We have spent the week with Gérard, the mason who has been working on our new windows. He’s a great bear of a man, who arrives at 7.30 and works away all morning talking to himself non stop. As the Empurany church bell rings noon he knocks off and has an hour and a half for lunch at the café in the village, where he catches up with the local gossip. Then he’s back at it until 5.30 or 6, manoeuvring enormous stones in his ham-like hands, never wearing gloves or any other form of protection. He’s a gentle giant though and agrees with everything you say “Ah ça c’est sur” he comments about whatever observation you make. His favourite adjective is “affreux”, appalling, which he applies as both a positive and negative epithet: “the sun’s been out all week – affreux” or just as likely “it poured with rain last month – affreux!”
His last name is Morfin – very common around here – and the hamlet where he lives bears the same name: les Morfins. So we suppose he is Monsieur Morfin des Morfins, which sounds rather grand, and his cousins are variously Morfin-au-fond de-la-Place, who runs a garage, Morfin-ceux-de-la-Mouna, the suffix being the the name of their farm, and so on. Years ago the chap who worked on our roof was named Sarzier and it’s nice to feel that sort of continuity in an area. In fact we are sometimes referred to as ceux-des-Sarziers (those people from les Sarziers) which we take as a compliment.
Markus’s un-spellable and un-pronounceable surname is a corruption of those people from the top of the mountain and mine derives from weavers, but these associations seem very distant from our lives today.
We like feeling this attachment to a place which we have adopted and which perhaps, to a small degree, has adopted us.