Au Voleur! (Or what the gendarmes do when …)


The one in the middle is not always the nicest …

This has been rather an unpleasant week. If I rewind to Sunday night and Monday morning (and look at the pictures I took then), I can hardly believe that everything looks so idyllic.


The path to the river, just strimmed by the BV

For once I had some help in the garden on Sunday – the Bon Viveur was keen to do some strimming and I was happily weeding and planting. Nice work, given all the lovely rain we’ve had and how beautifully things are growing.


Further up the path in the orchard; the twizzly tomato support marks the edge of what will be (I hope) one of two matching herbaceous borders next year – wildish planting to go with the setting.

While weeding, I noticed that a bull had entered my neighbour’s small orchard: I chased him off. I hope you are not unfortunate enough to know how much damage cattle can do in the garden?


That’s him – at least I can keep my eye on him because he’s the only one that’s almost entirely white …

While we were sitting having a glass of wine on the Vine Terrace he appeared in the garden itself – now 9pm and the BV is in his dressing gown (having got thoroughly dirty doing the strimming, clothes spinning in the washing machine). What a spectacle – two mad people  rushing about and shouting, throwing stones – and all over a garden that doesn’t boast (at the moment) a single cabbage.

Eventually we were successful. But my experience of last year taught me that if he had developed the ‘habit’, he would be back. (Last year it was 9 every morning, 6 in the evenings).

I am married to a mini-hero. Faster than you can say ‘shoo’, he was all over the place, turning the garden into Fort Knox.

Using ladders …


The way into the rather vulnerable, newly planted Hornbeam Gardens (also the cut flower patch). ‘Rambling Rector’ is just beginning to come into bloom.


The end of the future ‘espalier walk’ – and a very possible point of entry.


scaffolding …


The other entrance to the Hornbeam Gardens … actually I rather like this one. Originally I planned to put arches at the entrances, now I’m wondering if a gate painted forest green might be prettier. (So he gave me a fresh perspective, that bull!)

old posts from the garden shed …


Barring the orchard, espaliers etc. at the top of one walnut circle – our little wilderness seems very attractive to cattle. I don’t know why – I could hardly sleep on Sunday night for the nettle stings.

dustbins …

(My little catalpa sleeps under a dustbin at night and reappears every morning about 8am.)

and garden chairs …


Chairs can usefully protect small, precious red oaks.

I felt safe!

Unfortunately that was probably the happiest moment in the week.

The following morning at 5.30 am, while on his way back to work, the BV’s car broke down about 3 kilometres from the house. We thought we were lucky! So close. Unfortunately our kind garage people were shut that day and I did not ring the insurance recovery service (would you, that close to home?)

I woke up on Tuesday morning to a phone call from the police in nearby Jussey, to say that they had found the car, driver’s window broken, car radio stolen – worse, two of my husband’s precious wheels, of which he was so fond, had been removed. I will never understand how even a perfectly nice man like my husband can actually fall in love with the wheels of a car.


Monday morning, looking at my favourite French chateau from my version of Fort Knox.

It is now two days later. I am exhausted with being passed around between gendarmeries in two départements and gabbling away in French non-stop with insurance companies, etc. It also seems as if we may not be able to afford to repair the original breakdown problem.

But I have learned two important facts about the French gendarmerie:

  1. They do not automatically make a report in this situation – apparently it is a legal requirement, but I presume if they just ‘don’t bother’ it helps to keep their crime figures low. (They’d rather get the département next door to handle it.) How can this be?
  2. Being a gendarme is not an easy job. Apparently they are not allowed to publicly complain about their own situation. They are paid by central government. My friend who sat patiently and waited for me in her car while I was lodging my complaint in Jussey told me that a couple of years ago the gendarmes in Bourbonne-les-Bains went completely without pay for several months. Nobody in the wider population was aware until the wives actually went out on the street and protested.

Can you believe it?

Not many pretty pictures this time, but I hope to do an update on my cut flower garden (still not ravaged by the bull) as well as a report on the roses in the next few days.


22 thoughts on “Au Voleur! (Or what the gendarmes do when …)

  1. Julie

    Hi Cathy, I am sorry to read your post, that sounds like a very stressful and frustrating week. How can the Gendarmes go without pay? What an extraordinary situation. And how awful to find your car has been vandalised, a violation made worse by the lack of reporting. The reference to cabbages has gone over my head, is that the potential attraction for the Bulls? We haven’t had cows but the pigs and horses in our lane have got into the front garden a couple of times, I sympathise with you absolutely not wanting them trampling your beautiful garden. I hope this coming week improves for you.

    1. Cathy Post author

      I’m sure it will Julie. The cabbage reference is because a garden around here is, to most people, just cabbages etc. The idea was that we were going to all that trouble and we didn’t even have any cabbages to protect. But I’m being a bit snide. Many of my French friends who value their cabbages highly would also be distressed if their roses were ruined.

  2. Tina

    The good news is that the week is almost over and that you’ve retained a sense of humor. That’s quite a set of stories: cow, ladders, thieves and vandals, and police hampered by, oh so many things. You live in a beautiful place and have a beautiful garden, though–I hope that prove a balm to your current woes.

    1. Cathy Post author

      Yes – at the end of the week things do seem much better! Sometimes we need (small) alarms to remind us how peaceful/pleasurable life often is!

  3. Sam

    Oh dear, how stressful. Sorry about the car. Dealing with situations like this is never straightforward and I imagine it’s worse in rural France. Do you know who owns the bull? Can you appeal to the owner to keep him in his own field?! Well done on all your garden defences. I think having even the possibility of a bull rampaging in my garden would tip me over the edge! Hope your week improves and you have a calm, sunny weekend.

    1. Cathy Post author

      I tried not to be tipped over the edge Sam, but tricky! We will put a permanent line of wire along the boundary and they only like what is easy! Thanks for your kind comment.

  4. Frogend_dweller

    I love your counter-measures, although obviously I am sorry that you’ve had to go to such lengths to prevent bull access. I hope that this weekend brings some relief for you.

  5. Paula Clements

    Sorry about your problems,especially the car. What a day again torrential rain and storms here! Xxx

  6. Chloris

    What a week. Bulls and car theft. You are very brave chasing bulls. I am terrified of them. But then, I am terrified of cows too, which is pathetic.

    1. Cathy Post author

      Unfortunately just as I was to give chase my husband commented on the statistics re death from cattle every year. But it didn’t stop me!

  7. Island Threads

    sorry you have had such a bad week Cathy, I’m glad the bull hasn’t been back and hope he keeps away from yours and your neighbours garden, I’ve no cattle experience but sheep, yes, a cow is so much larger and more heavy footed so can imagine, I hope you have had some better results regarding the car, and gendarmes, how awful they were not paid,
    I wish you and the BV a good new week, Frances

    1. Cathy Post author

      This week’s getting better now, Frances! It is terrible about the gendarmes, isn’t it? I think it’s good to know things like that, because so often we are to quick to criticise.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s