Sunday, June 02, 2013


I seem to have quite a bit of photographic material for odds-and-ends kinds of small posts hanging around, so I shall try to use some of it over the next few days.

Over the years here, and at Out with Mol, our neighbour Victor has featured occasionally but perennially.  A blogging friend visiting a few years ago brought this to my attention when we passed his veg patch by asking with amusement 'Oh, is that Victor's place?!'

He doesn't have his own tag, but putting 'Victor' into the search box yielded up several pages of results, and though one or two of them referred to Victor Hugo, most of them were to the man himself.  He is now over ninety, and though hip replacements, the loss of his beloved wife Céline, a minor stroke and the final passing of the mobile distillery for making eau-de-vie from home-made cider (which he was one of the last farmers in the commune old enough to have the right to use) all threatened to be the final blow to his continuing life here, he is still going very strong, and seems to me much the same as ever.

He has had to downsize rather.  In the last few years his old orange Fergy tractor has been replaced by a ride-on mower,

but better a ride-on mower than no tractor, size isn't everything (V himself comes in at no more than five foot),

and it's got headlights.

I think he's given up his chainsaw, and is no more to be seen swinging around in the upper reaches of his Scots pine tree with it, but still hangs onto his hedge cutter, which he wields dexterously while scrambling about on the bank opposite.

I think he has the blood of the Old Ones in his veins.


Zhoen said...

He looks lovely.

Catalyst said...

What an amazing example for we younger ones to imitate.

marja-leena said...

The 'blood of the Old Ones' - indeed! What a lovely neighbour to have. He reminds me of some elders I used to know. I wonder if we'll be able to reach that state?

the polish chick said...

how utterly lovely, lucy. my own grandma is going to be 93 in a few weeks, and still continues to plant her huge and prolific garden. i always thought that cutting her off from it would have resulted in her swift demise. to have that much energy is nothing short of inspirational.

Jean said...

What a great neighbour. It will be so, so sad when the last of those like Victor, whose strength is fed from the land, are gone. I'm very glad that even the limited time I've spent in France has allowed me to know a few.

zephyr said...

Riding with plastic protecting the new seat, i see. Dear Victor values his new steed.

Ellena said...

How amazing. Some people are blessed to 'have it in them'. I'd love to read that he is now one hundred or more.

Rouchswalwe said...

I'd like to raise a pint together with Victor. Does he drink ale? If not, we'd raise a glass of Ebbelwoi'!

Roderick Robinson said...

But a man's a man for a' that - even when reduced to a ride-on mower. How many sets of bleu de travail do you think he has? An unworthy question; I'm sure he's more than capable of working a washing machine and may be able to get by with one set. He looks like a guy who plans: as my deputy editor said: work smarter, not harder.

I'm been totally unobservant. It's my impression that "dilettante" disappeared some time ago from the strapline (A good move; you undermined the label with what you wrote, time after time. False modesty.) But when did the present strap arrive? A great improvement.

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Salut Victor! I hope you'll show him that he's being immortalised on the internet?
I want to get around in a vehicle like that when I'm 94.

Lucy said...

Thanks all.

He is lovely, though he's a stubborn old git. His numerous siblings, all long lived and energetic people, grumble about him and tell us we should be cross with him about letting his trees overshadow our house. His ironic, I assume, response to this was that he's an ecologist and didn't hold with cutting trees down. In fact, despite his Tom Bombadil winsomeness, he's not exactly a friend to nature; he was destroying hedgerows for the sake of growing land and firewood until well into his eighties - my sorrow at this was only somewhat tempered by my admiration that he was doing it all on his own. That said he cherishes his apple trees and uses little corners of fields to grow them with cabbages under them - perhaps less of those now since he gave up his food rabbits.

But it is the connection to the soil that keeps him going, I'm sure, and good genes. The former can go either way; for many here in Brittany being too close to the earth seems to drag them down fatally, and suicide is almost commonplace, but for those who do endure, it is a source of strength and stability. His kids are good too, they live in the towns but come often and do things with, rather than for him, working outdoors etc.

I've always resolved that I would never have cross words or fall out with him, and in fact he's never really done anything to cause us to; I like his trees when I'm not worrying about them blowing down on our roof, and the light through their leaves in the house in spring and autumn is one of the dearest things to me here, even though I have to sweep them up from our front when they fall. His bonfires are usually well managed. And I don't think there'd be any point in trying to fall out with him anyway, he'd just shrug and chuckle and walk off.

Zephyr - I didn't notice that, but you're right! He still drives a car a bit too.

Ellena - I'd like that too. I dread his passing in fact, he's so much part of the scene here.

R - he'd probably appreciate a beer, I can't remember if I've seen him drinking it, I think he drinks pastis too, but the cider is his staple. I read in Wiki that your Frankfurt Ebbelwoi has sorbus berries in it too.

Lucy said...

New comment lest I exceed the character count.

Robbie - his bleu is somewhat unusual in that it is a two-piece, I don't think I've seen him in a combinaison, perhaps they're made too long! Though one would think they'd make shorter ones for Bretons. I've seen children not much more than babies in tiny cut-down ones, and when I've smiled and remarked the parents response has been quite seriously proud: 'Oui, son premier bleu.' I think you're right about his method of working, he is efficient, but he doesn't half keep going - we can be crashed out with a drink at the end of our day's gardening and he's still beavering away. I'll be taking Mol for her evening perambulation and there he is 'Toujours au boulot...' being the pleasantry we exchange at such moments. He may well now have a washing machine now, but they raised five children without a bathroom in the house. He always looks neat though, if faded, and he has a woollen sweater of a really gorgeous shade of blue, with a touch more green in it. He cycled till not that long ago too, in lycra!

The banner's been there about a month. The last one with the bees on the mint for getting on for a year. The sub-heading is a Rilke reference, as was the one before; the photo was an old blurry night time shot of stained glass from Mont St Michel. I was quite happy, as I've said before, with the dilettante tag, I simply got tired of seeing the same thing, and liked your idea of trying to find a new one from time to time, so I try to come up with one which ties in a bit with the image. Thanks for observing.

Natalie - I must confess I took the photos rather covertly from the house, but I don't think he'd mind. I don't quite have the nerve to show him and try to explain! Funny thing though, this morning as I was going out, he stopped at the corner, as he was going up the road with a great big scythe over his shoulder and looked straight at me with a knowing smile... But maybe I imagined that out of a slightly uneasy conscience about making blog matter from him without his knowing! It's really quite a nifty vehicle isn't it? Must have cost a bit, but then he's not actually short of a bob or two, though he lives simply of course.

marly youmans said...

I had a dear, sweet aunt (recently departed) who would go hang gliding over the ocean on every birthday, into her nineties.

Blood of the old ones! Lovely.

Pam said...

My sister-in-law's granny got a chain saw for her ninetieth birthday. (She did ask for it - it wasn't a cunning ploy to get rid of her...)

Roderick Robinson said...

Glad you mentioned it was a two-piece. I hesitated. Wondered whether it was a class thing; now I think it allows workers to bend more easily in the middle. Sensible.