Monthly Archives: January 2013

Week 7. Fun in France?

” and two steps backwards “

It’s been a horrible week in many ways , but with some rays of sunshine.
The way I am doing this is to write a daily diary and then to write the blog from that. But I have got a bit behind so what I am going to do to give maybe a bit more of the flavour of things is just print out the diary, ( which in my case means totally retyping it because I don’t understand all this cutting and pasting stuff).

Sunday AM

Reg and Pauline moved into their Uzes apartment and were replaced by  our friends Janis and Neil Pascoe ,who have a house in the Dordogne. We shipped some things over for them in the container (now a distant fond memory). So they drove down to pick up their things and do a house inspection.

Monday

Neil and I went to the wine coop in Fournes to discuss export.  Really good meeting with export manager Annalie.. They are trying to produce high quality wines…and succeeding. She confirmed that they are supplying wine to a couple of the big name cotes du rhone producers.  She offered to do work on shipping costs and is going to give us a price on some samples. High drama because they were giving sanctuary to a woman who had been beaten up by her husband ( who was prowling around outside).  Our meeting was interrupted by the arrival of the ambulance and the Gendarmes.
Then into Uzes for lunch at laCantine. Simple and good. A walk around Uzes. Neil and Janis very impressed I think. Dropped in on Reg at his new apartment. All furniture assembled and looking great.On return to Sanilhac the second bathroom is basically finished and looking good. Only the shower screens and the little entrance corridor to go. This is promised for next Saturday. Bon!
Visited the local lady sculptor. Janis bought a piece for their garden and one for us as a thank you for bringing their bits over from Oz.  Home for a lovely meal and chat which was cruelly interrupted about 11pm by a total blackout.
Finally tracked it down to a leak in the bathroom which was coming through the wall in the plant room and saturating a pair of power points. We isolated these and power returned. It was very cold outside playing with the power switch .  This leak is so disappointing after all the work ,but better that it happen now than in 6 or 12 months .

Tuesday

On the phone first thing to Frederic and Raymond. They arrived about Ten and started breaking tiles in the first bathroom. Murphy’s law kicked in and they found the leak at the junction of the new dividing walland the old wall. Sent for more tiles.  Almost inevitably, Gedimat out of stock and M. Bricolage only has matt white.  Bought them anyway.  About 930 it started to snow. High excitement from Janelle. Snowed for about an hour. Apparently doesn’t happen her very often,  then drove into Avignon to pick up a pump we need to pump waste kitchen water uphill into the main waste pipe. For a change it went like a dream. I went straight to the counter where it was waiting ,paid and was back in the car in 5 mins. But i have to say that earlier in the day frederic had spent the best part of an hour on the phone organising it all.
Then helped Neil and Janis load their stuff, plus a table onto the roof rack which was surplus to requirements here.  Saw them off on the 6hour drive back to the dordogne.  Lucia called in for a chat. Wood delivery scheduled for tomorrow.

Wednesday

Very cold. Went into Uzes to get some cash for the wood. One degree.  Back home janelle setting up second bathroom and the adjoining bedroom. I assembled the last bit of Ikea. Don’ t know whether to be happy or sad….I really enjoy my Ikea therapy.  Reg dropped in for a coffee .He has worked himself to a standstill and hurt his back so is having a lay day. He has got rid of all his Ikea packaging in bins around Uzes ….a mighty feat!  Took a leaf out of the French book and did some electrical work , setting up some low voltage lighting in the new kitchen. Just like Ikea….even down to the instruction sheet with no words. People seem to do a lot of their own electrical stuff over here and you see bare wires and strange lashups everywhere. What we are required to do in Oz seems like total overkill by comparison.  Had dinner at Millezime.very good.An excellent steak with truffles after snails with truffles.  On returning home we find that we still have a water leak. No wood. Apparently the woodman’s truck got pinched but then recovered. Maybe tomorrow.

Thursday

Very cold. Peaked at four degrees. Nice and cozy in the house. Got the wood delivery. Lucia helped us unload and stack it. I ordered 3 ster , which lucia says is 3 cubic metres, but I’m not sure about that. I think it’s less.  The wood is mainly oak. Quite dense and heavy and burns well, giving good heat.  We had a pigeon for dinner. Much bigger than in Oz. it was excellent with a Stephanie sauce.

