Letter From Castelnau de Montmiral: Out-Twee the Foreigner

An Englishwoman’s home is her castle, so they say, and mine have stood up to various attacks.  From the neighbor who jumped my parents’ fence one day, brandishing a chainsaw, to cut down an inoffensive birch tree that had been upsetting his dog—itself a vicious Alsatian trained to draw blood first and ask questions later—to the strange glazed-eyed ladies who appeared at my door a week after I had set up house in a small Japanese fishing village to teach me about Jehovah, I have usually been able to repel intruders.  Even the Socialist Workers Party types who used to let themselves into my room at university and wait patiently for me with a pile of copies of Morning Star were eventually got rid of with protestations of eternal Catholicism—and the Catholics, with vows of undying socialism.

Not so with the French.  There is a marauding ex-plumber in the village where I now live who has for some years been engaged in a one-man struggle against the English invasion, with reckless disregard for personal safety.  Rather than adopting the traditional method of retreating to the forest and firing the occasional salvo, he has embarked on a campaign of aggressive friendship.  He starts his rounds of the village at about quarter to twelve each day, when he sets out from home on his first foray: to the nearest foreign house.  A loud cry of “Salut!” is the only warning his...

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