Friday, 21 April 2017

A derelict house and a nightclub with an unusual feature in France

Moissac (France) - August

            On my second Saturday in Moissac, Luc (the son of my host) was once again coerced into letting me accompany him on his night out. We drove to a house in the countryside surrounded only by field after field. It was a dilapidated ruin and clearly hadn’t been lived in for a very long time.

Derelict French countryside houses

           There are many of these houses in France. Much of the previous generations lived in large rambling country houses. Subsequent generations, however, preferred to relocate to live in towns. (The rural exodus in France didn’t experience its height until during the 1950s, 60s and 70s.[i] [ii]) When the previous generations died, there was no customers to buy their houses and so many have been left, by those who inherited them, to their own devices. As the website French Property Centre states, “many visitors to the French countryside are astonished to see how much rural French property has apparently been left to go to rack and ruin.” And, in contrast to the UK housing market, often in France “the more rural a property is, the cheaper it becomes.”[iii] This could partly be put down to the fact that while France has a similar size population to the UK, it has much more land. Therefore, many rural properties are just too isolated for modern day living. This also explains why Brits looking to buy a house in the French countryside, can, to their surprise, often find a bargain!

         In retrospect, I wonder how safe the house I had arrived at can have been. However, my carefree nineteen year old self didn’t think twice about entering the crumbling stone building. We climbed the stairs to the first floor where we joined a group of people. There was no roof, no partition walls and and the external stone walls were only a couple of feet high. I recognised Luc’s best friend (the owner of the flat with the unusual plant) (see Greeting the French way)  but nobody else.

       Luc remained his uncommunicative self but a kindly female took me under her wing. I spent the next few hours drinking and dancing on the first floor in the open air surrounded by the French countryside; it was a surreal set-up. After two or three hours, the night drew in and it was time to move on. It was at this point, with the liquid I had consumed pressing on my bladder, that I discovered there was no toilet. So it was, that I found myself squatting in a field in the pitch black. It's a bizarre experience, peeing in the open air just a few metres apart from strangers doing the same thing although you can barely see their outline.

A nightclub with an unusual addition

            From the derelict house, we piled into cars and drove to a nightclub which was also in the middle of nowhere. Two things struck me as different to a English club. Firstly, we all pooled our money and bought several bottles of drink between us. I was told that this was cheaper than buying each drink separately. I’ve never come across a pub or club that would let you do that in the UK. 

         Secondly, there was a swimming pool. Yes, a swimming pool in a club. It was only a small one and outside but still! Obviously such a thing wouldn’t really be appropriate in the British climate. But I couldn’t imagine ever wanting to swim when I was dressed up. Pulling yourself out of a pool with mascara streaks running down your cheeks is not a good look. Plus, I have the type of hair that does not dry naturally into a manageable style. If I do leave it to dry on its own, I end up looking like Cousin It from the Addam’s family, only worse, like Cousin It who’s just had an electric shock and been dragged through a hedge backwards. I didn’t, however, see anyone using the pool the whole night either. And, fortunately, no joker tried to push me in either.

[i] McNeill, T. (1998),‘Les trentes glorieuses: 1945-1975’,
[ii] Pierre Sorlin, ‘Stop the rural exodus’: Images of the country in French films of the 1950s. Taylor and Francis Online.