Monthly Archives: July 2012

21/07/2012

We now have a trailer! We’ve been on the lookout for one for a while now, but the lowest price found to date was just over €650. The thing is, with us being in the middle of nowhere, the only way to purchase DIY materials is with the aid of a trailer. Delivery charges are just ridiculous.

So I fitted the towbar a few days ago, and yesterday LSS was once again looking on the Internet for trailers. Lo and behold, Castorama had a special offer; exactly the type of trailer we were looking for, priced at €499, and including a jockey wheel and cover. So this morning we were up early and headed for Orleans.

After a bit of running around (none of the staff at Castorama seemed to be sure that they actually sold trailers, where they were kept (outside the main entrance) or where the payment for the aforementioned trailer should be done) we finally ended up with one chap who dealt with the transaction. He was a bit condescending initially; but once I’d demonstrated that I knew how to work a trailer hitch and connect the electrical plug, he mellowed a bit. (He said he’d had one customer who took fifteen minutes before he was able to connect the trailer hitch to the towbar. And as soon as he tried to drive off, the trailer remained behind as he’d not fitted the hitch correctly).

I’d brought some duct tape to attach the number plate to the trailer temporarily, but the helpful chap from Castorama whipped out some double-sided tape and proceeded to fix the number plate himself. I should have known better; when we got home, the number plate was missing. I suspect it dropped off as we exited the Castorama car park.

So now we have to go and get another number plate on Monday.

17/07/2012

We finally have a borehole!

The drillers turned up yesterday lunchtime with their drilling machine, and made a start, knocking off just before 6pm.

This morning at 9am they were back on the job, and by lunchtime it was complete. They hit a small amount of water at 5m (that’s the depth of the well), hit a slightly larger flow at 24m, but kept going. At 35m depth they encountered a good flow of water, and chased it until it stopped at 49m. Once they’d put the plastic liner into the hole and filled the outside with sand, the water level had settled; they recommended that the borehole pump be installed at 40m.

I’ll put up a page on the website about the drilling, as I took quite a few photos during the process.

Oh yes – and the towbar for the Hyundai finally arrived today. It was purchased online on the 20th June. When we ordered and paid for it, we were assured it was in stock. Just imagine how long it would have taken to get here if it hadn’t been in stock!

We’ve decided to avoid buying anything else from French companies if we can at all avoid it. Why? As just one example, I bought an SDS+ hammer drill from a company in Belgium – it arrived within two days. On Saturday LSS contacted three companies for a quote for a second-hand shipping container (so we can empty the barn of all our stored boxes and furniture in order to lay a proper floor). One of the companies was Austrian, but unfortunately stated that the enquiry would be passed on to their local (French) agent. On each of these companies’ websites, a rapid response to any enquiries was promised.

So, dear Readers, how many do you think have responded with an actual quote?
Or even an email to say they aren’t going to bother?
Those of you that said “Zero”, have a banana.

12/07/2012

At lunchtime, the borehole drillers still hadn’t turned up, so LSS called them.
“Oh, sorry, there’s been a delay. Didn’t the foreman call you?”
“No.”
“Oh, the naughty man. Isn’t he a scamp! Well, we’ll try and pencil it in for Monday next week.”

Not that there’s any rush, of course. The one thing we have a surfeit of at the moment, is water. Some of you avid readers may have noticed that it’s been a while since I’ve mentioned the weather. This is not to say that we’ve been having marvellous sunshine; it’s simply that the rain has become so commonplace that I don’t even mention it any more. I think since we’ve been in France we’ve had one whole week without rain. The rest of the time it’s just damp. Or windy. Or both. LSS has been struggling with the garden, as the potatoes now have mildew, and the tomatoes are starting to look sickly as well. She’s sprayed everything with copper oxychloride, but even this is having limited effect because no sooner are the plants sprayed, than it starts raining again and everything gets washed off.

So this borehole delay can be seen as just another shining example of French efficiency. No wonder Napoleon lost.

