| || |
A Weekly Column
July 10, 2002 - Flintstones, meet the Flintstones
Modern Day Flintstones
By Daemienne Sheehan
Ms. London Magazine
July 8, 2002
Sign our Guest book or Look at Links Page
Daemienne Sheehan asks whether you could ever contemplate joining people who choose to live in caves. Flintstones, meet the Flintstones.
The troglodytes of Lavardin can be split into three distinctive groups -pensionners fulfilling their retirement dream of a personal drinking den, trendy Parisians in search of weekend getaways and finally - Bill and Aprille Glover. Bill Glover, 55, is a former lawyer from Georgia and a full-time Francophile. He has lived with his stone sculptor wife, Aprille, for two years in a cave that was home to a family of five in the 1940s. Life in a cave, says Bill, is paradise. And it is only 200 American greenbacks a month.
The French are notoriously dismissive of anyone who cant speak the mother-tongue perfectly. Or are they? Everyone in Lavardin adores this robust American who wears fuschia-coloured shirts and speaks French with a slow Southern accent. Was Bill simply born in the wrong place? In the manner of Baloo the Bear, Bill admits that when he first moved to Lavardin he "just slept".
"There wasnt any heat or electricity and I got real sick. But it was so dark and cosy I hibernated. Its real easy to sleep in a cave. Of course Ive had to change my routine because I established myself as a hard-drinker and I have to write too. Troglodytes are real party-animals. Theyre just as friendly as anything."
Bill has written two books on modern-day troglodyte living. The first one is called Cave Life in France: Eat, Drink, Sleep
Cave life is as simple as that. Lavardin, voted one of the most French of French villages, has only one bakery, run by baker filled with so much self-belief he even sells his burnt baguettes. There are also two restaurants which only open for lunch and supper and were both closed for holidays. The restaurant Le Caveau is run by a lady whom Bill says is a dead ringer for Miss Kitty from Gunsmoke. Thats about it. For the 137 year-round residents, there are no cinemas, theatres or bookshops.
But Lavardin is not for the prudish. French troglodytes live to eat and drink. This is charcuterie country with enough pate and terrine to plaster the Louvre. Every cave has a pressoir (wine-press) and an open fireplace for roasting spits. During harvest-time, the troglodytes and villagers travel the region with a home-made still on wheels, used for making a special wine that must be consumed within a day.
Since their arrival, Bill and Aprille have upgraded their cave with electricity, plumbing and the Internet. In the daytime, the whitewashed dwelling, which faces the sun and opens onto a hillside garden, is filled with light. Neighbours range from a Parisian bridge-builder to a pensioner with 5000 bottles of wine. There is one English couple which Bill couldnt figure out initially. Theyd come for two weeks, work the whole time fixing up their cave, then leave. Last time, we got them to relax a little.
Bills wife, Aprille was diagnosed with HIV in her early twenties and lost her infant son to the illness. This was in the early days of HIV and Aprille may have contacted it through her hemophiliac boyfriend. Whether its cave-air or a 'live life to the full philosophy', Aprille at 35 could pass for a decade younger. Self-educated, Aprille has the auto-didact habit of perpetually foot-noting. Amongst other things, I now know how to use caustic soda as a patina and that Leonardo Da Vinci did not invent the vanishing point.
One night, after a boozy feast in the local church, teetotaller Aprille decided on a midnight stroll. "Ill show you the Castle Keep and the caves underneath." "Now?" I say over the rim of my glass. Its 1 a.m. Aprille finds a torch and were out the door in search of troglo-delights. Bill last words are, "Be careful babe."
The caves under the castle lead to Montoire through a series of honeycombs that go on for 4 kilometres. I sincerely hope were not going to do the whole nine yards. We crawl into the cave through the roots of a live tree. Its a cave-woman size hole and, as we wiggle under, clumps of dirt land on our head. A tsunami of bats rises up in an instant.
"Bats have a perfect sense of direction," Professor Aprille assures me. Im thinking of the law of averages. Surely some bats are clumsy?
The caves are not magnificent stalagmitic constructions. They are more of an Appalachian labyrinth where banjo-players take city-folk for a comeuppance. Ceilings are midget height with tunnels spiralling off in all directions. As I hunch along, I almost fall into an underground spring coated with wafers of calcium deposit. Still its pretty extraordinary and thank god one of us is sober. The bats continue to fling themselves at us and I cant help but notice these honeycomb burrows all have twins.
