We’ve noticed a new phenomenon which we’ve dubbed – “the English tax”.
It’s not something newly imposed by the Brits on unsuspecting Johnny Foreigners – it’s more of a “fleece the bloody Rosbiffs until they bugger off back across the channel” kind of tax.
Twice in the last week we’ve been quoted one amount and charged another, larger amount.
First, the man with the tractor.
40 euros, we were told, by another man who cuts the grass for the commune.
60 euros we were eventually charged by the man with the machine on the back of the tractor which not only cuts the grass, but also chops it up into little pieces and spits it out again.
“Quarante pour couper,” he explains, “mais soixante pour broyer.”
Ah, so it’s the grinding that costs.
And then there were les frelons.
Nasty big hornets which had built a nest on the side of the house just under the edge of the roof.
We were warned it would grow and grow if we didn’t get rid of it, and then I started noticing the enormous buzzing creatures munching on the wooden uprights of the washing line.
I was either going to have to wear protective clothing when hanging out the clothes or call someone in to deal with them.
I called, he came in less than an hour. He stared up at the nest, did all the teeth-sucking and head-shaking that he felt necessary to show it was going to be a tough job, then propped his ladder up against the house with all the ease of a former pompier.
He put on his gear, strapped a tank of insecticide to his back and climbed up.
I snapped away, explaining that it was “pour mon blog” and he posed obligingly. Then we all retreated indoors while the hornets flew their last few furious sallies on the disappearing nest.
When he’d finished we re-emerged and he showed us the honeycombed nest made of what looked like balsa wood, presumably made from biting bits of washing line poles and spitting out the chewed up wood.
Inside each hole in the nest was a blubbery, pulsating little pupa, hundreds of potential baby hornets.
Burn the nest, he told us, insecticide doesn’t work on the babies.
And then he asked us for 25 euros more than he’d quoted on his poster.
So there you have it, the English tax, a tax levied on Brits with the temerity to attempt normal service in France.
Mind you, Ben had great service when he came off his bike last summer and needed an X-ray. Much better than the barbaric Spanish clinic where a doctor – I assume he was a doctor – sewed enormous black stitches into Hannah’s chin three years ago…
Casualty departments of Europe – a future post, perhaps.