(With apologies to ‘Allo ‘Allo)
“Where are ze rations for all ze horses?”
“So sorry, mon General. Ze suppliers are out of stock, and we can’t get any more horse nuts from zat company in Surrey because zey are Eenglish and don’t want to supply us with any.”
“Merde.”

11/07/2012

After a visit to the bank, the car is now fully insured through Credit Agricole. After much negotiating we ended up with a fairly good deal including roadside assistance, for roughly the same price as the previous UK insurance.

So in the afternoon I fitted the new French number plates; the car looks very odd with these!

Still putting the eyedrops in the cat’s eye every hour or so; the eye itself is improving in appearance but is still half full of blood. It gives her a very evil look!

10/07/2012

Pixie our cat didn’t turn up for breakfast. For her, this was highly unusual, as her most common question appears to be “Ooh, something new. Can I eat it?”

Found her in the “loft” above the workshop. Later in the morning she still hadn’t had breakfast, and she had curled up in the grass near the impending borehole. It seems she had some sort of incident last night and something like a thorn or pine needle had punctured her right eye; it was shut and the eyeball was bloody.

So we shot off to the vet in Salbris. Was very impressed; although we didn’t have an appointment we were seen straight away. It doesn’t appear to be too serious an injury; she had some injections and we have two lots of drops to put in her eye at least ten times a day. So she’s been confined to the house for the next couple of days at least so we can keep an eye on her (in more ways than one).

The vet bill seemed quite reasonable – it would appear veterinary treatment in France is a great deal cheaper than it is in Britain.

09/07/2012

Today the borehole chappie turned up to do some preparatory work. This involved digging three mahoosive holes with a digger. A total of 10 cubic metres of earth was removed. It doesn’t sound like much, but believe me these holes are big! They are to contain the mud/water reserve for the drilling process.

They return on Thursday to drill the borehole itself.

08/07/2012

We went to the equestrian show in Lamotte Beuvron in the afternoon. It’s a lot larger than we thought; as it holds the French National championships there are thousands of people which attend. However, we were nearly flattened several times. Not by horses, as you would think, but by bicycles. There were thousands of those too.

03/07/2012

Our return to Blois was fairly uneventful; we handed over the paperwork (including the Quittus Fiscal!) and were rewarded by being instructed to go to the cashier to pay €211 (€6 for the paperwork, and €205 for Regional Taxes).

Still, I suppose we shouldn’t complain; there are currently no annual road taxes in France, unlike Britain, and the MOT only needs to be done every 2 years, not annually as in Britain. Speaking of MOT’s, here there are specific centres that do MOT’s (called Controle Technique). That is all they do, so unlike garages in Britain which offer an MOT service, there’s no incentive to find things wrong so you can be charged an arm and a leg to fix them. (I’m not saying that all UK MOT garages are like this, but the last one we went to in Reading told us that the lights were not working, which was really strange as I had checked them all myself just before driving to the MOT test.) Draw your own conclusions.

On the way home, with LSS happily clutching her temporary Carte Gris, we stopped and had three new number plates made (1 extra for the future trailer).

I spent the afternoon cutting up some fallen branches at the aged FIL’s house, whilst LSS drove the tractor around, cutting more grass.

Oh yes, and I also received a parcel today; the 1500W rotary hammer which I had purchased from an Ebay seller in Belgium on Sunday. Now that’s what I call rapid service. It was not only cheaper to buy it from Belgium, but quicker to get! Now installing the next windows should be a lot easier.

Wildlife diary: The heron returned to the pond this evening, and after stalking up and down for a few minutes, pounced. We watched it catch a carp about 20cm long. It flew off into the adjacent field to enjoy its dinner. (The heron, not the carp. The carp was dinner).

02/07/2012

Now, I need to give you some background to this post. It involves re-registering a foreign vehicle in France. To do this, you need sundry paperwork including something called a “Quittus Fiscal” which you obtain from your local Hotel des Impots (tax office).

A couple of weeks ago, LSS had called the local tax office, which is the sub-prefecture in Romorantin to ask when she could pop in to get a Quittus Fiscal. This document simply states that tax has been paid on the vehicle.

