Trip Start Jul 19, 2009
160Trip End Oct 25, 2010
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A dirty old man, I'd say now. But my fumbling contemporaries lost their shine forever.
Unfortunately, at some point, the men stop being old-er, they're just old. I mean, I'm not getting any younger, add a couple of decades on to my age and you're left with some geriatrics.
So now I find myself flirting with old-age pensioners.
One of my dearest is Fred.
At the bottom of our slope is a grand house, known as the castle, though it is not. Over the ages it has belonged to one family.
The cottages around it were the homes of the people working for them. They made sure the hamlet was totally dependent. The inhabitants were not allowed to keep their own chickens or grow their own crops. They were obliged to buy from the master. The generations of masters were known for their hardness and meanness.
The last of the lot, Annie, inherited several properties. She mostly stays in Toulouse, and has a caretaker looking after the big house in Clédat.
The caretaker is, or rather, was Fred.
What can I say about Fred? He must be almost eighty but you wouldn't know looking at him. A fine man, not very tall but well built and upright. Enough white hair for him to liberally apply Brillcream, pleasant face and utterly charming. A man that makes you aware you're a woman even though you're in your combats, barefoot, barefaced, tangle-haired and covered in mud.
So there was a spark, in his case maybe even a flame. When ever we'd bump into each other, he'd hold me as if I was his long lost child, at least one of the three kisses on the cheek he'd manage to plant on my lips. His after-shave would linger on me all day - I should have made him a gift of some decent stuff, I'm sensitive to smells.
If he thought it not appropriate, across the street in Hautefort - people talk - he'd clutch his right hand to his heart and mouth: 'Ma cherie, ma cherie' or with Peter standing next to me, he'd hopelessly turn his palms to the skies, wistfully shaking his head, as if if Peter weren't there, anything might be possible.
How can you withstand the drama, the show of affection? I didn't - it was a harmless, sentimental play.
Sadly, Fred has gone. The day after we arrived, he came to me, in tears. He couldn't work for Annie anymore, she expected the impossible, made him work harder and harder, always finding reasons to dock the pittance she allowed him.
He had waited, asking Bernadette and Jacques, when would we return to Clédat, so he could bid us farewell.
Poor Fred, now living with his children in Bretagne, though his heart lies here.
My Fred, my old older man - I'm gonna miss him.