As I pushed the small square window shut, I wondered at how easily one can be driven to spying on someone. I had sneaked a peak via a window in the downstairs toilet. For me, it’s a self-defence mechanism.
Some family situations push us to make decisions which, with hindsight, we would not have made if given a second chance. Knowing we can’t turn the clocks back, we have to deal with the results of that poor decision in the present.
This is not a post about me alone, although it is presented from my point of view. Take it with that proverbial grain of salt, but know I am trying to be as accurate as possible.
To situate this true story, we are in SW France.
My middle daughter is a hard-working woman. Literally, she has a difficult job which few women would be successful doing. She’s a farrier, but more than that, she has a knack with horses which has provided her with a substantial clientele, because she does not mistreat the horses she shoes. You’d be surprised how mean some farriers are with horses when the owner isn’t present — or sometimes when they are…
She works very long hours, especially in the summer when there are all sorts of endurance courses, treks and horse shows. That means she leaves home in her kitted-out van early and arrives home at dusk having travelled many miles between clients.
As she is on her own with my two grandchildren, and I’m retired, I live with her to help with the children’s care as well as the home.
The occasion presented itself where one of her clients, an American who owns four horses, was struggling with managing them. He’s a man in his seventies, diminutive (maybe five-foot-three inches which he augments with a cowboy hat) and generally rather frail looking. He owns two houses sitting on fifty acres of land. One of the houses was empty, so a deal was struck where my daughter would muck out the stables three times a week and take care of his horses generally. That included trimming hoofs and shoeing as well as taking them out to graze in the morning and bringing them in in the evening. In exchange, he agreed she could live in the house rent free. The house was built in 1900 and although it has sanitary facilities, it is still primitive according to American standards. I might add, it was rampant with mice until I bought ultra-sound gadgets, which reduced the numbers quite quickly. The flies are inherent due to the proximity of the stables.
Jump forward after two and a half months of ‘bonne entente,’ goodwill, which saw us going to restaurants together and inviting the owner to dinner frequently (at least a couple of times a week). Most evenings, as he passed in front of the house, we shared aperitifs with him.
Because the man in question (a man whom I’ll call Joe) had his driving licence removed for repeated infractions, I have been driving him around, and this without him ever paying for gas. I believe he expected me to chauffeur him around in payment for living in the house, too, but I didn’t mind the short trips. If my daughter arrived home later than Joe liked for bringing in his horses from grazing, I took her place and brought them in. I have a fair amount of experience with horses, and although they are not my passion, I managed them most of the time better than Joe, himself. Keep that in mind. He might have resented that fact.
My daughter was not able to muck out the stables on a Friday morning, but she was going to do it on the Saturday morning when she had no clients. One of Joe’s mares did not want to stay in the field and broke out twice (fencing was not electrified) by passing under the cord. Joe was not involved at that stage. A friend of my daughter’s helped her put the horse in the field a third time with the other mare. I stood some distance away waiting to help, if necessary.
Joe arrived and I greeted him with ‘good morning’ as he passed, but he pointed a finger at me and said, ‘You, you go back to the house!’ I was somewhat taken aback and didn’t reply. He continued on his way to the horses who had discovered the secret of being free.
Once with my daughter, he turned to me again and bcause of the distance, shouted while waving an arm, ‘You go back to the house. I don’t want you near my horses.’
This time I did reply saying, ‘Don’t talk to me like that, and I'm nowhere near your horses.’
He then shouted back, ‘If you don’t like it, leave!’ still waving his arms.
I left for the house.
The horses never stayed in the field and they haven’t been taken there since.
When my daughter joined me in the house, she was upset.
She had told Joe not to speak to her mother like that, and he had told her to leave as well. He didn’t mean where she was standing but from his property.
He gave us five days to vacate the place.
All out of the blue.
Of course, that hasn’t been possible as we needed to find another house.
When next I saw Joe, I told him I was going into town and asked if he had things to do there too, because I’d take him.
He shook his head ‘no’ and then said ‘I’m serious. I want you out.’
‘I know, and we’re actively looking.’
‘In five days!’
‘But no one only gives…’ I began.
‘A week’s notice? Oh, yes they do,’ he said with a smile.
This attitude had us looking on the internet for legal advice.
In fact, he cannot legally make us go in five days. He has to give us a fixed legal time to find somewhere.
He is, however, trying to make life unbearable for us in as many ways as he can.
When he sees we’ve left the house, he enters with his key and goes all over the place. One of the toilet seats was put up when I’m the only one to use it and I close the lid down each time (because of the flies). A light was left on in a room which was closed when I left. He’s deliberately shown he’s been in. I don’t think he would steal anything, but who knows?
Another time, because he had trouble opening the door, he forced it causing the screws to come loose in the lock. I arrived home to the door wide open and one of our dogs running loose. Then he returned with an electric screwdriver.
Last week, he tried to force his way in with the electricity supplier to cut off the electricity without warning. I was able to circumvent that problem, but it is a permanent worry that he’ll verbally aggress me again.
My daughter’s friend suggested Joe was hoping a romantic interaction might develop between us, but when I showed no interest, he wanted me away (his second wife has left him and wants half his belongings).
‘I don’t like you and you don’t like me, so go back to your husband,’ being one of his virulent observations.
So, I have been driven to spying on the man in an attempt to avoid further contact.
I’m too old for this sort of drama in my life, but until we have somewhere to go, I’m going to have to oil the hinges on that window, because I want to know where he is. No more unwarranted attacks for me….