All villages have their characters and sadly I heard yesterday that our village has lost one of ours, Madame Culottes, who had reached the ripe old age of 94.
Her small house is situated on the corner of our road, so we have been driving, walking and cycling past her front door regularly over the last ten years and it was not an uncommon sight to see her modest underwear hanging out to dry on the fence of her tiny yard. I never knew her real name, but have always affectionately known her as Madame Culottes. It is sad to think her washing will no longer be one of the things I regularly see when out and about in the village. Unfortunately I have no idea what she used to talk to us about, other than constantly exclaiming how lovely the little one was and then in later years, how big he had grown. Her accent, lack of teeth and my poor French always proved to be a stumbling block for me, especially in the early years here. Although she lived alone, she was regularly visited by neighbours and when we were lucky enough to have a friendly and regular post lady her yellow van would park up every day (obscuring the view of the drying culottes) and as well as delivering the mail she would bring in the wood from the barn and stop for a quick coffee.
I am not sure if Madame Culottes lived here all her life, but I do know she used to work as a dinner lady at the village school many, many years ago. My neighbour, who is in her seventies, remembers these days well, but unfortunately without affection. I guess things were done differently then but I do wonder what she served them or what mean methods she employed to make sure they ate up. My neighbour still appears to be scarred by the experience almost sixty years later so it can’t have been nice and I’m not sure she will be mourning at her funeral.
|The old village school|
|An ancient priory window|
Inset into the side wall of Madame Culottes house is an attractive stone window surround that was once part of an ancient priory dating from the tenth century. Its ruined remains were demolished in 1877 and the site was used to build the village school where she then worked. The school has been closed for many years and the building has been converted into municipal housing. She must have seen so many changes to the village in her years and with her passing we have lost a little piece of history.
Au revoir Madame Culottes.