Tuesday, 30 September 2008

22 Sept 2008 Monday – Bankers

We are hanging out the second lot of washing in the morning sunshine when the builders arrive. They have an electric cement mixer in the van to mix up the special floor compound that they will be laying on top of a polythene sheet in the bathroom. It is a mixture of polystyrene balls, some sort of fibre and cement type stuff. It is very light we are told.
Vehicles need to be rearranged so that they can do their mixing, then it is all go. Buckets of gloop start making their way up to the 2nd floor and are then spread onto the bathroom floor. By about 11am the job is done. It will take 2 days for the gloop to dry, so they will be back on Wednesday morning to lay a level, skim coat on top of the dry surface.
We have something to eat then walk into town and pay a visit to my bank. Luckily my account manager is able to see us, and we get a number of things sorted out. S opens a current account, I take out my top up medical insurance (Approx £78 per month) which will bridge most of the gap between what the state will pay for if I am ill, and the real cost. I still have not received my final tax square for my car windscreen, so I have another temporary one printed off. I also need to transfer more money into my current account to cover the forthcoming building account payments.
By the time we get home, it is 3.30pm and I put out the weekend’s green waste for collection early tomorrow morning.
I have an email from the lawyer’s office. My studio tenants on the first floor are leaving on the 22 October, so I will need to find more tenants.
Rent money has at last been vired into my current account. Hooray!
Tonight is the choral societies AGM. I have been told to come along. I will not be able to vote, but there will be a drink afterwards….. On the night I received my first petit bissou greeting. The French love to talk and the meeting went on and on. I understood some of it though. When it finally finished, the big plastic pop bottles containing an orange liquid were opened and cake and nibbles appeared. You could choose between orange from bottles marked sans alcol or the unmarked bottles which might contain alcohol, they couldn’t possibly say. I chose the unmarked orange and had two plastic cups full as any investigative journalist worth his salt would have done. It might have been vodka?

Monday, 29 September 2008

21 Sept 2008 Sunday - Patrimoine day, a big organ, and a trip

Sun shining again, so more washing goes onto the line. We walk into town and wander around. One of the “historical” buildings open to the public today is the Prefecture, built on the site of the original abbey. There is a large crowd of people outside presumably waiting to be let in so we give that a miss and climb the hill to the castle to find that today entry is free, but there is only half an hour to go before it closes at noon.
We pass this fountain on the way up the hill.
Tip of the day!
If you left click on the photos in the blog, it should open up the photos larger in a new window






There are 3 towers a museum and a shop to get round. This is impossible to accomplish in the time available, so we walk around the walls once, then go up the round tower, which is the most recent, being built in the 14th century. It is busy and S stops at the second landing. I continue up to the top of the tower and take more photos of the surrounding views from the top.




View of the abbey towards the river


























The little pointy hill is the "Pain au sucre"




It is now 11.55am, so I head back down the stairs, taking more photos of some of the graffiti which has been carved into the tower walls over the centuries.




Is this the only blog to feature graffiti?





We leave the castle grounds and find a restaurant to eat at. We sit outside in the sun and have an excellent set lunch of 3 courses with wine and coffee for £10 each. It is baking hot and my face, head and arms are starting to sting a bit by the time we leave.
The guided tour of the old town is due to start in half an hour, so we sit on a bench in the shade before making our way to the tourist information office for the start of the tour. The guide sets off, without telling anyone a) that she is the guide, and b) that the tour has actually started. She is about 14 years old. We trudge around the streets and learn very little except that the Rue de le grand duc was not named after a Duke, but after an owl called le grand duc who used to live in the eaves of the houses hundreds of years ago.
The 40 minute tour takes about 25 minutes and we set off home.
It is bulb planting time and my hundred or so bulbs disappear in a small part of the cleared flower bed.
At 5.15pm we set off for the abbey to listen to an recital, which has been organised as part of the patrimoine events. The big organ is used for the recital (the abbey also has a small “jewel” of an organ too) and the organist is Christianne van Gorp, or at least that is what her name looks like on the hand written programme. The programme consists of 7 pieces, written by people that I have never heard of and takes about 40 minutes.
video
After the recital, we walk out into the sunshine and head home.
My mother now has two black eyes, and can just see through her closed eyes. My dad, aided by nephew C, sends me an email photo of mum.

Not a pretty sight, but she is not in pain like she was yesterday.
Don’t do it again mother!!!
The discolouration gets worse over the following days.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

20 Sept 2008 Saturday - Jardinage

Up early to get to the Intermarche before the “rush”, then into the Bricomarche for a trowel.
Bright, sunny morning, so we are first to get our washing out on the clothes lines, then it is time to do some more gardening. I cut the grass and we tackle some more of the “Flower” or ivy beds. This takes well over 4 hours with just 20 mins for some lunch. The sun is very hot and I have not put a hat on, so I now have a headache. That is enough gardening for today. I think that it is always best to leave something still to do. Although the garden is small, there is no shortage of things to do.
Our builder’s van toots as they whiz past sometime around midday.
I phone home to chat to parents but there is only C, R and K at home. The others have gone off to hospital. My mother has tripped outside the house and cracked her head. I say that I will phone later. It seems that R has a girlfriend and so is not hanging about outside next door’s garden like he usually does when his family visit, hoping that the girl next door will come our to “play”. K is watching baby TV, and C is in charge.
We get cleaned up and walk into town. It is about 5.30pm and still over 20 degrees in the shade. Looking in the tourist info window, we discover that we are in the middle of two days of local history activity. We have, of course now missed day one. We head over to the abbey to see if any of the all day activities advertised for that area of the town are still going on. Nope.
We pop into the English shop and we are told that this weekend you can get into historical buildings for free, that you would normally have to pay to get in.
We will probably try to go on one of the historical town walks tomorrow and see some of the dancing and other events. The weather is supposed to be good again.
We stop for a beer at the Auberge and instead of 25cl of Stella each at 2.20 euros, we each have a 50cl glass. I am disappointed that it comes to 4.40 euros per glass. Unfortunately there is no discount for bulk purchases. In the supermarket I could easily have bought 4 bottles of wine for the price of our 2 beers.
Back home we have duck gizzards, which prove to be tough as old boots, so we have to abandon eating them.
The TV is still being a pain in the bum, and many of my channels which I have been watching, have become not part of my package for some reason. I will have to investigate once I become fluent in French.
I phone home and mum is back from the hospital. She has a bandaged head which is hurting, a black eye and a bloody nose. Fortunately my sister will be able to do all the catering…… J for the rest of the weekend.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

19 Sept 2008 Friday – viewings and increased renovation costs

Builders turned up at 9.45am so we left them a key and set off for our property viewing appointments. The first property had a small pizza / takeaway restaurant on the ground floor, which we duly inspected. The business had started up earlier this summer, so it was all sparkly white tiles, pizza oven and a humungous mixing machine. Then it was upstairs to two or three tiny apartments, all with teeny shower type bath. All apartments were the same size, so it was interesting to see the difference a curtain dividing the living room / sleeping area made. The pizza man lived in one of the apartments and it was a bit of a mess. Then up some rickety stairs to a tiny roof terrace which had a stunning view over the town and of the castle. The castle seemed to loom over the terrace and was a spectacular sight.
The next building had a bead shop on the ground floor. The first floor tenant, not moving out anytime soon, was living with his very barky dog. The place stank of, hopefully, dog pee and was manky. The next floor up was empty and it was useful to see what the apartments were really like. The top floor tenant was at work, so we did not see that one.
Next was the mystery viewing. A house that had not been lived in for 2 years. The owner had gone into a retirement home and the children were now selling the house. This place was just habitable, if you installed proper electricity. There was a cellar, and four floors. Once the work had been done to remodel the floors into apartments the estate agent thought it would bring in a maximum of 1,500 euros per month. There were also nice views of the mountains and the abbey, but you had to lean out of the windows on the top two floors to see them.

