14th November 2008

I like a country with four definite seasons. Like the raging waters of our local river, the constantly moving seasons tell us that time is moving on and we must enjoy our lives.
It's now mid-November, time to use what I like best about the winter: our wood-burning insert stove. There's nothing like a real fire. It takes me back to my childhood, a time before central heating, when everyone had a coal-house outside and you learned how to light the fire using twists of newspaper and pyramids of wood-twigs, to allow the air to flow underneath.
In modern-day France, around 7 million homes use wood for heating (chauffage au bois) even though wood can be expensive. People generally order ready-sawn logs directly from wood merchants - if you can understand them. In my experience they speak French like nothing I've ever heard before....a sort of grunting dialect, that suddenly becomes transformed into something comprehensible the minute that money is discussed. They usually charge around 35 euros per cu.m. The trouble is, they won't deliver unless you order a lorry load - and we don't always need that much (because our insert supplements our already-expensive gas central heating). So, what to do? Yes, you've guessed. I send Him indoors out at dead of night to our local forest. He takes with him the wheelbarrow (after carefully oiling it to stop any creaking - the barrow, not him) and comes back with all the fallen branches he can fit into the load. He says he's branching out. It may not be entirely legal, but what the hell. It's free and nearby. After all, almost a quarter of France is covered by forest. And if he's stopped by the Mairie? The usual je ne comprends pas generally suffices.

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