Sunday, March 06, 2005
La France: friend of civilization, enemy of the future Heidi Fuller-Love and her husband created a bed and breakfast in France a couple of years ago. They asked the village to make a small change to accommodate them, and all hell broke lose.

"Over the next few years we suffered every kind of persecution imaginable. The neighbour's scruffy mongrel with close-set eyes was left outside to bark day and night, adolescents with mopeds revved for hours on end outside our front door, the cantonnier sprayed our roses with weed killer, fisherman tramped through our flowerbeds and horsemen tore down a part of the fence, then rode roughshod over our newly planted lawn. When we complained they said our garden was on a right of way and we had the devil's own job to prove them wrong."

Apparently, this happens a lot.

Our lawyer in Angoulême regaled us with a host of similar tales. 'Making people leave'' was a well-loved local blood sport, apparently.

Finally, a Catholic priest helped clarify.

"You can get on fine in rural France if you don't take initiatives. But if you scare local people – and anyone who wants to change things inevitably will – then God help you!''

It’s tempting to dismiss this as simple xenophobia. But I couldn’t help thinking that that this little village on the Charente/Dordogne border was once more the rule than the exception.

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