Now please don't get me wrong. I love my French hosts to bits but they do all seem to suffer from the same mysterious ailment. A penchant for chatting. Ceaselessly, endlessly and generally about absolutely nothing of any importance whatsoever. They are being sociable of course: so I should not grumble.

I like walking, or at least used to when I was much fitter. However I would often drive the modest six hundred metres down to the harbour, rather than walk. Simply because of the risk of meeting someone, anyone, whether I knew them or not, but who would 'arrest' me and insist upon chatting. About absolutely sweet FA. For hours. I would never accomplish that which I had set out to do.

An example. Three old ladies walk up and down our lane each and every day. Admirable. Bless 'em! But each are always talking. All at the same time. Can't be to each other 'cause it isn't possible to listen and take in three conversations, if you include your own that is, simultaneously.

You hear the low drone of their approach before you even see them. Which is useful, because if you are in the garden it gives you time to run, take cover and hide. Until the Doppler effect confirms they've passed.

tree_fella.gif Jean Paul, a dear, and honourable old friend but one who is equally as guilty, once saw me cutting down an old diseased apple tree. He was passing in his Deux Chevaux at the time. He braked hard. Oblivious to the school bus following the customary safe French distance of 30 centimetres behind his back bumper. Now with forty screaming kids on the dashboard of the bus by its panic stricken driver, Jean Paul launches into his speech.

"Are you cutting your tree down?" He implores (except in French of course).

The jolly thing was horizontal for goodness sake. Felled across my front lawn.

"Non, mon ami. It's just resting. I'm going to put it back later."

"Mais oui, d'accord!" (But yes, I understand!") Replies dear Jean Paul.

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