Thursday 27 January 2011

You're either a joiner or you're not

Him Outdoors and I went for a walk with the local walking club yesterday. They meet up every Wednesday afternoon and walk for a couple of hours.

We all turned up at the prescribed time and were told that the walk was going to start in a village about 10 minutes' drive away. We all scurried back into our cars and set off. We had a vague idea where the village was but needed to follow someone. The race was on. A line of about 20 cars was racing across the french countryside at high speed. Gotta keep up, gotta keep up, don't lose them, don't lose them. No chance of losing the one that was driving up our arse.

The front cars started parking along a seemingly random road and we all stopped and started off. Some doubts about the route, very muddy, along a track where the wood had recently been cleared so huge tyre tracks, debris, clambering around puddles.

So far this is not being something that I want to repeat.

French walkers walk like they drive, right behind you. They talk all the time. And the ladies smell very, very perfumey.

Still not being something I want to repeat, the only thing it's got going for it is that I wouldn't particularly want to walk on my own and it's a new place to walk.

Stumbling along, being thwacked in the face by let go branches, I was eavesdropping on the conversation behind me. Maybe that person speaking french with an english accent will be interesting. And she was. She also provided Him Outdoors with a link to another walking group.

This morning we investigated the link which is a largely voluntary organisation that organises walks as well as all the other things you would expect from an expat group. French conversation, cinema, bridge, gardening, art............. and I can feel my insides shrinking away from my skin in a physical reaction to all this joining.

It doesn't matter how much I can hear my mother saying 'you'll like it when you get there' my instinct is noooooooooooooooooooooo please don't make me.

I can and do join stuff and go to stuff but every time I have to overcome that immediate reaction of not wanting to.

Oh yes, and I do like it when I get there and we did join for the walking bit at least!

Wednesday 26 January 2011

Night time activities

In winter we have some random days decided by EDF (usually several together) when electricity costs much more than others. But it is still cheap between 1 am and 7 am.

Since it has been so cold we have been letting the cat stay in at night and then getting up to let him out at some time in the night when he starts scratching at the bedroom door. So lets put the dishwasher on when we get up in the night.

Yesterday I decided to do washing before realising it was one of the days. That's ok just flick the switch when you get up in the night.

But we still seemed to be using a lot of expensive electricity during the day. What was still on? This morning Him Outdoors investigated the water heater further. He had already plugged a timer into the plug underneath it so that it would only heat the water at the cheap time. It can't be that......................

Oh yes it can. After further peerings in the gloomy cupboard it transpires that the socket to which he has applied a timer is for the outside socket - nothing to do with the water heater at all! And although we can both remember requesting one, there is no socket that has anything to do with the water heater.

So more switching in the night.

Charlie's dead

No, it's ok nobody died.

I just remembered that while we were at school, if your petticoat was showing below your skirt then you would mutter 'Charlie's dead' to the offending person and they would hoik it up. Since most of my teenage years were spent wrapping the waistband of my skirt over and over to make it shorter and shorter and shorter this happened often.

This got me thinking about underwear and what we used to wear.

My mother always used to wear a petticoat - I don't think it was a slip or an underskirt, I think she always called it a petticoat. She had a bra and a girdle - large elastic knickers - and a petticoat over the top and I can't remember if, in the winter, the vest came over or under the petticoat. I also can't remember if there were knickers under the girdle, I guess there must have been.

As children we had cream woollen Chilprufe vests with buttons - like a grandad vest - in the winter and cotton vests in the summer.

As teenagers in an all girls school we used to 'shower' after sports. This involved getting undressed in front of one of rows of pegs, grabbing the towel (mine was pale green with name tag - no games kit was ever washed for the whole half term, just lived screwed up in your locker) and running through a room of showers trying not to get wet - no soap at all - and then getting dressed. All the other girls were doing the same thing. Some of the girls were dressed as copies of their mothers and some were beginning to chose their own clothes.

We all had stockings and suspenders in the winter because tights were only just being invented and were seen as unhygienic by the headmistress. The only tights you could get were plain and the only stockings in the school colours were ribbed so couldn't be substituted. I remember being very envious of one girl (Josephine Hamer) who had tights that looked just like stockings that her mum had got for her and wishing my mum would get some (why couldn't I get them??)

I don't remember being shy of all this nudity although it must have been crippling embarrassing for some girls. Nor critical of the shapes of others, just vaguely interested in the endless variety.

The main emotion is still anger that one of the games mistresses - Miss Thorburn or Miss Rothery - would stand at the exit of the showers and send you back in if you weren't wet. You were excused showers if you had a period and if you were thought to be having too many, they were recorded in a register and something must have happened that I don't remember - letters home? I was much too 'goody two shoes' to dare! We all 'knew' that they were lesbians and got their kicks out of watching us but I wonder if they were. It must have been a thankless task trying to make all these teenage girls do hockey, tennis, netball, rounders, dance, gym.

