Stubborn as a mule
An incident with a horse gives Ian Moore’s B&B the kick-start it needs
One of the beauties of this part of rural France is its frankly old-fashioned insistence on the traditional four seasons. So many places these days seem lazily to feel two is sufficient, or worse, just the one long grey one where, as my comedian friend Paul Thorne says, Four Seasons is just an option on a pizza menu.
That said, over the last few years, winter around here has been building up its part. Shoving autumn prematurely off the stage, eating into spring’s opening number and generally droning on in front of a restless audience. Floods especially have become so severe in parts that evolution may need to consider introducing gills for the locals, or at the very least webbed feet. At last though, spring is here and all seems well with the world again. Things are literally looking up.
There was a time when I thought renovation work for the chambres d’hôtes would never start. That we’d be stuck for all eternity in some frustrating time loop of hope and administrative intransigence. The weather played its part of course, but then fate intervened to jump-start the thing. Fate, in the reluctant shape of an angry horse.
I don’t usually deal in national stereotypes but if you were to look up the word ‘stubborn’ in a dictionary, then ‘French horse’ would pretty much nail it, I reckon. The charity we rescued our horse from named her Ultime, presumably because she has the last word on everything, but by and large, she’s good natured, a pleasure to be around. Friendly even. Unless, the winter has dragged on and she’s had enough of muddy puddles.
Why I thought I had any aptitude for starting the renovation work myself, I really don’t know. It’s not as if I have a glorious history of being practical, but I was – like the horse herself – champing at the bit. So I decided to crack on and attach the guttering to the new stable myself.
And it was, if I say so myself, a work of art.
That is, if by art, you mean a cross between the Pompidou Centre and one of the more outré Turner Prize efforts. The roof, that I had fitted, didn’t overhang enough to spill the water into the gutter. In fact, it was so short of the gutter the rain ran off between the two. I had in effect created some kind of industrial water feature, very pleasing if that’s your thing, useless as a collector of rainwater though.
The horse gave me a sour look. My wife gave me a sour look. And, Bruno, the roofer who was called to rescue the job gave me a sour look too. It was raining when he arrived and you could tell he didn’t like it. He measured up, made some unconvincing noises to the effect of ‘well, it’s easily done’ and gave rather a vague date for his return. I don’t know what triggered Ultime’s astonishing behaviour, maybe she wanted a more definite arrangement, but she went berserk. She started charging around and bucking, kicking out at Bruno, narrowly missing his head a couple of times. Bruno, six foot two and over 20 stone ran like he’d probably never run before and made for the gate. I, taking a leaf from The Horse Whisperer, tried to calm the beast by swearing loudly at her in a language she didn’t understand. It didn’t work, and I narrowly escaped a mauling, diving through the orchard fence like it was a rodeo.
“When we start the building work,” Bruno panted, “you’ll keep that thing away from us, yes?”
Perhaps cowed by the prospect of me not doing so, work finally began on the chambres d’hôtes a week later. So now spring is here, I am making chutney where I can do no damage, the renovations look spectacular and the horse is becalmed. The journey has finally begun.
Ian Moore is a comedian, writer, chutney-maker and mod who lives with his family in the Loire Valley. His latest book is C’est Modnifique!, (£8.99, Summersdale Publishers). ianmoore.info