The winding roads of rural Normandy were reminiscent of Ireland and meandered between thick hedgerows, easing around bends to reveal new sights and pleasant people.
An older woman was on her knees, a folded sack beneath, wielding a sickle in the grass of a 'long acre' alongside a small house. Cut, gather, cut, gather - all with a careful rhythmic action. Each tuft of grass was important and valued.
In Ireland, even then, this verge would be deeply scored by tyres and muddied with the detritus of speeding wheels.
The woman's harvest was gathered in neat piles - tiny cocks to become food and bedding for goats and rabbits, visible in their hutches near the house, and domestic fowl pecking and scratching in their free-ranging. I stopped to bid a kindly word on the industry, extending an Irish blessing on the work.
The following day, in a nearby town, there were live rabbits for sale, along with fowls, also live, and eggs and a variety of vegetables in a market.
This was not today nor yesterday, I hasten to add. That countryside and its peaceful ways may have changed; mini milk cans for easier hoisting may be no longer in use; and old women are perhaps not on their knees cutting grass.
But Normandy came back to me in a book of stories sent to me, written by an Irish woman who has spent most of her teaching career in France. Her name is Mary Byrne, she lives in the Midi and her tales - set in rural France and urbane Paris - are amusing and at times breath-taking.
John McGahern had a "dead bird in a chimney" in one of his set pieces. Mary Byrne has a human so ensconced, his presence revealed when a boot, complete with foot, falls into a fireplace.
Mary Byrne has taught English at university in France, her student years in Ireland being at St Louis in Monaghan and UCD. Her book, Plugging the Causal Breach, is published by Regal House, at €14.60.
I had once spent some time away from media cutting scrub timber with a chainsaw. My regular companion, like the old woman in Normandy, used to harvest the road verge outside his cottage with a scythe.
As he got older, a farmer neighbour would cut his roadside meadow and bale it, which my friend would sell on. Some of the proceeds would go towards a regular drop in the village pub where I regularly joined him after a hard day's work logging wood for winter fires.
Those were the days!