Viewings completed, we headed back to the fruit and veg market next to the abbey and bought pears, yellow plums, tomatoes, courgettes, cucumber, peaches etc.
Back to the ranch and the second layer of bathroom floor has been lifted to expose more poor floorboards, but only a few holes in them. The extra work involved, plus tiles and other materials to make the floor sound will come to around £800, but the work has to be done.

After returning home a gentleman arrived in his car and started poking about. It turned out that he is the insurance salesman who currently insures my building. He had a look around, and said that he will send me a quote for the building, contents, personal liability etc etc policies that I will need. It seems that me living on the premises confuses things a bit.
It rained off and on during the afternoon, but he sun made its appearance at last at 5.30pm just after the builder had left again, clutching his latest signed works order.

Friday, 26 September 2008

18 Sept 2008 Thursday – Apres moi le deluge

Work commenced on the bathroom this morning. The toilet and wash hand basin were removed and the shower cabinet was taken off its shower tray. The lino was ripped up to expose a shockingly badly laid floor. Some floorboards covered with thin board, and some odd bits of wood under where the shower had been. Tomorrow work will recommence and they will decide what to do about the bad floor.
In the afternoon we walked into town. Rain was threatening and after we had done some shopping, including small silver ceramic coffee cups and saucers including a silver stand / holder we had a beer outside a café.
Then the rain came. Fortunately we had a small umbrella but the rain had almost stopped by the time we reached home.

We were watching TV mid evening when Madame from downstairs came up to the apartment to tell me that she had water coming through her hall ceiling.
I felt the joints that had been sealed in the bathroom, no leaks. I checked the sink and washing machine connections in the bedroom, no leaks. I went downstairs to her apartment and she showed me her wet hall floor with the water dripping slowly from the beam. She said that it had started after she had flushed her toilet. I had recently done the washing up, so that too could have been the source.
We went back up to my apartment and I phoned my builder’s wife. To save everyone time, I asked Madame to explain the problem.
S made us a cup of Earl Grey tea with ivy leaf china cups etc and Madame thought that the cups were very pretty. She seemed to enjoy having a cup of tea like the English drink it. We don’t have jumbo-sized sugar lumps en Angleterre though.
Father builder turned up very quickly. He had not been home or had any food, but he got down to investigating. He decided that the problem had happened because his son who had done the work earlier, had forgotten to cap one of the waste pipes. He got on his phone and the son arrived about 5 minutes later. Plastic pipe was fetched and some sealing gunk.
Job done, Madame left with them and the evening resumed its normal calm.

Wednesday 17 Sept 2008 – St Girons

Weather set to be good again today, so after having a mad French driver whiz across the roundabout right in front of me I followed him in the direction of Cos, which is where I had been indicating that I was going.
The road meandered upwards into the hills and eventually became a one lane road with passing places. The views of the hills from some of the properties that we passed were exceptional. Unfortunately there was nowhere to stop and take photos.
Eventually we popped out onto a main road and headed left to St Girons.
We had been passed the town in March whilst house hunting, but this was a chance to visit it. We parked on the sunny side of a street on the outskirts and followed the signs to the centre of town. It is much bigger than our town and cars hurtle along roads that you would swear must be shiny pavements.


Once again this is a town with a river running through it, lined with picturesque houses. This is the view used in our guide book. Although we searched the town, we did not find any other outstanding bits, although there was a short run of arcaded shops.


Here is a photo of a plaster saint that I met in the church. St Jude in fact.
There was unfortunately a hell of a lot of dog shit in the town, and we watched while someone with a big dog, let it crap on the grass before he set off again. Not far away was a dog crap bin, but unfortunately it was invisible to the dog owner. Still it provided local colour and a new aroma for the people eating their picnics a short distance away.

On the way back just after 2pm, the temperature was still in the mid 20s. We stopped off by a long stretch of river, shaded by trees, and which has facilities for mobile homes etc and a local produce shop. Once again the stench of dog crap in this beautiful spot was overpowering.
We crossed the wide main road and went to explore the small village. There was a bread shop and a sign indicating that cheese was for sale down one of the 2 streets. We never found the cheese, but there was a house for sale that we had seen in an estate agents in St Girons. There was also a house on the main road with their washing hanging out of the windows. Black seems to be their favourite colour.








It was back to the car and onwards to Foix to collect my file storage unit. Despite being metal, it comes flat packed, so that will be some homework for me. Possibly not tonight though as choir practice starts tonight.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

16 Sept 2008 Tuesday – Mirepoix

Filled the car up with diesel today and then we headed off to Mirepoix. The weather was hot and as we had set off late, we did not get there until about half past eleven.
We followed the signs for the medieval historical centre and found ourselves in a beautiful arcaded square, with a market halle in the centre and shops and restaurants under the ancient wooden arcades. There are still many of the original wooden gargoyles under one of the arcades.


We wandered into some of the shops which remained open after 12. There were many more estate agents than we had seen anywhere else, with a wide selection of lovely properties to choose from.
The town has a very large ex-pat community and almost every passing voice that we heard was English. As we passed one of the restaurants, the English waitress congratulated the two English couples sitting outside upon their having signed today. I.e. They had completed the buying process.
The English shop was supposed to be open until 1pm but when we reached it at 12:50 it was closed for lunch. It was very small and has recently been taken over by an Englisman.
We visited the church, which was very broad and had patches of damp on the roof, a pity because it is ruining the ancient hand painted stonework. Some of the flagstones in the church were also quite wet.
In less than 2 hours we had done Mirepoix and headed back along the road to Pamiers and even more hypermarkets.
A bigger LeClerc than ours beckoned and once again essential items such as car mats and the elusive special offer silicone baking moulds which had not been visible in our own store.
Then it was off home. The sun was still shining so we walked into town stopping in at the English shop for a chat with the owner, then it was on to the cybercafé to tell the owner that I was not going to pursue taking over his business.
Next stop was the Asian/African shop to buy some incense sticks and a holder. I am hoping that this will overpower the bad smell that seems to be coming from the walls that we have painted in the living room.
But phoned to say that my filing drawer unit had arrived and was now ready for collection.
Later in the evening I received a phone call from the builder’s wife to say that he was still running behind schedule and will not be able to start on my apartment until this Thursday.

