There is one set of neighbours that I haven't mentioned yet and that is Stephane and Stephanie (despite their matching names they are a married couple). They live in the village in a small house in between the road and the church and are around retirement age although neither seems to have fully retired! They have a vegetable patch opposite the church and a large barn on the opposite side of the road and speak with a strong local accent! They are always welcoming and pleased to see us and like to be kept up to date with the local gossip including our news. I stopped in to say hello on my way to take lunch to Ian and his friend on the last day and we got invited for aperitifs that evening at 7.00 (thus ensuring that the building had to be finished by then!) The aperitifs consisted of Stephane's home-made wine (tastes nice but gives you a shocking headache). The wine improved my French enough to join in the conversation and we had a good laugh about the events with Herman, the state of the world and le chasse or the hunt; for which Stephane is a key figure! From what I can understand le chasse seems to be an organisation broadly similar to the Freemasons in England except that in France they go out with guns and try to shoot things. Certainly the movements of le chasse are considered extremely important and usually most conversations with us end with 'when are you coming over?' and 'will we still be able to hunt on your land?'. Our view so far has been that while we are not here they can but once we get animals in the field then this will be more difficult and I can see that this is one area where we are gong to have to negotiate very carefully if we are not going to upset a lot of people. We were then told that a family of hares had set up home in the base that has be scraped for the garage but not to worry as le chasse had got them all! We were later presented with a jar of home-made hare pate! In her colander on the sink Stephanie had two enormous animal hearts. I was amazed to see them and made a comment but she just thought I was asking what sort of animal they came from and tried hard to explain that they were from something shot at the weekend! At least they eat all the bits of what they kill!
Stephane and Stephanie are the sort of people that enjoy and appreciate every moment of their lives! They are always smiling and always welcoming and make such an effort to understand my poor French. They both have that special spark of passion for life inside them and you can see it in their eyes.