, Peter. But stunning as Collonges is, it always feels a bit like a museum to me, whereas Meyssac is an honest-to-goodness working town. It was the first place I saw when I came to these parts for the first time around 25 years ago that made me think, Wow, I want to live here one day! So it will always have a special place in my heart.


(Peter Bird) #13

I feel a bit sorry for the town of Meyssac Mark. Just down the road is the more famous red-stone town with the words 'La Rouge' after it whereas the equally stunning red-brick metropolis of Meyssac just has, well, 'Meyssac' and no deserving onomatopoeia.