Monday, June 30, 2008

don’t say a word

The crane arrived on Tuesday as planned (oh me of little faith) so the next step has been trying to find someone with a mobile crane to come and lift it into place because the concrete base is a few metres from the road and down quite a steep slope. Three times we've waited in all day for a local guy to come and give us a quote and three times he's failed to turn up.

Then, at the Sunday Club yesterday, Nainbo suggested that BB build a platform level with the road, thereby doing away with the need for a mobile crane. BB is really mad at himself for not thinking of this before, especially since such a platform is in the plans anyway (for a parking space and entrance to the front door)! I didn't dare say anything about "bad planning" for fear of domestic violence!

BB is now designing and building this new platform and thinks he may have persuaded the driver of the concrete lorry to pull the crane down here with his lorry. Failing that, we shall have to rely upon Mini-B's "vintage" tractor that doesn't have any brakes. This all needs to be done before July 13 when the crane erector arrives.

We tasted our first potatoes from the garden yesterday. You can't beat new potatoes fresh out of the ground cooked on a BBQ with fresh thyme and olive oil. Unfortunately when I went up to pick them and do some watering at the same time, I left the tap running and as a result there's no water left in the mobile tank. It's a pain having to tow it down here and refill it from the river whilst avoiding being spotted by the guy who works for the forest department.

The latest consensus on the donkey front is that the "pregnant/isn't pregnant" one is in fact expecting twins!

Monday, June 23, 2008

snakes and ladders

On Friday BB lost the plot over getting electricity to the garage. I've been so preoccupied with moving the phone line and getting the crane here that I completely forgot that we need to get 3-phase electricity to the garage to power the crane - which arrives tomorrow. The snakes and ladders game of getting electricity connected in France goes something like this:
  1. Find semi-reliable electrician to do the wiring (can take up to six months - if lucky enough to find one).
  2. Make appointment for EDF to certify wiring (usually three to four weeks hence).
  3. Make appointment for EDF to come and wire up the heads (usually three to four weeks hence).
  4. EDF send out bill (two weeks after step 3).
  5. Once bill paid, choose a supplier and make appointment for fuse carrier to come (usually two to three weeks hence).
  6. Fuse carrier arrives to put in fuse and then you have electricity.

After finding an electrician, EDF arrived and failed the wiring but said the electrician could self-certify the work after sorting the faults. In the meantime, BB contacted EDF to make an appointment for step 3 saying that the wiring had been passed.

On Friday morning they turned up to wire the heads but they didn't have the bits they needed to complete the job, which meant we were looking at a further delay by the time they fixed another appointment to come back.

BB decided to circumvent the system by leap-frogging to step 5.

Off he went to the address on our electricity bills - 60 miles away - to try and pay the, as yet, unissued bill. When he found the EDF building - with no public parking, which should have been a hint - he pressed the buzzer but, being 12.30, got no answer as the security guards were all off having lunch. Spying an open ground floor window, he climbed in and made his way to the third floor where he wandered about looking for an office with somebody in it. After finding an occupied office - and calming the terrified woman down sufficiently to stop her reaching for the panic button - she led him to another part of the building (through two metal detectors), where, it being just after 12.30, everyone was off having lunch.

He then left and returned to wait for some employees to arrive and snuck in through the security doors behind them. The employees called for "back-up" and a manager arrived, who took him to an office where he was told that he couldn't pay the bill as (a) it hadn't been issued and (b) they didn't accept payment in person. By this time BB resembled a mini Vesuvius ("step away from the pencils, Monsieur") and after a "brief and frank exchange of views" BB's cheque was accepted. We now have an appoinment for 3 July for our chosen supplier to come and put the fuse in.

In the meantime, the crane will have to sit up in one of Mini-B's fields.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


My friend Sylvie is coming round this afternoon. I used to go to her house for French lessons but I stopped because it was becoming too expensive. She didn't charge for the lessons but I would arrive at 11.00 am and by 11.30 am she'd cracked open a bottle of white and after a couple of glasses I'd have to get a taxi home!

I got up early to do the housework because Sylvie is the French equivalent of Kim and Aggie. She came round for dinner once and I accidentally walked in on her in the bathroom (I thought she was outside having a smoke and our bathroom door is notoriously hard to lock. You have to insert an old key, the end of which BB sawed off, into a tiny hole in the handle) to find her inspecting under the lavatory seat to make sure it was up to her high standards. I'm a complete salope in comparison - although nowhere near as big a salope as BB (see May 1 post).

I'd just started hoovering when Jurgen, our Dutch friend, arrived. He went out with a famous (much older) Hollywood actress in his youth who whisked him away from the drug dens of Amsterdam to a penthouse in New York and then discarded him six months later. He still talks about it - much to the annoyance of his fiery Italian wife. At school no-one wanted him on their football team because he would go off picking wild flowers when he was supposed to be in goals. He's a vegetarian and non-drinker - the only one I've met since we moved here - and lives in an eco house with a pizza oven in the sitting-room. Anyway, he arrived to give me a bottle of his elderflower syrup - which is very tasty - and a pile of Time magazines - which smell of incense - and I spent over an hour chatting with him and drinking coffee.

Just after he left, Poire arrived with some lettuce and spinach plants he'd thinned out, for my garden. By this time it was after 10.00 am so we had to have a coup de blanc.

When Sylvie arrived in the afternoon she came bearing jars of fruit and wild mushrooms she'd picked and bottled - so I won a lot on the home produce front today.

Monday, June 16, 2008

is that a wallet in your pocket or are you ........

France Telecom finally turned up last Thursday and moved the phone line and on Friday a load of concrete arrived to make the base upon which the crane will sit. Also - BB has now found someone to transport the crane here next week - but I'll believe that when I see it.

It hasn't stopped raining since my return from Scotland so there has been very little activity in the garden (apart from on the weed front. I seem to be the only organic gardener round here because no-one else has weeds. A neighbour stopped the other day when I was picking a lettuce and asked if I was growing grass!). Everyone's complaining that the potager is a wash-out like last year, when we also had a lot of rain, but most of my crops appear to be doing ok so far.

Last night we were invited round to a friend's to watch the France Italy match (we don't have a telly) and Mini-B turned up wearing one of my old shirts - knotted at the waist exposing his midriff. Another couple we know (who have been married for 25 years) were there too being very affectionate with each other. On the way home I remarked to BB: "Isn't that nice that they're still like that after 25 years?" To which he replied: "They're just searching for money in each others' pockets."

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

to be or not to be

I'm just back from a ten-day break in Scotland so here's an update on what's been happening - or more precisely, what's not been happening - in my absence.

After that flurry of activity a few weeks ago with France Telecom and the crane man finally turning up and BB starting to remove the tin from the roof, everything has come to a standstill. France Telecom have still not come back to put the line underground and the crane man has gone AWOL. When the first bits of tin came off the roof I rejoiced because I've been waiting six years for this. And just as I thought things were getting under way, BB stopped and explained that he was only taking off a small portion of the roof to make way for the crane.

BB has now "purchased" a crane elsewhere (i.e. put down a €2000 deposit) but the logistics of getting it here from 100 miles away (if the guy hasn't run off with our deposit), erecting it and having it MOTed are too much to bear thinking about. The original crane man was going to deliver it, with MOT, and erect it. Now we have to find - and rely upon - three independent parties to do this, which will not be easy.

The most depressing thing is that a friend of ours is building a new house just up the road and in the last week has installed a crane and put up the external walls.

The latest news on the donkey front is that no-one is sure if the pregnant one is actually pregnant - including Mini-B (who's a farmer!!). We may just have bought a very fat one.