Friday

The leak has blown the fuses again. Sent frederic an email sacking raymond and saying i would find people to put things right and knock their cost off the bill. Anhour later a call from Frederic saying he was coming around with another plumber. They arrived. The new plumber, Michel, even allowing for my bad french, was scathing about Raymond’s plumbing. We agreed that Michel would come back tomorrow morning and fix the leaks.
Went over to see Benoit the computer man as I still had not received the card for the TV decoder from Orange. On my behalf he spent the bestpart of an hour winding his way through the Orange telephone labyrinth. Finally he rang off and gave me a number that he had written down. He told me to go to the Orange shop and get them to issue me a card with that number. So still not properly hooked up after 7 weeks. Janelle went to see the boutique she had left some furs with and was told she had sold some and would like to look at more.
Dinner at Frederic’s apartment en famille. A very enjoyable night. Plumbing not discussed.

Saturday

Michel arrived and proceeded to whale away with a hammer in both showers ,all the time giving. Running commentary on the failings and inadequacies of Raymond. He spent 2 hours chopping out the leaking bits and replacing them. He soft soldered his joints ,pronounced himself satisfied and left , saying over his shoulder that rectifying the tiling was not his problem.  The day was cold and wet. We had invited M.Rosenblatt for lunch but he didn’t show up. So we ate the egg raviolis and had a quiet afternoon. Then at 7 o’clock as we were getting ready for some French TV in walked M.Rosenblatt. We had a jolly night and i do think it improves our French although i despair of ever being any good at it.

Sunday

Big sleep in. A lot of rain overnight. Much milder this morning…. About 8 and intermittent sun. Today is the big Uzes truffle festival. Wwe went in about 11 and met Reg andPauline. We went down to the antique market where Reg bought a Ferrari sketch i had spotted.. Looked at some stuff which might appeal to car people and vaccilated. Had a wander through some galleries looking for stuff for Reg.   Then had truffle lunch at Thierry’s. Great food…. Mushroom and cep and truffle soup and guinea fowl in a truffle sauce. None of us can really figure out what all the fuss is about with French truffles. Give me italian white truffles any day. So much more intense and flavourful. After lunch we wandered into the square.  Pretty disappointing…. In the time we were there nothing was happening.No bands,no speeches, no parades of dignatories in funny clothes , not even dogs and pigs looking for truffles in the mini forest set up for the purpose.  There were at least a dozen dealers and lots of truffles for sale. The price had escalated from 800 euros a kg to 1000 between Sanilhac and Uzes.  The various stalls featuring truffle related things were doing good business ,but all in all a bit disappointing, like our week. We then wandered futher and unfortunately came across the new shop of the dealer from whom we bought the mighty cheese stand. This cost us a bedside table and some prints for one of the bathrooms ,should we ever commission one. Deeply depressed.

Monday

Horrible day.  Lucia came around early and we dicussed how to get the remaining work done. She will ring plumber Mario who is the Vogts long term plumber and who has done Reg’s work.  The Ratcliffs came for lunch ,Hugh on his new hip. Like a spring chicken! Really enjoyable lunch. BBQed some quail. Turned out very well. Takes a while to get the fire right but the result is definitely worth it.  I have got a cough again. Not a lot of sleep last night.  Reg came around and we wired the new kitchen lights. A veritable triumph! They are just terrific!  Frederic arrived with mason. Mason said we will have continuing problems with leaks. Wants to fit magnetised tile so it is easy to get access when we have future leaks. Will let Fred know when he can do the job. And he found another leak!  Mario the plumber arrived. Can do kitchen Thurs morning.  Went upstairs to inspect. Said the plumbing is some of the worst workmanship he has seen. Pipes should have been silver soldered  not brazed or soft soldered.  He can do it all correctly. Told him to go ahead..   Asked Lucia to find a local carpenter to do the tunnel.  Sent an email to Frederic laying out the situation as we saw it and got a furious,semi incomprehensible reply.

Stay tuned. It seems to be building to a bit of a climax.

