Love story from the French countryside

by Denis Lehane

I fell in love while I was in France on my holidays.

Did I tell not tell you before now?

Yerra, ’twas easy, really. Fellows fall in love in France all the time.

It must be something to do with the heat, or the croissants.

My love story would bring a tear to the eye of the Bull McCabe himself, for ’twasn’t with a woman that I became smitten, only a fine lump of land. The grandest farm I ever did see.

It all began one fine sunny day, when the radiator of my jeep started blowing steam, and I happened upon this lovely rural spot, while in search for water.

I made my way off the dusty French road, and onto a farm I rolled.

“Bonjour!” says I to the farmer who came out of his humble dwelling to greet me.

“Is there any chance at all of some agua?” I asked, using all the French I could muster.

“No agua,” says he, “only eau.”

“Well,” says I, “I don’t care what you call it.

“Just give me a gallon of the stuff, or my jeep might blow sky high and kill the both of us.”

Sure enough, my beret-wearing pal soon came rushing with water galore.

“Gracias, amigo,” says I, for I was indeed grateful.

Then using his limited English, he asked “You like drink yourself?”

“Would I what?” I exclaimed, and my throat as dry as a camel’s.

Drink duly arrived, and before long, I was sitting on the porch of his home, with the finest drop of wine in my glass that I ever did sup.

“What kind of farming are you doing, compadre?” I asked, for I can be terrible nosey, with drink on board.

And he told me he was doing the worst kind of farming, for everything he touched seemed to go arse-ways.

I assured him I knew exactly how he felt, for I farm in a similar way myself.

Then he told me that ’twas all tillage he did, but that he made little by way of money, on account of being in love with his neighbours’ wife.

He couldn’t concentrate on farming, you see. It was all very French, for sure.

And then he added that he would quite happily give the farm to me, if I gave him the keys of my jeep, so that he could elope with herself, for the love pangs were very strong, he explained.

And he knew my old jeep, in spite of a few minor flaws, was good to go.

“You like farm?” he asked. “You take it, I take jeep, and neighbour’s wife.”

Well, I have to tell you, the offer sounded mighty tempting, for I had fallen in love with his farm instantly.

And as I strolled out across his yard, and sat upon his tractor, I could well see myself growing old in the company of that land.

The French farm neither had a ditch nor a gate.

It was all open plan.

So no mending of ditches or hanging of gates. Which is all I ever seem to do back home.

But sense dawned. For, by accepting the deal, I would be encouraging devilment of the worst kind.

“No, señor!” says I, “I cannot be party to your plan.”

And I strongly advised him to seek out a confessional box.

I left the farm behind in France, and naturally enough, have spoken of little else since returning home.

My heart is broken, for didn’t I have a mighty French farm there in my grasp, only to let it slip between my fingers.

I was a fool surely. The love of the land must truly be the strongest love of all.

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