Monday, 22 September 2008

15 Sept 2008 Monday

A grey start to the day as we rise early. Upstairs for breakfast and to get some washing done and out on the line before the men arrive.
We are hanging out the washing when a phone call comes our way. We are therefore oblivious of their work schedule change.
The sun is shining so we start work in the garden. We have now seen that we have missed a phone call, but when I dial the number the message says that there is no one there.
I take the phone into the garden and check that it will still receive calls, be ringing it on my mobile.
Half an hour later the builder’s wife arrives in her car. Have we picked up the message she left? Nope. So she explains that there has been a problem with their current job and that they will not be able to start work on my house until Wednesday. She shows me how to pick up messages on my phone and even records a message in French saying that I am unavailable and to leave a message “aftair ze bip”. That should confuse a few people.
We finish cutting the hedge and gathering up the clippings ready for the green waste collection at 4am tomorrow morning.
Lunch and the internet café man phones. He has the information and will be at the café from 3pm. We wait until the place eventually opens its door at 3.35pm. The lady behind the desk tells us that the owner has gone on a course and will not be back until 6.30pm. We say that we will return then.
Fast forward to 6.30pm and the owner is there. He produces an A4 sheet of paper with some typing on it, which spells out how much it would cost me to buy the business. I also manage to get him to show me what the monthly turnover is. He tells me that I need to let him know my decision before Wednesday at noon as he has someone else who is interested in buying the business. I point out that on the paper it says by Tuesday at noon. That is his typing error he says. I say I will have to think about it.
We have a meal out in the restaurant that we said we would not go back to again. We eat inside and the food is hot as the usual waitress is not on duty and does not have to travel back and forwards to and from the café while she tries to remember who the food is for.

I work out that in addition to giving him quite a bit of money for the business, I will have to buy out the lease for 3k euros. By the time I worked a 35 hour week, I would be taking home roughly £2.40 before tax! No matter which way I look at it, it doesn’t compute. One step forward is that I have now received my French social security number. I have to find a doctor and register with them, so there is another form to be filled in and returned to Cipam

14 Sept 2008 Sunday - Crap

More rain overnight but the day stays rainless and overcast. The builders start work tomorrow, so we clear all the remaining boxes and painting implements from the ex- shower room.
The buffet in the lounge gets a clean and we bring up 3 boxes of glasses and crockery to put into it. Only 9 boxes full of stuff left in the downstairs studio now, plus a ladder, garden furniture, exercise machine, cooking utensils, camping gear….. and of course the fold down bed that we have moved down to the studio to sleep on while the bathroom is out of action.
Lunch passes by and we stop at 3.15pm for a cup of tea and 2 biscuits.
Then I do a bit of wall plaster maintenance in the living room, bathroom and ex shower room while S shortens some curtains to go on the living room window and to cover the hall storage cupboard.

In the evening we go to café G for a meal. By the time we leave at 8.30pm the ground floor of the pub is filling up.

We have not been out much in the evenings recently, but there are “beggars” with their dogs located in various parts of the town, some in biggish groups and some slumped alone on the pavements. All are accompanied by their large dogs, usually Alsatians. I wonder where they go to sleep overnight. Usually there is a crowd of about 10 of these gentlemen and some ladies, sitting on the steps of the main post office. Sometimes they move round the back of the post office and sometimes some of them slump on the pavements with their container on the floor on our route to the Casino.
Once again the streets are disgusting with the amount of smelly dog crap on the pavements. Yuck!!!!!
On our way back from eating there is a gent slumped, or more accurately sprawled, right next to an empty restaurant, complete with dog. I wonder why the restaurant had no customers?

We settle in to the downstairs studio for the night and set the alarm for 7am so that we will be up in time before the workmen arrive.

13 Sept 2008 Saturday - Tools

After a night of rain thudding on the roof it is time for more action.
DIY work continues as I await a call from the Internet shop man. The downstairs cupboard under the stairs gets screws strategically placed to hold the garden tools, and one of the shelves that I removed from the ex-shower room upstairs finds a new home on one of its walls.
The sunshine goes and dark clouds roll over the hills. It starts to rain.
Once the cupboard is finished, we have some lunch and rest. I try to catch up on with writing up my blog. I have 5 days to catch up on.
Still no call from But about the filing cabinet.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

12 Sept 2008 Friday – Essential shopping

We have looked through the latest publicity bumpf which appeared again in our post box, with all the latest bargains from the big hypermarkets. LeClerc receives an early morning visit and I buy several essential diy items, including hundreds of screws, nails etc of various sizes, a telescopic screwdriver with lots of bits attached. You can also screw round corners with it. Then there are felt pads for the bottoms of the chairs, a micro screwdriver kit, some plant bulbs…. It eventually comes to just under 50 euros. Unfortunately the advertised cheap, silicone baking trays that S wants are nowhere to be found.

We continue cutting the hedge until the rain starts. It is taking a long time to cut a small area of hedge.
After the rain stops we head into town and I go into the Internet café which has a small sign up in its window informing the world that the “fonds de commerce” are for sale. I ask the man behind the desk for more information about the sale. He does not have anything ready with him, can I call back tomorrow, or better he will phone me. I give him my mobile number. I tell him that I am looking for all the relevant financial info including the rent for the premises.
The bread shop does not have any olive or lardon bread on its shelves, so we go to another bakery and buy an ordinary French loaf for 1.60 euros.
I start preparing the ex-shower / bathroom for its impending conversion into a kitchen, by taking down the shelves that are in there and then doing the first fill of the holes and cracks that are in the walls. The bathroom also gets the hole filling treatment as high as I can reach without ladders.The toilet and shower continue to leak and today the room smells really foul.

11 Sept 2008 Thursday - A right turn

We turn right out of our parking for the first time, and drive through some of the small villages hide to the west of us. One of the farms has life sized dummies in various farm costumes. The roads are very narrow and I pray that we don’t meet anyone on the many sharp bends. The scenery would be lovely if I could take my eyes off the road.
Eventually we pop back into town and enter it from a completely new direction. It is high above the castle and gives us a different view of it and the town.
Storage for paperwork is required, so we go to But to have a look. I choose a silver/grey metal unit on wheels. It has one filing drawer and 2 small drawers and it will match my TV and computer stands in the living room. They don’t have it in stock but will get it for me. They will phone me tomorrow or the next day when it comes in. I still need a unit for my hi-fi and to store the records, tapes Cd’s etc but the items that I like are either the wrong colour, too expensive or both.
We do another weeks shopping at Intermarche and head home.

Friday, 19 September 2008

8 Sept 2008 Monday – Last fair day

We go to see the aperitif concert. This time is a man called Michel Pruvot and his orchestra. The publicity said that we were lucky to have him in our Department, and so we were. He is an accordionist and also does the lead vocals backed by two women (each with a tambourine). and his band. There are some “serious dancers” already dancing to recorded music, when we arrive. It seems to be a greek style line dance, with 3 couples. The lady on the right end, totters on her shoes and always seems to be going in the opposite direction to the others. I am sure that there is a technical explaination for this. She can be seen in the video in the background, wearing a black dress and black clumpy shoes.

video

The singer is sponsored by some TV channel and we also get flyers for some dance holidays that he will be playing at, including one on a cruise ship, handed out to us. There is also a competition of sorts where you have to put your name, address and the title of the next tune that you would like them to play. There are lots of prizes to be won, including an accordion. Eventually our bits of paper are collected up but the entertainment ends without any prizes being given out. Perhaps that is done at the bal tonight. We never find out as we do not return for the 10pm kickoff.
We sit at a table and drink a beer each to celebrate the end of the fete. We also eat the 12 deep fried doughy strips, called Churros, covered with sugar, that we have bought from one of the fair stalls (3 euros 50). The stall also sold Pommes d'amour, which could well have been toffee apples?

