Sunday, 11 August 2013

Ring Out, Wild Bells

I can understand people wanting to move to the region. It is, after all an area of natural beauty, with a great climate and a more relaxed rhythm than is found in the city. It seems that more and more people are looking for a slower pace of life.

The quest for peace and tranquility is understandable after the rat-race of the big city. However, it can have its dark side. For years there have been reports in the press of town-dwellers making fools of themselves after moving to the country and finding that it isn’t like Acacia Ave surrounded by fields. There are people who are not only surprised to discover that cocks really do crow early in the morning, but actually complain and try to put a stop to such ‘noise’. I heard a story about a couple in England, who complained about the cricket matches on the green in front of their newly purchased house. What did they think the big white screens and large painted circle were there for?  

Due to the continuing influx of what are sometimes called foreigners, ie people who have arrived from places more than thirty kilometers away, I too have began to share such suspicions about newcomers. Let me say straight away that you can come from Mars for all I care. As long as you have an IQ above about 70 and don’t want to moan about the disadvantages of living in ‘La france profonde’ then come on in and have a nice cup of tea; but please, don’t try to drag the rest of us into the dystopia from whence you hail. You’re here to get away from all that. 

A case in point is the unlikely story unfolding in Tornac, just up the road. An English resident Edward Elgar....... no really, got friendly with a local farmer, who let Mr E use some of his land for grazing his cattle. Cows quite often wear bells in the region, a custom going back centuries. A newcomer, I’m not sure where he’s from, (but would hazard a guess), has taken the Englishman to court, because he says that the sound of the cowbells are causing him: ‘exhaustion and anxiety.’ Having been to Paris recently, this is hardly surprising, as exhaustion and anxiety seems to have taken over from spasmophilia and heavy legs* as the newest must-have neurosis.

In recent years, I’ve heard more and more stories about asocial, stressed out people making absurd demands of the locals as soon as they arrive in a region, without the slightest regard for anyone apart from themselves. Anyone citing exhaustion and anxiety as a reason for changing a social order which has existed for centuries needs some serious therapy. It’s not the locals, it’s YOU.

If anyone has news of Mr Elgar’s case, please let me know. I’m rooting for you, Mr E, as bells and the avian chanson de matin are part of life. It’s just a pity that a life is exactly the thing which these people need to acquire.

* See my post: ‘Hi, my name’s Rob and I’m a hypochondriac.’


  1. Stories like that have become common in mid-Wales, where numerous English Midlanders fetch up as retirees. Complaints about the noise (and cruelty!) of lambing, complaints about dangerous dark footpaths, complaints about mud and cow dung on the road... They manage to get themselves onto the parish council and, lo!, there is soon a little row of lamp-posts glowing pointlessly through the night.


  2. I've lived here in the same house for some 25 years and am constantly surprised that as neighbours come and go, nobody has complained to us yet about my constant playing of music. That may be my iPod or cds blaring out or even friends turning up and singing and playing guitars in our (tiny) garden. We seem to be tolerated. Every time someone new moves in, I anticipate an argument about the music but so far, it's all been fine.

    Which is great because,as we all know, I mostly play crap no one else wants to listen to.

    Tomorrow evening some friends are coming round for a meal and they've just bought a house in Cheese-Eating Surrender-Monkey-Land so I'll ask them about their attitude towards their next door soundtracks. I'll keep you posted. Obviously, I'll let them download my Dan Ars Braz albums first.

    1. I agree with Keith Richards that you're born with your neighbours. When I lived in Great Wymondley, we would often play until very late, which drove the elderly neighbours mad. It was probably a horrible thing to do, so when a few years ago, the house next door was rented to a lot of youngsters, who played the same old riff, with bass and drums at max, we did have a few sleepless nights.Having done the same thing myself in my youth, I felt it would have been hypocritical to complain. Instead, I went round with my Telecaster a few times.

      It seems to be more of a problem here, as a large proportion of the population are massively neurotic. I once cooked a curry for a small party, open to all the people of an extremely small village. The French aren't used to hot food, so I made it very aromatic, with no chilli. A man came up and had a plate. He seemed like a dickhead from the word go, as he was very suspicious of any type of Brit cuisine. I reassured him that it wasn't hot spicy. He took one mouthful and went into paroxysms as the effects of the imaginary chilli hit him. The main spices were cumin and turmeric.

      Stressed out, anxious people who complain about ridiculous things deserve to be locked up in gated communities where they can drive each other madder.

      As for your friends with the house in France. Do tell them that it is very important that they talk to other newcomers to the region before doing say, renovation on the house. It's also imperative to learn the language, otherwise they run the risk of being ripped off all the time. There is builder here who used to boast that he charged 'foreigners' 30% more. Seeing that he's second generation Italian he's also a hypocrite. With a little asking around, there will always be someone to recommend a builder painter etc who is both friendly and honest.
      Who or what is Dan Ars Braz?

  3. Forgot to say: we were in the Auvergne a couple of years ago, and I found the sound of cow-bells would send me into somehing like a trance state, if I sat in our gite garden and listened -- a whole herd on a nearby hillside meadow was like a gamelan playing an unusually random Phillip Glass piece. "Exhaustion and anxiety"? That's what I brought with me, and the cowbells were amazingly soothing.


    1. I think the sort of people we're talking about were born exhausted and anxious. I was going to make an uncharacteristic racist comment there, but I'm sure you get my drift. The fact of the matter is that where I live has the downside of a higher proportion of 'nervous' types than most places. It is only a small minority, but you do run into a lot more people here who make Woody Allen seem the most rounded person in the World.
      What really got me the other week in Paris was the way that the constant wailing of police sirens and those horrible little Mobylettes were tolerated as though they didn't exist. Listen to a soothing piano sonata, and you risk even more wailing sirens.I think the solution is to buy shares in whoever makes 'Prozac.'You can't lose.

  4. A fabulous Breton guitarist I saw a few times in the seventies. He started out with Alan Stivell and was in Fairport for about 10 minutes. Seems to have ended up playing muzak. Also performed with a huge Celtic band called L'Heritage des Celtes - hold that accent over the first e - and performed at the Eurovision Song Contest sometime last Century.

    And that's without looking anything up!