Although no longer a welcomed part of the expat community around here, I do keep abreast of its activities, which isn't hard if you’ve spent your life doing what I do – asking questions, seeking answers; basically being nosy.

I’m told many people think it rude to ask a direct question, but through all my years in journalism I’ve found most people are quietly desperate to open up. There’s often a relief in being able to finally speak a truth previously hidden because nobody wanted to break the shell of a problem.

Children don’t speak to parents; parents don’t speak to children; early slights and misunderstandings morph into lifelong silence and enmity.

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I have lost count of the times I’ve sat opposite intelligent beings warped by their past, both professionally and personally, and asked: "But did you never just sit down and ask why? Or sit down and say: ‘This is how I feel about us?’"

And so many, too many, looked shocked at the idea and replied: "No. She/he couldn’t have dealt with that. It was too late."

Others looked at me as if I’d suggested something as bizarre as booking a Virgin ticket to Mars, recoiling at the thought.

"No, just no – you don’t know what he/she was like."

It’s true, I don’t, and I do accept the complexities of lives destroyed by a word, a marriage, a divorce, a death. But I believe above all in the power of the word – of speech, of using our beautiful language to explain, beguile, seduce, beg and, finally, forgive.

Such are my thoughts this month as I hear of deaths, grave illnesses, falls and failing memories in the local community.

It’s the French who fill me in, for they know all without being part of the foreigners.

It is true that La France Profonde is the great empty silence until something happens and within seconds a cluster will gather around the incident.

So I’m told that Y has died after months and months of silent agony. Her husband speaks no French and they automatically assume he will return "home".

Of course there is no longer a home. The house was sold years ago and his children are scattered around the world. In his early 80s, he is frozen in indecision, alone in his house in a village.

Another, here for the summer in a long-held and beloved village holiday house, was felled by a brain haemorrhage and lies paralysed and beyond recognition of all in the region’s main hospital.

Then I hear of a woman who rarely mixed, living a life alone with animals her only companions. I was told of her when I first arrived and warned away as she was too odd, too neurotic.

Of course I was intrigued and sought out her home 30 kilometres away, and over a table cluttered with long emptied wine bottles and heels of hardened cheese, coaxed out her story.

In the end it was a very simple one; an all-too-familiar tale of a marriage destroyed by infidelity, a bitterness left in a heart once full of love and a flight to a run-down farmhouse in France.

She didn’t heal here. She simply nursed her fury until every bit of joy was squeezed from her. There were no children to comfort or console her so she turned to a legion of feral cats and discarded hunting dogs.

I’m glad she died in hospital and not alone in a house where the mice and the birds made play of the holes and broken roof tiles to nest in her uncaring kindness.

We all come here in search of or fleeing something and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. But there is a price to be paid for crossing water and leaving all behind.

I’m hearing it more and more because the majority of those who have come here came in their late 50s and 60s, and are now the 70 and 80-year-olds who trundle around the Saturday markets.

They are dying and somehow they’re shocked it’s happened in this foreign country they made their home when full of vigour, vitality and joie de vivre.

And usually they came as a couple. Now one is dead and the other is afloat in a misery of unrecognised words.

If they’re lucky, the children gather and offer words of hope. Often, so I hear, they’re angry with the aged parent who is now trembling alone in a country they told him or her they were mad to go to. And the man or woman left alone cannot reply for now they are increasingly feeble.

You need to get to your 60s and beyond or face intimations of mortality to understand that death will happen.

It’s hard for the baby boomers who’ve got used to having it all. All around me are the fragile remnants of that fearless tribe who wandered the world in search of an indefinable "something".

Some of them have found it here in this backwater. Others become ill and die with the unspoken question: "Is that all there is?"

But there will always be others waiting, ready to take their place here, on the road to ... nowhere.