Tuesday, 27 September 2011

La Banque

My bank card will not let me take money out of my usual hole in the wall. Contact your agent it says.

I rang the nice lady in the English speaking department to be on the safe side but did it in french. "I can't find anything wrong. There is not a problem with your card perhaps it is the hole in the wall."

OK I say. It is not a problem that we drew out 600 euros on Saturday (so that Him Outdoors could eat on the Camino)? No she says, you went to one of this bank's holes in the wall and you are allowed to take 900 euros if you do that. Yes folks, you are only allowed to take out 900 euros a week from your own bank, it is only 300 euros a week from any other hole in the wall. We had made a special trip to one of ours.

"Try again in another one."

OK so this morning I go to another one. Still no money. I rang again. The english speaking office is unusually closed - could this have anything to do with the school canteen people being on strike today so the schools are shut. (Yes, you can't have a school open if the canteen is shut.)

I ring our branch of the bank.

I explain my problem to a young man. He asks me for my card number. This in itself presents difficulties because in France all numbers are done in pairs which involves a lot of quatre vingt seize and soixante dix sept. I tell him in individual digits so that I can be sure it is right. He repeats it back to me in pairs. I can see he is going to be really helpful.

He starts by saying that you have taken out too much money, it's obvious. So I explain his system to him and he agrees with me. He then suggests that perhaps they have no money in them!!!! Then gives a huge Gallic shrug and says that there is nothing wrong with their system. And goodbye.

I am spitting feathers and since I am on my own here, I start typing..............

And then the phone rings and a charming manager sounding banque man explains to me in slow french that unfortunately, because we have taken 600 euros out of our bank, we have to go back to our bank to take out more money for the rest of the week (up to 900 euros). It is the system, it is the security. He answers my questions simply, makes sure I understand, is totally charming. He tells me that the sun is shining, life is good and makes my day.

Perhaps, in the end, there is customer service in France.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Helen Mirren in 1975

An article in The Guardian refers to this interview with Michael Parkingson in 1975.

She is 7 years older than me but this is the sort of TV interview that was perfectly normal at that time. I had forgotten just how amazingly patronising was acceptable in the world in which I spent my teenage years. Be grateful younger people for how life has changed so much so quickly.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

The Camino and being solitary

Today I have got back from taking Him Outdoors and his sister to the start point of a 750km walk. This has been a year in the planning and it seems strange that it has now actually started.

They are walking from Le Puy en Velay to St Jean Pied de Port which is part of the Camino de Santiago de Compostella (looking at all those I begin to doubt my spelling!). Not for any religious purpose, just for a long walk.

Him Outdoors drove to Le Puy - 5 1/2 hours - yesterday. We stayed in a really lovely Chambre d'Hote last night and then I drove back today after dropping them off.

I am not as tired as I thought I would be. It is usually Him Outdoors that does the driving while I navigate and I am very proud of myself that I managed to do both without any mishaps. I have just heard that they have arrived safely at their first night stop and all went well. Yesterday and last night there was much discussion about whether they could actually achieve this distance in the month they have to do it and they were considered very sensible to only be doing a relatively short walk for the first day as it was sooooo steep. Seems like they managed very well, didn't find it too steep and are going to double the distance tomorrow.

Meanwhile I am here on my own (with dog and cat) for a month which is ok so far :-)

I have never spent any length of time on my own. I left home at 18 to share a house with girlfriends and then married Him Outdoors. He used to be away on business at least one week a month at one time but there were always the kids about so I am very interested to see how I cope.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Making things fit the facts

Him Outdoors has just come back from walking the dog around the commune. Very proud of himself because he has had a chat with two of our very elderly french farming neighbours.

Trying to keep the surprise out of my voice, I asked what they had been talking about.

Well, I asked Jean Claude if he had been walking this week and said that we hadn't because it was too hot but that I am off at the weekend to start a 750km walk from Le Puy to St Jean Pied de Port. And they were very impressed.

Then M. Deltreil asked me if I had heard the donkey last night but it wasn't the usual word for donkey. (M. Deltreil has just acquired three new donkeys in the field opposite.)

Well how did you know it was a donkey then?

Because he brayed at me and then waved his ears above his head for the ears. And then I asked him if he had a baby donkey too because I thought I had seen one but he didn't seem to understand that.

A bit later a thought occurred to me. Was the word he used le cerf?

Yes, that's it.

When I could speak for laughing I told him that le cerf was a stag and it must be the rutting season and the noises and gestures M. Deltreil were making were entirely appropriate for stag too.....................

Monday, 19 September 2011

Journees du Patrimoine

This weekend has been a weekend of free visiting of sites. I think it is probably some sort of tax dodge where tourist sites are given funding if they open for free for a couple of days a year but maybe that's just me being my usual sceptical self.