“Where is the card ?”. “What card ?”. Orange strikes again! Week 6

The House

Early in the week I had a heart to heart with Frederic and Raymond. I said that i needed the bathrooms and the new kitchen finished as a priority and that if necessary I would delay returning to Oz until this happened. I reminded them both that Raymond had committed to doing the job as his sole activity until it was finished. I know that Raymond has been moonlighting on Frederic’s job and they both know that I know.  As a result, Raymond came every day, including Saturday, with an assistant.
So, at the time of blogging the second bathroom is functional and needs another day or so to be complete.
I started assembling our Ikea kitchen on Monday and finished on Thursday.  How people without experience and a workshop get these things assembled is beyond me.  But in the 40 or so years that i have been playing Ikea the precision with which the kits are made has improved enormously.  They are now SO accurate.
During the aforementioned heart to heart we gave the kitchen a once over and Raymond informed me that the wiring  from the fusebox to the new stove was not heavy enough to run the electric oven.  Not a problem in a modern house, but in our case a big problem which would involve jack hammering a channel for the new wire about 7 metres.  Not for the faint hearted.  Janelle came up with the solution. We sold the electric stove to Frederic for one of his apartments and decided to go gas using bottles.  This means that we keep the winter kitchen with its elecrtic oven.  But that was pretty much decided anyway.  The winter kitchen is at he back of the house next to the room which has the fire in it.  So it’s very cozy and easy to heat and it’s where our dining room tables and chairs are.
So on Friday we went shopping for kitchen plumbing stuff at Castorama in Nimes.  (makes Bunnings look like a corner store).  Because of the configuration of our drainage we can’t get rid of kitchen waste water by gravity.  So we need a sort of sump, digester and pump called in french a  ‘pompe de relevage/broyeur’.  Castorama don’t sell them for kitchens. They directed me to a wholesale plumbing company called ‘ Fic ‘.  There is a Fic in  Uzes so I resolved to go there on our way home. We then drove another 40k to the Ikea in Montpellier, just for a change.  We took a lovely road through the petite Camargue. Very flat , lots of rice paddies, some truly squalid little clusters of houses on the waterways.
We bought our new gas range and its flatpack stand and headed for home.  But, and in France there always seems to be a ‘but’, when I approached the slightly surly man at Fic in Uzes he said they didn’t have them and I would have to go to Fic in, you guessed it, Nimes!
No offer to ring and see if they had stock or offer to get one sent over from Nimes.  Just a flat , unhelpful ,” no “.  And it is in these situations where your lack of french is so annoying.  You feel so frustrated. Fortunately, this attitude which was quite common 30 years ago seems to be disappearing fast, but it is really aggravating when you do encounter it.

Orange

It seems no weekly report is complete without another Orange foul up. Our new local computer expert arrived on Monday with turbochargers of some sort so we could make full use of the new Livebox.  He then proceeded to set up the decoder for the TV which is part of the package we paid for on Dec. 3.  At a point in the setting up process he asked me the question which started this week’s article.  ——” where is the card?” ” What card?” I replied. “The card from Orange that you insert in the decoder which identifies you ” ” I don’t have a card “. ” It should have been in the box”.  I still had the box and it wasn’t there.  So my guru rang Orange on Monday and arranged for a replacement card to be sent to me ” in two or three days””  Still waiting.

The Social Whirl

Last Sunday le tout Sanilhac was en fete for the first Sanilhac truffle festival.  A series of marquees was set up in the forecourt of the Mairie, opposite the boulangerie.
A highlight was a parade of truffle producers and hangers on dressed in the medieval robes and funny hats so beloved by the French.  Sadly they were not accompanied by their sniffer dogs or pigs.  Then it was down to business.  Four or five producers sat in a row with small piles of truffles on plates in front of them on a trestle table.  Each had a state of the art set of scales by his or her side. There had obviously been a prior meeting to fix prices which i would have thought would be frowned on by EU competition law.  Truffles this year ( which the experts say isn’t a great year for quality or quantity) are 80 euros for 100 gramms. Not cheap.  And the punters were not buying.
So we turned our attention to the supporting acts. The busiest tent was a local winery…..lots of noise and laughter. Then there was a rock and roll band belting out all the old favourites but sung phonetically so some of the pronunciations were pretty strange. I’m sure that most of the time they didn’t have a clue what they were singing about, but then again neither did the audience! People dancing and singing along and absolutely no louts or boguns trying to spoil things. They were probably engaged in la chasse and blazing away at anything that moves. Back to the festival. For the serious truffle student there was the opportunity to have truffle infused coffee… No thanks. Or you could buy snails with truffle butter from a local snail farmer who we aim to visit. They were amazing and we ate 2 dozen @ 10 euros a dozen. A couple of enterprising ladies were making truffle omelettes which were thought were underwhelming. But what can you expect for 7 euros? Finally there was truffle ice cream. Again,no thanks.
There was also an art exhibition of high standard, someone doing mulled wine and roasted chestnuts  and a lovely family who are using donkeys to take people down into one of the local gorges. They brought a team of four along.
We met the mayor who it seems is quite proud to have acquired some Aussie ratepayers. He said a number of mayoral things to us which we didn’t understand. I thanked him for the great party and said that I had heard that the village had a party like this every Sunday and thanked him . He found pressing mayoral duties demanded his attention elsewhere.
We met an Aussie family who were staying in Uzes and an American couple who six years ago did what we did and bought a house here with a view to spending part of their time here.  They have found France so enjoyable that they are now here full time. Interesting , but I think not for us.