7 Sept 2008 Sunday - Highland fling

Down to the Town hall courtyard for the woodwind orchestra concert. Once again the concert is inside to escape the loud noises outside. The chairs are all higgledy-piggelty and over half the seats are taken. The plant has been moved to the side of the room so there is a better view. Once again there are dogs in the audience and a sprinkling of small children. The children turn out to have the attention of gnats, and one family has to leave when it becomes obvious that their two little boys are not going to sit down or behave.
The orchestra plays a variety of tunes, two of which are by Ralph Vaug han Weeleams. There is also the sailors' hornpipe.
After the concert we head home to prepare for the evening show – The life of Julia. This promises comedy and music. Will it be a play?
We arrive half an hour early, and get a bench seat. The stage is wreathed in smoke. Perhaps they have had a small fire?
The performers take to the stage about 20 minutes later than advertised. Once again there is a brass section, guitarist, drums and keyboard. This is no play, but is really a musical review using the life of a girl called Julia from the age of 12 upwards. As a dancer she travels to many different parts of the world. This gives the female dancers in the troupe, the excuse to appear on stage in many different thongs and feathers, as well as in Russian costume and even what passes for highland dress.

video

We last out for over an hour before our backsides start to protest at the hardness of the seats. We leave Julia to finish her adventures and wander through the fair, before choosing a restaurant in the old town for something to eat.
I don’t know what it is about today but there is even more dogshit around than usual, and it smells particularly foul. We do not choose the restaurant with a huge, mega-whiffy crap adjacent to the outside tables.

After the meal, we head home and give the evening ball a miss again

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

6 Sept Saturday - A rainy day

Day two of the grand fete, dawns with rain beating on the roof. We miss most of it by not getting out of bed until about 11.30am.
The temperature has dropped to 19 degrees outside but it is still 4 degrees warmer inside. Unfortunately the drop in temperature has lead to the leak in the toilet bowl flowing with renewed vigour after each flush, this after many days of hardly any leakage. So it is back to wringing out the cloths at increasingly frequent intervals. Sometimes 3 times in ten minutes. We will have to start using the loo in the downstairs studio again.

We walk into town and the rain starts to fall. In Casino we stock up on some caramel tea bags and other essentials. We get home and shortly afterwards the rain starts to fall steadily. Will tonight’s festivities be cancelled?

There is a smell of bleach in the flat and shortly afterwards some socks appear on the washing line outside. S reckons the tenant has been bleaching his socks.

The rain increases in the evening and we do not go our to the ball or to see the procession of the flaming torches.

Monday, 15 September 2008

5 Sept 2008 Friday – Grand Fete – A busy day ends with a bang!

Up early and off to the Intermarche and Bricomarche before the hordes descend. We stock up to last us through the fete, as traffic will be horrific for the next few days. All the car parks have been given over to fairground rides and a stage, tiered seating and an area of car park to dance on.
Trees have been pruned to fit the rides in, but I am not convinced that the bungee rides will not cause casualties as tetes collide with the branches.









Anyway back to the shopping. Food safely gathered in, we go across to Bricomarche and buy two plastic drawer units on wheels to store my painting and DIY bits and pieces. With 5 euros off they are on special offer.
I have a plan to store them in the cupboard off the ground floor corridor, but cannot work out in my mind how to fit a lock or a hasp / padlock.
Back at the ranch, we sort through boxes in the ground floor studio and fill up my plastic drawers. Yes, old age does not come alone. Now some more cardboard boxes can be disposed of.

Being a man of action, I go outside and put 2 of the biggest pallets back into the crawl space under the house. Next we manoeuvre by big step ladders down the steps and into the crawl space (which is called a vide septique).
There is still a hugely heavy sheet of metal and a very large and heavy roof rack or bed frame down there, as well as some thin sheets of board.
We then carry the pallets that we dragged out yesterday, into the shed at the bottom of the garden. We are now drenched in sweat again, and it is time to quit and grab some lunch and a siesta before we go into town for part one of the fete.

The choir is due to sing in the Town Hall courtyard at 6pm. We can see about 8 people in a corner of the courtyard, so we go in and grab one of the seats at under the porch.
Gradually more people arrive. The choir members with the black cases containing their sheet music are easy to spot. Eventually 6pm passes and there are about 15 choir members, 10 public and us. Only another 35 choir members to turn up and of course the choir leader.
The courtyard is right next to 2 lanes of traffic, and the stream of cars, campervans and lorries is constant.
There are fair rides a few hundred meters away and as the choir and the public continue to gather in the courtyard I wonder where the choir are going to stand and how they will be able to hear themselves sing, never mind the audience. The choir captain recognises me and comes over for a brief chat. Where is the choir going to stand?, I ask. He does not know, they have never sung there before. He will have to ask the chief. So off he goes. It is very noisy in the courtyard.

Some one starts positioning plastic chairs for the audience to sit on. We sit on them and get front row seats. I get my cameras ready. Two ladies from the choir come over to talk to us. One is them is a teacher of English and will help me if there is anything that I do not understand once I am in the choir. There is a brief discussion as to whether I am a tenor or a bass. They seem very friendly.
Then the aperitif band due to start at 6.30pm just across the road, starts up. They have, as we find out later, a brass section, guitars, keyboards, drums and at least 6 singers.

People start picking up their chairs and heading into the Town Hall. The decision has been made that the choir will sing inside. We are not so lucky with our positioning this time, but I do have a good view of the big tree in a pot which sits in the centre of the room, and some of the left side of the choir.















To my right is a series of long tables set up in a line. The tables have table cloths on and a selection of nibbles runs the whole length. There are different bottles at intervals in the middle of the table. Whisky, coke, cassis, pastis etc etc. This fare must be the choirs pre-meal treat. I wonder how much of the nibbles will be left by the end of the performance.
There is now an audience of about 100 people, adult and children. I can even see a woman in the front row with her dog on her lap. It had been in her shopping bag earlier, but obviously like to listen to music at lap height.

Members of the choir continue to trickle in to the room for the duration of the concert, and people come and go, opening the door and letting the sound of aperitif music in to the room.

Shhh! The concert is about to start. A lady choir member, front right says a few words about their first tune and then they are off.
This pattern is repeated for the duration of today’s repertoire.
The choir sounds better from the front than it did at rehearsal from the rear.

The Performance over, we applaud the choir, then we applaud the leader of the choir. A member of the choir starts handing out flyers for their forthcoming performance in the local abbey, with another choir and an orchestra. She is rather premature however, as the rest of the choir are about to launch into an encore. The beginning is fluffed, and they have to start again. It is obviously a well know tune as the audience is conducted to join in the chorus.

