Wednesday 15 May 2013

A load of crap?

Wow, what a month that was. Technically, there is no such thing as half a hole although you can, of course, have half a whole hole. Well I have to say that the one which was dug in our garden to contain all our effluent is more like a hole and a half. 6000 litres? That’s a whole lot of crap, especially from just two people! You see, this is French bureaucracy once again evolving from the Middle Ages into total ridicule in just one single round of administration.
Since we have been in this house, I have extended it and modified it, this way and that, until we have now ended up with 6 bedrooms to accommodate our deluge of guests who descend on us from time to time. So, says the French government, if you have 6 bedrooms, each one of them will create a thousand litres of effluent and thus you need a septic tank which could viably cope with an entire commune. 1000 litres each, I hear you ask? How much food and drink do they consume in a few weeks? Even with my liberal servings, that doesn’t equate to the output of any normal human being.
Despite my protestations that, were the numbers living on our house spread out equally through the year, we would technically be only 2.35 head, this cut no ice with the local authorities, who have been here three times now, measuring and checking that we have installed our full capacity. Along with the vast underground tank comes 250 metres of 4 inch tubing, a grease-trap, inspection hatches and ventilation shafts, together with a rather hefty bill approaching five figures. The irony of this is, after all this cost, every Frenchman who visits for dinner will still pop round the corner and pee on the lawn!
But then during this installation, another problem arises: that of public holidays. In UK these are generally confined to Mondays, but this is France so ours are on Wednesdays instead - and possibly Thursdays - just to be awkward, and the month of May seems to be chock full of them. Exempt of the National status, I toil away with my shovel and barrow through these significant events - which include carnivals, village fetes, kick-the-beggar and various other general frivolities to celebrate pre-historic French victories – and when they are over, on Friday, I make a desperate trip to the builders merchants, only to find that they have taken a PONT. For those with a smattering of school French, you will recognise this word from the rhyme ‘sur la pont, d’Avignon’. Yes, a bloody bridging-day from holiday to weekend to extend their drinking frenzy. Hence, everything is closed, making it impossible to buy so much as a u-bend!
Hampered by this significant inconvenience, I am now under pressure to complete a bathroom that I can then connect up to our yet-to-be-completed hole in the ground, prior to more guests descending on us in time for Whitsun and our annual bash. It could get messy, in more ways than one!
On the subject of the aforementioned gathering, I am quite startled to discover that this is our seventh one in this house. Yes, for seven years, I have been masquerading as a DIY, plumber, builder, roofer and general labourer as each year more money gets poured into the pit that is our renovation project. The fact that the original plan was to complete it in five years can only partly be blamed on myself, with constant bank holidays, spiralling prices, ridiculous red-tape, my increased writing commitments and human procrastination all sharing the remainder of the excuses.
Once again we will welcome back my sister Sarah, who has made a remarkable recovery from her head injury a couple of years ago. Other guests - which include one friend who has just starred in a Bollywood film and will be on her way back from seeing it featured at the Cannes Film festival - will hopefully be able to enjoy a bit of home-reared lamb and fresh garden produce in the May sunshine.
Except, we haven’t had any! For some reason summer this year has, as yet, failed to get its sandals on, as grey skies prevail, much as they have done in UK. This damp climate not only brings the problem of keeping the lawn maintained, with twice weekly mowing between the showers, but also confines us to indoor TV evenings to shelter from the chilly northerly winds. So, a cunning plan has since been tagged on to the end of the already over-saturated renovation project, to add a fourth terrace to the property – completing the circle, as it were. Utilising the machinery that arrived to dig the cavernous hole mentioned previously, I have now managed to excavate on the more sheltered east side of the house, removing brushwood and trees that were once occupying that space. Hopefully, within a few weeks, even if this weather does persist, we should be able to christen it with Pimms on the East Lawn in casual summer dress - with maybe a quick game of croquet thrown in. What, ho, Chaps!
I must admit, I can’t wait to get back outdoors, to avoid me destroying the TV set with a machine-gun on Wednesday evenings. I am, of course, referring to the return of that programme run by Mr Smug himself, Lord Alan Sugar-lips. Each year an even more self-righteous bunch of imbeciles line up to become his Apprentice, and this year surely takes the biscuit. Why anyone would possibly employ any of these slimy individuals is beyond comprehension, as they bicker and snide with each other with absolutely no sense of business acumen whatsoever? In one episode, team ‘Intolerance’ went to sell kegs of beer at a wine festival! That’s like popping up with a pork curry at a Bah Mitzvar? On another occasion, they are not even able to assemble IKEA furniture. Er. Well, come to think of it, perhaps that is a slightly more challenging task. Anyone seen my Allen Key?