"Dont worry", says Aprille, "we follow the arrows." The arrows along the walls point one way and are few and far between. I would be a lot happier with neon exit signs but this is France Profonde, Deep France, where you can live almost the same as 100 years ago. Mobiles, I remember, dont work in caves. We edge our way along.
"So", I say not wanting to be a damp blanket, "Are we going to the next village tonight?" Aprille looks surprised. "Why no", of course not, "Bill always gets worried when I go in here."
Were outside again and Aprille wants to hit the chateau. Its around two a.m. but she knows a secret entrance so we head off in the moonlight. For the first time in my life I break into a nationally designated heritage spot. Instead of camera-toting tourists the chateau is filled with goats and goat droppings. High on the crumbling steps a trio watch us with proprietorial irritation. Aprille is ahead of me, lecturing about Roman invasions, Vikings and Germans. The goats are sniffing the air dangerously. Theres always been cave-dwellers, she says, the German army couldnt examine them all, theres too many. The villagers hid an American soldier in one until he recovered. Were high up above the Loir region. A woolly fog descends until all we are left with is a single light blinking in the mountain-side.
"Do you know what that is", Aprille says in her singsong Southern voice. "Our cave. Bill has left the light on for us." She sounds like a twelve-year old.
Another lesson I learn from Aprille is that the caves are over 3000 years old and were used by Druids. I cant quite grasp this. "But Druids didnt keep guest-books", I say. She blithely ignores me. "Or did they?"
"All the caves are shrines to Bacchus", she continues, "You can tell because theres tiny stone birds with penises in them." But wasnt Bacchus a chubby chops who hung out with satyrs? Wouldnt goats with penises make more sense? I give up. She lists 1001 further astounding facts about caves then announces she has to go work in her studio. Its 3 in the morning.
Bill and Aprille set off for her non-cave Montoire studio, leaving me alone. At first its fine but then I begin to miss her lectures. The cave is subtly humming. This goes on for some time before I realize its the electricity. After unplugging everything, I am left in the pitchest pitch-black. Around 5, I awake in a sweat, convinced I am sleeping in the same spot as where Druids made sacrifices. Its a stone ledge, I keep saying. And its elevated!!!! I imagine my blood pouring in neat streams down the roughly cut steps into the sunken bit below. It dawns on me that there are no windows. Good Christ, I think, Im in a damn cave. What the hell have I done?
I spend the night with the picturesque door open onto a plummeting ravine which in my hotwired brain, is filled with serial cave-killers. Around 6, I finally nod off. Aprille, who never sleeps, rings me at 8. Im thrilled to hear her voice and confess my Druid fear.
"Oh, didnt I tell you", she says, "our cave is a non-Druid cave. But three caves down has a ghost. A Canadian man who created the Beaux Arts in Montreal. Hes still in the cave, walking around, as a ghost. Ever since they walled it up, hes been kinda stuck."
|Subscribe to receive Tales From the Loir Weekly by Email |
July 3, 2002 - Bugs
June 26, 2002 - Summer
June 19, 2002 - French Property News
June 5, 2002 - Emmanuel de Broglie
April 24, 2002 - Election Day in Saint Rimay
April 17, 2002 -Surprise Review
|April 3, 2002 - Spring in Lavardin |
|March 20, 2002 - Guest Columnist /Furman Magazine/ John Roberts |
|March 13, 2002 - Tête de Veau |
|March 6, 2002 - Table Etiquette |
|February 27, 2002 - A Country Boy Can Survive |
|February 20, 2002 - Driving in France |
|February 13, 2002 - The Circus |
|February 6, 2002 - History of France |
|January 30, 2002 - THE BEST I EVER HAD |
|January 23, 2002 - Miranda This |
|January 16, 2002 - Charlotte Observer Interview |
|January 9, 2002 - Walnut Wine |
|January 2, 2002 - Sloe Gin |
|December 26, 2001 - Winter Solstice |
|Archive of Weekly Columns from 2001 |
|Archive of Weekly Columns from 2000 |
Site contents are copyrighted ® 2000-2 William
Glover. All rights reserved
Page Design Glover Consulting