On Saturday we went to see a DVD showing of the history of our local town followed by another one which was a collection of early photos of the town and the area and then a visit to a model of the most ancient part of the town. All done by local older people so that what they know or had collected wouldn't be lost.

We had somehow thought that there might be some interest in this but turned up to find the guy who had made the DVDs and his computer and screen, then two old ladies, another couple of old ladies arrived a bit later and another english speaker. We all chatted together for a bit and then the DVDs were shown. I loved that two of the older ladies were nudging each other at some of the photos and obviously recognising some of the people. Also got back in contact with one of the ladies who used to be a neighbour so that was good.

On Sunday Him Outdoors wanted me to come and translate for the 'Discovery of the Paths of the Resistance'. All meet in the centre of town, share cars - we went in a french couple from Nantes' car - and drive off to a memorial. Four Spanish guys were killed in a farm nearby. Went to see the farm whose ruins still exist. Told how and where they died. Most importance on the fact that they were Spanish and fighting for France. Some discussion of the fact that they were working in a coal mine locally which employed a lot of foreigners and enabled foreigners to have paperwork that satisfied the Germans. Then went to visit their grave which had been redone a couple of years ago. Much mention of ceremony.

On the way to the next one we pass the mine that they worked in. 'Quick' diversion while we got a half hour lecture on the art of mining.

Him Outdoors was by now beginning to mutter about hoping that some mention was going to be made about why the guys were in the woods in the first place and what sort of thing they were doing and the local groups and really any general background stuff.

Off to another memorial beside the main road. Translation completely hindered by guide talking to the memorial rather than us who were behind him and by the cars that were speeding past. Again three foreign guys to one french man. Much talk of the fact that they were initially buried in one commune when they actually died in another because the border was a few feet away. Still no mention of why they died just that they were shot.

Much photo taking of participants of the group.

Third memorial, same. and the Fourth.

OK so we went on a tour of memorials to foreigners who fought for the french and where most of them worked.

At the third and fourth memorials the guide was discussing that there was a plan to make a new memorial in a garden away from the main road so that all the armistice day ceremonies and such like could be held without getting run over. Seems like a good idea. But one of the people on the tour came from another commune locally and was very indignant that a memorial to people who died in his commune was going to be put up in the next commune. Obviously very very important that communes keep their own memorials. As far as I could tell, they aren't planning to move the memorials which are placed where the men died, just add another plaque in the garden.

All in all, a very french weekend. Lovely.

Friday, 16 September 2011

First World War Domestic Deserters

We watched one of the 'Who do you think you are' programmes last night. Don't specially like Alan Carr who was featured but enjoy the connections that they dig up.

Turns out that all the family stories about some name change in the family were due to him being a deserter in the first world war. He deserted from one of the Pals Brigades that were formed which was a group of men all from the same area (from the souvenirs, in this case a group of men all from the same few streets) that joined up together to fight.

He didn't ever go to France, there were a couple of nights when he was AWOL which was considered normal - just sleeping off a celebration - and then he disappeared with wife and two children.

He then went on to have, I think 12 children in a new place with a new name, one of which was Alan Carr's grandfather.

We were both saying 'don't you get shot for desertion'. But apparently not if you never get to the field of battle. But you are still a wanted man who might potentially serve two years' hard labour.

Alan Carr's attitude now is 'good for him' he got out at the best time to be with his family, love not war. And apparently their were 50,000 others.

It has left me full of wonderings about what life must have been like for this man. How you live all your life with such a big secret. What is it like to desert from a unit that is made up of everyone that you grew up with?

And the final kick was that he had 8 sons who all served in the forces in the Second World War....................

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Ha ha slight misunderstanding

Got another staircase letter this morning.

A copy of the report from Monsieur The Expert. Apparently this report isn't The Report, it's The Pre Report. The Pre Report goes to both sides for their comments and it is those that have to be received before the first of October in order that Monsieur The Expert can write his Report.

(I thought this was already the Pre Report but it must have been the Pre Pre Report - silly me.)

So it's not a month until it goes to the Judge, it's a month until it goes back to Monsieur the Expert so he can spend another three months writing his report.

You're right Perpetua we will be moved before it finishes - I wonder if that matters............................

Sunday, 4 September 2011

The stair case continues

Yesterday we received the expert's report. Only three months after his meeting.

He says there are twelve points wrong with the staircase, two of which are fundamental errors in that the stairs do not meet the norms of staircases. So the only thing to do is to take them down and replace them.

And from the estimates that you have provided that will cost about twice what you paid.

Over to the judge who (apparently) will give a ruling in 30 days ........................................