Monthly Archives: November 2014

29/11/2014

Well, the aged FIL is still in the recuperation centre, so my prediction turned out to be false. Of course the reason for this is that he actually hasn’t been made to do any exercises yet. And the reason for that is that he’s still not eating properly, so doesn’t even have the strength to stand on his own two feet unaided. For breakfast he’ll have a piece of bread and a cup of hot chocolate. Then for lunch and dinner, the only thing he’ll eat is the dessert, which is a yoghurt. One of his favourite foods (chocolate) is no longer allowed; the staff have said he’s not supposed to eat sweet things because of his diabetes. (So is it better to eat some of the wrong stuff, or eat nothing at all?) LSS has bought some little rice puddings to take to him.

Apparently he’s no longer saying he wants to be in his bed; it’s the cemetery which has now replaced his desired location. The resident psychologist has been scheduled to see him.

26/11/2014

The aged FIL is now in the recuperation centre in Lamotte, a town nearby, so at least it will be easier to visit him there. Personally I think he’ll be home fairly soon, because he will refuse to do any of the exercises they give him (“I just want to be in my bed!!!”) but LSS thinks the staff will be made of sterner stuff. We’ll see who’s right.

LSS telephoned them yesterday to check that he’d arrived all right. She tried to give them some background information: a) that he wasn’t eating and b) he was a difficult character – therefore don’t take “No” for an answer. Unfortunately the staff member was not very receptive to this. She simply replied “Well, you’re his daughter”, and implied that they did not accept advice from family members. I guess they’ll just have to find out the hard way (see my prediction in the first paragraph).

The crazy thing is that the aged FIL is quite capable of discharging himself and telling them to take him back home NOW. LSS did try to point out that if this happened, they were to call her first so that she could arrange matters (otherwise they could arrive to discover the house locked, and LSS giving English lessons miles away in Bourges). I don’t think they listened.

Interestingly, the aged FIL has received the first bill in the series for medical care. Transport from Orleans hospital to Paris hospital in an ambulance: €369.90. (This is completely covered by his health insurance).

The server is now fully functional, with a backup schedule running. It’s really given me a headache – but at the same time has been quite fun. The weather has played along, by being grey and miserable, so I’ve been quite happy to be indoors. Unfortunately it looks as though the barn floor won’t be finished this year; unless we have the mildest of mild winters.

We’ve booked our ticket for the UK trip in December. We had intended to ask T&M to feed the cat and look after the hens for the week we’ll be away. But unfortunately M is now looking for her own accommodation, and T is apparently hardly ever home, as he seems to be spending most of his time with the new girlfriend. So we had to use Plan B : we’ve asked Mrs D, one of the aged FIL’s carers, to take care of the animals instead. She drives past here almost daily anyway, en route to another of her aged clients. As for the rabbits – at time of writing we only have two youngsters left; and by the time we leave there’ll only be Mrs. Bunny. She will have a week’s holiday, as we’re taking her to neighbour J. And whilst she’s there she’ll be put with one of the males, so the whole circus can start again next year.

Unfortunately the latest batch of four rabbit pelts have not turned out very well. They were hung in the workshop to dry, just as the weather turned grey, damp, and miserable. Instead of drying they started moulding instead. I gave them a bath in some borax solution to kill the mould, but they have refused to soften like the first lot; instead the leather is like cardboard and the hair has started to slip in places.

21/11/2014

Well, the aged FIL has finally left Paris. He’d decided he still wasn’t going to eat, so they put him on a drip. LSS will be going to Orleans tomorrow.

I spent the day typing commands like “sudo apt-get samba”. The new server is now up and running, but I struggled to find a suitable backup program which a) runs on Debian Linux and b) can talk to a Lacie NAS. I finally found one called FreeFileSync. It’s now backing up gigabytes of data.

Today’s subject: Dealing with unsolicited telephone calls (cold callers). Ever since our telephone was installed, we’ve been getting cold calls. These normally take the format of: “Hello, I’m calling on behalf of EDF/Orange (select one or the other)…” and then they try and sell me something. Of course EDF (or Orange) has simply sold them a list of telephone numbers; they’re not calling on EDF’s behalf at all.
Unfortunately my French isn’t good enough to tell them where to go, so normally I just let the phone ring until the answering machine responds. We have caller display so I can see if it’s someone in our phone list. Of course they never leave a message.

