IMG_4379One of the first things I noticed when we moved to our little village in very rural southern France: the elderly residents would go to the bakery for their daily baguette while wearing bedroom slippers. Always plaid flannel ones. How charmingly eccentric, I thought.
But far and away the weirdest tale in the village concerns the pornographer parents.
At the time our kid was small—maybe two years old—there was quite a group of mothers who would show up at the park for about an hour before lunch and again after the afternoon nap. A very young woman came one day with her child—new to the village—and we welcomed them into the group.

A hive of activity.

She was a little odd, but we attributed it to her age. We were all older—I was a late starter, another had teenagers and then decided to have one more baby, two others also had teens and were foster parents to toddlers. The new arrival didn’t work, and her husband was a security guard, she said. They were from Bordeaux. She wore her hair tied up, no makeup, baggy clothes.
One day, we were at the park when her husband came by, panicked. Where were they? Were any strangers around? They might have been kidnapped! Calm down, they just left, we told him, wondering why he was acting so strangely.


We had playdates and birthday parties in addition to our park outings. The new mother gave a birthday party for her kid, and we all showed up. The house was indistinguishable from everybody else’s, with a kitchen opening to a dining area, with a Winnie-the-Pooh playhouse, and then to the living room. A high shelf ran all the way around the living room and held all kinds of movie cameras. They collected them, she said.
P1060892About a month later, one of the moms came to the park with big news. The young mother was a porn star, along with her husband. Another mom and her husband had been to the Salon de l’érotisme in Toulouse and had recognized them—they lived a couple of houses apart and hadn’t known until then.
I looked up the porn star’s site. There was a photo of her in a French maid outfit, leaning over the kitchen sink that I recognized, and I realized the photo must have been shot from next to the Winnie-the-Pooh house. There also was a film shot in the park!

Sexy, no?

The foster mothers were livid that the young woman hadn’t told them about her real occupation. They could have lost their jobs or faced a lot of headaches.
Two things made me furious: The porn site had lots of photos of their child—not sexual ones but it was still creepy, with captions like “if you love me, send presents to my little girl.” The other thing that made me mad was that the address for sending stuff was in the village. They didn’t even bother to get a post office box in town. No wonder the husband was worried about kidnappers.
I felt really bad for their daughter. She was very nervous and didn’t talk much. On school outings, she wouldn’t eat. She would hide her food and pretend she ate it. I remember putting her hair into a ponytail for her—it was very long but so terribly thin.
The parents divorced; he was abusive and the porn star often had bruises. They moved away—I don’t know where to—after a few years.
P1080570Not to end on such a low note, I’ll go even lower with the tale of another resident.
There’s an older guy, very tall and and thin and gaunt, and with a stiff gait. He must have looked older than his age at first, because almost 15 years later he still looks the same, and I’d still guess him to be about 70. He was one of the regulars we would greet on our way to school in the mornings. I always thought, “Aw, he’s going to tend graves at the cemetery, how touching,” because the only things in that direction are the cemetery, some vineyards and the garrigue. He didn’t carry tools for pruning vines or fixing wires, so the cemetery was the logical destination.
I recently learned that he doesn’t go to the cemetery but to the woods to do his business! Even in bad weather! Does the man not have indoor plumbing? Another villager surprised him in the act one day. And chewed him out. But it didn’t have any effect on him—he still heads for the woods every morning. Now when I pass him, I wince. And I stay away from the woods!
No wonder he has such a weird walk.

Not the well-fertilized woods, but close.

Share your tales of local color.

25 thoughts on “Eccentrics

  1. My father-in-law always walked across the street to the bus shelter to pick up his newspapers in nightshirt, slippers and his monocle. In winter he wore a dressing gown. The villagers (this was England) still remember him fondly. So the slippers at the bakery don’t seem odd to me at all. However, the porn star and her abusive husband and that poor little girl and the poo-man (chapeau on getting Pooh and Poo into a single post … this deserves applause 👏) I’m not sure I would call that eccentric in fact, though I pride myself on having a pretty decent vocabulary I am lost for words … this also may provoke applause from some because I am generally hard to render speechless! I loved this post in a really uncomfortable way ….

