Sunday, 9 March 2014

Post 23 The Granary of France

I've been in France for three weeks, l'm about 280 miles south of Calais now.The weather is  better, much easier.  At Nogent le Roi I bought some nice  food to eat. I was glad to find a shop open. I'm used to shops being open all the time in England, in France they are often shut. I stopped by the church and took Tarateenos front offside shoe off, it was loose. You can always hear when a shoe is loose as it makes a different sound. Best to renail it as soon as possible before the nails that are still holding it on wear bigger holes in the hoof. I soon re-nailed it. l gave the horse a bucket of water from the river and some corn. Some old men chatted to me, I only understood some of what they said, but that's happened to me in Cumberland and Northumberland too. I stopped on the side of the road a bit further on. Another 13 miles. There are a dozen herons fishing in the river. The river is full of trout. I've seen plenty of hares .
People really like my horse and many people ask me if he's a cob d'Irlande or a 'Tinker', which is what they often call black and white cobs in Europe.
Tonight I'm stopped on the edge of a park in a village just north of Chartres. The horse is tethered in the park. So far no one has complained. I can explain that l'm only here until morning and that the horse is tired and must eat. I'd just written this when a car pulled up and a lovely lady called Veronique, got out and gave me hay, carrots and apples for the horse and some cakes for me. The cakes were delicious.
People  like my wagon and the way it's painted, they often stop their cars and say to me, ' genial' or 'magnifique'. In France horse-drawn living wagons are called, roulottes, and are generally quite plain to look at.
I went through Chartres, quite a big town, the old part, quartier St Pierre is very interesting, very narrow streets, nearly got the wagon stuck going round a tight corner, but it was ok. I didn't stop, it was a nice sunny day and l wanted to carry on and get through it and out into the country. You can see the cathedral from miles away; walking, you can see it some hours before you get to it, it must have made a huge impression on people in the olden days.
Grain silo, temple to food worship
South of Chartres and l'm in what is known as the 'granary' of France, huge unfenced fields of wheat, interspersed with little villages, it's completely  arable and there is no livestock around here apart from a few hens in farmyards. Many of the villages have huge grain silos. They look a little like temples to me and people do worship food here.
I walk along hour after hour, immersed in my thoughts, the horse in his, sometimes l don't even think, our attention  aroused momentarily, by the movement of a hare running across a field, sometimes some deer, there's almost no traffic, perhaps half a dozen cars and a truck in an hour.The horse ambles along, awake enough to maintain the same distance from the verge by himself. lf he's doing what l've asked him, l leave him alone, l don't have to drive him, l take up the reins if l've got to turn left or right;  before l steer him l say, 'around' he looks then for a turning and does it himself, l only interfere if he needs guidance. Sometimes if it's flat or a gentle downhill l jump up on the wagon and we trot for a bit, it makes a change for both of us, if the goings good we might trot a few miles, if l ask him to trot that's what he does, he only changes gait if l ask him to, it's a slow kind of trot, perhaps 7 or 8 miles an hour. The people l've met are friendly. A kind lady called Marion invited me to dinner and made a lovely meal, she has told me that the bakery in her village is the best in France. I had a look in the morning and the cakes are certainly good, [the village is called Gault-Denis if you like cakes]. Later on in the morning l went through a little village, l set all the  dogs off barking, [they had never smelt the blood of an Englishman before] this caused a lady to look out of her window, a short while later l was drinking coffee in her kitchen and eating another freshly baked cake. Barking dogs can be your best friend.

Sometimes l'm looking for a place to stop and there is a sign saying, 'interdit aux gens du voyage. Another way of saying, 'no travellers.'
At Varize l chatted to a lady and she was the secretary of the Mairie, so l asked her if l could stop the night on the grass by the church, she said that would be fine and she'd tell the Maire. I was really glad.

1st March 2014.
I set off at 9am. Went through several villages but none ot them had a shop, l'm running low on food. I got water from a friendly lady. The black thorn blossom came out today. At l.30 pm l got to Ouzeur le Marche, but by this time the shops were shut, l was tired so l went in the cafe and had a grande creme, the horse ate some barley out of a bucket, when he'd finished he stuck his head in a rubbish bin to look for something else to eat. I carried on a few more miles to a pique nique area it was 3pm so l  pulled in there. 20 miles [30km] Happily it has a pond to get water for the horse and plenty of dead elm to use on my wood burner. Shortly after, two Gendarmes  came by, they were friendly and said l'd be fine to stop there and that they'd let the Maire know for me. I made some pasta to eat and mixed it with some pesto sauce. Afterwards l played my pipes outside and watched the sun go down. Quite a long day but l'm happy that tomorrow l can cross the Loire.
Sandrine and her children, gave me water.

Inside cafe at Ouzouer-le-Marche
2nd March, 7am, a beautiful frosty start, moved Tarateeno to some fresh grass and watched the sun come up, the only cloud is a strange looking one  rising from the cooling tower of a nuclear power station 10 miles away down by the Loire. Lit the stove and went back to bed while my porridge cooked. Lovely lying in bed lisening to the birds singing. I was woken this morning by a pheasant calling his girlfriends and a duck quacking noisily.