If they call several times in a row, I sometimes add their telephone number to the “Call Barred” list, which means the next time they ring they get the “number unobtainable” sound. Occasionally I answer, if I’m in the right mood. If I do answer the phone, I have two choices. I can let them explain their reasons for calling me and how fortunate I am that they have a special offer on at this specific moment in time, and then say in English “I’m afraid I didn’t quite understand all that. I don’t suppose you speak English, do you?” Generally they say “Er, non.” and hang up. Once they asked (in French) “Oh, but is there nobody there that speaks French?” To which I of course said no.

On one occasion though, the chap replied “Yes, I spik good English.” “Oh good!” I exclaimed. “So what is it you want?”
“I am calling with the name of ze Ur-Dee-Ef, and we is having, um, er….” <click>
I guess his English wasn’t quite as good as he thought.

My second choice is to give answers which don’t quite fit their script. For example: “We have been checking electricity consumption in your area, and noticed you have been using a lot of electricity recently.” (Which is a lie).
Ah, bon?” I say. (“Oh, really?”)
“We have a special deal on at the moment and can help you save lots of money on your energy usage through solar panels! To take advantage of this offer, I first need to conduct a brief survey. Is that all right?”
Oui.
“Great! So, firstly, what method of heating your home do you use: Gas, Electricity, or Fuel?”
Du bois et panneaux solaires.” (“Wood and solar.”) Quite true, actually.
“Oh. Um. Er….” <click>

Lately I’m using another method. As soon as I know that it IS a cold call, I gently put the phone down on the desk, letting them read through their script until they realise nobody’s listening, and disconnect. Then I replace the handset.

17/11/2014

Well, the aged FIL did not come back from Paris. They carried out some more tests, and are not too happy with the results; so they’re keeping him until Thursday at least. Oh I’ll bet he’s not happy.

It was another rainy day , but as luck would have it the new second-hand computer I bought on Ebay arrived in the morning, so I spent most of the day installing and configuring Linux. It is destined to be our new file server; the old one is just too slow, and is causing LSS to use lots of interesting French words whenever she needs to copy-and-paste some documents for her English lessons coursework.

Unfortunately we had some bad news in the evening; T&M are no longer going to be T&M, but separate letters. I’ll leave you to work that one out.

16/11/2014

Cat brought another mouse home. The majority of cats will get mice out of a house. Ours brings them in. I think it’s a protest against the brand of catfood we’re giving her recently (Carrefour) as she’s decided she’s not eating that. Well, if she doesn’t eat it, the hens get it. And their reaction to it is gratifying. Actually their reaction is the same no matter what sort of food we give them:
“Pork! This is the Best. Thing. Ever!”

We’re lighting the kitchen range more frequently recently. Well, I suppose it is that time of year. LSS quite enjoys cooking on it. Which is nice. The down side is that I need to refill the wood cupboard more often!

You won’t believe it, but the pumpkin beer is still fermenting. Tomorrow will be the start of the fourth week. Admittedly, I refitted the heating belt last week, which has given the yeast a boost, temperature-wise. But I measured the specific gravity (1.030) and fermentation isn’t quite finished yet. A reading as close to 1.000 as possible is good, although it can be bottled once the reading drops below 1.020. The initial reading before fermentation was 1.065, so the result should be an 8% beer.

The aged FIL is returning from Paris to the hospital in Orleans tomorrow. We expect he’ll be ensconced in the local recuperation centre before the end of next week. The thing is, because the hospital food is not what he is accustomed to eating, he has apparently once again decided he simply won’t eat. This is the very thing which caused him to end up in hospital before we arrived in France.

14/11/2014

The weather forecasters were correct, for once. They had predicted rain. And rain we have. So today will be spent indoors as much as possible. This is fine, as there are lots of little jobs to do which don’t involve going outside. Sharpening a chainsaw chain is one example. But as it’s not that warm at the moment, I also lit the boiler stove.

LSS has been giving English lessons to a lady in Chaumont. Hearing that we kept hens, she asked whether she could buy eggs from LSS; so we now have another regular customer. Last week she was saying that she was a bit short of money these days. The conversation turned to growing one’s own food, and the lady asked if LSS would like her kitchen scraps for the hens. “Of course”, she replied. So this week saw the first plastic bucket of kitchen scraps arrive. But we had a surprise when we opened it.

