Ferme du Vieux Chêne

…We showered together in Jean’s workshop washroom accompanied by the smell of industrial soap. Then, after saying our goodbyes, I climbed into the tractor to drive back to the farm. It was already very late but I decided to take the long route home. I drove slowly but my mind was racing. What was I going to tell Mark? Was I going to tell Mark anything at all? It wasn’t the first fling in our relationship – we’d both had the occasional indiscretion in the early days but not recently and not since deciding to move to France. It was worse than that, I realised as the full consequences dawned on me – This time it had been with someone that we both knew and with a person that I had dealings with every week.

I arrived back at the farm and parked the tractor in the yard. I was glad to see the house lights were off – Mark must have gone to bed. I headed straight to the shower – an effort to wash away the guilt maybe? When I came out I found Mark in the kitchen in his dressing gown. “That tractor’s loud – It woke me up!” He reached into the fridge and brought out a salad that he had prepared for me. “It’s an older machine.” I said, “But it should be able to handle the heavier jobs better than the Massey.” “Well, you’ll be using it in the morning – Water at the greenhouses is getting low.” said Mark. “I’m going back to bed.” he added.

I sat down and ate the salad, then I grabbed a beer from the fridge and sat there thinking. There was no way I could stop using Armand Moteurs for our farming needs – If I did it would immediately have the local’s wondering what had gone on. That was a no-no. I was going to have to be resolute and resist any further approaches. Put the mistake behind me and hope nothing comes to light over the next few weeks, A final thought occurred to me – perhaps Jean was a straight guy who’d just taken the opportunity to try out gay sex as an experiment? We would see. But, for now I was resolved to be very well behaved in his presence. The trouble was the devil on my shoulder kept saying “It was good wasn’t it? We should do it again…”

Two days later Jean rang the farm while I was out in the fields – Mark answered the call and told me when I came home. I waited for the anger. But Mark said “He’s found us a second-hand building we can keep some of our equipment in.” I’d forgotten that we’d put out several feelers to try and find something. I rang back and agreed with Jean that I’d come and look in the morning.

“It’s half a shed from a factory.” he said, “All the frame, two walls and a roof. I think it’ll take most of your grass machinery.” There were no nods or winks, it was normal Jean and not a hint of what had transpired. I went with the flow and set about measuring it up to see if it would fulfil our needs. It looked good so I asked “How much?” “It cost me €4500, factor in transporting and a profit… Let’s say €6500?” The price seemed good so I agreed on the basis that I could get Jacques to prepare the land and erect it for us. We shook hands and I wandered back out to the runabout. It was surreal – like I’d dreamed that evening of sex…

Jacques turned up on the following Thursday with two labourers who he introduced as Alphonse and Pedro – “Come over from Spain to work.” he said. “Where’s your Son?” I asked. “He’s gone to University – thinks he’s too good for building and carpentry.” said Jacques, although I could tell by the gleam in his eye that he was secretly proud. We discussed the levelling of the land and the erecting of the shed. I knew from the previous warning that it wouldn’t be cheap and I wasn’t surprised when Jacques said €7000 with the proviso that it might be slightly more if they had any problems. I agreed the price. In the end it came out at €7500 but we had a place to store the equipment and Mark was happy because he definitely thinks along the old ‘place for everything’ line…


In the meantime autumn went ahead, the leaves turned brown and we helped out with as much harvesting as we could. In late October the Cotton harvest kicked in and it was like a gold rush for us helpers! The money we made went to buying a sprayer with the latest detection technology to deal with the weeds in our field…


…I was sceptical at first but it really did only spray when over a real weed – we used so little herbicide, it was like I’d walked around the field and sprayed them by hand!

November brought more harvest jobs and the bank balance started to look healthy as I trundled around fields in the special machines used to harvest Cotton…


..If the work held up through the winter, we might actually be able to think of getting our own Harvester and a bigger trailer. Possibly even another field! But some of my thoughts were still elsewhere… Somewhere back on a hot day in mid-September…

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