Is your village like my village?

I have had a base in my village here in Brittany since 1972. I maintain that it is not necessarily a typical village in that sometimes quite unusual things happen. So it has been this week.

The events started last Thursday afternoon when I had a visit from the Maire. He asked me if I would mind assisting as a French guy who is building a house who needed an agreeement with an English lady land owner who has a plot of land in the village that a house could be built. He needed some drainage he needed across her site. I said OK.

The Maire explained what was needed and I said that there should be a written
proposal which we could take to the English lady and explain and if she was happy it
could be agreed by the commune and by her. He provided a draft
on Friday morning which we amended slighly together and he had the original altered and by
arrangement we went to see the lady. I translated it and explained it very carefully (I have a construction background but am retired) and she was happy and both parties signed and he took two copies and she kept one.

She had never had any approach from the person who was building the house at
all and until then neither she nor I knew anything about it.

On Friday evening a young woman we know slightly visited our house and said
that there was a big problem with the agreement (I did not know she was
involved) and could we go to the English lady's house as "the agreement was a disaster". I
could not imagine why it was a disaster but I agreed to go with her and she
gave me a lift. He driving was extremely erratic and she took several wrong
turns and even crashed into another car as we went. I told her to slow down
and drive properly. Her two (of four) children were in the back and as
terrified as I was. We arrived and we started to chat with the English lady. The
French lady was completely incoherent and it seemd she was on drugs or
drunk. I said the conversatiion was useless; she became abusive and I told
her to leave and I would make my own way home which I did when my wife came
to pick me up.

The next day I had a doctor's appointment and on the way back I passed the
site and saw the drainage work being done but not in accordance with the
agreement or good practice. I told the man doing it to stop as it was not in
accordance with either the agreement or good practice. He started getting pretty
aggressive. He was using a machine far too large and not using a more suitable trench cutter. He
had made a considerable and unnecessary mess.

I went to the Mairie to report the events. I knew that the Maire was absent
but I found the Assistant Maire and I was just starting to relate the
position when the machine operator (and owner of the new house) arrived with
a screech of brakes.

There was a heated conversation and I said that the English lady was insisting that
the written agreement be honoured. He seemed to be completely unaware of the
agreement and in fact they could not find a copy (although they had produced
it on their computer). I said that the work must stop until a way forward
has been agreed although in fact he went straight back and did some more
work (although he has now stopped).

At lunchtime on Tuesday the same woman arrived at my door and demanded that
I apologise to her and her young children. I said that no apology was due
and I shut the door on her as again she seemed drunk.

I went to a local town and did some shopping with my daughter and after I got
back I received a phone call from someone to say that there had been an
accident in the village and did I have any details. I said I hadn't heard
but on my later dog walk I noticed some skid and oilmarks on the road
outside the Mairie.

Well yesterday morning I went to buy my bread and found the French woman's mother
there who told me that the crash had been her daughter, the same drunken
woman, who had two children in her car and they all were taken to hospital
and he car written off. It seems she was not breathalysed though. She has
four kids by I think three different fathers. Two have already been taken
away. She is constantly drunk or drugged. Her last but one companion got so
fed up he hung himself in the chicken shed.

I believe she mothered a child to the man building the house a few years ago
but I've lost count. For some reason she was asked to deal with getting the
drainage sorted but nothing ever happened and that's why I have been told
this last minute approach was made by the Maire.

Through helping the Maire with a very simple issue one has become involved
over a few very short days in a nightmare situation that has come at a time
when I just don't need it.

I think that there is a strong possibility that the English lady (who is of a certain age) has
been victim of possible intimidation and certainly undue pressure. My own involvement as a simple
translator has put me in a very unenviable position. My knowledge of
construction is of course extensive but has been challenged and riduled by a
tractor driver building his own house with no construction experience. There
are of course no drawings, no levels etc and it seems that no forethought
has been applied.

In a small community like this such things become troublesome. Do any other members have similar experiences?

my thoughts exactly Brian, which is why I was laughing by the time I got to bottom of story, sorry David, so on a serious note, I feel for you being left feeling as you do. The French woman sounds do as nasty As my landlady - she has a son by an American apparently, post war time.

her reputation is well known in village as being a money grabber, no wonder she was keen to have me as a tenant and had replied to my ad in Le Bon Coin last year! not till Id moved here and some months later spoke to Maire did I know that. there were some issues with the house which I had pointed out, she promised they would be fixed, like mould in the small utility annexe and discovered later had been painted over, cos it’s there again, plus at least half of the newly papered wall paper in kitchen has all it joints well opened up and peeling off. over the months well it’s gone on and on, too much to keep writing , suffice not helped my health.

she refused request from Social worker for a meeting here between the 3 of us, then had a go at me, because I’d gone to CAF,her idea, she knew that based on income, not money in bank, they automatically contribute to monthly rent payment.

I’d only ever wanted help with the new administrative p/work, not money, but at least I had option of it being paid to my account not hers!, so I took it. now she going to have to wait from next month till she does something about the mould and spores. for the rest of the village it’s good, as I joined comite des fetes in January, we had 2 events only this year to date, so I and a few of the younger members, now we see each in passing more often, are determined to liven the village up. they’ve just spent a lot of money here building a village hall, 2/3 years ago, great I thought when I saw some alterations and painting going on this year, but no, a diving wall has been put up, right down centre of hall? Why I thought! so the school children have half space for dinner time, the oldies play cards Bulot? once a week in term time - that’s it!

oh well press on, where there’s a will, there is a way! trouble is I’m losing the will! when are next local elections?

my thoughts entirely, Brian!

I do a bit for this commune, especially mediating rather than interpreting. Our mayor is 'young', which is to say 50-ish, and took over from a dodgy predecessor who had to resign before the prefect resigned him. He does not take on responsibility for 'planning' issues, they now go to district, other mayors are getting the hang of that too. Technical expertise and permission comes higher up the food chain, he just puts his signature on the permission. As for taking sides, thus far no bad tales told. What nonsense is remaining a poor commune? It simply means that the department is demanding less taxes from the village, therefore they can keep it low, especially their own. The opposite of socialism in fact but not even capitalist behaviour. Some of them live somewhere among the elves and fairies but not in the same world as the rest of us.

I think nothing will happen until the Maire returns from his holidays! I am worried that there is insufficient technical expertise and that the technical opinions of an etranger will not be welcomed. I don't like to see elderly people railroaded as I saw plenty of that in the UK where I often acted as an Expert Witness in such cases.

Brian I have a STACK of these and have thought about putting them together but wonder about my literary skills! I might get run out of town as well! Last year I was interviewed on French radio about life as an expat and I said I thought I lived in a village with very particular qualities. Four days later I had a visit from the Mayor saying no he village was very ordinary just like all the others. They did not seem to be interested in anything that made their village stand out from the rest. Is this French socialism? The last Maire said he wanted the village to remain among the three poorest communes in our department.

I do some translating for the mayor but don't become involved in advice, just translating what is put in front of me ... much easier. As the mayor drafted the agreement surely he can ensure that it is carried out as per the document? I don't envy your situation at all David, yes it sounds like intimidation. Key to it all is getting the mayor on yours and the English lady's side. Re. drunken French woman .... cripes, keep well away !!

No, but you'll make your fortune if you sell the plot to somebody who produces soap operas!