Without water or electricity, he lives as a hermit on the borders of Haute-Loire (video)

Without water or electricity, without a fridge or computer, without television or telephone, “Patou” is the only year-round resident of the village of Laval, in Saint-Pal-de-Mons, in his isolated house. Meeting with the one who is the guardian of the Dunière gorges, a philosopher at heart and a poet in his spare time. A nature lover who chose to live in peace, far from the hustle and bustle of a society that he could no longer stand.

On this day of pilgrimage, the path that passes in front of his house is always full. The walkers follow one another and all look attentively at this little house with blue windows, clinging to the hill. The mailbox, whose color matches that of the shutters, is just one element of the decor on its wooden post. It’s been a long time since the postman stopped coming down into the gorges here. This small stone building is atypical. Its dimensions are modest. A bedroom under the roof overlooks the only living room equipped with a fireplace. This is where the man everyone calls “Patou” lives, whose real name is Jean-François Terrat.Photo Lionel Ciochetto

In love with the place, a “favorite”

Almost 60 years old, he chose to live there year-round six years ago now. This place is first of all “a favorite. When I was a kid, Paulette Gaillard took care of me. She had this house and I came here in the late 1970s. I told myself I had to come and live here one day?! “, explains the man, a little “gruff” at first, but endowed with great sensitivity once you take the time to talk with him.Patou on the terrace of his house.

At first, when he bought the house from Yves Gaillard (Paulette’s son) in 2011, he only came on weekends. “What awaited me: it was the candle. Already at home, in Saint-Maurice-de-Lignon, I had a fridge, but I didn’t put anything in it. It got me used to it. So when I arrived here, I was no longer looking for switches and taps,” the man admits jokingly.

Without water or electricity

Because the pretty house has neither water nor electricity. There is therefore no television, computer or telephone and not even a fridge to store food.

When I have something fresh, I eat it right away. For water, I’m going to fill five-liter containers at my sister’s house in Saint-Victor-Malescours.

On the roof there is a tiny photovoltaic solar panel. Enough to light up the dark interior a little. “I listen to the music a little with the set like that, but I can’t put the lights on at the same time, otherwise it crackles…” If he made the choice to come and live here, it’s a bit to to break away from a society and an imposed rhythm of life with which he had great difficulty. “This is my lifeline. I left everything to avoid losing my temper,” he explains. He therefore left his job (he was in the green spaces at the town hall of Saint-Maurice-de-Lignon) and his accommodation to come there.
Sitting on a precariously balanced chair in front of his terrace, right next to the Bambine gîte, Patou does not know exactly the origin of his nickname, which his parents had given him from a very young age. “They left with their secret,” he said.

1d6d883997.jpgFor six years, Patou has chosen to live here, cut off from the world, but very peaceful.

“In Laval, is it Patou?!” Because it’s good dough,” says his friend Nicolas, a San-Palou man he met at the Convers café (“the last real café”) more than 20 years ago and who appreciates the place as much as its only resident.
You might think that time is long in this isolated corner. But our hermit from the Dunière gorges joyfully devotes himself to a pastime suited to this place: writing. Inspired by the wild beauty of this open nature, Patou writes “every day”. “What do you want to do here besides read and write?!” » But with his character, the man is rarely satisfied with his prose. “A good part ends up in the fire, in the stove, because I am never happy with what I have done…” Although it was never published, it caught the attention of the Saint-Pierre festival of words. Ilpize more than 15 years ago, winning the first jury prize. “I write poems, prose, stories, a bit of slam… I like there to be a punchline in my writing. » In addition to handling the word, Patou also paints and draws. “And even sculpture too, but that’s past me now…” One of our poet’s sources of inspiration was Jean Giono, “a nature guy” he says. A bit like him. Lovers of literature will also see in Patou’s journey a reference to Walden or Life in the Woods, a masterpiece of Anglo-Saxon literature written by Henry David Thoreau in the 19th century. Because if he came to get lost in Laval, “it’s just to be peaceful…”

bc35a4fe98.jpgPhoto Lionel Ciochetto

In winter, the days are a little long sometimes. But there are always a few walkers passing by the modest house, whatever the season. “It happened to me, on two occasions, to spend a week completely cut off from the world, with the snow. Otherwise, I always have friends who bring me food. And in the cupboard there are provisions.” As for contact with others, “it’s in small doses,” he confides. “But I don’t run away from people either. Here, they know me. My girlfriend comes to see me too, and then my daughter, with her son because I am a grandfather,” he says with a hint of pride. “There are fishermen who come by and give me a trout to eat. When fishing closes, it is the hunters who take over on the trails. I know a few of them. »
Far from the “intense” economic activity of Saint-Pal-de-Mons, stronghold of the plastics industry with its neighbor Sainte-Sigolène, Patou continues its peaceful path in the valley. “Before, when I was in good shape, I would go for walks in the gorges, always without a map. I watched it, but when I came home in the evening, to see where I had gotten lost. » Walks which led him to unusual encounters, like when he found himself “face to face with a wild boar. But he was the one who was scared?! You think: a wild boar against a bear,” he says, laughing.
Health and the weight of years do not spare the only inhabitant of the village. Even if he travels in a 4×4, the difficulty in accessing the place is a reality. Until when will he come to Laval? “It’s day to day. As long as I can come, I will come,” concludes Patou.

Lionel Ciochetto



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