Sunday, January 2, 2022

Update in a Small Village

2022 has arrived and along with it an important change is coming to our small, kind of backwards, village. This important event is not yet official because of course there are still some boxes to check, but within the year every home in Bourdeilles will have a proper street name and numbered address. 


Yes, you read that correctly— it’s the twenty first century and we still do not have individual addresses. Quaint, but not very efficient or safe.

Until the last couple of years rural France has remained free of street names or house numbers. If you are lucky your house has a long established name otherwise houses are grouped together by sections of the village. Mail and other deliveries are addressed to a neighborhood with descriptive name like The Rocks, The Three Frogs, The School Yard, The Place of the Gravel Pit, the Village, the False Village.  There might be three houses in your address group or twenty.  Currently our address is La Croix St Marc (the Cross of Saint Marc). There are five houses in this grouping, but we don’t know if we are house number one or two or three because there are no house numbers. 

This charming system worked smoothly when mail was delivered by the same person every day for twenty-plus years. It also was easier when folks with the same last name stayed in the same house for generation after generation. Back then if you moved into the village it was big news and word got out whether you wanted it to or not. 

Here’s a tale from 2003, when we first bought a house in the village. We came for visits of a few weeks several times a year. Didier, the mailman, had been carrying an envelope around in his sack for a few days trying to figure out who this envelope with an American postmark belonged to. He finally decided the best thing to do was to drop this American letter off at the home of the only Americans he knew - our friends on the outskirts of town. They then kindly delivered the mail to us. From then on our “address” was “The Other Americans”.

We learned that it is important to stop into town hall, introduce yourself, and describe where you live. Actually, it is even more important to introduce oneself at the bakery where the mail carrier hears about all the important village changes.

About ten years ago Didier had the nerve to retire with a full pension at the mandatory age of 55. Ever since, the mail has been delivered by a revolving door of postal workers. Mail delivery has become a little random. Figuring out where is where and who is who all depends on the perseverance of the latest carrier.

Even though DHL, FedEx, and UPS have been hopelessly hoping street names will become a reality, making their job more efficient, in the end the change will come because it is an issue of safety and security.

There is a terrible story of the day our wonderful baker died. His tractor fell on him. His wife called the rescue squad and gave the location of the house— “the road to Mareuil.” The sirens were heard going up and down, up and down the road. Finally a neighbor that had been helping out up at the scene of the accident went down to the main road to wave the emergency vehicle in the right direction. Because of the lack of a simple street number the emergency crew arrived too late to save him. I’ve been slightly panicked ever since.

Now, police, ambulances and firefighters will be able to use GPS to get to where the emergency is. Welcome to the 21st century!

There have been some bumps in the road to getting street names in place. First the mayor had to get the town through the ridiculous suggestions: Pink School Street, Top Hat Lane, Sister Sue’s Corner. Then there were proposals of people’s names.  One or two were even famous beyond the neighborhood they lived in.

Finally in mid-December a letter arrived in our mailbox stating we were soon to have a new address. 2110 Riverside Drive  (in French: 2110 Routes des Bords de Dronne) Yippee! In big bold letters it said- don’t use it yet as there is still one more vote to be taken…

Not everyone will be happy with their appointed address. There will be howling and reluctance. Folks will ask where does 2930 come from when there are only 4 houses in my lane? (It’s a 911 thing) Who the heck was Pierre de Rockford?  There’s going to be some catch up explaining to do.

Tom can’t wait for the official change day because it means he wont have to wait by the phone all day waiting to give directions for delivery of art materials. I’ll sleep better knowing that if I hear a siren in the night the driver knows just where to go. There are still plenty of other quaint things to life here in our small, kind of backward, village, that we hope don’t change.  But having a calculated address is one time where catching up with the twenty first century is a good thing.