Drove on Wed from Redon to the Pontivy area – which has a great atmosphere which belies its 15,000 population. Its located in a small bowl of hills with the Blavet river flowing through it and a mix of medieval streets and grand buildings giving it a real Napoleonic feel. It is apparently the fastest growing town in Brittany – which is not good for purchase prices. The notary could offer me an appointment only in a week – so I walked out. The neighbouring house agents offered a meeting an hour later which allowed me time for a walk around and a chat with an Englishman in a La Foret agency who was able to take me to a couple of great houses – but 12 kilometres out of the town. Most interesting is in Guen.
On outward journey, I saw 2 agencies in Questembert and fixed visits for Monday next. On way back from Pontivy I called in at Josselin to visit the EngIish bookshop – and managed to see a house in the centre at the Foret agency (which I am using for Redon). Also picked up 2 le Carre novels – of which I have become a recent devotee. His language and values very acceptable.
Two interesting items on the British TV news – rather hidden amongst the blanket coverage of the first days of the historical coalition there. First that the Nottingham hospital system is now buying its food ingredients from local suppliers and saving both prices (two pounds fifty a patient meal day) and local jobs. It’s possible through a “processing hub” which ensures quality. As the presenter asked, why hasn’t this happened before. I would assume the French and German systems have been doing this for some time. The answer was that the concept of local food sourcing has been slow to take off.
The second item is a report on police spending which has just been issued which asks that the issue of police numbers should be put on a more analytical basis – rather than being determined by a political bidding war which uses simplistic language of police on beat.
Back to house-hunting. I’m told that the Morbihan area from Ploermel south is the highest priced part of Brittany – for several reasons. First the micro-climate is more favourable (with the gulf stream); the area is within the commuting distance of towns such as Vannes, Rennes and Nantes. North of Ploermel is (with the exception of Pontivy) a more remote area – with fewer towns.
On Wednesday I found a charming house in the Redon area which is actually in the Ille et Villaine part of Brittany, stretching from Dinard on the Channel almost to the Atlantic coast in the south. Redon has a slightly run-down air – but good train connections and proximity to the Brest-Nantes Canal. The house is a few minutes walk from both the Canal and a supermarket. Only drawbacks are the traffic passing the front door and the 2 flights of (almost medieval) stairs – to the bedroom, study and then a large attic area.
Have just finished Colin Thubron’s Behind the Wall. Written in mid 1980s, the early part has echoes of Gulliver’s Travels - with Thubron’s European stature and features arousing intense curiousity. “Do I smell?” is a question he poses to the Chinese passenger as the plane descent into Beijing starts the book. Although these were still the times of the bike, modernisation and the active displacement of old buildings was already underway – and Thubron’s various conversations reflect the conformity of the people.