More applause and people start to leave. Foolishly I delay and start stacking our chairs.
Attention, arête! The dignitaries who are present want to say a few words. A lady who I think is responsible for organising the fete, reads her prepared one and a half page speech, and is visibly relieved at the end. She is rewarded with polite applause. People start to head for the exit but again they have to halt. The mayor, resplendent in his official robes of jeans and a shirt wishes to introduce the mayor from a neighbouring commune, and some other suits.
He then tells us that it has been a hard year politically, the festival committee has lost lots of members, etc etc. He thanks us for attending this first event of the festival. There should be a clear sky for the evening’s fireworks, and he hopes we enjoy the rest of the festival. This speech was off the cuff and lasted about 10 minutes. Some people had started to nibble on the peanuts…. This young lady watched the speeches without moving or nibbling.




















At last we are free to go. My neighbour from the choir rehearsal comes to say hello and to say that I should come along to the next choir practices. I tell him that I will give them a miss, but will turn up for the first practice of the new material.

Then it is out the door, across the courtyard, across the road where the traffic is gridlocked and into the area where the aperitif banc are performing. They are quite good and will be back tonight to perform at the bal.

We wander around the deserted fairground areas, and this is when I wonder about the nearness of some of the rides to the trees.
The restaurants have hiked up their prices for the evening meals, so we head home for a rest and some food.

We set off just before 10pm. The fireworks are scheduled for 10.30pm. Someone visiting the flats across the road has parked in my parking, so I draft a notice to stick on their car. As I approach, another car starts to park blocking in madam’s car and someone who is visiting madam. I tell them that they cannot park there, but they ignore me and continue their manoeuvres. When they get out of the car, it transpires that they too are visiting madam.
We continue down the road and the white van man comes across the street and moves his van across the road.

There are cars parked everywhere along our route completely blocking the pavements. Do French cars have special pavement climbing suspension and tyres?

A Citroën swerves off the road and onto a patch of non-existent pavement parking. Monsieur Tookwell. It is the plumber to whom I have become recently engaged, and his wife. We walk into the town together then part. We are going to stand below the castle next to the restaurant whose prices have increased by 10 euros for tonight’s fiesta.

The fireworks start almost on time, and are of course spectacular with the castle as their backdrop. I reckon that the display lasts about 15 minutes, ending with a big bang finale. I will attach a video of it here temporarily. Parts of the show had been quite subtle, but they obviously decided to end the show by showing what it would be like if someone set off all the remaining fireworks at the same time.

video

We head off towards home, but the sound of l’orchestre Olympia is too much of a draw, so we head towards the music and the shrieks of the thrill seekers at the funfair.
There is a much bigger audience than earlier and they put on a very professional show. I will add a video clip temporarily.


video

About 3 mature couples are dancing along to the music, but the majority are standing of seated. From our position we can see that the road traffic is at a standstill as thousands of people return on foot to the centre of the town, from their chosen firework vantage points.

It is still warm when we head back home. I have been wearing a new pair of shoes since mid afternoon and my feet are killing me.
When we reach home, madam is still entertaining, but there is at least now a space for my other tenant’s van, should they ever return from their work. Their green bed sheet is still hanging out of their open windows on the first floor……. Perhaps they have been investigating how to escape from their studio in the event of fire?

Sunday, 14 September 2008

4 Sept 2008 Thursday - Bad news!

We wander into town to the UK shop in the afternoon and have a chat with the owner, then we wander off around town, picking up a loaf of bread from the baker who bakes his bread over wood in the traditional way. Instead of olive bread though, I choose a lardon loaf, which has pieces of ham in it.
The bad news is that the bakery will be closed for annual holidays from 13 – 29 Sept. This means that I will either have to start going to another bakers, or buy bread and freeze it. We also inadvertently stopped off for a beer in the bar that we had visited back in March.

When we get home, it is still in the 30’s so ideal weather to do a bit of gardening. I had bought some weed killer and now was the time to deploy the garden sprayer that I had brought over from the U.K. For once there was only my car in the parking, so I had a clear run at it apart from having to make up a second sachet of weed killer and shunt my car around.

Next I get into the crawl space under the house and start dragging some of the timber and other crap which has been dumped there, out into the open prior to getting rid of it. After about 10 minutes I have a headache and call it a day.
Once this work is completed (not today as it is too hot), there is another crawl space under madam’s patio full of bits of pallet, lino, rubble and other as yet unknown items. There is also a black and white cat that seems to go under there a lot too.
We have been having good weather, but a few hours after I deployed my weed killer, it rains for the first time in many days. I just hope my efforts have not been wasted.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

3rd Sept 2008 - Ax

In the morning we set off for the small ski and spa resort of Ax. It takes about 40 minutes to get there and get parked.

The houses are a mixture of styles and some buildings remind me of Aviemore. We wander the streets. It is very hot but there is a cooler breeze blowing through the streets. On all sides mountains tower above the town. It has its own ski-lift, but the cable cars hang silently in space.
















There are 80 hot springs dotted somewhere in the resort, but we don’t spot any. There is a huge thermal spa building, and a big casino building.
Here too, preparations are underway for a few days of festivities, featuring food. The marquees or stalls are up, but it will be 10 days or so before events take place.

There are many exciting outdoor activities available to the visitor.
















We have lunch in outside at a pizzeria next to the casino building. We plump for the 3 course menu of the day for 12 Euros each. A small mozzarella and tomato salad, lasagne and I have a Basque almond desert with chocolate sauce while S has the éclair. I used the word plump earlier because there are several people with healthy apetites eating in the restaurant. I will include a photo of one of them tucking into her pizza as though she hasn't seen food for days. Strangely she and her almost equally proportioned mother left a quarter and half of their pizzas respectively. She is also the proud owner of the a small white dog which gets fed tidbits and which she calls "mon garcon" (My boy)













The town has a river running through it and in places you can smell the sulphur coming off the water. Is that a centurion’s shield glistening in the water? No it is a car hubcap.
There are many signs advertising apartments for rent, but not many tourists around. The main road to Andorra and on up to Toulouse runs right through the centre of the town. Huge lorries and coaches thunder along the narrowish road and negotiate the roundabout. It is not much fun walking on the pavement.
We agree that although nice to visit, it is not as nice as our town. We had found somewhere to park across the river from the town. If you have a campervan this must be the place to be seen.

Heading back up the highway, we are accompanied by a never ending supply of mountains and hills, most of which are covered with vegetation of various shades of green. Oops! I spoil everything by missing the turn off for home and ending up in P.We go into Conforama and I come out with Philips mini hi-fi system which will rip music from CDs and cassettes. I note that at 3pm it is 31 degrees. When I return home, I look to see what temperature it is in Clevedon. Max 15 degrees and raining.

2 Sept 2008 Tuesday – Carte Grise

Out early to collect my Carte Gris from the garage, then it is off to the nearby furniture, clothes, shoes, and DIY stores.
Then back for lunch.
Next it is in to town. The bread shop is still en siesta, so we wander round and go to my bank so that my account manager can take a copy of my carte gris for my car insurance policy. She has heard from my UK insurance company so all is well.
The town is getting ready for a big fete which will last several days. There will be a fair, music (choir performance included), entertainments, balls with aperitifs. The castle will be closed to the public on the 5th so that the fireworks can be prepared for the display later that evening.
There are a few big vans parked in the central parking area, but no sign of the delights that they contain. There is a small section of staged seating in another of the parking areas. Where is everyone going to park on the days of feasting?
Towns and villages round about also seem about to go into overdrive feastwise. Where to go, what to see?...

