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Europe » France » Aquitaine » Marmande
October 14th 2008
Published: October 16th 2008
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The Wilson’s have taught me many lessons during my two weeks on their farm. One thing I’d like to clear up from earlier is some phraseology. I mentioned a couple entries ago that their “garden” was hardly such, but much more. The other day Enid explained that in England, the small houses were allotted a tiny patch of grass behind the building, and this was called a “yard”. Therefore, when a Brit hears that someone has a yard, they feel sorry for the poor sap who can’t afford more than a tiny plot. But a “garden”, that can be acres of fruits and vegetables. Now that explains why Enid would always say we were working in the garden.
Another gem of information was giving while driving to town with Kevin. The area of La Bretonie is replete with elegant poplar trees, meticulously growing in even rows. Kevin says that they’re turned into pencils and matchsticks, which fits the rigidity of their rows…pencils and matchsticks should grow in straight lines I think. The poplar takes about 20 years to grow to maturity, so often a couple will plant their field of trees when they marry, and 20 years later, when their child has reached marriageable age, their cash crop will be ready to harvest. Therefore, if you see a field of poplars which have clearly grown past harvest maturity, you say in passing, “ugly daughter”. Haha.
In keeping with the tree theme, I learned about a phenomenon called “birching”. This practice existed on the Isle of Man as recently as ten years ago. It’s a form of corporal punishment, and depending on the severity of the offence, the criminal gets thrashed with a birch stick on various parts of his body. The second offense incurs an even more violent birching. The British man that was telling me about this says that on the Isle of Man, never are locals the ones offending. It’s almost always a tourist, having had too much beer and causing a ruckus. Or, if it is a local, he never does it again. The birching is such a harsh punishment, that anyone who knows what’s in store for him doesn’t commit the crime. It actually sounds like a great system…maybe I should write a letter to our new president.


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