I’m writing this at 3 am. Can’t sleep. Yesterday was a Bad Day. It started off OK in the morning. We went for a family bike ride. We headed into Tercillat, and then took a road we’d never been along before. Along it we came across the steepest hill we’ve met in France in five years … and this, at a place called St Paul.

From the front it looks like a church doesn’t it?

But from the side – barn. So what is it?

It’s both. It’s a barn, and it’s a chapel. Mass is held there every year on St Paul’s day (25th January). I got the information from this website.

Slightly further up the road is a tiny baroque chapel too.

We came across sunflowers. Some looked at us –

some turned their backs!

The rest of the morning was fine too. I had a chilly swim (it’s been a cool July on the whole), and everyone else pottered, and then we had dinner. So when did things go wrong?

The farmer turned up to harvest his crops in the big field. He brought a large entourage with him and one chum parked his car in our garden. Literally. This was ridiculous given that we have a large parking area in front of the houses which was empty apart from our two cars. Chris dealt with that, but our backs were up. Then came a procession of other cars for no clear purpose, hurtling down our drive way too fast. We’ll be putting in speed bumps asap. Axel, the farmer’s son, came to play with Ruadhri, but my youngest son decided to choose then to have a monster tantrum and be remarkably unpleasant. He can be a real handful at times. He ended up being sent to bed. That was exhausting and stressful, so much so that I even did some spring cleaning in the kitchen. I don’t usually voluntarily tidy up. I was clearly in a state.

But the worst was in the evening. The farmers had driven the combine and tractors up from the big field, past the houses and up to another field behind the top lake. But then an hour later they all rumbled back. Not expecting this I’d put the cats back outside. We’d had them indoors with us during the afternoon. Very sadly Mr Smith, the male white kitten out of the four strays Caiti found a month or so ago, was hit and killed. We don’t know exactly when, but we know by whom. One of our anglers had come up for a shower and saw him on the driveway, after the farmers had gone. The kids were distraught, as were Chris and I too. We’re not soppy about animals. You can’t be when you keep livestock.  But this was rotten and unnecessary. Mr Smith was a harmless, happy little animal who hadn’t deserved that.

The only reason the farmers drove their wretched machines back was to park them in the big field overnight, close to the houses for security. I mean, seriously, how likely is a combine to be stolen?

Anyway, we’ve had enough. It’s our farm, our land. The farmers don’t have to turn it into a motorway at harvest time and they can darned well respect our property and our animals. We won’t let Edouard grow any more cereals in that field. It was a favour, but not any more. We’re not having the combine close to the houses again. It can hardly get along the drive or round the corner between our house and the barn anyway.

Live and learn.

How appropriate that I’d taken this photo of one of the tractors before the incident occurred. See the name on the white label?

Goodbye Mr Smith.

Mr Smith with his brother and sisters sitting on Chris in happier times