We have see fresh posters advertising the Doreen singer who didn’t show up last time. The venue is the same, only the time of performance is missing….
We stay in.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

1 Sept 2008 Monday - Choir Practice

Up early to visit the local food and DIY store. I have loyalty cards now for 3 stores in addition to my Casino card, and I must be accumulating points or cents, but I have no idea how many. We stock up with enough food to last most of the week, so that we will probably only need to replenish the bread supply.
I work out that it is just possible to articulate my new ladder if I insert a stick under each lever and then with a free leg, nudge the ladder to get the movement started.
I spend the rest of the morning giving the out of reach bits their first coat of white paint.
The Renault garage rings at 4:30pm to inform Monsieur Toookwell that his carte gris is ready for collection. I will collect it tomorrow. I have a plumber coming at 6pm.
Two plumbers, both father and son, turn up at ten past five. Is it okay that they are early? The previously promised piece of concrete does not materialise. We discuss the various projects again and I add a few more sockets for the living room and small bedroom and some electrical flex for the cooker.
The work will now take about 2 weeks and will start on the 15th Sept. although they may come earlier to drill the holes in the walls to enable hot and cold water to be piped from the bathroom to the new kitchen. I have been painting. I should stop painting until they have drilled the holes as there will be a lot of dust from the drilling.
I sign both devis (quotes) and write a cheque for 30 percent of the total cost, The bathroom floor will be tiled and will cost extra, but they need to find out the cost of the tiles. They may drop in with a tile sample some time. I think I am getting beige with a hint of pink. This will go nicely with the blue wall tiles and the green, blotchy wall. I will be painting the wall white.

I picked up a notice about a local department choir starting up again tonight at 8.45pm. I toddle along and enter the sweltering rehearsal room, where about 50 people are assembled. A man with a beard at the door welcomes me and chats to me. He is the captain, or some such. He introduces me to the choirmaster. This is really a rehearsal for the 2 imminent concerts and they will be going over their repertoire. Rehearsal for the new pieces starts on the 17th Sept.
There is another “new” man who has come along as well as about 4 or 5 new women.
I say that I will sit at the back by the door for a few minutes and listen, then go and return on the 17th.
The throng take their seats. I become aware that one at a time people are standing up, saying their name, then giving their singing / choral resume. Then the choir applauds.
I am hidden at the back and if I keep very still and quiet….
But no, there is another new one by the door. Heads swivel and I climb up onto the seat staging so that I can be seen. I deliver the goods in my version of French. I have no recollection if I got applause or not.
I now have to go and sit with the men in the choir. There seems to be a row of approx 10 basses at the very back, and I seem to be sat with 2 tenors, behind half of the ladies.
First we have to slap our faces and cheeks a bit, we stretch up to the sky, we try to touch our toes. We rotate our necks. We breathe in or something with out hands on our stomachs. The leader of the choir speaks very softly and it is hard to hear him, let alone translate into English.
Then the vocal exercises which are not the same as when I was in a choir at school. Different progressions of notes and different vocal sounds.
Finally we sing. They all have binders full of sheet music. Over the course of the next 2 hours we stumble through most of 3 pieces. The choir will be performing in Town in the Mayor’s courtyard next week. They have 2 extra practices before then. They will need it peut-etre? M who is sitting next to me and has shared his music, tells me that after the concert, they are all invited to a big meal by the Mayor. “You eat well in a choir” he tells me.Finally it ends. I tell Michel that I will return on the 17th. I think I was perhaps expected to come to the extra practices but I will wait. It is still very hot and I am knackered. It is 10:45pm. Before I leave, I have to take a pink coated triangle from a proffered dish. Perhaps it is a throat sweet or a breath freshener? Nope it is like a big chocolate Smartie. I must make sure to remember to go and see them perform in town later this week.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

31 Aug 2008 Sunday – Lunch again

Up late today. We walked into town to have lunch at the same restaurant as last Sunday. Nowhere near as busy as last week, the service was just as chaotic. The bread also failed to materialise although two different staff promised to bring it. Although the food is tasty there, we will not be back. The service there is not particularly friendly there either.
Overcast today after the days of temperatures in the 30’s, but it is still warm. The forecast is for storms, but it is not until the evening that the torrential rain, and a few flashes of lightening and rumbles of thunder kick off.
We disconnect the TV, Phone and livebox from the wall sockets as recommended in the literature, and we are now cut off from the world except for the payg mobiles which we bought at Leclerc some days ago.
So it is off to bed listening to the rain hammering on the roof. It is very warm and sleep is difficult.
During the day we began unpacking more of the boxes stored in studio one. It is very hot work. Slowly most of my books and records and winter coats make their way up the stairs to appt 4.
I rig up my small Bush (turntable) to the computer speakers which currently sit on my new buffet in the living room alcove. I am now able to listen to my classic albums from the mid 70’s to the days when I could be sure that the CD was really here to stay. You can say what you like CD’s and MP3 tracks just do not have the same richness of sound. No, I am not going to take a blindfold test. Music becomes more of an occasion, an interactive experience when you have to physically choose, manhandle, put the needle onto the disc and then 15 – 20 minutes later turn the disc over, place the needle ….

30 Aug 2008 Saturday - Big shops

Off early to P 20 mins away by car. A number of huge hypermarkets, both food, DIY and numerous car dealer franchises. In the car park there is a small area cordoned off where you can try fencing with an epee. We didn’t see any takers. There was a clown setting up in the mall corridor and various craft activities were scheduled to take place at other entertainment areas in the mall.
At Mr Bricolage I bought a 40 meter extension reel in the hope that it will reach somewhere near the perimeter of the grass. We then headed off to Conforama which is furniture, diy etc.By now it was noonish. I spent a lot of time looking at the hi-fi goods. I have a lot of records and cassettes as well as a turntable that I need to be able to hook up to any new system. Of course it also needs to play MP3, WMF, DVDRW etc etc. I will have to return another day.We were the last people to leave the shop when I remembered that the shop probably shut at 12:30 for lunch

29 Aug 2008 Friday – Orange Friday

We are not expecting any workmen until 4pm so we set off into town for the regular Friday farmers and craft market. I need something to keep all of the documentation that I have to carry with me whilst driving. The police in France do spot checks and if you are missing any of the pieces then you will be fined or worse.
We bought a some fruit and more of the nice olive bread and browsed the stalls before returning home for some lunch.
We just finish eating and 2 French telecom vans arrive. We now have 2 technicians. One is the chap from yesterday. There follows an hours of head scratching, cutting wires, and finally we have Internet access. The problem seems to have been the mishmash of internal phone wiring. If anyone from FT phones, I am to say that there was a fault at the box on the outside wall.

There is just the TV decoder left for us to install, and the internet phone will become live anytime between 10 minutes or 36 hours.
It is a very hot day again, into the 30s. I sweat buckets trying to get the thing to work. Just as the correct things are happening on the screen and with the decoder display the happy plumber arrives with his quote and a catalogue. He stays for about an hour, and I tell him of my latest plumbing problem, the shower which is leaking from the bottom. Again try saying that in French.
I tell him that I would like him to carry out both the bathroom and the kitchen / Velux projects. He will require 30% up front, the rest upon completion.
He will return at 6pm on Monday with a small piece of concrete and another catalogue. The concrete is a sample of what he will use to seal the bathroom floor.