That’s it for this week. I am disappointed we haven’t done more interesting stuff to report to you ,but I guess that’s the way it goes.

Farting around in France. Week 5. A scent of victory!

This has been a big week on a number of fronts, but alas, not on that of the second bathroom. Raymond has not returned and Frederic says that he thinks his father is dying.  He went to Lyons, where his father lives before new year and seems not to have returned.  His mobile doesn’t answer. All his equipment is here so he definitely intends to return. We must be patient I think.
Our friend Hugh Ratcliffe, who has lived here for 16 years sent me a sympathetic email after one of my cries de coeur about the impossibility of communicating by phone. He said that it’s only fixable by finding a multi-lingual neighbour who is prepared to help.  Similar in my case to finding someone who has a deep understanding of computers and their foibles ( hi Mark!).
Anyway it has happened for us.  We have met the most delightful girl who works a bit at the local cafe her name is Lucia, she is Dutch and speaks better English than we do.  She offered to help with our orange problems.  Keen readers will remember that last week we got the so called Livebox,  had it all configured at the Uzes internet cafe, brought it home, plugged it in  and nothing happened.  So Lucia came around on Monday morning and went out into the street , where there is reception and rang Orange on a number which she and most French people seem to know by heart.  About 20 minutes later she got onto a human being who started doing testing things to try and diagnose the problem.  This of course required observation of the panel of lights on the front of the Livebox, which of course is in the house.  We solved the problem by hijacking a young kid who was hanging around and getting him to run between phone and Livebox with questions and observations.  All this took about another 20 minutes.  Finally Orange conceded that there was a problem and advised that we would be visited by technicians at 930 on Wednesday ( subsequently modified in a text message to sometime Wednesday morning).
At 8:45 on Wednesday morning a cherypicker  popped its head above our wall and a technician started fiddling with the wiring on the power pole,  after no more than 5 minutes the relevant lights lit up and the Livebox became truly alive.  Exactly one month after we paid our money.  It’s an absolute disgrace.
So we now have a fixed line telephone and wifi. So we took Janelle’s laptop upstairs and hooked it up to the new canon printer we bought.  A few problems emerged.  Firstly wifi won’t easily go through metre thick stone walls. Secondly the laptop and the printer wouldn’t talk to each other and thirdly the television decoder box was much further away than the one metre specified in the instructions.  At this point we could have broken down or started throwing things,  but I had observed that there was a business a few hundred metres away which appeared to be something to do with computers so i went to see them. To my delight i was greeted by a young man who, faced with my attempts to explain my problems, hastened to engage me in English of a totally acceptable standard. He agreed to come to the house and see the problems.  The solutions are that we need some sort of wireless boosters on the Livebox, the decoder and the laptop. The printer problem is that there is a cord missing, but he has one in stock. So, by the next instalment we should be up and running electronically. Stay tuned, as they say.