“What are your opening hours? I’d like to obtain a Quittus Fiscal.”
“A quitty what?”
“A Quittus Fiscal. I’ve brought my vehicle to France from the UK and I need to re-register it on a French number plate.”
“Oh, Quittus Fiscal. No, you don’t need one of those, unless you bought the vehicle specifically to import it to France.”
“No, I’ve had the car for 8 years.”
“Oh, that’s fine then. It falls under your personal property so you don’t need a Quittus Fiscal.”

I suggested that LSS check this information. According to an Internet resource I’d found at http://britishexpats.com/articles/france/registering-motorcycle-car-france/, we needed one. So she called the Head Honcho department itself, the Prefecture in Blois.

“Please can you confirm whether or not I need a Quittus Fiscal in order to re-register my English car in France?” she asked.
“No, you don’t need a Quittus Fiscal any more,” was the reply.

So this morning we were off to the Prefecture in Blois to get the Carte Gris for the Hyundai. It’s only 60 km away but it’s an hour’s drive, because the roads are all “D” roads (D for Departmental).

We reach the counter in the Prefecture.
“Car documents?” queries the clerk behind the counter when LSS explains she’d like a Carte Gris for an English car. The document (V5) was handed over.
“Bon. Request for car re-registration?” Handed over. (Can you see where this is going?)
“Bon. Certificate de Conformité?” Handed over.
“Bon. Quittus Fiscal?”
“Er, what? I specifically called to ask if I needed one and your offices confirmed that I didn’t.”
“Oh no,” the clerk replied. “I don’t know who you spoke to, but you need one.”

Steam started rising from the top of LSS’s head at this point. “So I’ve got to go all the way back to Romorantin to get a document which your offices here told me I didn’t need?” LSS asked sweetly.
I took cover behind a potted plant to avoid being splattered by the clerk’s blood, as I was sure that she was about to be dragged over the counter by the hair and beaten to death with the life-sized marble bust of Marie Antoinette which graced her desk (with the inscription “The people don’t have any bread!” “Hah. Let them eat their Quittus Fiscals.”)

“No,” the clerk said. “You can go to the local Hotel des Impots here to get one. Go out of the building, turn left, and it’s just past the shops.”
I followed in LSS’s wake, dodging the clouds of steam.

“Bloody country! Who in their right minds would want to be French!” she declaimed loudly to the queue of hopefuls waiting in line to get their own vehicle documents.

Of course we had to pop into a local coffee shop to ask directions to the Hotel des Impots. Having been initially directed to the wrong building, we eventually found the right place and informed the receptionist that we required a Quittus Fiscal. We were asked to take a seat whilst the correct employee was found. Unfortunately when this employee arrived, we were informed that Blois could not give us a Quittus Fiscal after all; it had to be issued by the local offices in Romorantin.

The drive home was completed in total silence. We had lunch, then drove the 37 km to Romorantin where we marched into the Hotel des Impots and asked for a Quittus Fiscal. We were told to take a seat, and shortly thereafter a portly bearded man asked us for the vehicle documents (I’d brought the ST1100 documents as well, just in case, although I was still waiting for its Certificate de Conformité – you can read about that particular nightmare here).

The Quittus Fiscal document was filled out within minutes, and handed over to us as easy as you like. So tomorrow we need to go BACK to Blois, this time with all the documents they want. I just hope it’s a different clerk this time. The good thing is that now I have the Quittus Fiscal for the bike too, so as soon as the Certificate de Conformité turns up I can once again visit Blois. France is definitely a nation of paper-pushers. I’ve noticed that every desk has its own photocopy machine.

01/07/2012

All quiet in the pond today, so I went to see if the ducks were still in residence. On the way through the thick grass, I nearly stepped on a snake. I grabbed the cat who had followed me, and locked her indoors. I then went back with a spade to despatch the snake; it had gone. Fortunately, as it happens. Further online investigation revealed it was a non-venomous grass snake, Natrix natrix and not a puff-adder as I had first thought. Of course you don’t get puff-adders in France! Anyway, there was no trace of either duck nor ducklings, so we can only assume that Mr. Fox returned last night and jumped over the fence for a snack.