It was a very cold weekend. The temperature fell to four below zero, centigrade, each night.
Our house in Poitou — old, drafty, large — is almost impossible to heat. So we turned up the radiators full blast…and still shivered underneath the covers.
To bring new readers more fully into the picture, we bought our house in very rural France in 1994. It was a ramshackle place. We like fixing up old houses and restoring old gardens. We had plenty to do on both counts.
We needed a large house for our six children, mother, aunt, and a tutor who came with us to France to work with the children until they learned enough French to attend local schools. As it happened, the tutor almost died of a chest tumour, and the children were forced into the local school with hardly a word of French. Fortunately, children adapt to new languages quickly, and it was only a few weeks later that we were asking them to help translate.
28 years later, the children have lives of their own. And there’s still a lot of work to do — much of it redoing the repairs and renovations we made 25 years ago.
And there are always surprises.
Tout casse…tout passe
‘It happened around noon’, explained Patrice, the farmer across the road.
‘I came back from putting out some hay…and I knew something didn’t look right. And then I realized that the roof had fallen in.’
Source: Bill Bonner
The old clay tile roof leaked. Over many years, one of the oak beams that held up the roof had rotted. Two weeks ago, it gave way and came down on the cattle inside.
‘It was almost a miracle. One calf was trapped in the wreckage, but otherwise none of the cows were hurt’, Patrice explained.
We made a quick visit over the weekend to check on rebuilding the barn.
Tout casse…tout passe, say the French. Everything breaks up and goes away.
Poor Patrice. At 60 years old, he got kicked in the knee by a cow. This seemed to trigger a bad case of osteoarthritis. He limped, favouring his good leg. Then, the extra stress on the good knee caused it to go bad too. Now, he’s an invalid, waiting for operations on both knees…and wondering if he will ever be able to go back to work.
‘When I was working, I thought how nice it would be to take some time off. But now that I can’t work, I’m miserable. I’ve spent my whole life outside on the farm. I don’t like being cooped up at home. Christine doesn’t like it either.’
Patrice nodded towards his long-time companion, who rolled her eyes slightly.
Later in the day…
An absolute mess
‘If I were you, I’d stay in Ireland’, suggested a friend.
Our neighbours are very sociable. They invite us to dinner…or cocktails; they come over to chat; they bring us up to date on things.
‘France is an absolute mess. There are too many people getting too much money from the government for doing too little.’
‘Sounds familiar’, we replied.
Earlier in the day, we attended mass at St Pierre in Le Dorat. It’s a magnificent church in a charming medieval town. The church is huge…built of heavy grey granite in the 10th century. It has tall columns and soaring arches…and paving stones worn smooth by 30 generations of believers.
The sky was the colour of lead. Light snow fell in occasional flurries. Unheated, the church felt like the inside of a freezer. In the centre pews, there were radiant heaters focused down on the faithful. But on the wings, where we and other sinners were seated, there was no heat at all.
In the Middle Ages, masses were given in Latin. The people didn’t speak Latin. That was a language reserved to the educated elite, who treated it as a sacred knowledge and used their access as a source of power. The clergy, back then, knew the secrets of the Bible. The masses did not. They needed priests to intercede, to explain, to mediate between Heaven and Earth…to bridge the mysterious gulf between their hard, everyday lives and the promises of everlasting paradise in the hereafter.
It was not until the 16th century that the Bible was made available in local languages. Then, people could read it themselves. In England, Holland, and Germany — but not so much in France — they disintermediated the priest class.
In today’s jargon, the printing press and local language translations ‘disrupted’ the monopoly power of the Catholic church. People could read the words themselves and decide what they meant. Out of this disruption came the ‘protestant’ religions — Methodist, Baptist, Quaker, Presbyterian — and so forth. By contrast, the Church of England, known as ‘Episcopalian’ in the US, is not a ‘protestant’ religion; it is a catholic religion with someone other than the pope at its head.
‘The elite always pretend that they have some special knowledge’, continued our learned friend.
‘Today, it is not the Latin Bible that keeps the elite in power; it is their claim to know “The Science”.’
Our friend was on a roll. In the remote countryside of France, she had found a sympathetic ear. Two of them.
‘We didn’t know — when the Covid first appeared — what it meant. The authorities said it was like the plague that wiped out a third of the population of Europe. We, the ignorant masses, didn’t know any better. We were at the mercy of the scientists.
‘But then we realized, the scientists didn’t know any more than we did. And it turned out it was just another virus…more dangerous than some, less dangerous than others. And it didn’t matter if you stayed at home, put on a mask and got three shots…you’d still get it. And you wouldn’t die.
‘And it’s pretty much the same thing with the war in the Ukraine. We have foreign policy “experts” who tell us that they know best. They know that Russia must be stopped, or our democracy in France, such as it is, will be put in danger. Soon, Russian troops will be goose stepping down the Champs Elysee.
‘So, we send billions in aid…to keep the war going. US defense industries…and US energy companies…make a lot of money. But here in Europe we pay higher prices for everything. I don’t think we’ve seen the end of the protests. [She was referring to the ‘manifestations’ against pension reform.]
‘And anyone who pays attention to the news knows the whole thing is a fraud. The Russians can barely hold onto the Eastern provinces of the Ukraine…There is no way they pose a threat to Western Europe. And those areas that the Russians control now are full of Russians, not Ukrainians. Democracy has nothing to do with it; the people there voted to break away from the Ukraine.
‘And I saw your Al Gore on TV the other day. He was almost coming apart at the seams, giving a speech to Davos. He said the oceans were boiling…and that “rain bombs” were coming down on our heads. He’s been warning for the last 20 years.’
Al Gore’s movie, An Inconvenient Truth, came out in 2006. He drew on ‘The Science’ to warn that the world would be a dreadful place by now. The inconvenient thing is it’s not.
‘It’s the same sort of thing. Today, people worship “The Science” the same way they used to worship the Latin Bible. They don’t know what’s in it, but they are sure it holds the key to salvation.’
For The Daily Reckoning Australia