Saturday 22 January 2011

Solar panels

A woman rang during the week to arrange an appointment for someone that she said was doing a survey in the commune to come and visit. He was part of a government survey into our energy use and together with EDF they were doing a report. (Since this was a telephone conversation the details are always hazy but I definitely got EDF, government and they are not trying to sell me anything.) Anyway worst case scenario I get a free french lesson.

Man duly arrives and he's a solar panel salesman. Quelle surprise. But since he was going to explain the way that this is funded in France that was ok and interesting. With this company being the manufacturer of the panels (and making the money) it goes like this:

The company installs the panels (if your roof is suitable) for nothing and you enter into a 20 year contract with EDF whereby EDF will buy the electricity you produce for 58 cents a kwh. which they guess will be 2610 euros a year. The government gives you 4000 euros in tax rebate. (You still pay your electricity bill as usual.)

BUT you have to pay them monthly for the installation for the first eleven years which just about equals what they pay you for the electricity so you only get the value of the electricity for the last 9 years.

And all these figures are guesses on the amount of electricity produced.

There are so many unanswerable questions about future unknowns that it aint going to happen.

What mostly concerns me is that it is yet another unasked question when you buy a house. Don't think oh great it's got solar panels that'll save on the electricity. Think oh shit we are going to be stuck with the remains of a contract with EDF which we have to pay 200 euros a month for, having missed out on the tax rebate and probably years away from the pay off.

Time spent on reconnaisance is seldom wasted

So all that effort with the papers will come in one day! It certainly brought the vocabulary to the top of my head which is always useful.

The stair man's case largely rests on a signed for letter that wasn't answered, that we didn't receive. Turns out that he sent it to our assessors and they didn't do anything. Our funding seems to rest on the fact that he so pissed them off by not answering them that they will pay the case, when in fact he had answered them and was waiting for a reply!

You might well ask why this was only discovered by our insurance guy when he phoned them to ask if they had received it while we were waiting to go into the solicitor. Surely he hadn't forgotten to do anything about it!!


We get into Mme's office (she is a tiny size 0 elegant lady) and she and our guy start talking at speed. I can now get most of it - or at least the gist if not the fine detail. It seems that every point that Stair man has raised is irrelevant, just a time waster. Nothing alters the case that we have and she will go ahead with it. She apologised for dragging us into the office but it is always clearer face to face rather than in a letter.

Two scenarios on 3rd Feb (apart from the obvious postponement). One is that the judge will agree and we get the money in 'quinze jours'. (The french equivalent of a fortnight which is always always longer than 14 days.) Or the judge will agree that they need a court assessor (a third one) and he will be sent out to look. They are very booked up and it could be 6 months before he comes..................... The good news is that if they agree to a court assessor it will be revealed that the ash staircase is actually part pine so doesn't even fit the original quote!

Since, whatever happens we have got so used to the staircase that it will stay and we get a cheque I am looking forward to my new balcony which Him Outdoors promises will be built with the proceeds! But mostly I am expecting another postponement.

Wednesday 19 January 2011

Still on with the stair case

I spent some time yesterday collating paperwork (me too Jen).

We are trying to take the man who made our staircase to court to get some money back because it was badly made and we paid a lot of money for it.

We are now at the stage of having appointed a solicitor who has prepared a dossier, sent it to him and summoned him to court. It has been scheduled 3 times and postponed. The last time he sent his dossier to our solicitor on the day before the hearing.

On Friday we have a meeting with our solicitor to see what we want to do about his dossier and there is another court session arranged for 3rd February.

As far as I can see we have letters that prove him wrong on every point he makes. We have already had meetings with our assessors and his assessors together (to which he didn't turn up although invited). We didn't ever receive a letter he refers to that he says was signed for so that should be interesting.

So I have the file in pristine order with post its so that we can immediately refer to the right one and we'll see how we go.

Fortunately the stair man so pissed off our assessors that they are happy to pay the costs and we have a lovely insurance man who wants to 'get the bastard' and is happy to translate. Otherwise I don't think we'd bother.

Interestingly the stair man has the contract for the woodwork of the new salle des fetes which has just started being built in the village - 300.000 euros worth of salle des fetes!

Monday 17 January 2011


I just got an email

Hi Rosie,

I saw your blog in "A taste of Garlic" and wondered if you would be interested in contributing to our new online magazine TIENS ! Le Sud-Ouest de la France. Have a look at

For more information, please contact me. Kind regards, Perry Taylor

Ooo er someone wants me to write something proper. Blimey!