The Container

Balguerie, the French customs agents advised us last Friday that the container would be delivered this Friday.  It would be on a truck and couldn’t be offloaded. We would have 2 hours to unload it. And the truck would not be able to manouvre beyond the end of our street.
They also advised that they would like their bill paid electronically if possible before we got delivery of the container.  No problem, I said. We’ll whip in to Uzes on Monday morning and get Credit Agricole to effect the transfer for us.  So in we went.  Bank closed. (it was new year’s eve).  We returned home and I rang Balguerie.  At lunch.  Please ring after 2:30. I rang after 2:30 to be told my contact was having the day off.  However his colleague said he thought a cheque would be fine if we express mailed it.  No problem we said.  So we wrote a cheque and drove into Uzes to the post office to express mail it.  Post office closed!   So undaunted we went to a local Tabac and bought 4 stamps and put the cheque in the ordinary mail. It arrived in good time.
We were lucky enough to be able to get a team organised for the unloading and we got the job done just inside 2 hours.  It all arrived in fine shape. No damage whatsoever. And the French customs let it in free of duty and TVA. We are still sorting it all out, but everything fits and really looks great against the stone walls.

Food

No restaurants this week.  But we did find some baby goat in Carrefour…. Where else?  And made a goat curry on Tuesday, which is Reg’s traditional curry night.  On Thursday we had a cassoulet.  Again good old Carrefour did us proud with 6 confit duck legs for 13 Euros.  I bought the smoked pork and the Toulouse sausages in the market and it turned out very well.  Carrefour is currently running a meat festival .a whole farmed rabbit for 7 Euros. The rear quarter of a smallish pig 2.60 Euros per kg.  chooks 5 Euros each if you buy 3.  How do they do it?

Ikea

The Ikea saga continues for Reg. He and Pauline spent from 10 am till 4:30 pm at Ikea on Monday buying furniture etc. we warned him about our delivery dramas and Janelle strongly advised him to get express delivery.  So he started in the sofa dept. and was told that express delivery was no problem, 2 days was quoted.  On to the bedding dept.– same story, except that they don’t deliver the largest mattress, you have to sort that out yourself then progressively through the store, but being told to sort out the delivery at the large goods counter after the cashiers.  So, at the large goods counter, after having paid for everything, including 350Euros for delivery, they were told 20 days for delivery.  And were told it was impossible to get a refund of the delivery charges.  So he went back after New Year’s Day to be told that not much could be done to speed things up. To make things worse, in the course of all this Reg was told that the washing machine he had bought and paid for was on 6 months delivery and that in normal circumstances the balance of his order would have been held until the washing machine was available!  Incredible.  So Reg asked for a refund for the washing machine.  He was told it could only be done by him supplying a thing called a RIP from his bank. This meant yet another trip to Ikea the next day. Finally, on Friday, Reg received a call from Ikea telling him he would get delivery next Thursday. Again, stay tuned.

So ,at the end of week 5 we are on the air…just; our stuff has arrived from Oz and is being installed; one bathroom is operational and the other pretty advanced;  I am about to try to assemble our Ikea kitchen; our French has not improved much and probably never will and we have met some really nice people.  Overall , not bad.

French follies….. Week 4 . Xmas week.

A somewhat interrupted week, but not nearly as bad as Oz. the French take Xmas day off and then it’s business as usual. Usual, that is, for France.

The House

As reported in my last missive ,one bathroom is functioning although it still needs a screen.  Down in the cellar/plant room/ bloke’s shed area we found some leaks in Raymond’s new plumbing. He treated it with some epoxy product which has not been a complete success, so he has that to look forward to when he returns later this week,after new year. Raymond was scheduled to come back to work on the 27 th, but did not show up. I spoke to Frederic,who said he had not heard from him, but thought he was coming back on the 28th. Later in the day we were in Uzes and saw Raymond working on Frederic’s apartments.!

We are going into another week of a public holiday. Raymond says he will be back on Wednesday and will finish the job next weekend. We’ll see. Meanwhile…….

 The Container

Great news .the container will arrive next Friday morning on the back of a camion. We have 2 hours to unload it before we start getting charged more money.  Our advice is that the camion will not fit up Rue Droite, so we will unload it about 100 metres away and carry or trolley things either to the house or to the garage we are renting,which is  about 100 metres in the other direction. We are assembling a cast of thousands for this exercise. Should be interesting!

Motoring

The morning after we arrived our brand new leased peugeot 308 was tail ended by an arab gentleman. The damage to the car wasn’t too bad,so we didn’t worry about repairs or a change over car.  Last thursday as we were motoring along we got severely sideswiped by a large truck going in the opposite direction. He did not stop.  The driver’s side mirror is gone and every panel on the driver’s side is damaged.  But it still drives OK  so we’ll soldier on.  No other motoring news i’m afraid.

