We consider ourselves very fortunate to have kind and considerate neighbours who have been most helpful to us while we’ve been living here – I can’t believe it’s now 17 years, the longest we’ve lived anywhere. Although, sadly, quite a few who were here when we moved in have since passed away, mostly at very ripe old ages.
We sadly lost one recently. He and his wife owned a large pharmacy but retired about five years ago. Both keen golf players, we often bumped into them (suitably distanced) during lockdown as we all regularly walked around the Domaine. I hadn’t seen either of them in recent months but she did tell me, the last time we spoke, that he wasn’t well. He passed away while we were on vacation and luckily she’s had the support of her nearby family during this difficult time.
We got to know the names of those neighbours who were here when we moved in but nothing ever stands still. For the most part, the flats of those that have passed away have been retained by the families either for their own use or as rental properties. We’d like to buy one of the smaller flats for our guests but have so far been thwarted.
Living in the Domaine is very popular and there are always more people looking to live here than flats available. However, there has been some turnover and consequently we don’t know the names of all the new comers. Of course, I could just ask our guardian who knows everyone or Solange, who cleans a number of flats in the block and knows everything! I kid you not.
Consequently, we’ve given some of the new comers nicknames. There’s the “Doctors” a very spritely couple in their early-eighties, both retired doctors – hence the nickname. We always exchange a few words with them in the lift, generally when we’re both heading out for some sporting activity. He plays tennis while she swims, does yoga and any number of other activities. They’re both great role models.
Then we have the “Shoppers” a rather sweet elderly couple who go out shopping almost every day. Apart from the usual pleasantries we’ve never really spoken to them, nor it appears has anyone else. They rather keep themselves to themselves. They’re always wheeling a massive shopping trolley. However, it’s not so much the amount of shopping which amuses us, it’s the palaver with their car when they go shopping.
They have this routine. They come down in the lift together and she walks down the stairs to the garage while he exits the front door and waits for her outside the garage. She then opens her garage door, drives the car out and parks, thereby blocking the exit of at least four cars around her, including ours. She then gets out of the car to close the garage door. The individual garages are quite small and theirs doesn’t have an automatic door. I should add that once she exits the garage, it’s always totally empty, except for the massive shopping trolley.
She then gets back in the car, opens the main garage door (it’s automatic) and drives out. She stops in the exit to allow her husband to get into the car with the various empty shopping bags and they finally drive off. I’ve timed them. This performance can take anywhere from 10-15 minutes! No one else can exit or indeed enter the garage by car during their routine. A similar ritual, albeit in reverse, takes place on their return. Fortunately, you can set your clocks by them.
A couple on the 10th floor like us have a flat spanning the block. We got to know them a few years ago when we had what I like to call the Patek incident. She’s much younger than him and sadly he’s no longer enjoying good health but he’s still a very charming Frenchman, ever ready with a compliment.
Then we have Mrs Know-it-All who parks near us and is incredibly inquisitive. I try to avoid her as much as possible because once she starts talking……..she doesn’t stop. I often find myself running late for appointments, meetings, zoom calls, anything just to get away.
We don’t have too many children in our block, though there are plenty of grand-children who visit regularly that we’ve gotten to know. French children are incredibly polite, will always greet you and happily engage in conversation.
Largely due to Richard’s broken hip, we also know the nurses who regularly visit the more elderly neighbours. While they’re obviously discreet, we can generally gauge how someone is progressing, or not.
Of course at this time of year, plenty of our neighbours are blessed with visiting family all playing “How many French people can you cram into a three-roomed apartment?” The answer is “way too many!”