Sunday, 30 January 2022

There I met an Old Man Clothed all in Leather

There was a soft tap at one of our doors that set the dogs barking.  The challenge was to find which door.

The layout of our house confuses new visitors as there is no obvious front door.  On one occasion Tod was lying in bed when a tap at the bedroom French window revealed a woman who was looking for the chateau her mother worked in during the seventies.  Tod assured her there was no chateau round here. This was the early days when we knew no better.  In fact the farm along the ridge, perched on the next sandstone outcrop is clearly sitting on huge foundations that show where the chateau was, until the then owner gave up the fight to keep it going and knocked it down.

Those who know us just come along the terrace to the kitchen door. So I headed out that way in search of the tapper, to be confronted in the late afternoon cold mist by an elderly gentleman with a sweet smile wheeling a sensible bike with a panier full of folders, clothed from head to foot in sensible weather-proofed clothing.  A childhood poem (song?) immediately sprang to mind, not thought of in nigh on sixty years:

One misty, moisty morning, when cloudy was the weather,
There I met an old man, clothed all in leather, 
Clothed all in leather, with a cap up to his chin,
How do you do, how do you do, how do you do again.

After we had said our "how do you dos" it transpired he was the census enumerator, come to collect our data - it was our turn.  I knew he was due.  We'd had a letter from the mayor's office a couple of weeks earlier to say, among other things, that we could do the census online.  In COVID times that makes a lot of sense.  The letter included codes so we could get online and I had carefully put the envelope to one side.  I apologised to the elderly gentleman and assured him I would do it online straight away and sent him on his way into the cold with the words "bon courage". On reflection, I suspect he would have much rather come indoors for half an hour to warm up and complete the census by hand.

So, after supper, I resolved to do it. That's the point where my plans fell down.  I had put the envelope on one side. Safely, I thought. But a search through the pile on my desk - the cardiologist's paperwork, Tod's prescription for glasses, the letter from M&S about my unit trusts, the pension company letter asking me to confirm I'm still alive, and the latest newsletters from various local government bodies - revealed nothing.  Well, not entirely true. The 2022 calendar with the rubbish and recycling dates did drop out from one of the newsletters. So that was useful.

My heart sank as I began to think the mayor's census letter with the necessary code numbers had gone up the hill behind us to the recycling bin, which was out on the road ready for tomorrow's collection.  By this time it was dark, foggy and very cold.  I began to imagine large fines for not completing the census.  They would know we hadn't done it. The French are very bureaucratic and no doubt not doing the census would be frowned on heavily.

So, we took the car up the drive and heaved the big black bin with its bright yellow lid into the back - thank heavens for an estate car.  The bin refused to go through the kitchen door so we opened both French windows into the lounge - which was warmer with the log fire alight.  This was the moment Tod announced it was past his bedtime.  I found a large black sack and began to take out Amazon cardboard envelopes, empty dog food tins licked spotless, old copies of Private Eye and the weekly advertising rubbish from all the supermarkets and the DIY stores (we really ought to put a "PAS DE PUB" sign on our letter box, but we always think there might be something useful - there rarely is). I had to get some steps so that I could get up higher and reach down further in the bin.  And there, nestling alongside the week before last's Lidl catalogue was the mayor's envelope, complete with contents.

By this stage Tod was snuggled in bed, so I lugged the bin back up the drive - the exercise was a good test for my new pacemaker.  Our neighbour's dogs went frantic at all the to-ing and fro-ing that late in the dark and were yelled at by our neighbours.  An hour later our census form online was completed. Result!


  1. Well Done! When it was our turn to do the census the 'leatherman' was a near neighbour who had to ease us through questions about educational qualifications of 50 yrs ago and their Fr equivalents. Lesley

    1. Hello Lesley, I know what you mean about the qualifications. Fortunately there was a drop down help menu. It helped a bit, though not much! I took the view in the end that I was probably approximately right and in the great scheme of things didn't matter that much. :)