Orange

What an organisation.   On Xmas day we made some calls to friends and family in  Oz.  On 27th orange cut off calls from the phone because we had spent too much! Not content with that ,they also cut off our ipads because we had used up our credit, but there seems to be no way of finding out how much credit you have left.  The Uzes orange shop ,on our latest visit (now into double figures), gave us a hitherto secret number which gets you through to an English speaker in Mogadishu or Dar es salaam, we offered to pay by card to get things reconnected when we found out what the problem was only to be told that the English speaking department could not take payments and that we would have to use the French payment number like everyone else. When we explained the language difficulty we were told to get a French speaker to help and we were disconnected!  But there’s more!

On Friday our box from orange arrived by mail , even though we had been told (by Orange) that we would be contacted before delivery. The box contained our “livebox” otherwise known as a router, I think and a decoder for the TV.  And lots and lots of glossy literature. We went into the orange shop (again) and asked if they could direct us to someone who could install it all. They sent us around the corner to an internet cafe, which they had never mentioned before, where the internet savvy young owners speak perfect English. We gave them the box of stuff from orange together with our ever expanding orange file and left them to the job of effecting the installation, so all we would have to do is take it home and plug it in.

Murphy’s law.

We took it home,plugged it in as instructed ….and it didn’t work.  A close study of the troubleshooting part of the installation manual revealed that the rapidly blinking red light meant that we were not getting an internet signal at all. The man at the internet cafe said that this was orange’s problem and that we needed to contact them.   The manual further says that if the internet is not working you should email!!! Them . No phone number supplied.  I should interrupt my flow of bile here to say that some of this was going on in our favourite cafe in Uzes and as we were leaving the customers all said to us “welcome to France”.  Everyone just hates orange.

Just down the road from the house is a cafe/bar that we retire to quite frequently. It has a nice terrace with wonderful views over vineyards and wooded hills where the sangliers ( wild boars) live and the chasseurs chasse. There is a girl working in the cafe who introduced herself to us a week or so ago and said if we needed any help with anything she was available. She came around this morning. She knew the number for problems at orange by heart. So, she went out into the street where there is reception and made contact with orange after a 15 minute wait. We had a young French neighbour running in and out check on the livebox for improvements, but, alas it remains a deadbox. Eventually orange conceded that there was an issue with the wiring and a technician is scheduled to visit us on Wednesday morning.  That will be one month since we ordered and paid for it all. When this is resolved i think that a stiff letter will be in order.  I doubt that it will achieve anything ,but I’ll feel a bit better.

Lunch

What you may have read about the Frenchman and his lunch is an understatement. I have been refused entry at m. Bricolage at 11.55 and as previously recounted all negotiations ceased at Ikea at midday, even though Ikea itself doesn’t shut for lunch. What i was told by the Ikea man was that the switchboard at the delivery company had closed for lunch for 2 hours. Most businesses shut for 1 1/2 hours, some for 2 . And Uzes is like a morgue on  Sundays and Mondays… Most businesses are closed.. No wonder france is in the merde and sinking steadily.

It’s new year’s eve. We are looking forward to a lovely meal and a few wines in front of the fire before retiring around 10 secure in the knowledge that thanks to orange the phone won’t ring during the night.

That’s all for this week

John

France for the foolhardy…. Week 3

Xmas Week

Reg Kenny and Pauline arrive on Friday evening and we have no bathing or toilet facilities… But we are on a promise from Frederic and if you cant trust a French real estate agent / property developer………?

House

It turns out that Raymond is basically doing this job on his own . He is working incredibly hard and doing long hours, but it is more than he can handle. For reasons we don’t understand Frederic has started working here for hours at a time. Maybe he feels guilty? We weren’t here for a lot of Monday and Tuesday ( see below ), but when we arrived home Tuesday afternoon for the anticipated Ikea delivery the whole house was covered in dust and there were jackhammer noises echoing through the building. It was necessary to drill 4 holes from the first floor bathroom floors through to the ceiling of the cellar/ plant room.   The house,we were told dates from around 1800. I think parts of it are probably much older  than that and when they built them,they built them to last. So it turns out that the distance from floor through to ceiling in two holes ,due to the ceilings being vaulted ,was one metre !  And boy, was it hard!

