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Village Life | Note 27

It is hard to comprehend that we’ve been in our French home for over four years. Next year, I could apply for citizenship, although there is the minor obstacle of the language proficiency test. Since I tend to operate best with a deadline looming over me, perhaps this is when I finally pull my finger out and finally tackle the murky waters of French grammar… For now, my French is just about good enough to amuse my neighbours.

Our house was sold to us by Madame and Monsieur D., who now live on the left side of the stone wall dividing our properties. Before moving out, Madame and Monsieur D., as well as their twelve indoor cats, lived in our house. Four years later, on a particularly hot day, you can still catch a waft of feline urine coming from a corner of the kitchen. Luckily, the kitchen is next on the renovation list, and soon we might finally be free from the pungent aroma of ammonia.

Madame D. is small and skinny. She doesn’t speak much with her words, but her eyes speak volumes, especially when Monsieur D. – a chain smoking former prison guard with the appearance of a seasoned pirate – expresses his strong opinions. As Monsieur D. airs them often and with relish, his diminutive spouse glances around with lenient amusement. Both in their mid-sixties, Madame and Monsieur D. are our favourite neighbours. It is hard to say what’s the most endearing thing about them: the (now only eight) indoor cats mothered by Madame D., or the fact that Monsieur D. likes to make oil paintings of the fish that he catches in the nearby lakes.

On the other side of the house, there’s the property of another retired couple. Four years in, I still have no idea what the surname is. What I know is that the lady is an absolute darling, allowing me to search their house and garden every time one of our own cats goes missing. Luckily, Katini and Lulu usually come home every evening as I call them through the attic window. Based on that daily call, theneighbour told me that I have a singing voice – an obvious indication that she must be tone deaf.

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