Saturday, 3 February 2007

Le Chateau des Anglais

Near us in Autoire, “Un des Plus Beaux Villages de France”, we often walk up the valley, which is surrounded by cliffs, and back down via the Chateau des Anglais. This is really more like a ruined defensive wall, perched halfway up the cliffs under an overhanging rock, than a castle. It was a place of refuge for the English mercenaries who occupied the valley during the hundred years war in the 13th century.

It occurred to me yesterday that, since I am English, I could be descended from the original owners of the castle and that I might have some legal rights concerning it. This is doubly possible because my mother has always said that I have Huguenot ancestry from the French Protestants who settled in Clerkenwell in the 17th century.

Perhaps, like David Beckham in his contracts, I might have rights to the use of images of my castle. Or perhaps I should hold a fête there once a year, to celebrate the building of the castle and it’s Englishness. Since the French love a fête, and any excuse is good enough, this should not be too controversial. But first, in the interests of politeness, it would be necessary to inform the Maire. You can perhaps imagine the scene should I foolishly succumb to my delusions of nobility. . . . . . . . . . . .

I arrive at the Mairie in my 4WD warhorse, scattering the peasants in the streets of Autoire on the way.

“Bonjour Monsieur le Maire, I am Lord Preedy and I would like to inform you that I am going to hold a fête in my castle each year on 16th April”.

“Excuse me, I don’t understand, which castle”?

“The Chateau des Anglais of course. I am English and I claim the ownership of my chateau. I am going to hold a fête in the castle to celebrate the victories of my English ancestors in the 13th century”.

“Perhaps you would like to join our “comite des fêtes” and propose the idea to them? They are always looking for new members”. Says the Maire, thinking that this might get rid of me.

“Oh no! It would be inappropriate for the Lord to attend a village committee but I would be pleased to receive them at my castle”.

“Ah”, he says, “That could present some difficulties for the older committee members; they would have trouble climbing up there”!

“Worry not. I am in alliance with Lord Malcolm of the Gers and he has powerful engines, driven by steam, one of which we could put on the top of the cliffs and lower down a basket on a cable for the older ones”.

“Do you have insurance for that”? Says the Maire. “Come to think of it the castle isn’t very safe either. It would be unlikely to pass an inspection for social events”.

“ Insurance? I know nothing of insurance, but an Inspector you say! Does he work for Queen Elizabeth? Does he have daughters? If he doesn’t co-operate I will reintroduce the Droit de Seigneur”.

“He works for the Prefecture in Cahors and they are very strict about public safety”!

“The Prefecture! This must be some new institution that the Queen has introduced. The internet is so slow here! Last year I discovered that three years ago she granted me the monopoly on the importation to England of walnuts, foie gras and cassoulet! But, forsooth 'tis true that 'tis draughty up there. I will send my lieutenant and a few of the guard to conscript some of the local maçons. In a month or two they would rebuild it like new, with the right sort of incentives”.

Ah, so you will need the forms for a “Permis de Construire” and a “Declaration de Travaux! Will you be installing a septic tank”?


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