French Connections

YES, WELL might you wonder what this is. You see, we sometimes get the feeling that we aren't alone in our house. Especially at this time of year. Do you ever feel the same? On the face of it, officially, according to the electoral roll and list of local taxpayers, Josephine and I are the only people who live here. But in compiling the definitive list of inhabitants we could hardly forget Pinot the cat, who would be black (and white) affronted if he knew he'd been left out.

'DID YOU know,' I said to Josephine, 'that there's a small area of London that has an Occitan name?'
'No,' she said.
'I mean,' I prattled on, 'there's this language, Occitan, that no one in the south of France speaks as their mother tongue any more, except maybe a few very elderly people, so to all intents and purposes it's dead, like Cornish. And yet an Occitan word has given its name to an area of London. Don't you think that's extraordinary?'
'Not really,' she said. 'What is it? Convince me.'
'Castelnau,' I said. 'On the south side of Hammersmith Bridge. It's part of Barnes, really. In Occitan it means 'high castle'. Castel means castle, obviously, and nau, sometimes naut or naud, means high.'
'Are you sure? Doesn't it mean 'new castle'?'
'Nope. High castle. Quite sure.'

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