Sunday, 8 March 2009

Underneath the arches

On Friday morning I braved the cold and wet to seek out the education lady to discuss the possibility of me doing a tourism course. French signage is not very good, as you will quickly find should you ever visit the country.
I see a sign at the bottom of some steps near me with the right organisation name, there is another big sign with even more writing on a few hundred yards further on. I go up the steps. French fonctionaires like their offices and work spaces kept warm, not for them the penny pinching world of library council nimbyness. If the weather is cold, you have heat plus some extra.

Digression alert: The town’s prefecture central heating system was on its last legs, so a few months ago it was replaced. In a stunning first for France, our prefecture is now running a wood burning system. They have made a silo holding 35 m3 in one of the bridge arches. The wood lorry comes along with its little wooden balls, they hinge up the road, pour in the wood, and one delivery will last for 15 days of normal usage.

(Photo from LA Depeche online newspaper)

A saving over the old gas costs of around 10,000 euros per year. The whole project cost 431,000 euros, so it may take a couple of years before it pays for itself, but boy are we green. A solar heating system for hot water is the next phase. Another authority is soon to follow in our green wake.

So I went up the steps into the warm waiting area, a lady comes out of an office takes me back outside and points to the entrance a few hundred yards away.
The next door is trickier because I don’t bother reading the notice properly.
I press the buzzer pad, and push the door, I press the buzzer pad and pull the door, I press the buzzer pad and pull the door (I have spotted the tirez sign).
Reluctantly I read the sign above the buzzer pad, push the pad while pulling the door.
I finally do as I am told and enter. I expect it is not too annoying for the 2 receptionists sitting twiddling their thumbs, to have silly people pushing their buzzer all day.
I approach their sanctum and ask to see DM. Oh, they say she is here, but she is not here today. Their collective brain clicks into gear and one of them says that perhaps I would like to speak to DM’s secretary?
I say yes and follow one of them round the corner. No dear reader, it is not a ruse to get me on my own, there is indeed an office containing a lady who is on the phone. The French do love their phones.
We gesture to each other and I stand in wait.
I have time to study her. She is extremely slim, and very chicly dressed. Short well coiffed hair and must surely be feeling rather hot in her boots.
How can she help?
I would like to make an appointment to meet DM
Do I have an appointment?
No, but I would like to make one.
And so the dance goes on. I learn that DM is not there today and I leave my mobile number and email address. This is written down in an A4 notebook. I am now at the bottom of a very long list…..


  1. Reading your day to day adventures with the 'system' is most entertaining. I imagine it may be less than entertaining for you, at times.

  2. One has to play the game. The trouble is that each fonctionaire makes up the rules as they go along, so every encounter is an unexpected pleasure.

  3. Wood from local sustainable forests innit!


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