I've posted about Hénon before. We stayed there for half of July and all of August in the end, at the holiday home of J & B, some friends of a friend. We didn't know them really at all, met them just once before, but when I rang up and asked point blank if we could have it for six weeks instead of two, they very quickly agreed with good cheer and friendliness; I did suggest they ring me back so they could discuss it; we'd perceived they were a couple who liked to check with each other before agreeing to things of mutual concern, which is something we like to see, having fairly strict rules within our own marriage about it.*
Anyway, B rang back withing a couple of minutes and said of course, that's fine (we and our insurance between us had agreed to pay them a decent rent), so we stretched ourselves into their reclining armchairs and heaved a sigh of relief. And very largely, that's what we spent quite a lot of the six weeks doing, when we weren't communicating at length with the expert's office, trying to pin down artisans, or having the mother of all bonfires of the vanities, Emmaus and the dechetterie grew fat on our discarded worldlies.
The other thing we did was walk a lot, getting to know pretty much every track and lane around the place; there were many safe and pleasant paths where Elfie was able to take her first off-leash walks in safety, and many other well-socialised dogs and cats, and even an African grey parrot at one house that used to whistle and chat as we went by. People round here who don't live there often pull a face when you mention Hénon, it's an unglamourous little commune that has nothing special about it, except for a massive 19th century Gothic church which serves as a landmark and makes the place easy to get back to when you get lost walking its environs, as we did a couple of times, and of course the celebrated dechetterie; it only has quite minor roads to it and isn't on the way to anywhere much else. Like many such bourgs - commune centres where the mairie is to be found - it is expanding to a surprising degree, with many lotissements and other new-build houses spreading further and further out, while in the village centre is rather dying, the dingy and poky old stone houses with hardly any gardens can scarcely be given away and stand empty and decaying; Tom likened the place to a mint plant. J & B, who live in Guernsey but come over often, said that when they first bought the house about twenty-five years ago there were three shops and five bars, not all of them open at the same time, now there is one bar, and the last general shop has recently closed down, though there is a bakers and Gaetan at the bar keeps a few shelves of groceries. Gaetan's other half, Fred, runs a cosy little hairdressing salon opposite the church and gave me the best and most enjoyable haircut I'd had in a long time; I would say more than the mairie their establishments are at the heart of the community.
J and B's is one of the older village houses, but a bit away from the centre, where the original buildings merge into the newer developments, and quite a popular residential area for young families, it seems. Our stay coinciding with the hottest and most relaxed period of the long summer holidays, we were kept awake by very noisy all night parties a couple of times. Despite this, however, and despite the horrible experience of finding the body of the young family next door's cat (who had earlier launched herself at Elfie with a savagery only a nursing mother cat can show), strangled in the opening of a slippery pvc window in the act of trying to get back in to her kittens when her owners went out leaving them separated and no easier way in (Tom reached up and unhitched her, I wrapped her up and left them a note, so at least their kids didn't see), we generally quite enjoyed our stay, the old house was cool and the walking was good.
It was indeed hot, so evenings were the best times to walk.
As I said, you can see the church from the fields all around,
and all its fancy Gothic nooks and crannies serve as roosts for a huge variety of birds: swallows and house martins and swifts, jackdaws and pigeons and doves, yet it didn't seem to be plagued and eroded by bird droppings, which can be a problem in other churches I've seen.
Something else I never knew, country church clocks here strike the hour twice, Plemy's does it too. This, it seems, was so that those working in the fields, like in the Angelus, or otherwise at a distance, who heard the clock strike but perhaps missed the start of it, could straighten up, wait a few moments then count the second lot properly.
I think Hénon must have been quite devout, lots of houses of all different periods have a niche above the door for an statue of Jesus or the BVM or other saint.
We saw the Bogard balloons a number of times.
And some sheep safely grazing.
There are a few quaint things to be seen here, this bizarre, oversized and completely architecturally anomalous thatched cottage, with naff replicas of classical sculptures - a midget Michelangelo's David, a nymph or two and a rather manky Renaissance lion - in the garden:
and this miniature Alpine chalet in a front yard which I've often wondered about as I drove past.
It turns out it is a cold-frame on wheels. The people at the house were funny and friendly too.
Our friend J was just down the road, we were able to use her internet sometimes, including by squatting down on the pavement at her windowsill before she was up in the mornings and picking up the wi-fi through the window, which the good citizens of Hénon found quite amusing.
Really not a bad place to pass a month or two, but we don't mind being on our way either.
|Sometimes when I called Elfie at this point, just before a field where some hares lived, she would bound towards me all silhouetted with light and looked like a spirit dog.|
* for example, the number of women who cheerfully volunteer their menfolk, without asking, for jobs involving DIY, car mechanics and heavy lifting is deplorable. Ask them how they'd feel if their husbands offered to lend them out to other people to come and clean for them and they'd look a bit surprised.