This is a fictional story about the life a French soldier during the First World War in 1914. It is based on historical facts, names and places have been changed.
Renovating a house in France.
I had already been living in France for a couple of years and working seasonal jobs to earn my keep. After working in the Provence in the south, then the Loire, I became very fond of the Burgundy region. I had been working in the area for a while and became attached to many Burgundian charms.
The colourful landscape and varied climate, strong traditions and of course the wines.
So this is the story of how I purchased my my first house in France, the problems of renovating and turning it into what became my family home.
As in many countries and cultures, the French loaf of bread (“baguette“) is a daily requirement of the diet.
Today is almost a typical working day for Rémi. After days of bad weather and waiting the wheat harvest can now begin.
Rémi is a 49 year old French farmer, living with his wife and 10 year old son on a typical farm located in central France. He is a son of a farmer and his wife a farmer’s daughter. They live in a small village with 120 inhabitants, which once boasted 8 farms, however Rémi is the last member of the village to continue in the agricultural industry. He has a herd of 150 Charolais beef cattle, 30 hectares of grazing fields and about 60 hectares of cereal crops such as wheat and rape (Colza). He is alone on his farm with no employees.
Today the weather is good, sunshine and the village cafe is open, with tables and chairs on the terrace.
It’s 18.00hrs and Pierre has just finished work. He decides to have some time off with a drink in the café.
As he takes a chair at an empty table, he greets the other people he knows with a handshake, with a soft voice he asks the barman for a “demi”, a 1/2 pint glass of beer.
The waiter serves the beer to Gilbert, who lays back in the chair and sips his drink, watching the cars and people walk by. A few metres away he notices an old friend heading towards him and shouts out “Salut Pierre, tu prendre un verre avec moi” (Hi Pierre, have a glass with me).
Pierre replies “Bonjour Gilbert, comment va tu ?” (Good-day Gilbert, how are you ?)
“Ca va merci. Qu’est que tu veut boire ?” (Fine thanks. What would you like to drink ?)
“Un Pastis s’il te plait” (A Pastis please [Aniseed aperitif])
The waiter serves the drink and the two men talk about day to day life.
“La famille va bien ?” (Is the family ok ?)
Pierre explains that his eldest son will soon be taking his Baccalaureate exams, but doesn’t seem to be revising enough. His wife has finally found a part-time job in a nearby supermarket. She will be working 20 hours a week with the SMIC (minimum legal salary ) of 9Euros per hour.
Gilbert begins to moan about the current high price of petrol, now at 1.32Euro, when it was only at 1.14 in January. He is worried because at the end of every month he is obliged to take money from his “Livret A” (Savings account) to pay all the bills.
Gilbert earns 2000Euro per month plus commissions on sales, but the current economy has reduced the spending of his clients so his salary is much less than 2 years ago. “Travailler plus pour gagner plus” (work more and earn more), he shouts aloud. “That’s what the president promised us, but I’m working much more and earning a lot less !”
Pierre says “Et oui, les temps sont durs” (Ah yes, times are hard).
Pierre tries to change the subject and ask “Tu a des projets pour les vacances d’été ?” (Do you have projects for the summer holidays ?)
“Oui, la Vendée, chez mes amis”, (Yes, the Vendee, by my friends).
“j’aime beaucoup la région, le soleil, la mer et les gens sont sympas”. (I love the region, the sun, the sea and the people are friendly).
Gilbert ask if Pierre will watch the “La Coupe du Monde” ( the world cup).
“Oui un peut, mais on a aucune chance”. (Yes a bit, but we have no chance).
This is typical French pessimism. Et c’est comme ça ici