I am a great fan of detective fiction. Give me a Sue Grafton, J.D. Robb and especially the classic Agatha Christie ‘who done it’ any day. Consequently, I read frequently of police at the door asking questions, garnering answers.
It’s something you read about, but it just doesn’t happen in real life. Until today. The doorbell rang. I opened the door, and there was a police woman standing there. I could see her partner talking to someone on the other side of the road. They were asking questions about a neighbour.
Because my French is not yet fluent, I didn’t catch all of what had happened. But I was able to answer questions. ‘Had I heard or seen anything unusual last night?’ It felt surreal, like stepping into a novel. I felt, I wished I could help, but could only answer in the negative.
It’s a funny thing about living in a small village in France, a surprising amount happens. I now better understand how Christies’ Miss Marple seemed to have so much to investigate.
That’s not to say that our village is a hot bed of crime. Quite the opposite. But we have seen the police at the door and out and about more times in the not quite 4 years we have been here than I have ever seen in my life prior.
This might garner the question therefore – why? If our little village is not a haven for criminals, why do we see the police more often here? Because it is a community. And the police, or gendarme in our case, are part of the community.
Now in France there are two ‘police’ forces. The ‘Police’ are the ones you see in cities. And the ‘Gendarmes’, who are technically the military, they cover rural areas and villages. We have a Gendarmerie, a police station if you like, in our village. In fact, their office is right next to the Boulangerie (bakery). And since the baguette run is daily… well you can see why we might see them more often than not.
In terms of dramatic encounters, it’s variable in its content. There were the pre-cursor pandemic pass encounters. Checking we weren’t out more than our allotted time during those early lock-downs.
The most poignant, was the request whilst dog walking one evening to keep our eyes open to help search for a man with Alzheimer’s who had gone missing. This is what village life is often like. It’s not only helping neighbours and friends, but sometimes even the police at the door.