Underneath the empty eggshells and squidgy apple, there was a nearly-complete lettuce, in fairly good condition. As the chickens don’t like lettuce (which apparently is rather strange – normal chickens supposedly love it), we ate it – having washed it first, of course. There were about six carrots. All in good condition. Chickens don’t eat carrots. But we do – and the remaining bunnies get the peelings. And the pièce de résistance – a complete untouched sweet melon. There was absolutely nothing wrong with it unless you count a small brown spot on the skin. The poor old hens didn’t get that either. We did. Mind you, they got some of the seeds (LSS having carefully conserved some to plant in the garden next year).

Short of money? I can see why. We have no qualms about rescuing and eating perfectly good food; after all we used to go bin-diving in the UK. It’s not that we can’t afford groceries, we just hate waste.

I wonder what kitchen scraps we’ll get next week?

11/11/2014

Cat didn’t turn up for breakfast. I found that she had spent the entire day in a box on a high shelf in my workshop, which she can access from the roof. It appears she’s had another incident, and has injured one of her back legs. It doesn’t seem too bad, but we’ll keep an eye on her for a few days. She’s due to visit the vet pretty soon anyway for her annual booster. No wonder they say cats have nine lives…

As it was a sunny day, and a reasonably warm one, I spent the day pouring lime concrete. One concrete mixer load fills the wheelbarrow. I mixed and poured 17 loads, which completed another two forms in the first quarter of the barn. Now as long as the temperature stays above freezing in the barn for the next ten days, all should be well!

09/11/2014

The aged FIL had his operation yesterday. Surgeons working on Saturdays? What is France coming to? Anyway, apparently all went well.

To take a break from the run-of-the-mill stuff like house renovation or wood-cutting, I decided to do some electrical work on the ST1100. Over a year ago my radio remote control stopped working, and as it is a discontinued item, my only option was to find a different solution. I purchased a diskless head unit which has a USB input, and separated the fascia from the body. The fascia (the bit with the display and buttons) will be mounted on the dash shelf of the bike. The rest of the head unit will go in the tail section under the seat. They will be connected by a long length of FFC (flexible flat cable) sourced from, of course, China. Doing it this way will free up space in the top box. But naturally this meant that all wiring currently stuffed into the tail section needed to be tidied up first. And of course I encountered the usual seized bolts which needed to be drilled out and re-tapped. Nothing ever goes smoothly!

As usual these days, in the afternoon I cycled down the lane to the postbox. The trees are now looking amazing in their autumn colours with the leaves a mix of red, brown and gold.

LSS received a parcel the other day. It was a belated birthday present from a friend in Paris, who stayed with us for a week a while ago. The parcel was rather heavy. Upon opening it, LSS discovered it contained three tins of Heinz baked beans! They’re not readily available here; but supermarkets in Paris obviously have them. So our Sunday breakfast was bacon, eggs, and baked beans!

We’ve done things a bit differently this week. Because Tuesday next week is a bank holiday, LSS’s English lessons have changed around a bit, meaning she won’t have time to do the food shopping in between lessons as is normally the case. So instead, we stocked up on groceries today. And, for once, I went along.

The pumpkin beer is still fermenting. It will have been doing so for three weeks on Monday. This is the longest fermenting beer I’ve ever made – normally it only takes a week!

07/11/2014

As predicted, the weather has turned cold, wet and windy. It’s not that it’s too cold to pour the lime concrete; after all, it’s indoors. It’s just that it’s not very pleasant working outside in these conditions. Instead I cleaned out the kitchen woodstove, and lit it. At least it warms the house up a bit. Even the cat (who spends most of her time outside) has decided that indoors is the best place to be.

T&M dropped in yesterday to give us the spent barley from his beer-brewing. The hens love this. In return we gave him some eggs.

05/11/2014

Happy Guy Fawkes day! No, we won’t be having a bonfire, unless you count the boiler stove. And as for fireworks, I don’t think individuals can buy fireworks in France. I certainly haven’t seen any places selling them.

I see from my access logs that persons from several different countries are trying to hack into this blog by attempting to log in to the admin account. Fortunately, having worked in IT myself, I know some tricks to make the login quite secure.

The lemon tree (which we’ve grown from seed) has now been moved into the polytunnel for its own good, as the outside temperature has been steadily dropping. It’s several years old now, but has still not produced any lemons.

In the morning I took the trailer to the local quarry, and came back with a load of sand. I can never quite believe their prices. Buying a 20kg bag of sand in a DIY place here would set you back around €5. Well, I came back with 500kg. For €5.58.