We own horses and in warm weather, flies are a permanent fixture wherever we’ve lived. Nothing, though, that a bit of flypaper can’t handle.
This new place was different.
We live in France where my daughter is a farrier by trade.
She had struck a deal with a small, frail man in his seventies whereby she would take care of his four large horses in exchange for an empty house he had on his property next to the stables.
The 1900 house was somewhat rundown inside, but a couple of rooms and a bathroom had been added over the garage in the past ten years—a small compensation for the state of the rest of the house.
The kitchen was perhaps the worst room with its years of accumulated grease on what had been green painted walls. The red tiled floor had a half inch crack running the length of the room and the single window had a hard time letting in enough light to brighten the place. The mice were rampant until I bought ultrasound apparatus which I placed in the cupboards.
But, it was the flies which added the final depressing touch to this unhealthy environment. Half a dozen flypapers needed to be changed weekly when there was no room left on them for more flies. I had never seen flies kill themselves in a sink before, either.
Each time I went to the kitchen sink, I had to clean it of flies which appeared to have gone for a source of water.
I began to suspect that the water might be slightly toxic, so, very quickly we began to buy bottled water…
Even so, my daughter felt sorry for the man and his horses which he could no longer handle. Without her, they would never leave their stalls…
The man lived on his own in a house behind the one we were now in. He would pass in front of ours a dozen times a day as he traipsed back and forth to the stables. I found it a little disconcerting as I felt he was also spying on us. But, the day we came home from shopping to find our dogs outside on the loose was perturbing. He’d opened the door in our absence and let them out.
So, we decided to lock the door.
In France, if you live anywhere for more than 48 hours, or have a contract, you have the right to privacy. If an owner of a place wants you out after that time, he has to go to court. He is not allowed to take action himself as he can be fined—or imprisoned.
The locked door did not prevent him from entering with his duplicate key. As soon as we were gone, he entered.
We changed the lock, which is when things took a turn for the worse.
I will skip the intermediary details, but it ended with the man telling us to leave by the end of the month, which gave us five days!
He obviously didn’t know the law because we had three months to find somewhere and move.
In the meantime, he was mean and aggressive at every opportunity. He tried to break the door down when he thought we were gone, but I prevented him, although it scared me as he shouted insults from the other side.
We found somewhere else and began the arrangements to move again after only four and half months. My daughter had told him we would be leaving at the end of the month, prompting him to write on a piece of paperthat he wanted us gone for the end of the month (repeating what she’d told him) and he wanted us to take all our belongings and nothing belonging to him!
We began moving on the 30th of the month and had rented a van for the 31st as well. On the last day, we made a penultimate trip with our belongings and returned to the house to finish and to clear up.
We arrived at a house which now looked like a dump. He had broken the door open with his tractor’s shovel. He had been in the house and thrown our remaining belongings out the windows.
He tried to physically stop us from picking up what he had dumped but between us, we managed to get a few things. Rather than struggle, my daughter telephoned the gendarmes who said they’d come. That was when he went berserk.
He grabbed me around my throat in a stranglehold yelling and spluttering comprehensible words. It was only because I was a bit taller and heftier that I was able to get him off me.
I was grateful that my daughter came to my rescue immediately. She punched him in the jaw telling him to leave her mother alone… I kicked him out of pure fury.
He backed off a little and my daughter phoned the gendarmes a second time saying he had tried to strangle me. They arrived within five minutes, but not before the man had picked up a three-pronged fork and threatened me yet again.
When they arrived, the gendarmes told us to get as much as we could into the van while they were there. The crazy man continued to prance and rant but at a distance.
We couldn’t get everything as some of our belongings were broken. Later, I realised he’d kept a bag I’d prepared with two computers I was buying on credit. The gendarmes were able to recover them some days later from where he’d hidden them under the stairs.
I’m sorry to have lost a large watercolour painting and all my fossils. The furniture was replaceable.
We don’t know if this will go to court or not. We made a charge against him and a doctor certified the marks on my throat, but to be honest, I really don’t want anything else to do with the man. Don’t they say that flies thrive in the company of bad spirits?
Today, I wonder if he drinks that water which was killing the flies—or was he naturally nasty?
I really don’t want to know.