Image by Tobyotter via FlickrThe postlady has been bringing me up to date on what has been happening during her week's holiday. Her replacement, poor harassed soul, has had no time to gossip as she, unlike the regular lady, does not have the status of a government job for life, only a normal contract and thus is much more under the thumb of the new boss at the post office. He can't sack her, this being France, after all, but he can nag about the time she takes to do the round.
Life at La Poste is not what it was. When it was a proper public service, the postmen and women would go out of their way to check on elderly people, letters or no letters, and my first postman was trustee for several who were held to be incapable of managing their own affairs. Now La Poste is to be privatised, despite the vast 'referendum' campaign mounted to keep it in the public sector and there are worries that it will go the same way as EDF, which has been in the news after staff have been comitting suicide, such is the pressure to achieve targets. My postlady is unimpressed. She has the guarentee of a job for life, if not with La Poste then with some other state organisation and in the meantime she does her round as she sees fit, calling on all the elderly at least once a week.
Apart from the health bulletin on all the unwell of the area, the startling news that Madame Lebon had been baring her breast in the chemist's shop and the latest mistake made by the local notaire - he had managed to sell a house to an American together with two fields which did not belong to it - most of the news concerned the farming fraternity.
There have been ructions for some time about the price farmers are paid for their milk by the distributors, and there have been all sorts of protests ranging from ransacking the shelves of the supermarkets so there is no milk to buy, blockading the distribution plants, pouring milk on the fields and, finally, giving it away, either on market day or at the farm gate. Needless to say, the government is taking action both in Brussels and in France, and there is an offer of an improved price in the air. At this point, the milk producers are divided. Some want to accept the offer, others are holding out for a price which they claim more fairly reflects their cost of production. The divisions are acrimonious and last week the local farms giving away milk were targeted...their notices torn down and in one case, both notice and the straw bale on which it was sitting being set alight, damaging the hedge alongside. No one thinks that it is anyone other than a milk producer who wants to accept the offer......the question is, which one? Someone is bound to have seen him, or his car, but will that someone talk? If they do, I shall hear all about it from the postlady.
Another bright spark has been in trouble with the courts as he was untidy enough to leave over twenty rotting sheep carcases along the watercourse on his land - where they could be seen. Majority opinion is that they were so weak when they arrived that they died trying to get something to drink, as his speciality is buying sheep that are going to the knacker's yard, then fattening them up for sale! No enquiry into the welfare of the animals, but a fine for polluting the watercourse. This is the same bright spark who made a living for years selling 'local' lamb...his name and his farm proudly displayed on the supermarket counter. Now, the French will always buy French produce rather than foreign and local rather than national, so he was on to a winner. I have seen New Zealand lamb - chilled, not frozen - French lamb and his lamb all on sale concurrently, and his stuff was flying off the shelves at top dollar. It did look nice lamb, not all long shanked like the normal French stuff, but, for the price, I stuck with the New Zealand. Then came mad cow disease when not only beef but also lamb imports from the U.K. were banned in France and, suddenly, his lamb no longer appeared on the shelves. Monsieur had been buying live sheep in Wales, shipping them over to spend a week on his land, and had then sold them on as local produce! No wonder it had looked so good.
He isn't unique. I think it was last year - because this year there has been some sort of oyster plague - oyster producers down the Atlantic coast were the object of legal action, for importing oysters from Ireland, keeping them in their tanks for a while and selling them on as local produce. The courts finally decided that they were entitled to do so. It makes a nonsense of all the fuss about unique local habitats which is used to push up the prices, but the oyster producers were happy.
French purchasing habits never cease to astonish me. Take tomatoes. In the winter, there are the anaemic, tasteless products of the Nantes glasshouses sitting alongside ripe fruits from Morocco...they buy French! I once saw an offer of T bone steaks from Ireland - wonderful, marbled objects - at half the price of the miserable French offerings.....guess which product was shifting! You really do start to wonder if all this propaganda about the French really knowing about food is just that...propaganda.
Still, back on the farming front, there is a project to install a windfarm, paying undisclosed sums to the farmers who own the land. There is a lotissement - a housing estate - just under the site proposed and the inhabitants are, not surprisingly, kicking up. They don't want it. The two farmers involved have been 'visiting' the protesters, to make it clear that they do not want formal objections......it remains to be seen whether some forty families weigh more than two farmers in the French system. One thing is for sure, it wouldn't be any good complaining about harassment to the gendarmerie.
Personally I think that windfarms are a con...I have deep suspicions about the green lobby and the commerce which lies behind it...and to contaminate the landscape with these horrors is to me an aesthetic crime.
The postlady goes on her way with the addition of my contribution to the speaking newspaper. I have at last found a lawyer to sue the hospital that nearly killed my husband last year.