I also enjoyed pronouncing and learning all the French words used, handy while I’m attempting to learn some French.
Neighbours, we have found, take on an importance in the country that they don’t begin to have in cities. You can live for years in an apartment in London or New York and barely speak to the people who live six inches away from you on the other side of a wall. In the country, separated from the next house though you may be by hundreds of yards, your neighbours are part of your life, and you are part of theirs. If you happen to be foreign and therefore slightly exotic, you are inspected with more than usual interest.
Our valley hibernated, and I missed the sounds that marked the passing of each day almost as precisely as a clock: Faustin’s rooster having his morning cough; the demented clatter—like nuts and bolts trying to escape from a biscuit tin—of the small Citroen van that every farmer drives home at lunchtime; the hopeful fusillate of a hunter on afternoon patrol in the vines on the opposite hillside; the distant whine of a chainsaw in the forest; the twilight serenade of farm dogs.
We treat rabbit as a pet or become emptionally attached to a goose, but we had come from cities and supermarkets, where flesh was hygienically distanced from any resemblance to living creatures. A shrink wraped pork chop has a sanitised, abstract appearance that has nothing whatever to do with the warm, mucky bulk of a pig. Out here in the country there was no avoiding the direct link between death and dinner…
We have found that there is nothing like a good lunch to give us an appetite for dinner. It’s alarming. It must have something to do with the novelty of living in the middle of such an abundance of good things to eat, and among men and women whose interest in food verges on obsession. Butchers, for instance, are not content merely to sell you meat. They will tell you, at great detail, while the queue backs up behind you, how to cook it, how to serve it, and what to eat and drink with it.
He had once been in England, and had eaten roast lamb at a hotel in Liverpool. It had been gray and tepid and tasteless. But of course, he said, it is well known that the English kill their lamb twice; once when they slaughter it, and once when they cook it.