This article was written for Annabel & Grace, which is now part of Rest Less.
I have been feeling a little rebellious of late. Many people who know me will say there’s no change there then! As you may have read from my previous blog posts, administration here in France can be a little daunting. However, we cope and adhere to laws in the same way that the French do. Which is often to ignore them…
We have two acres of land and did have a large vegetable patch beside the house. We have let it go as John’s back issues (two failed surgeries in the past couple of years) and my lack of gardening ability meant it caused more stress than it was worth. Why spend hours planting and weeding 100 onions when the same amount costs €3.50 from the market?
The dividing boundary between the ex-veg patch and our neighbours had a large amount of overgrown brambles (ouch!), sprouting ash trees and other shrubs which had got out of control and resembled a dense jungle and the roots were slowly destroying a lovely old stone wall. John had had enough and took a chainsaw to the lot.
We decided to be very citizen-like and go the Mairie (town hall, except it’s a tiny village but everyone has one!) as required, to ask permission to have a bonfire. The law in France is that they are forbidden between the end of June and beginning of September, which is understandable. In tinder dry conditions, a slight breeze and a spark going the wrong way can cause untold damage. We had already had to inform the fire brigade that we have a pool in case they need to pump water from it in the event of a fire. One of our neighbours has bonfires regularly during the summer and it does scare me…
The Mairie is open twice a week. Used to be Monday and Friday, then it was Tuesday and Friday. Now it’s Tuesday morning and Thursday afternoon, except on a Leap Year. Needless to say it took us quite some time to remember the right day. We duly smiled and asked for the form for permission for a bonfire. Eyes came out like stalks “Mais non, impossible!” came the response. “Pourquoi?” we smiled sweetly. “Il est interdit dans toute la France!” (forbidden throughout France), came the response. Our shoulders drooped and John said a few choice words.
France is trying to be responsible for air pollution and decided that all private bonfires would be banned. We don’t get it. We have a log burner, our neighbours all have log burners, some neighbours have two or three log burners as they don’t have central heating. More pollution than a bonfire, methinks. Farmers are allowed bonfires and in huge proportions. All our neighbours have bonfires outside of July and August. Glyphosate weed killers have also been banned for private use; we have two acres and used to use it on the paths but our farmer neighbour – who has at least three hundred acres – is allowed to use it anywhere. No logic.
So we came home, resolved to spend days cutting up all the trees and brambles, (more ouch!) and taking them to the tip. Luckily we have a large trailer so it took four loads. The trips backwards and forwards to the tip were probably more polluting in our diesel engined car (which we bought as at the the time, they were more favourable to the atmosphere!) than a quick bonfire.
We did have a bit of detritus left over but were too tired to take another load to the tip. So John piled it up and lit the blue touch paper, muttering “sod it.” I hid in the kitchen worrying about the €450 fine if the gendarmes passed at the wrong moment.
We recounted the story to one of our French friends who loves to speak English. “Merde alors” he muttered (nobody says “zut” anymore). “You know about ze gilet jaunes, n’est pas?” (An unpleasant bunch of trouble makers who don yellow warning vests and cause untold damage throughout France, particularly Paris, wrecking businesses and livelihoods). We nodded. He scratched his chin. “What you should ‘ave done is take zis rubbish to a roundabout wiz an old tyre, burn it all, wear your vests, everybody toots zair car ‘orn in sympathy and zen ze authorities will come and clean it all away.” We didn’t think of that.
A bientôt… Louloulapomme