Next day Raymond had his lovely daughter in cleaning up the worst of it,but i think we will be cleaning dust off things for months.

And it has become clear that the job wont be finished on schedule so the decision has been made to concentrate on one.. At the time of writing ( 4 pm on Xmas eve ) one bathroom is complete except for the screen and i expect the other will be done by Saturday,allowing for Xmas day and boxing day.  Unlike Australia,the building industry does not close down for January.

 Ikea

A running sore. As i have mentioned, getting stuff delivered is a problem. Ikea offers a delivery service. It is slow and expensive.   The offer was 10 days and 220 euros for 35 kilometers.  The reality was that it was supposed to be delivered on Tuesday….. 20 days. We made a special effort to be back and Raymond was at the house all day. No Ikea. Rang them first thing Wednesday and got through to an Ikea call centre. The best they could do was to offer to send a file to the Avignon store and someone would contact me to reschedule a delivery at a future time. No,they would not give me the phone no of the store.  So i made the 45 minute drive to the Ikea store in Avignon. The discussions involved 3 ikea staff and a lot of telephoning to the delivery company, who offered a new delivery on the 28 th December. Then midday came and the lead Ikea telephoner said that as it was lunchtime nothing more could be done until after 2 and that i should go home and someone would ring me. I said that if necessary i would sit and wait until 2 ,but that i wanted a delivery that day or the next. I then asked to see the manager. With some reluctance the manager was called,the situation was explained and she said two words and walked off. The two words were obviously ” fix it ” because another number was rung and after a discussion with the boss of the delivery company i was offered a morning or afternoon delivery the next day. I opted for afternoon and they said they would ring first.  Given that we still have no reception at the house this is a problem so i decided to sit it out in the nearby cafe ,which does have reception. So there i was at 2 pm the next day when Janelle rang and said that they had arrived unannounced and were unloading.

Cars and Stuff

On Monday we drove down to near Monaco to see our good friends Nick and Stephanie Harley. Nick has a wonderful small collection , his favorite being an Alfonso Hisso of 1912 with original factory bodywork.  For its 100 th birthday nick drove it alone from Paris to home on minor, some very minor,roads. Serious motoring.

In the past we have always used coins and notes on the peage . On this trip we hit a peage station after we had run out of coins and the machine had no facility to take notes. A credit card solved the problem and is quicker than coins and notes.

Speeds on the autoroutes have dropped noticeably. The absolute limit is now 130 k and there is a lot of radar and a points system.  But you still get overtaken by cars doing 150 plus.  How do they beat the system?

We are in a new 308 peugeot diesel. It is getting about 900 k to the tank of diesel and is a nice little car.

Orange

The communications dramas continue. Frederic looked at our French phone the other night and said that there was a message from orange telling us that our new equipment was waiting in Uzes at a tabac. I had been expecting someone to arrive in a van and install it all. So we went in to the tabac only to be told that they had returned it to orange because we hadn’t collected it in time. To make matters worse Janelles Ipad wont do internet or email and we don’t know why. Boy,do i hate computers and all their works. Which brings me to telephones.

Telephones

I think phones are the biggest single problem with trying to make it in france. If you are conversing with someone face to face ,there is always the gesture, the play-acting, the diagram on a bit of paper, but when you answer the phone you are dead! You don’t know who is calling, or what it’s about. You struggle desperately to hear any familiar word that might give you a clue. And mechanised messages and calls are worse.  This is compounded by the french practice of joining groups of numbers together when describing them. So,for example, in giving someone a phone number we would say 223344 as two two,three three,four four. A french person will say twenty two, thirty three,forty four. And you are lost. And it gets worse— part of our rego. Number  is 70030.  Frederic describes that as seven hundred thirty. The only solution is to learn and understand french, and colloquial french at that.

I have been trying to order a load of wood for about 5 days. I leave a message in my best french. They reply and leave a message , which i dont get until sometime later because we have no coverage and i cant understand the message anyway.

Xmas

Xmas is a much bigger thing over here than we expected. Lots of decorations,markets and celebrations. Being France, the food and drink side is massive…. We got a 60 page brochure from Carrefour in the letterbox this week promoting food and drink for xmas. The first 11 pages were totally devoted to foie gras in one form or another.

My typing finger is giving out , so Janelle and i wish you a joyeaux noel while we go and try out the new bathroom.