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………?


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.


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.


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.


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 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.

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