Rififi chez les voisins

Life has its dramas, even during lockdown in what must be one of the least eventful places in Europe. Turning away from the media’s preoccupation with the Corona virus, we take pleasure in observing the world around us as we sit outside in the sunshine.

Suddenly my daughter, whose eyes have been drifting towards the uninhabited houses of our neighbours, does a double take.

“What’s the matter?” I ask, turning in the direction of her gaze.

“That bird,” she says. “On the chimney of Vivien’s house …”

I look, but see no bird anywhere near Vivien’s house.

“Wait,” she says.

And whoops, like a Jack-in-the-box, a bird pops out of the chimney, perches for a second on the rim of the terracotta pot, then flies off. A blackbird or a starling – at this distance I’m not quite sure. A short time later, the bird returns with its mate, lands on the chimney pot and then plop! vanishes inside. After a few seconds, it re-emerges.

“They must have a nest there.”

Actually, thinking it over.it isn’t such a stupid idea. The house is empty, so there’s no fire down below; the chimney pot gives protection from the wind and rain, and is so narrow that nothing any bigger than a starling could get into it so the eggs are safe.

I message Vivien to inform her that she has tenants in her chimney and she replies that owing to the lockdown, nobody will be coming for at least a couple of months. We feel pleased for the birds, we can all relax.

Next morning, however, there’s a lot of squawking and screaming from that quarter: the chimney is under attack from two seagulls, whose loud racket soon attracts more of their ilk. The two chimney tenants are fluttering around, trying to defend their nest, but the muggers are determined. It takes them a few minutes to realize that they are too big to actually squeeze into the chimney pot, and it appears from where we are sitting that the nest must be too far down for their craned necks to reach. Soon, screeching and flapping, they abandon their mugging attempt, and the two smaller birds are left sitting on the ridge of the roof looking rather shaken, but triumphant. We give three quiet cheers.

That’s enough excitement for one day and we return to our handicrafts. My daughter’s production is already vast, including a couple of sweaters and a cardigan and she calculates she has used several miles of wool. I have finished a warm woolly waistcoat I started in February, unravelled three times and finally figured out a way to make it wearable.



(Note in these pictures what an obedient dog we have – when I turn, she turns!)

Then I started on the project I had brought yarn for the day before we left. My inspiration was a tee-shirt the lady in the wool shop had made, very simple but pretty, based on two granny squares and using a four ply cotton yarn that fades from dark teal to light turquoise. I didn’t take into account that, being a square, the extra inches needed in the width to fit my figure would inevitably mean that the garment had to be longer, so I have ended up with a dress – very useful all the same, and will be a good cover up over a swimsuit.



I had brought a few extra balls of wool with me – we had only intended to come for ten days, after all, and I thought I was well provided for. I used these to try out a few ideas that may be developed into something else, or turned into cushions. One of them became a tea cosy, another a doily and two turned into place mats, using Catherine stitch, which I thought was a nice touch.






Then, when it became clear that we would be here for several weeks if not months, I decided to embark on a major project: a large throw for my bed. I had been looking at the YouTube tutorial for this for a while, wondering if I could manage it, and the pattern was a free download.

My daughter has great experience in sourcing wool online, and knows about brands etc. so she soon found a suitable offer at a discount here in France, which arrived a few days later. This is keeping me out of mischief. I’ve had to undo several rows a number of times – with 182 stitches, that means a lot of reworking – but it’s the kind of pattern where you have to get it right from the start or it will all look wrong. I’m about a third of the way through, and so far so good.

Our “work” is accompanied by audiobooks and podcasts – among other things, BBC dramatizations of several Jane Austen novels, a thriller by Peter May, and the first three volumes of Alexander McColl Smith’s Scotland Street series.

I have also finished my bedtime reading of John Halifax Gentleman, and understand why it became a nineteenth century classic. As I have already said in my last post, nowadays I’m more tolerant of Victorian moralizing than I was when I was young, so I can ignore it enough to appreciate the skill of the author in this rags-to-riches story. She weaves it around much that is historically and geographically accurate, incorporating political and social history into her fictional events. It made enjoyable bedtime reading, and had no impact whatsoever on my dreams!

Standing next to it on the bookshelf is another badly worn ancient book that belonged to my father, Izaak Walton’s The Compleat Angler. I visited Izaak Walton’s cottage last September, so this is earmarked as my next read – after vols. 4-6 of Scotland Street, which aren’t available as audiobooks but we have them as Kindle editions. No point in listening to vol. 7 if I don’t know what happened in the interval!

5 thoughts on “Rififi chez les voisins

  1. Yea! I love the successful nesting story. Clever little birds. And boy, you’ve been busy. I think that throw is going to be stunning, and it will keep you busy for a while. It looks like a very intricate pattern. Happy Easter or whatever you do with this Sun day.

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