Our English home didn’t include neighbours – unless you could call the sheep, cows or pigs that sometimes forced their heads over our garden fence, neighbours – so moving to a busy(ish) street like Roc du Pont was an unknown quantity. Our experiences of France – from previous lives to holidays etc. – meant we could imagine all other aspects of our new life but the impending arrival of les voisines was something completely new.
And we have not been disappointed. Our neighbours are delightful; within weeks we felt like we had always lived here – we have been made to feel so welcome. From taking our early evening stroll – for which we must allow extra minutes to take into account the inevitable stops for chatting – to collecting our post from the mailbox, every simple act is blessed with the wonders of small town life. And each encounter is another lesson in my new language, perhaps I learn a new word or remember a verb from my school days that I have long-since forgotten, sometimes I realise a new subtlety of pronunciation and, more often than not, I grasp from the puzzled looks and blank eyes that my French still has some way to go.
And now that we have been here a while, the joys of neighbourhood are flourishing. Like in November when the post-office was shut (I never did find out why, it wasn’t meant to be closed) and I had to post a letter so I asked in the baker’s where best I could buy a stamp. But instead of getting directions, Fabien (our local boulangère) tried to find me one in her purse and when that didn’t work another customer – previously unknown to me – insisted that I wait whilst she ran home. And she returned with a large smile and a stamp, and she wouldn’t accept any payment. And also in November when Olivier at the bar called us his friends or when we arrived home late one evening, so that shadows were falling over the garden, including a very peculiarly shaped shadow in the flower bed; an unknown neighbour had left a huge Squash and four jars of homemade jam. We searched everywhere for a note, employed our best French to ask around and it took us weeks to locate our generous donor (who, on finally receiving our heartfelt gratitude, proceeded to supply us with yet more légumes).
On our map of the Averyon Najac is listed as one of the larger communes but it doesn’t feel that way and, for now, we are glad that our little-big town still feels like a small community.