He leaves and we return to wrestling with the TV decoder. I seem to be able to access lots of foreign channels and CNN and BBC world news, also I can pay to view movies for 3.99 Euros a time. Then the picture goes haywire and I give up, switch it all off and have some tea.
Once switched on again it works, so I plug in the desk top pc to the livebox. Internet access with that too, no problem. I must be getting good at this. Later I return to my laptop and I switch it off. It shuts down but refuses to switch off. I can find no reset button. It is late evening and still about 80 degrees inside. I send some emails on the desktop. I then take out the laptop’s battery as the machine feels very hot. Time for bed, but cannot shut my brain down due to trying to puzzle out the laptop issue.

Monday, 8 September 2008

28 Aug 2008 Thurs – Puivert

I awake from a dream in which Jeremy Clarkson says a few words at a works leaving do. I in turn thank him and tell him what a wonderful job he does fighting for the motoring consumer.

Today is the day that my phone finally gets fixed. The technician will be with me between 9 and 11am.
Technician arrives. It is now very hot. We chug up the stairs and I show him the 7 different phone points that I have on the walls.
He is puzzled as none of them are working. We go downstairs and he borrows my ladder to look at the box on the outside wall, liberally scattering leaves onto Madame’s washing.
He does not understand it, there is a line but is it mine? It certainly doesn’t go up to my apartment. Back upstairs. More testing and head scratching. He now says that his equipment suggests that I am receiving a 4Mb link, but it is not reaching my boxes.
Do I have a laptop?
I launch my laptop and he suggests that I may have keyed in all the codes wrongly. I get my list and he checks my set up. All perfect. It must be a faulty livebox…
No it has been tested in the shop. It must be faulty. He has a spare one in his van. He goes downstairs and returns with the box. After a period of time, he cannot understand it. His box doesn’t work either.
He sets off to the exchange next to the Commissariat (wherever that is), he will do some tests and phone me later.

Late morning he calls me to tell me that an engineer will be out tomorrow at about 4pm to sort out the line problem, will I be in? Yes I say.
After a brief lunch it is time to face the heat and test the new car. The car says that it is 30 degrees. Despite being a small car, it seems very roomy, the steering is vaguer than my Astra, and the ride much spongier and bouncy. I note with satisfaction that there is a dial with 4 settings below left of my steering wheel. What can it be, it was not explained to me. I will have to get the manual out and have a look sometime….

We stop off at a small village called Puivert and have a look at the church, then head back. We pull in to look at a Brocante (second hand / antiques) which takes about 40mins to look round. S buys a small dish which appears to be hand painted and signed, and which uses similar colours to one of the pieces of art bought on the cruise.
Going through some boxes in studio one I find the vacuum nozzle. Hooray!
I go up to the apartment and start sucking the floor.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

27 Aug 2008 Weds - Wheels within wheels

Up early to return the hire car to P before 10am. After a 20 minute drive, sat nav gets us there, then it is a walk to the train station. I puzzle out the ticket machine, but have to use my French bank card, as there is no slot for notes.
The train is 15 minutes late. French stations, however small, seem to attract the stranger sections of society, who like to stride about and speak to themselves.
The train arrives unannounced and leaves 2 minutes earlier than the new departure time. Fortunately we are on it.
Lovely new, posh train, we get off at our stop 3.50 euros each. I phone Vincent who sold me the car, and who said he would come and collect us from the train station. He has a problem. He is near T, which is about an hour away. I say it is no problem, we will walk home. He says he will phone me at 2pm.
We wander through the town and have a beer in the square next to the big church. We venture into a bread emporium, which looks from the outside like a shed built into the wall. The bread inside looks very good. I choose an olive loaf, which is bulging with olives and 5 small cheese goujons. (It turns out to be very tasty bread and is not dried out by tea time the following evening.
We plough through the contents of the boxes stored in the studio and find the vacuum brush. Hooray!
At 2.05pm a car pulls up onto my parking, it is a lift to take us to the garage to collect the car.

The showroom secretary does not speak English, but we proceed ok with the paperwork. Then a small man in overalls comes in. He is Portuguese, but speaks Spanish and French. We have to go to the car with him. I say that I haven’t paid for the car yet. No, now is not the time, We have to go with him.

He is going to show us the car. He starts with the front passenger seat and talks us through every feature from the window, to the secret compartments

and how to keep liquids cold in the glovebox.
Next the rear, right passenger seat. How the 3 seatbelts work, how the seat folds etc.
Then the boot. The tool kit, how to get the spare wheel from under the car using a pulley / lever arrangement. Then the wheel has to be put back into position. Will I ever remember how it was done?
Then rear left seat, which is complicated, as part of it can be pulled off.
The driver seat and controls takes a further 20 minutes. “Have I brought my CD?” No I have not, and so I have failed yet another test. How can he demonstrate the CD player without a CD? He contents himself with showing me how the radio works, how to tune in the stations etc. Then it is on to the engine compartment, oil levels, water levels etc etc. He re-explains about the importance of the oil levels.

Have I understood everything, do I have any questions, am I happy with the condition of the car. Yes I say. In the UK they give you the keys and say goodbye, I say.

Back in the stifling office I finally get to pay for the car. Now I have to fill in a questionnaire about the service that I have received. This is very important as head office may phone me up to discuss the transaction, so it is vital that if there is anything wrong with the service that I have received that I tell them now so that it can be rectified.

Now will they let me drive the car away? Of course not. I am given a temporary document that I will have to keep with me at all times. I must not leave France and although Spain is near, I must not cross the border until the official document arrives.

Also, in 2,000 kms time I have to phone a number to arrange an appointment for the garage to check over the car and for them to sort out any problems.
Now I can take the car away, but only for 2,000kms.An hour and a half after entering the garage, we set off home.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

26 Aug 2008 Tues - Fleas?

We do not have mosquitoes, but we appear to have fleas. Very small, almost microdot size. I sweep the floors and attempt to find them. S and I have both been bitten on the feet and lower legs since we have been here, despite me wearing jeans and shoes and socks.

Now if only I had the brush end for the vacuum cleaner, I could suck up the suckers.
The painting of the walls in the living room is progressing well, now that I have switched to using a roller. It takes 2 stints to cover most of the walls, but I have no ladder to reach the highest bits. Also I have to use thin white bobbly paper to patch bits of woodchip paper which have been torn by previous occupants. There is no woodchip to be found anywhere. The small back bedroom painting is now complete.

At the Bricomarche I buy a ladder which folds into 4 sections. Days later I find that it is not so easy to get it to click into any usable shape, and it remains looking like an arthritic praying mantis for some time, while I plan to find some gloves to wear while trying to work the ratchet mechanisms.


This afternoon the delivery of the TV stand, computer desk, fridge, electric cooker, the folding bed and the big heavy buffet cabinet arrives. Once again the weather is very hot. It is a long journey from the van, up all the steps on the path then up to the second floor. By the time they leave, there is a trail of sweat up the stairs. Everything has come pre-assembled except for the computer stand. That will be the evening homework.We set off to walk into town.

