Life around 1900

Mme El’s father was born in 1900, in the same house that saw the birth of her grandmother, of herself and of her son. The property had come into the family through her grandmother who lived there in a small house later replaced by the present large farmhouse.
Her grandmother had her son late in life, Mme El informs me, at forty. Her grandfather was from the neighbouring village and they eventually met when someone who was slaughtering a pig invited people on that occasion. At that time her grandfather had already seen the world, a ‘vadrouilleur’, she says laughing, explaining that this means ‘a ladies’man’, that is, going here and there, roundabout, looking, taking things in, and she craftily left open which ones. He was a builder and carpenter. I point out that all craftsmen used to travel, learn new things from different people.
She then tells me that her grandfather went as far as Paris where he took part, for a time, in the construction of the  Eiffel Tower, his ‘carnet de travail’ which records the jobs he held is still in the hands of the family. On his return from the North he got married and with the help of family, friends and neighbours built the new imposing farmhouse out of the local rounded moraine stone carried into the plain by Pyrenean glaciers. Looking at the mighty walls, there must have been a mountain of them, delivered by ox-carts, and some bricks mixed in. Then Mme El’s father was born and received his grandfather’s name in fact. However, his mother didn’t like it much and added another one for the birth-certificate, one detested by his father, but used by her: Zéphirin! The Curé’s name, Mme El discloses and leaves it at that.

Mme El’s grandfather learnt the agricultural trade from his father-in-law. Her father learnt it in turn by growing up in this environment. They lived on the sale of cereals, pigs, calves and milk. Life was different then from what it is nowadays, Mme El observes. Neighbours used to help each other when necessary, a help not weighed up in money, instead communal meals and merry-making, mutual care in old age, helping along the way in general, a matter of course. No fridges either. Food was kept cool in baskets on long cords that were hanging down the farmyard-well just above water-level. It rarely happened that the water rose unexpectedly…