Finder (but not) Keeper

A week ago a French neighbour, an elderly widow, knocked at our door to ask if we had lost a man’s bill-fold-type wallet. She said she had found it near our car which was parked adjacent to our house but not on our property.

I saw immediately it wasn’t mine and told her so. She said it seemed to belong to an English, so together we investigated the contents, which included more than £100 in notes, and 270 Euro in notes of several denominations. There was a British driving licence, three credit/debit cards, a 'Frequent Traveller " ferry-card, and a membership card for a Caravan Club.

In the interests of probity and prudence, I suggested she take it to the Mairie, but I noted the name on the Caravan Club card and told her I would telephone them so that they might be able to contact him and reassure him his wallet was in safe hands. I did that, and was assured that they would do their best to pass on the message, although they wouldn’t divulge his personal details to me.

Today I spoke to the neighbour who told me that the gentleman in question had retrieved his wallet from the Mairie on the following Monday. She said she had received no acknowledgement from the individual concerned; and - in reply to my query - no token of gratitude for her exemplary honesty and trouble (those words are mine, not hers, she made no complaint herself).

Am I being priggish about this, or is this a reflection of the gradual coarsening of English culture and manners in recent times? If that’s indeed the case, what can one do about it?


You would hope there would be gratitude if the rightful owner of the wallet knew of the person who had found it which would depend on the Mairie telling them.

If so you would expect wine, flowers or chocolates to be given as an indication of gratitude.


I think that’s discourteous in the extreme.
I might be tempted to send in a carefully-worded letter for publication in the Caravan Club magazine saying you hope this isn’t typical of the way their members behave. They might not publish the letter but then again they just might, beause after all their members are ambassadors for the club when they go abroad, so the club might want to encourage them to think a bit harder about how they act and how they are perceived.

Your neighbour sounds lovely.


yesterday I went to but some stuff who’s name a cannot remember and the bags are in the bin but self levelling stuff for floors around thermic plating and some insulation and a few other bits. Now after paying and getting to my car and going to 2 other shops I realised I was missing 2 things. My can of red bull, not a big deal I had 3 more in the car, but my wife’s only working car key… Panic begins, I went first back to brico and looked around spoke to a few people who had not seen them. I then went to the other shops id visited, the toy shop and carfour. No joy in any of them… Dreading the call to my wife to explain id lost a can of red bull and oh by the way your car keys too. I began the walk to the car. getting closer I see a guy sitting on the front of my car and a member of staff from brico chatting with them. (the guy had been waiting for 20 minutes) dangling my keys in front of him. I think I looked very relieved as the guy was laughing and telling me not to stress. Got my wallet out to offer him some cash and he was very offended saying no no no. Plus side he has dogs and the girl was telling him all about our place and he is coming for a visit so I can throw him a discount. (I haven’t told my wife about it though as even though they are found id still be in big trouble) Not the first time a French person I’ve seen has refused money, they prefer a token gift over money any day or just a warm smile and big thank you.


I don’t think it’s a charge you can level only at the English.

A couple of weeks ago my OH found a young hunting dog running down the middle of a fast and dangerous RN near us. He stopped and managed to get it to come to him, got the number off his collar and started calling his owner - no reply. To cut a long story short it took an hour or more in the freezing cold to get the dog in the car (complicated negotiation with our own dog) then hours more before owner replied, and then owner asked him to meet him about 10 km away. So all in all several hours of time, plus a detour, a what did he get in return? Nothing. Not even a thank you. If someone returned our dog to us after being lost I would heap them with thanks and gifts!


I once found a wallet, no money but ID still in it. I tracked down and then contacted the owner and arranged to meet in a local chain restaurant for me to give it to her. I told a friend about my find and that I would be meeting the owner, and he rushed to be on hand at the time of our meeting. I was mystified; why would my friend rush to the scene of a supposedly friendly meeting where I would expect to be thanked for my effort… The upshot was, my friend wanted to be nearby because he was concerned that perhaps the owner would think that I had stolen the money or was in some way involved in the original crime. I had not thought of that, while doing my good work I only thought of the altruistic part and, you know, doing the right thing.


I think Mary W you do make a very sensible point that wouldn’t have occurred to me (although it would probably have occurred to my wife). It’s easy to make assumptions about all sort of happenings - including reading the content of posts - and hard to realise how much assumptions affect my/our behaviour all the time.

I hope I’m not being presumptuous in recommending a book “Being Wrong; Adventures in the Margins of Error” by Kathryn Schultz. There’s increasing interest around ‘the wisdom of uncertainty’ and ‘Fast and Slow Thinking’, pervasive issues of crooked thinking that tend to afflict many of us, and show up over and over in debates about the quality of social discourse, like the ones that have kicked off here regularly since I joined (I don’t claim sole responsibility, though!).

Generally, I think this forum is very well-balanced and intellectually sound, as well as being pretty emotionally honest and up-front. I admire the moderators hugely. I enjoy contributing and I am learning lots about surviving France, and more besides. It’s one of the most benign and constructive social media platforms I’ve encountered since the Internet got off the blocks. I 'm particularly grateful to the veteran contributors, you probably know who you are.

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Definitely going to read that book. Thanks for the suggestion.