25 Aug 2008 Mon - The pipes

Plumbers arrive early morning with a machine to blow smoke. The pipe is quickly located and the plans are discussed again, The velux window is going to be expensive, and supplying the hot water will also be a problem. They will give me their quote for the work before the end of the week.

My next job is to visit the CPAM building. I take my forms, passport proof of address etc along. I am directed to sit in a corner and someone will see me. I am third in the queue.
It is my turn to see the suit. It starts well. I have my forms, do I have a bank RIB with me? Yes.
Do you have your birth certificate? Nope. He gives me all my papers back. I will have to return with my certificate. I walk the few hundred meter home and find the required document. I return to CPAM and am directed to the corner again. There is a young woman there with 2 very lively small boys. They have scattered the leaflets from the table and when they go into the suit’s office the younger one makes a dash for it while the other one starts drawing on the desk with the man’s chained down pen. He gives the boy some paper and he starts drawing. When they leave, without the cash that they hoped to get back, the boy proudly explains that his scribbles are the school children and that is the master.
I hand over my documents and the birth certificate. He takes the certificate away and photocopies it. A signature later and that is it. I will receive something in the post. No problems there then.

The washing machine will not plumb in properly. There is a cold supply but no hot supply. At the Bricomarche I stand in front of the bits of pipe, joiney-bits, and try to figure out what bit I could use to cap off one of the washing machine hoses. It is no use. One of the staff nearby finishes dealing with a customer and I explain what I am looking for. He is not surprised and with an expression of thinly disguised contempt, tells me that I am looking at the gas fittings. I follow him to the plumbing and he gives me a small, threaded metal cap.


Back home it does not fit on to the back of the machine, but will fit on to the end of one of the hoses. I switch on the machine. It will only work on one setting, it is as the booklet suggested, in need of water coming in to both of the in bits at the back of the machine. I will need to brave the Bricomarche again and try to find a Y shaped joint like the book says.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

24 Aug 2008 Sun - Eating out

A stroll into town and as it nears noon, thoughts turn to food. We decide to try the place next to my usual haunt, and which shares the same roof, but is outside in the square. We are lucky to get a table as soon as people see me there the place quickly fills up rapidly, while my usual haunt remains with only a handful of customers.
There seems to be only the one thin woman serving. She whizzes about talking loudly to herself, trying to remember who has ordered what, if she has taken an order etc etc. It is entertaining to watch. Our main course of steak, goes briefly to the table next to ours but then proceeds on its journey to us. The steak is thick and tasty. The next door steak is very thin and chewy.
The rest of the meal passes uneventfully, except that the couple who have been waiting a long time for a table do not get either of the next 2 tables that become free. They complain and are given another table as suddenly every one has finished and leaving.

23 Aug 2008 Sat - Still no go

Great excitement in the house. It is internet day. It will surely be worth the extra 100 Euros that they want to charge me for the visit.
The technician arrives. He tries all the sockets. I have no phone line he tells me, so unfortunately he can do nothing to set up my live box. He can however arrange for a telecom technician to come out to investigate. After a tantalisingly brief glimpse of a Monday appointment, it rapidly becomes Thursday next week. The good news is that he does not ask me for 100 Euros.

At the Bricomarche I buy some Teflon pads for the bottom of the sofa. Once home I open the black bin bag whose shape suggests that it contains the hose and attackments for the bosch vacuum cleaner.
Contents = 5 plastic feet for sofa, 1 vacuum telescopic handle. Where the bleep have the removal men put the brush end of the machine…..

22 Aug 2008 Fri Fruitless day

No Orange technician turns up so I phone on my new payg mobile. After lots of music and being transferred to lots of different people, I find out that the technician is due out tomorrow instead. The call costs me slightly less than £20.
We walk into the old town and as we near the British shop, we note that it is closed from yesterday until the 2nd Sept.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

20 and 21 Aug Plumbs but no oranges

21 Aug 2008 Thurs

Second plumber quote. The father and son team arrive. They seem to have a good sense of humour and they leave after an hour, promising to come back on Monday to puff some smoke through the pipes to find out where the water supply to the former shower room has been hidden.

22 Aug 2008 Fri
No Orange technician turns up so I phone on my new payg mobile. After lots of music and being transferred to lots of different people, I find out that the technician is due out tomorrow instead. The call costs me slightly less than £20.
We walk into the old town and as we near the British shop, we note that it is closed from yesterday until the 2nd Sept.

20 Aug 2008 Weds Covering my assurance

First plumber arrives. I explain what I want, give him a plan for the kitchen in the former toilet and he leaves within 15 minutes. He will get the quote to us quickly he says.
I head into the old town to the British food shop. We had been there the week before and had chatted to the owner and her husband. Just as I approached the building, I could see them strolling towards their shop. They had been out for a coffee which had taken longer than expected. I explain about the insurance and the owner S searches through a copy of the yellow pages for the firm. No trace. She tries on the internet, but her connection keeps getting dropped. She has a spare 2007 phone book which she kindly gives me.
Well it closes every Wednesday. Ah she had just been out for coffee, but apart from that the shop never closes.

I try to arrange insurance cover for my new car, contacting 2 firms who list themselves as speaking English. The first firm speaks no English at all, and the second firm says that if I phone back next Monday someone will be able to help me.

Later I emerge from the bank with very costly insurance cover and an indication of how much top up insurance for my E106 medical cover will cost me. But for the health cover I need a social security number. I will need to take the paperwork for my E106 into the CPAM office to start the ball rolling.
The car insurance is so costly because the car is just over a year old. The maximum French equivalent of a no claims bonus is 50%. This has been included in my insurance price and I need to get my UK car insurance to send a letter to DM detailing my no claims bonus or my insurance will get even more expensive.

The screw on feet for the sofa are nowhere to be found.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

19 Aug 2008 Tuesday Lots of stuff but no show

No phone call from the removal company, but they turn up at about half past ten. It is good to see my stuff again. What the f am I going to do with it all? Fortunately I have kept the downstairs studio empty to put the boxes into.
It is very hot and the two men sweat buckets getting the heavy stuff up to the second floor. It takes several hours.

Most of the rest of the day is spent moving things about. Then we walk into town for something to eat and to see the advertised singer at the Irish pub. The poster has disappeared and no singer appears.
We are almost the only people in the place. We have mussels and chips which is okay but nothing special.

18 Aug 2008 Monday Car hunt

Since offering to help me to buy a car and go shopping for a cheap fridge (to replace the revolting one in studio, Madame has remained in deep cover. So in the afternoon we set off to the shops in the hated Hyundi. We then pop in to the Renault dealer to start the quest for the French car.
VC comes to ask us if he can be of assistance. He speaks English. He lived in Aberdeen for a while, so he introduces Fucking into the conversation regularly. I could be easily shocked as I do not swear often myself.
Now when I go shopping for shoes, I get bored easily. It’s the same with cars.
I had decided that I would probably buy a Nissan Note, a Kia Ceed, or the favourite, a Citroen Berlingo. We found a Renault Modus, just over a year old, with about 23k kilometres on the clock. Leaving the Hyundi keys as collateral, we took it for a test drive spin. Lots of paperwork and a few fucks later, I was to be the proud owner of a Renault the following Wednesday. VC would pick us up at the train station after we had returned the hire car to P.
Just phone him from the station. What could possibly go wrong?