Being today's hapless foreigner I decided I would try to achieve a variety of things:
- insure the car
- talk to the electricity firm who have provided me with a quotation for the re-wiring of my house
- talk to the artisan who has given me a quote for terracing at the back of my house
- take some rubbish to the local tip
- find someone to clear my garden
- find some useful French lessons
- Apparently you can no longer get French insurance for a car with English plates. You are now forced to re-register the car. This involves several things, including providing my maiden name and date of birth - fortunately not providing details of the lineage of my grandparents , although I had been warned that this information was frequently required when completing any form in France. In order to comply, register the car and get the insurance sorted, I had to provide a Certificate of Conformity (for the car, thank God); an electricity bill for my house (?????); a Quitus Fiscal (don't ask - I never did Latin) and a Controle Technique - which is nothing to do with zigzagging between those lines of orange cones.
Well I managed to get all of those before the end of the morning - except for the Controle Technique - which is the equivalent of an MOT. I went to the CT station (which only does CTs) and there were two bays in which the examination could be done, and a young man in rather fetching mechanic's overalls who spoke quite good English. He asked when I wanted the CT and I asked if today was possible (considering that both bays were vacant, no cars were waiting, and there was still about an hour before the 2-hour lunch break started). Unfortunately, he said, this would not be possible and suggested Wednesday as the next possible 'slot'. So - I am booked in for 8.30 am on Wednesday morning - an hour which is as unfamiliar to me as the Guinness bar on Alpha Centauri . Hope it passes first time!
- The electricity firm, which is situated in a small village near to me, should have been an easier task. However, I have spoken to their representative (M Marueil) on three occasions so far, and still do not have a satisfactory quote to proceed with.
The first time, he went round the house with me and produced, 3 weeks later, a quote which bore little resemblance to what I had asked for. Lesson 1 - always draw a diagram whenever possible. The second time, when he came back to discuss the quote, I explained what I wanted, and asked him to provide details of electric 'panel' heaters for use in the bedrooms and bathrooms, as there will be no central heating. The third time he brought catalogues of radiators, none of which were flat panels, as I had requested. However, worn down by all this time elapsing, I did choose two designs that were fairly flat (at least better than the first ones he showed me which looked as if they had come from a Victorian schoolroom!). His final quote (the current one that I need to discuss with him, was 50% higher than the previous one and still contained items which I had said were not required. Eventually I decided to make a list of what was required, and drop it in to him, so there would be no misunderstandings. I did it neatly in Excel on my laptop and printed it out ready to take...at least I would have printed it out but for the fact that my ink cartridge ran out and I had no spare. So - add to the above list a visit to the local supermarket to buy an ink cartridge (successful, I may add).
- The terracing - another 'misunderstanding'. The man who I hope will do the job eventually (M. Ganteuil) came to discuss what I needed and we talked about making 4 flat terraces at the back of the house, where currently there is 8 inches of solid concrete on a steep slope - so steep the cups fall off the table if you're not careful, and you may fall off your chair sideways after only a couple of glasses of wine (not that I would be likely to do that - oh no, of course not...).
I wanted a flat surfact so the cups would stay on the table in future, but also because inside the house, two of the rooms are below the outside level, and therefore damp.
When his quote came in it was for removing the concrete and making the whole area level across the back of the house!
Anyway.... he wasn't working today.
- Rubbish to the tip? A simple job - except the tip is only open between 2.30 and 5 pm, and when I had finished everything else it was 5 pm. Never mind, it's open again on Wednesday afternoon!
- Clearing the garden - well here I had success. An Englishman whose name had been given to me, came round and looked at the job and said he would phone me later to let me know what he could do - he was very busy at the moment as all the gardens he looked after for English absentee owners were needing their lawns cutting three times more often, due to the current wet weather interspersed with just enough sun to make the grass grow like Billy-O (whoever he might be). It sounded to me as if this would be another failure but no - he phoned this evening and said he had re-jigged his diary to make some room and would start the job on Wednesday morning. Hooray!!!!!
This is what the front garden looks like now - so watch this space!!!!
- French lessons (no sniggering, please). Last week a piece of paper was placed under my windscreen wiper when I was in the lauderette having an exciting time. It offered, amongst other things, French Lessons for practical everyday use. Something I could clearly do with - considering my lack of expertise with local tradesmen!
And this was reasonably successful too, as she lives about 10 minutes away and sounds very nice. I just have one other contact to ring in regard to lessons, as I went with another English lady called Pat, to a conversation class last Wednesday, in a small town called Adriers. Unfortunately this is about 1/2 hour away and the class had several other English women in it, none of whom could speak French to any degree. The teacher was lovely, and fluent in English, but had not structured the lesson very well, so that, in over an hour, we achieved practically nothing. So now I want to see if Pat and I could have private lessons from Maggie at a comparable rate to Sabine, and perhaps somewhere a bit closer than 1/2 hour away.