March 2, 2012

TROGLODYTES

In the late 60’s and early 70’s one of my favourite groups was the Troggs.  They were FAB !!

troggs2

I guess they derived their name from the cave dwellers known as troglodytes.  They were not the most good looking band around at the time.  But they were not as ugly as this lot, which I found amongst the images for troglodytes on Google.

troglodytes

Anyway, the point I am coming to is that there are lots and lots of troglodyte dwellings in the hills around our little part of France.  In fact there are some just on the outskirts of the village.

cave dwellers

What the plaque says, I think, is that people have inhabited these caves from Neolithic times until the twentieth century.  Certainly, a lot of them are still in regular use.  Mostly as storage or recreational space but as there are plenty of houses built into the rock I assume that there are caves at the back of them, which means they are still effectively used as dwellings.

cave dwellers4

The plaque says the caves would be cool in summer and warm in winter.  I find that hard to believe but it’s all relative I suppose.  For much of the time that they were in regular use nobody really had a comfortable life in any sense, except maybe for royalty.

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An interesting fact is that in our part of the world, the average life expectancy for a man in the year 1900 was 47.  For a woman it was 49.  Only the cosseted lives we have led since the middle of the twentieth century has seen an exponential increase in that age. By the year 2000 it was 78 and 80.  Most of us can expect to live well beyond that, all things being equal.

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Many things have contributed to this increase in life expectancy, such as health care, eradication of many fatal diseases, safety in the workplace, better sanitation, safer childbirth, better nutrition, and so on.  I’m sure you can think of some more.

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Having said that, our neighbour Mme André has show us a photograph of the lady who used to live in the house on the other side of ours.  Her name was Madeleine and the photo is of the two of them taken on Madeleine’s 100th birthday, about fifteen years ago.  Her tiny dwelling was literally two rooms, with no heating other than a small stove and very basic facilities.  She moved out of her cottage and into a care home when she was 106.

cave dwellers7

The accommodation in many of these caves is probably not much more basic than Madeleine’s cottage.  There was a marvellous display of someone’s collection of old postcards in the tourist office last autumn and there were several showing people living and working around these caves.  The people all looked pretty old and well wrapped up.  Which either means they were a hardy lot who lived long lives despite hard work and very basic living conditions.  Or they were all only 35 and hadn’t worn well !!

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As we continue to improve our little cottage we sometimes remember that it already has a level of comfort way beyond that enjoyed by its previous inhabitants and many of the other people of the village today.

It’s fun to visit the cave dwellings and occasionally sneak a look inside one or two.  I do wish we could become time travellers and secret observers, to catch a glimpse of how people lived in them through previous centuries.

cave dwellers9a

On the day that Lulu and I went for a walk up to the caves, Nick went fishing.  Afterwards we met up in the village for a coffee and talked about what we had been up to.  Happy days.

cave dwellers9b

28 comments:

  1. Oh how I wish we had a time machine, wouldn't it be fantastic to be able to view what like was like several 100 years ago. Great blog Jean. I cannot imagine only moving into a care home at 106!!!! Diane

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    1. Diane, it's time the inventors got on with it and provided us with time travel I think !!

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  2. There are cave dwellings here in Spain as well, but I don't think they're as charming as the ones you have pictured. I would also love to sneak more than just a peak into the dwellings and the lives of those who lived in them before.

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    1. Mitch, we are all fascinated by how peope lived in years gone by I think.

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  3. that was bloody interesting
    thank you

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  4. Lovely post Jean. I so much enjoy reading, and gaining more information about the beautiful area we are fortunate enough to call our home. You always find a different and interesting 'twist' to a topic.

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    1. Gaynor, thanks, the "twist" was just the meanderings of a mind that flits easily from one idea to another. Butterfly-brain is what some may call it !!

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  5. A fascinating post, Jean, beautiful illustrated. I've heard of the troglodyte dwellings, but have seen few photos. The rock is tufa isn't it?

