Today I did something I know I am going to regret for the rest of my life.
A little background first. Our house in Blois, Closerie Falaiseau, where we will be moving permanently in October 2014, was built in 1584, just like a similar house on the left (the houses were built by two brothers). Apart from the main house, we have a barn, a former pigsty, an open sheltered area and a workshop on the left, and another barn and a little house, built much more recently in steps and stages, on the right.
For the moment, we have divided the main house into two, upstairs and downstairs, and we are renting out the bottom part as tourist accommodation until we move. After that, Jean Michel is going to demolish the unattractive half of the little house, leaving the other half to form a double garage. He will then convert the barn behind it into a gîte (vacation rental).
On the right of the little house, there are three modern homes, all built along the same lines, on quite large plots of land. Our neighbours are not keen gardeners and the area closest to the little house is rather unkempt. We recently had to ask them to lop part of their weeping willow which is threatening to damage the roof of our barn. There is an old wooden lean-to up against our barn inside their property.
They have a wire fence and a somewhat incongruous, expensive remote-controlled gate that was installed last year.
When we arrived last weekend, we were surprised to see that two panels of wood had been erected along the fence on the side near the stone wall of the little house. We initially thought they were going to continue the panels along the entire fence.
But no, the panels were then continued at right angles to the first, ending at the lean-to. Strange. Then next thing we saw a wire fence WITH A GATE on the other side, forming an enclosure, the sort you keep poultry in.
Great! A chicken yard, just next to the future garden of the gîte. Noise, smells, etc. Not to mention the eyesore created by the wooden panels. How is this going to affect the popularity of our rental accommdation? We tried to find out more but the workers claimed they didn’t know why they were building the enclosure.
This morning, after phoning the local authorities and being told that there are no regulations about keeping poultry unless there are more than 50 birds, I decided to go and have a look. And lo and behold, the enclosure now contained a goose and a few chickens. The neighbour’s three children were standing watching them.
That is when I committed the fatal error. I took a photo of the poultry. For the blog. As I did so, I heard someone shouting, “What are you doing? You can’t take photos. It’s private property.” The mother marched down to the gate, repeating the same thing.
When she arrived, I explained that we were worried about having the poultry yard next to our future gîte. She said everyone else in the street had poultry yards and it was for the children. I said that I perfectly understood but wondered why it was on our side, when they had such a large property.
It seems the lean-to was originally built for that purpose and that they have had poultry cooped up in there for the last month. They’ve already lost two ducks. Well, they might all just die off, I thought.
Then she started on about the photo again, so I proceeded to take it off my camera. The problem was that I couldn’t really tell her I had taken it for my blog ! She told me that she herself was a very calm person but that her husband had a terrible temper and would be furious if he found out I was taking photos.
She also complained that the dormer window in the barn, which unfortunately for us fronts onto their property, prevents her from walking around in her nightie in the yard. Considering there’s only a wire fence, you’d wonder why that would matter! In any case, I apologised and said I hadn’t intended to offend her in any way.
I then went off to tell Jean Michel about the incredibly stupid thing I’d done. He said it was a pity but I shouldn’t worry. I went back to my planting and suddenly heard shouting. The neighbour’s husband was upraiding Jean Michel over the fence at the back of the house and threatening to go to a lawyer to stop me taking photos.
My heart sank. After he stormed off, I suggested I go and apologize but Jean Michel said I had nothing to apologize for. It wasn’t as though I was on his property or taking photos of his children. I could have kicked myself for being so stupid. “Don’t worry. C’est un caractériel“, he said, which roughly means he’s totally unstable.
But when we came home after shopping in the afternoon, the neighbour had parked his car in one of the two parking areas that Jean Michel has cleared in the vacant lot across the road that is non-constructible because it’s next to the Loire. Warfare has been declared!