Tuesday 10 July 2012

Are we still in Kansas?

Are we still in Kansas?
One minute we’re happily sipping G’n’T by the pool, next were off to see the Wizard.
7 trees down in 30 minutes, that has to be a record that even the worthiest lumberjacks would have been proud of. Mainly poplars though, which are fair game to most hurricanes, especially the nameless one that picked on us last week-end.
I don’t see the point in poplar trees. They make poor firewood and have spindly dangerous trunks, especially when a 30 metre one comes crashing down across our power-lines and plunges the house into darkness. Perfect timing too, as it coincides with the moment the roof starts pouring grubby rain-water all over the furniture – and me. God knows how a torrent got into the bedroom, but it wet the bed faster than a four-year-old in cheap Pampers. I ended up spending the night sharing the driest part of the house, the outside terrace, with the mozzies.
And here’s another thing…why do torches always have flat batteries? It’s true, isn’t it? No matter how many packs of Exide Double Lithium you throw in your shopping trolley each month, when you need the emergency torch it’s dimmer than Katie Price. I know we bought some batteries last month, but they got ‘put away’. Wendy does the ‘putting away’. I’m not privy to what goes where. It’s a need-to-know basis only.
Well, I want to know, now! So I can put a bucket under this leak – and see if the fallen tree has mashed the Audi. Aha, here’s a pack, in the linen cupboard. Except they don’t fit – anything!
AA, Single B, Triple X, Double D-cup. All sorts - except the right ones.
Next day, we spent 3 hours trying to phone EDF’s emergency service to warn them that we now had a firework-tree sizzling by the side of the road, if anyone would like to come and watch it on Bastille day. Only 380 volts - 3 phase, mind you, not your 5000v high-power stuff that would fry the entire village I admit, but still enough to kill your average passer-by in a horrible way were they to touch any of its glowing leaves.
Eventually we get through and my illiterate French manages to purvey the danger of our situation.
Mon Dieu. But it’s Sunday.
France doesn’t do Sunday in the same way that it doesn’t really do Monday or Boxing day, or Wednesday afternoon, come to think. That’s OK, I’ll just call you and leave a message every time I smell another smouldering neighbour, then, shall I?
To be fair, within an hour, two blokes arrived, glad of the double-time and to get away from the missus for a while. For 3 hours they toiled at their task of getting us back on.
While I am waiting, I go about my jobs for the day, including picking the nectarines which are just about ripe. I love nectarines.
Except the damn tree has gone.
I find it eventually, in the middle of the sheep field, minus its fruit. The sheep look happy about that, and at least they didn’t blow away. But now there is no power to the electric fence that contains them and the vegetable garden is an easy target, looming on their ever-hungry radar. I don’t have a gun, so I wave a menacing stick at them all in threat and then retreat to defend my potatoes… which look like someone attacked them with an AK-47! Their poor leaves have more holes that than a Tory manifesto, having been punctured by the giant hailstones that accompanied the rain and malicious wind. Not just the spuds, either, the entire garden has been laid flat and demolished – it’s like a scene from Independence Day. My new seedling spinach, which was just poking through the ground, is now off somewhere towards the River Lot.
Head in hands, I reside myself to the fact that at least we might get some electricity back on by mid-afternoon and the Wimbledon final. Well, yes, we got the electric, but the satellite dish has gone south too, along with the internet and most of my t-shirts from the washing line.
Didn’t miss much though, did we? Just another Scottish loss…
Ooo, ouch. Sorry, I would claim Andy Murray as British, were he not such a dour and miserable figure with a frown like a hangman. And the tears…oh those tears of emotion when he lost? Can you empathise? I don’t think I’ve cried like that since I came last in the egg and spoon race at the Knowle School - and that was only because I ran for home as I wanted the egg for my tea – and then discovered that it was made of china. When I found out, I threw it in the bushes. It’s probably still there.

When we bought Chauffour, it already had a swimming pool.
Ra, ra, ra. Sounds so cool doesn’t it? A big hole in the ground that you can cool down in? Maybe do some daily exercise?
Cool? Yes, it’s cool alright – enough to shrivel walnuts, most of the time.
Pain-in-the-Rrr’s, more like. Because now it’s got a hole in it. Basically, when you really need it - in the middle of summer for example - it goes wrong. A bit like that torch I needed last week. However, as it is just a concrete hole in the ground, the water is escaping through a puncture in the liner, with nowhere else to go. Why bother? What’s the point in escaping to nowhere?
Now it just sits there, on the wrong side of the liner like what-ever his name was tunnelling out from Colditz only to find he is still inside the outer-perimeter fence. Or like living in London, outside the M25. Pointless.
Bit by bit, the inside is getting smaller as more and more water is living on the outside of it like some sort of fugitive – think The Matrix. Should I cut another hole, to let it back in again, I wonder? Would that work? I can’t be sure. I do have an O’level in physics but the mice in our attic will have eaten all the text books long ago. And I doubt Colonel Peter Jones will still be alive to ask. And I can’t google it without the internet.
So I called someone professional – and he wanted three million quid to pump the water from the outside back inside. Then he would mend the hole – if he could find it.
I could do that. Well part of it, anyway. So I did. Ingeniously, I slid a pipe down the back of the plastic and pumped gallons of illegal water out from where it shouldn’t be so that the pool was a normal oblong shape again. I was almost there too, until a great tear arrived in the middle and now the whole thing is as useless as a chocolate kettle.
Grrr. I am considering filling it full of salmon and then daily catching them for lunch – with a harpoon gun. Far more fun - and tasty too. Except I suspect that Spike, our mastermind cat, would beat me to it.
The whole thing gives me a headache – and I can’t find the Anadin because Wendy has ‘put it away’.
Drugs in France are so expensive. You can’t buy day-to-day stuff like ibuprofen or anti-histamine in a supermarket. No, it all has to come from a pharmacy at over-inflated prices. No wonder they keep building new ones. At least a dozen sparkling new Pharmacies have sprung up in the last 5 years around here. When they knocked down our local filling station, up went a pharmacy – likewise with the charming Victorian hotel in Miramont-de-Guyenne. Each one has a palatial entrance, 5 counters and a dozen staff, just to serve a village with the population of your average English primary school. A trip to the local doctor, regardless of your ailment, will send you home with a shopping list in double figures for blood-pressure tablets, skin cream, eye-ointment and cures for a hundred other complaints that you never knew you had. And off you go to the pharmacy with a three-hundred euro bill.
As a result, we tend to buy unbranded drugs in UK, because they only cost a few pence. Except that we can’t do that anymore. Health and Safety now dictates that we are not allowed to buy more than one pack of paracetamol in Tesco at one time, in case we might be feeling a bit depressed. Oh, yeah, that’s really going to work isn’t it? The fact that I can’t buy a pack of 100 Nurofen for 70p  actually makes me even more depressed. As I trawl the High Street buying one pack of 8 in every store, including the grubbier ones like Superdrug and Aldi, my reasonable mood deteriorates into that of a suicidal/homicidal maniac. Thankfully, if the mood takes me, we have now discovered that I can order 6000 on the internet for the cost of a cup of tea – if the damn internet was working, that is.

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