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Most of the eccentricities in my neighborhood are related to fetishizing the suburbs – cars parked on sidewalks, in medians, and on crosswalks and a staunch opposition to street cleaning because it would mean moving cars that are often parked for months at a time with car covers on them.

    Even more literally fetishizing the suburbs: a friend of mine had a neighbor who covered their very high quality brick and marble facade with aluminum siding and the neighbors all gathered around and said, “Isn’t it beautiful? It looks just like New Jersey!”

    Then there’s the neighbor 3 doors down who lets a window unit air conditioner sit out on a junk pile in the middle of his back yard with some sort of flimsy plastic duct connecting it to a window that’s 10 feet up in the air. Relatedly, I can’t wait to build a higher fence around my back yard.

    There’s the other neighbor who told me that the mayor is trying to steamroll gentrification by putting Mexicans in the neighborhood. (I think he believed that the black mayor we had at the time was involved in a conspiracy to keep Italians’ property values down.)

    The Irishman’s probably craziest line was when he told me to rmake my own exterior primer by mixing linseed oil and powdered red lead. His responses to the top 2 reasons why I thought this was a bad idea were “Lead never hurt anyone. They just don’t want to believe that their kids are stupid,” and “You can get anything you want in this city if you know where to look.”

    One of my neighbors works as a BDSM educator and tried to hire me to be in some kind of educational video. For better or for worse, he didn’t catch me during one of my money-panics.

    I assume that there are plenty of sane people on the block but I’ve barely met any of them.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Well, compared to Chad’s neighbours, our eccentrics are fairly tame!! There’s an elderly lady who looks incredibly elegant, walks around the vineyards picking all kinds of flora – not really that eccentric, but in the summer she sunbathes topless by the river! Then there’s the lady who has an assortment of dogs, cats and a pet goat in her house and who screams at her dogs at the top of her voice when she walks them. The slipper brigade are everywhere, of course, I don’t even notice them any more 🙂 !! All part of the rich tapestry of the life in southern France – it would be quite boring without!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow…that was an interesting post…a bit sad though. When my sister was visiting over Thanksgiving she would take her dog out first thing in the morning in her glamorous white pajamas…she got to know all the neighbors with their dogs…and we could watch it all from our window…funny!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love the idea of glamorous white pajamas.
      I wish I could just laugh about the local porn purveyors, but the little girl changed it all. Some people don’t think about the ramifications of their actions.


  5. I thought the bottle collectors who live above us were sad (“we do it so we can eat…she told me once. I have such respect for them, they work so hard, in every kind of weather. They have lived in NYC for over 40 years and still speak not one word of english…) but oh my goodness…the porn family takes the cake. That is incredibly sad.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interestingly nobody had a problem with the porn itself. Many people had a problem with the child being on the site and with the child obviously not being well-treated. And a problem with having been lied to.


  6. Wow!I’m thinking Agatha Christie would have made quite an interesting story out of this! Years ago, I moved to a new city to teach. I moved into a brand new apartment complex close to my school. There were only a few tenants at the time and we became friends. One of the tenants—a retired naval officer—asked me to dinner. We had a lovely time. He was a wonderful conversationalist. It wasn’t a romantic thing, but I enjoyed his company. He said he was in town for treatment of his back at the VA hospital. It made sense.

    One day I got a call from the FBI who informed me my friend was at the VA hospital as a mental patient and that he was also a bank robber, and they warned me to say inside my apartment because my mentally ill bank robber had a gun was considered dangerous. I was horrified.

    Years later, I heard his name on the evening news. It seems he had robbed the same bank twice! And the news was that he had been found not guilty because of mental insanity.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. THAT is an AMAZING story!!!!
      Do you know the podcast “The Moth”? It’s people telling true stories. One was a young guy who was the super at the building where Whitey Bulger was living and who was pressed into service by the FBI. Look it up–sounds a lot like your tale!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.