Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Saturday the drive to Finistere – at leisure. Following my nose to see little villages and the canal. The “deep countryside” remark was beginning to prey on my mind – but the further west I travelled, the more I saw the traditional Brittany which had first charmed me all of 20 years earlier when we went with the kids. Susanna apparently still remembers the little dog on the gite farm we stayed at in the Dournanez area. St Caradec was the first village to draw me off the main route – with a serene little lake glimmering in the sunshine; and then Gouraec - an evocative village of old stone houses. I’ve had the thought several times that rural France seems a real celebration of the smallness argument first conducted by Leopold Kohr (see my summary of his 1947 book) and then publicised by his friend Schumacher in the late 60s. The effects of the organisational impetus which mayors and other leaders give to small communes don’t require complex arguments just the evidence of your eyes – in the well-kept air of even those communes which have a high vacancy rate. Even collections of about 20 houses boast a church, a shop, le mairie, and a well-kept open space. A few more houses and there is a school and mediatheque. Little wonder that France was ahead of us in Scotland on community enterprise thinking – with what is has called the “social economy”. It would be good to read a sociological account of these hameaux and bourgs and how they are being affected with the various currents of outward and inward migration. I was impressed to find a magazine on Village life which seems a unique French balance between the traditional and radical – a celebration of the commune and an exposition and encouragement of ecological techniques.
Wanting to look at the houses around Rohan in the Pontivy area, I had selected at that village’s notaire – but was once again confirmed in my prejudices about their inflexibility. Before reaching Loudeac passed through a great settlement called La Creche and phoned Mark to see if they dealt with any houses there. The lack of “a vendre” signs semed a good sign! Popped in to Loudeac to see what other agents could offer there – and signed in with 2 agencies, a rather supercilious young man in one and a very efficient woman in the second.
Before getting to Jenny and Kevin’s house, dropped in to have a look at neighbouring Chateauneuf du Faou – which is on the canal. Stunningly located on the curve of cliffs. Then a quick drive past 2 large supermarkets to Plonevez – which proved larger than I had remembered. A warm welcome from the couple who are selling the house – sat under the trees and nursed a Kis Royal in their divine garden. Daniela wd love it! Then had another quick look at the houses. Mainly to check the dimensions of the upstairs and dining areas – and on insulation. The ceiling and top walls of the bedroom areas actually have a Scandinavian touch – with discretely painted light wood. I learn of some of the socialising which goes on in the area
Then a short drive to the gite which will be my home for the next week – a very tastefully decorated light, small stone building with one bedroom in a loft-type arrangement. The English couple keep horses, sheep - and boats. He was in trawling and has restored not only their houses here but a grand mansion in the vicinity. The hameau itself has a lot of for sale notices – mainly of the terraced houses in the main street. Despite that, the upkeep of the village is impeccable.