But first of all I thought who the hell is 'A taste of garlic'. Quick search around and found this

Which seems to be a whole on line magazine thingy with me as a feature in July 2010.

Who knew.

What gives some patronising bloke the right to use my blog as copy for his stuff. Without telling me!! This really pisses me off.

Thursday 13 January 2011

Next blog

I have just discovered 'next blog'. Just a couple of words at the top of mine when I compose a new one and hours are wasted.

As usual, I have no idea how it works, but every time you click there's an entirely new random blog. It can't be that random unless everyone out there in blogland is writing about gardens and farming and such.

I had avoided delving too deep because who knew what was out there that I really didn't want to know about but so far it's great.

Chemin Rurale

Chemins Rurale are the ancient roadways around rural France. Some have been made into proper roads, some, like the one along one edge of our property have been made into gravelled tracks and some are just remnants left among the trees.

We have a remnant one between us and our neighbours that is obvious in that there is an overgrown gap between their fence and the line of sizeable trees but it disappears into our woodland. According to the plan cadastre it marks the edge of our property through the wood but we have never known exactly where it is and haven't ever bothered. We have 5 acres of wood and a little bit more or less doesn't bother us or the neighbour apparently.

This week Bernard (the mayor's righthand man) has obviously been delegated by the Comite des Fetes to sort out a new route for the annual Easter Egg Hunt that doesn't use any of the proper roads and has come up with the idea of using this chemin.

He appeared at the door asking if he could cut his way through our wood to a path Him Outdoors uses with the tractor so that the local little dears wouldn't get run over on the road. Much smiling and hand shaking and admiring our house and some discussion and off he went with a 'you think about it and let me know'.

We decided that actually we didn't want the commune deciding that they had right of way through our wood having used it once (the path they want to use is within view of the house) and drew up a plan that either they could walk the other way along our drive, across the field and into the wood which would involve no work but a bit of walking on the road. Or they could sort out the chemin rurale properly which would involve much earthwork/tree felling but maintain our boundary and keep everyone well away from our house.

I was delegated to go tell Bernard. Got his wife, who is sweet, explained it all to her and she agreed that of course we didn't want everyone through our land and of course that would be alright and she would explain it to Bernard when he got back.

Bernard arrives home full of smiles and ignores completely what we have just agreed, no we have to go down the chemin rurale and across the wood and it will be fine.

Him Outdoors has a dicky fit about 'some french butcher in his wood'.

Next day Bernard's strimming in the pouring rain. We pop out to see what he is actually doing and agree that it would be much more sensible if the walkers went along the field not through the wood and we seem to have reached a compromise. I think. Possibly. Maybe.

It shows up another difficulty with not speaking the language properly. Anyone that smiles at you is a good person. Anyone that talks to you and smiles must be ok. Maybe, just maybe, they are actually full of themselves and railroad everyone into doing what they think. But you aint going to find out for a while.

Saturday 8 January 2011

Out of the habit

I have had various ideas for a blog. Couple of drafts pondered. But nothing that spurs me on to put pen to paper (as it were). And now I am definitely out of the habit.

It seems to be something that afflicts other bloggers too. Definitely fewer lately. (Or is it less, I know there is some rule about less and fewer that affects/effects signs but I'm blowed if I can remember what it is.) I find I feel guilty somehow at reading blogs without contributing something - weird. But I have noticed that I haven't written anything since Remberance Day, so I'll try just burbling and see where we get to.

We had a lovely Christmas - although it now seems like two years ago not two weeks ago. It did seem at some moments that all I was doing was waiting for the weather to decide whether it would let people get here or get home. The flights out from England were delayed by snow and the flights back by fog:

Whether the weather be cold
or whether the weather be hot
We'll weather the weather
Whatever the weather
Whether we like it or not. (Thanks Mum x)

But everyone got here eventually and we had a lovely time with the added family thing of grandchild with chicken pox. Since then, after a flurry of getting the house back to normal and dealing with all the leftovers, life has settled back to normal.

Thinking of food, Him Outdoors had another cholesterol blood test before Christmas and we are still managing to get the numbers down with a lifestyle that we can lead. It pained me to have to throw out the butter/cheese/cream that was left over but better in the bin than in us I guess. A disadvantage of flying visitors is that they can't cram another thing into their bags so no room for the leftovers. I find myself acting like my mother with departing children. Suddenly I have to give them stuff just like she did, we couldn't get out the door without cake (we'll never eat all that), sandwiches (for the journey) something for supper (you won't want to be cooking when you get home) fruit ............ Bless her.

Anyway, belated Happy New Year wishes to one and all and I will try to get my head back into gear!