6th January 2013

Growing up in the postwar years, it was instinctive for English people to help one another. Even today I love to watch the BBC's 'DIY SOS' programme, where neighbours club together to help someone in a crisis.  But I have yet to see neighbourly spirit in the French, especially in Gaillac! So I was surprised to read about the people of Saint-Martin-des-Fontaines in the Vendee, who have actually rallied round to build a brand new wooden house for a local 47 years' old unemployed man in trouble.  This poor man was living in a dilapidated old mobile home, down on his luck, having given up all hope. Well, not any more. Local tradespeople and neighbours have worked hard to give him a decent roof over his head. The Association des Bassins Versants de la Grande Fontaine started the scheme when it contributed an amazing 20,000 euros worth of building materials, which prompted local volunteers to give of their free time in labour. Now, not only has this man a new, decent home, but also a new farming job - offered to him thanks to local publicity. This has buoyed me in this new year: there's some hope for the world after all. Him indoors says p'raps there's a chance for a DIY job himself. 'Are you handy?' say prospective employers. 'Yes,' says he, 'I only live down the road.'

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