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    1. Perpetua, close.. the rock around here is called "Tuffeau" and is somewhere 'twixt chalk and limestone. It is strong enough to build with, yet soft enough to cut with a handsaw and to write on. Pauline is slowly putting together a blog article for Touraine Flint about the graffiti adorning some of our doorways... including what looks like a Saracen temple... the buildings used to belong to the monastery at the top of the hill... and we have a Maltese Cross as the bullseye at the end of the barn.. they were Knights of St John and latterly, Chevaliers... like I said Pauline is investigating this.

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    2. Thanks, Tim. Most interesting. An etymological link between the two words, I think?

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    3. Tim, I will look out for the post about your graffiti. One of the things I love most about our region of France is what I refer to as the "creamy crumbliness" of the buildings due to the use of tuffeau.

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    4. I love the thought of "creamy crumbliness"... it gives a sense of the fluid softness of the outlines.

      One of the WVs that just came up is "ecominge"... a recyclable whine about something perhaps?

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  6. Great post Jean.... very informative and a nice perspective... makes you think doesn't it... and to appreciate life today.
    Aha... the Troggs..."Wild thing... I think I love you"... I can hear it now**... do the lyrics refer to the second photo perhaps.
    These are the ones at Les Roches aren't they... we've done so little walking around here... keep meaning to... then something else crops up. just like my school reports..."Must try harder!"
    **I can really hear it now... I just put it on!

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    1. Tim, these caves are indeed at Les Roches. It's a nice walk out of the village.
      Did you have the Troggs on vinyl or CD? I'm not sure if I still have my old vinyl record, it may have been a casualty of many house moves and clearouts.

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    2. It came on a compilation CD... I might have it as a single though... can't remember what I've got. There is a lot of vinyl in those two cupboards in our lounge.

      WV is "whichiss esibbit"... an esibbit is a rabbit crossed with a snake... it should, therefore, read "whatiss an esibbit"

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  7. Have you seen the local rag...two elderly people in their troglodyte dwelling nearly incarcerated by whopping blocks of stone falling into their garden after the effects of the winter on the tuffeau.

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    1. Fly, our "local rag" for most of the year is the Derbyshire Times !!
      The reports in that are rather different: an all-too-often pile-up on the M1 near where we live, yobs rampaging through the town centre in a drunken frenzy on a Saturday night or closure of several wards of the local hospital due to some dreadful infection. Life is dangerous anywhere.

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  8. I've seen this type of dwelling near Cahors and en route to Rodez and wondered about them. Fascinating to read about them. Sometimes I think it would be interesting to go back in time -- however, then I think that I would be entirely put off by things like 'smells'!

    How did you get your 'reply' to be blocked out in white? I like that... Looking forward to reading about Touraine Flint!

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    1. Broad, I know what you mean about the smells !! I would like to do my time travel almost virtually, as if floating around and amongst what was going on, with some kind of smell filter that only allowed the smell of roses to pass through !!

      I changed to this template because I wanted the "reply" facility and it just happened to put them on a white background, I didn't choose it, or at least I don't think I did ~ you can never be sure with Blogger !!

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  9. Fascinating Jean. I too would love to have a time machine and visit the past to see how folk lived in bygone times.

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  10. So many people would want to use a time machine to travel to the future. I'd much prefer the past, myself. Do you know of places where you can actually go inside the troglodyte dwellings and see how comfortable they might have been -- or not? "I wanna know for sure..."

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    1. Ken, I agree, the future might be a bit too scary.

      There are some caves you can go inside at Ethni Cité near Descartes and they have regular theme events where you can see people working and living the way they used to centuries ago.
      We visited the caves last year and I would have to say that comfortable they were not. Imagine camping in rock without duvets, a shower block or your primus stove !!

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  11. Just catching up with you.

    I've always wanted to look inside one of those dwellings :-)

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    1. Suburbia, nice to see you here again. Thanks for calling in.

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  12. I vaguely remember The Trogs, but do not recall what I thought about them. But I do love those cave-houses. Not sure if I could live in one though as they might tend to feel claustrophobic. But didn't that lady do well to live in one until such an age, - at 64 I feel quite a youngster in comparison to her great age!

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    1. Vera, I agree, cave dwelling can't have been too pleasant. We looked at a troglodyte house when we were house-hunting and it was positively horrid, very claustrophobic, spooky and smelling of damp. But lots are still in use so some are obviously much nicer.

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