Samantha David is a freelance journalist and writes for various publications including BBC Online, the Sunday Times, the FT, Living France, everything France, and France Magazine

Samantha David, writer

The Secret Cevennes - articles by Samantha David


Runner Bins 

      Life up here in the hills is rustic.  Old fashioned.  Back to nature.  (Translation = inconvenient.)  Naturally a drop in temperature doesn't entail anything as simple as switching on the central heating.  If wasn't for the fact that the stove is a French beast called a Coste - it's almost an Aga-saga.

      First came the chimney sweep, who resembles Johnny Depp's Willy Wonka complete with funky trews and mad eyes.  He clambered about on the roof, knocked soot down the chimney, hoovered up some it, drank a cup of coffee and buggered off with a hefty cheque in his back pocket.

      Then the builder came to repair all the broken roof tiles, gluing the replacements into place with moss to stop them slipping in the wind.  Whatever.  As long as I'm not awoken by rain dripping onto my pillow, he can glue them up with old socks for all I care.

      The next vision to emerge from the mist was the coal-man.  Sadly, not a soot-encrusted hunk.  A disappointingly effete trolley-pusher.  Ah well.  He stacked the sacks neatly and said he'd send the bill soon.  Then we had to get going with the kindling... chopping and stacking every twig in the garden.

      But never mind.  It's done now, the stove is alight, and winter has officially begun.  But that's not the only saga in town.  There's the affair of the wandering bins.

      It started back in the summer when the Italians complained about the smell of the bins in the village.  They were right of course.  The place stinks in the summer because there aren't enough bins and they aren't emptied often enough so there are always mountains of black bags sitting around the village humming like hornets.  (In the winter of course it's fine because once the tourists and second homers have bogged off, there are only about 20 people left.)

      So the village Maire took a decision.  More bins?  More collections?  Nope.  The bins (and their associated black bag mountains) were moved out of the village and lined up along the cemetery wall.  Not a universally popular decision but a practical solution to the summer stench.

      But come autumn the bins started slinking back to their original homes.  First one appeared beside the bus shelter, and then there was another beside the church.  The Maire ordered them back to the cemetery wall and they were trundled home by the village handyman.

      But then another two bins appeared, this time right outside the Mairie.  People welcomed them home.  How nice to be able to sling a black bag without trekking out to the graveyard.  Someone decorated them with a sprigs of rosemary.  Welcome home, Bins!

      They stayed for just one short week before the Maire noticed and ceremoniously wheeled them back to the cemetery wall himself.  Strange.  Very strange.  No, not the Maire's antics, but the migratory habits of the bins. 

      If we accept that plastic wheelie-bins are probably inanimate objects with no self-determination and certainly no powers of self-propulsion, then we have to conclude that some other life form is propelling them away from the cemetery walls and into the centre of the village.  Further cogitations point to the probability of that life form being human, inhabiting the village, and being possessed of a strong desire for a handy bin.  It could be anyone...

      But it must be someone strong because following the latest removal of the bins from the village, they were discovered yesterday morning to have er, bin turned upside, exposing their tender little wheels to the early morning mist.

      There's uproar at the Mairie.  Personally I wouldn't even be surprised to see a mayoral announcement posted on the village notice board.  But I don't think it'll do any good.  This one will run and run...


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