For a start, there is the never ending house maintenance.....I firmly believe that the French have invented the world's only non stick paint....which in this house always seems to involve putting up a scaffold, or the highest ladder we possess and juggling with paint pot, brush and cloth at altitudes which would affect boiling a kettle. And I'm only just up there when a voice will be heard from the kitchen, or, worse, from outside, demanding my immediate presence to sign for a registered letter, look for a form for the taxman or accept a bucket of snails from my neighbour to pass on with my own collection of said to Didier when he comes later so that his wife can put them in the drum of the washing machine to start purging.
There is the garden....acres of it. Grass to cut with the ride on mower, teetering uneasily round the uneven lip of the pond, careering wildly down the slope to the bottom lawn, panicking at having to come out onto the road on a blind bend to get the thing back to the garage at the end of operations. Veg garden to weed, fruit trees to prune. Fruit and veg to harvest and process, asking oneself why malign fate always brings the strawberries on at the hottest moment of the year for making jam. Bringing the tender plants in at the onset of autumn.....instant hernia, given their size and the weight of the pots. Repeat instant hernia in spring, putting them all out again.
Housework.......pass. The annual balancing act on boards between the beams reminds me never again to have a cathedral ceiling and certainly no vantage point from which to see the dust and other objects on top of the bookcases. The hoover is a wonderful tool, but I would love to have one on each floor to avoid the mountaineering feats with the tube coiling round my legs like some degenerate depiction of the fate of Lacoon. If ever I am found at the foot of the stairs it will be no Amy Robsart mystery...it was the hoover wot dun it!
Cooking, eating and washing up. The insistence on three cooked meals per day means that I am very glad to have a good view from my kitchen window, where the battery radio is installed on the sill, ready for Test Match Special, and also ready to be carried down to the freezer lair in the cave when the game reaches some intense moment.......'they're booing Ponting again'....which cannot be abandoned. Washing up can be a refuge when the house is full of guests.....the well trained ones know that I like a bit of peace and quiet and the sink and dishwasher provide just that while the maelstrom rolls over the rest of the house.
The seasonal occupations. Picking sloe shoots in the spring to make epine....making epine, buying wine in cubis and bottling up. Summer, endless jam and chutney, hunting out wild asparagus. Autumn, picking grapes, making pineau, fermenting the plums for eau de vie, going out to look for mushrooms, drying said on return, going to local mushroom exhibition and being convinced that have eaten all those marked with a skull and crossbones. Winter, sneaking out on the byways to distill the plums into eau de vie and bottling up on return, chopping wood and dicing death with the circular saw. Christmas, answering the door to and providing drinks for the postpersons, fire brigade volunteers, dustmen and sporting club presidents eager to present you with their calendars and accept your token of appreciation in return.
Social life. More restricted these days, thanks to age and health, but our circle is one where an invitation to lunch means that you cross out the whole day on the calendar and make a mental note to do nothing strenuous the day after. Weddings, likewise, especially if invited to the ceremony, the vin d'honneur, the meal and then the party in the evening. Nothing strenuous for a week after that. Baptisms likewise, but not quite so heavyweight. Funerals...it all depends. If it's in a church run by the black cassocked fanatic, then it's always worth annoying him by refusing to cense the coffin and just to touch it as a mark of respect together with all the other renegades gathered in the back of the church...if it's run by his colleague, he just beams beatifically whatever you choose to do. The walk to the cemetery following the coffin can be long..but there's always the gossip to catch up on, and the return walk is enlivened by the prospect of a quick one in the bar. Bal dansant.....too dangerous these days with all those whirling bodies. Couscous evening in aid of the local school.....lethal to any swift movement the day following. Fire brigade ball....for some reason, bacchanalia guaranteed, but at least you can lurk behind the tables while the mayhem takes place on the dance floor, and if you don't go they might not be in a hurry to come out to your house fire.
Participative democracy. Meetings in local village halls to tell us what higher authority has decided to do with our taxes. Start time variable, but they won't break up until everyone has had their say and higher authority has replied that it doesn't care what anyone has said, it has already made the decision.
Shopping. Grouping the trips to save petrol, parking in the supermarket car park which has been specially designed to make extracting your car something akin to the dodgems, discovering that what was advertised in the publicity delivered to your door isn't actually in the shop. Queuing behind the deafest pensioner in France in the post office. Braving the tax office only to find that my taxman is on holiday....again.
I've only touched the surface.....contemplating it in detail would be too much to ask...but I would like the visitor from the city to try it and a year later return to hear her answer to her own question...but I have a suspicion that she would have turned tail long before the year was up.