Bérnard, one of my neighbours, says that he knows where I can get a corde of wood.
'Will it be dry?' I ask (a tall order at this time of year, when any wood that's available has probably been sitting around under three inches of snow.) But Bérnard assures me that it will be, and at €150 the corde, de bonne qualité.
On Saturday morning, the garage is cleared out and the rubbish taken to the déchetterie. The wood delivery is supposed to take place at 2.00pm. Great excitement. At 2.30pm Bernard calls the wood man and is told he will be there at 4pm. At 5.30pm we are still waiting and the tension is rising in the street outside, where Bernard is pacing around anxiously and a couple of neighbours have gathered to watch.
Finally, at 6.30pm under the duvet of darkness, two very anxious men show up and align their van next to the garage, so that no-one can see that they are delivering wood. I can see immediately that the logs are very wet and the last thing I need is a garage full of damp wood.
'C'est pas sec,' I say.
They try to persuade me that it is dry in the middle and will burn - and they look beseechingly at Bérnard to confirm this - but I am having none of it. For once I stand my ground - not least because, even to my less than expert eyes, the delivery looks many logs short of a corde. Bérnard suggests that they try and palm it off on Pascal, the artist on the square, who has also been asking in the local cafe about wood. Ten minutes later Bérnard taps on my door and says 'vendu.'
Pascal has bought the consignment of damp wood, which makes me wonder if I ought to have taken it after all. But yesterday morning, great clouds of black smoke, were being emitted from Pascal's chimney. Meanwhile, the intelligence from the local cafe is that wood is going to be very hard to come by in the coming year and it's best to order early for next winter (I've written it in my diary as a priority for July.)
The reason is that most firewood is sold is on 'le marché noir' and the authorities are cracking down on any farmer or landowner looking to earn a bit of extra cash in this way. Busy bodies are therefore being encouraged to shop anyone who's been busy with a chainsaw or pulling a trailer of logs behind their tractor.
This is all according to the gossip in the local cafe. Martine, my mayor friend - and fount of all knowledge on la vie rurale - is in New Zealand at the moment, but I will check the veracity of this when she's back. In the meantime, the glowing woodburner is but a distant memory.