14 May 2008

A death in the hamlet

Here at La Renaudière, one of our neighbors died a few days ago. We woke up at 4:30 in the morning because there were unusual lights shining outdoors. It turned out the be the headlights of a fire department ambulance. Then, through our half-closed shutters, we saw its flashing blue lights as it left, driving by our house to the end of the road out back and turning around to go down the hill toward Saint-Aignan.

New flowers in the vineyard

Other neighbors walking by our house a day or two later told us over the fence that the woman who lives next door to them, three houses down the road from us, had passed away that particular morning. We didn't realize that somebody had actually died. They said the woman, whom we knew only by sight, was 85 years old.

A spider trying the get out of range of the lens

The old couple kept to themselves. Once or twice a year, when the weather turned nice, we would see them out for a stroll on the road. I posted a picture of them once, I believe. The other neighbors referred to them as les Parisiens. The must have retired to Saint-Aignan from Paris some years ago. Their daughter lives in the next village west of ours, I've heard.

Two unidentified flowers

The neighbors we talked to yesterday afternoon said that the man whose wife died is now 96 years old. I asked them to repeat it twice — quatre-vingt-SEIZE ans, vous êtes sûrs ? — because I thought they surely meant 86, which would be quatre-vingt-SIX ans. But no, he is 96, they insisted. Il la suivra assez vite, they said. He won't live much longer, without his wife.

White flower with insect

Another one of our neighbors was 94 when she moved into a maison de retraite last year. She's still living, but her son and daughter-in-law, who now spend several weekends a year in her house, say that she's not really aware of her surroundings any more.

Geneviève, the woman who lives across the street from us with her daughter, is 85. I saw her yesterday, and she seemed fine. She was out with her daughter Chantal doing some gardening. I asked her how she was feeling, and she made a hand gesture that means "so-so." But she was out gardening, after all.

Life and death in Saint-Aignan...


  1. Am I the only one who find spiders ugly (and not photogenic) though I admire their dexterity? Even a bit frightening on the big screen. The beautiful flowers compensate.

    "Never ask for whom the bell tolls..."

  2. I'm sorry to hear that you've lost one of your neighbors. It is sad when you know you won't be seeing her face in the hameau anymore.

  3. Is it the local wine that enables the residents of your village to live so long?


  4. I remember the picture of that elderly couple, holding hands I believe. So sad, but so lucky in that she was able to live a long life and die comfortably, without being subjected to tubes and needles and hospital-type things as many now are.

  5. There seems to be something healthy in Saint-Aignan's climate, or is it La Renaudière !
    96! That's really something, depending of course on whether one has "toute sa tête" or not!

  6. Some astonishing number of French people live to be over 100. There are 20000 centenarians at the moment I believe, and the average age for women is 84.5 years.
    The pink flower is Ragged Robin Lychnis flos-cuculi, common in damp places. The yellow pea flower (and it's red buds) are some sort of vetch, but without seeing it 'in the flesh' I would hesitate to give it a full name. The white flower is a very pretty flowering (ornamental) onion, but I can't remember the name of it - we have it in our garden in London. The insect is a male Assassin Fly Empis sp. You can see his stiletto like proboscis if you click on the picture. He's just sucking nectar here, but he will catch another unsuspecting fly by stabbing it with his proboscis when he wants to mate, as a gift to the female.


What's on your mind? Qu'avez-vous à me dire ?