This fairly lengthy post was written on the 2nd June. However, it has only been published today; the 1st July, for reasons you’ll discover shortly.
We’ve been finding out what it must be like to live in India. During the monsoon season. With the exception of the heat, of course. It has rained rather a lot recently; in fact it rained solidly for some 36 hours before stopping for a brief respite. Then it started again. Of course the rivers are all in flood, and a lot of roads are impassable. Apparently the river levels are at their highest ever recorded.
As we’re on a somewhat elevated piece of land, we’re not at any risk of flooding. However, the water table has now intersected the soil surface in many areas. Including inside the barn. Obviously the splishy-splashy bit is in a small area which we have not yet fully excavated for the lime concrete floor. Where the floor has been laid, it’s fine. The pond had started backing up into the garden, so I went out in the downpour to examine the overflow pipe where it exits into the ditch. It had become blocked with leaves and growing ivy; and once this obstruction had been cleared, it started gushing strongly. The pond took two days to reach its normal “full” level; because it is currently receiving all the rainwater from half of the house roof area as well as the treated greywater from the reedbed.
LSS thinks her garden is now probably beyond saving, so she’s Not a Happy Bunny.
The road to the Aged FIL is completely submerged. At the moment, when we need to go to his house, we’re having to use the tractor.
But the worst thing about the weather is not, as you may think, the quantity of water.
Our connection to the Internet went down on Monday 30th May. So we have no telephone, and no emails. And as mobile reception here is poor to say the least, we’re pretty much cut off from the world. LSS took the tractor to the Aged FIL’s house where she used his telephone to report the problem to Orange. She also dug out one of the Aged FIL’s old radios so we can at least listen to some news. Although it’s a bit irritating at the moment because the main topic of conversation on all the stations is football, which neither of us like.
The poor hens are looking decidedly bedraggled. Two of them have taken the opportunity to become broody, so we’ve constructed two separate nest boxes for them. One of them is fine with the idea, but the other one kept leaving her nest to go outside. She then couldn’t remember where her nest was; so ended up sitting in one of the normal nests. We’ve now enclosed the two birds completely so they can’t get out even if they wanted to. And we’ve put ten eggs under each.
No work can be done outside, of course. But the shower has now finally been installed. It has been tested, and works fine. Even the drainage, which was concerning me slightly, is able to evacuate the water if the shower is at full flow. The only work now remaining in the bathroom is to install the last tiles at the tap-end of the bath, and then grout this area. Then the painting can be done, and we can finally mark the bathroom as completed.
The deerskin which I tanned has now dried, which is surprising due to the dampness of the air. Mind you, it has not turned out quite as I expected. It is rather stiff, and also nearly completely transparent. Once the Internet connection is restored I will have to do some research on why this has occurred; and if it is possible to salvage it. I suppose it’s still usable; after all, I just wanted to use a piece of it to make some soles for my planned moccasins.
Unfortunately the newest Mrs. Bunny died. Luckily the kits were four weeks old when this occurred, so they were already eating solid food. All ten seem to be doing fine.
And we now have a new post-box. This was not actually planned. You see, last week our neighbour (the one with the gîte) came past to get some eggs. On his way through the village, he had had an altercation with another motorist; because he had not realised the other motorist had a right-of-way. It all stems from a rather silly French rule, called “Priorité à droite” which I understand as follows: if a vehicle is approaching an intersection from your right, he has right of way; unless his road is marked with a “Give Way” or “Stop” sign. So even if you’re travelling on a main road, a vehicle could quite easily exit a side road right in front of you; and it’s up to you to stop and let him out.
If you live in a country which drives on the left, think of it this way: any vehicle joining your road from the left has the right of way. Unless they happen to have a “Give Way” or “Stop” sign. But it’s your responsibility to look into this side road to see if there are any of these signs!
Anyway, although our neighbour raised his hand in apology, the other motorist developed that condition known as road rage. He obviously knew who our neighbour was; and followed him. Whilst our neighbour was here chatting to me, the other motorist had stopped at the entrance to the gîte, and was systematically destroying our neighbour’s post-box. It was completely smashed. So obviously this was reported to the post office, and a couple of days later they not only replaced his post-box with the latest style, but changed ours as well. The only down-side of this is that the key to the new version of post-box is huge; even bigger than our house door key.
The other motorist was driving a light-blue Citroen C5. If we find out who it is, I’ll let you know.
In other news, there are currently lots of strikes in France in protest at the proposed new labour laws. At the moment the CGT union has been blockading petrol refineries; so at petrol stations there are signs prohibiting the filling of jerrycans. Of course, as this is France, this means that there are queues of pensioners with their car boots full of 5-litre plastic jerrycans which they proceed to fill; in order to avoid the horrendous consequences of having their lawnmowers run out of petrol. And this means motorists who DO need petrol urgently may well find themselves stuck, because the petrol station tanks have run dry. Which is what happened to one of the Aged FIL’s carers. So she didn’t turn up to feed him lunch. In fact she had to abandon her car and get a lift home.
Fortunately LSS has not been affected at this point; although she does a lot of driving in the course of her work giving English lessons, the petrol stations she has visited have not had fuel shortages. Yet. Elsewhere in the country things have not been quite as good.
For a while now, we have been receiving weekly kitchen food scraps for our hens from the mother of one of LSS’s pupils. “We don’t like waste,” she said. “In fact we’ve been to Africa, and seen how there is a shortage of food in some places. So we’re very careful – especially the children – not to waste food.”
Thank goodness for that. I would hate to see what they would be throwing away if they were not especially careful. You see, today’s kitchen scraps bucket contained – in addition to potato peelings – a ripe tomato, a generous helping of rice, two half-baguettes, a merguez sausage, an ordinary sausage, two hard-boiled eggs, a pork chop, and an entire beef-steak. In the past the bucket has contained slabs of chocolate; cakes; two complete duck breasts; over 1kg of roast pork; and on one occasion an entire roast chicken. We’ve rescued apples and nectarines, oranges and tangerines. And once an entire pineapple. Of course the hens didn’t eat these. We did.
Today LSS once again telephoned Orange using the Aged FIL’s phone to tell them about our continuing lack of telephone and Internet. Their automated system said that yes, there was a problem with our line. They would be dispatching an engineer, and the line would be reconnected by the 11th; in other words in 9 days’ time! In the interim, they’ve offered us a 4G box as a substitute to be able to access the Internet. Of course, where we live it’s difficult to even get a GSM signal, let alone 3G. So a 4G box would be as much use as a chocolate teapot.
We therefore visited Friend E in the village, taking the laptop along. She let us use her Internet connection. Because of the poor mobile reception where we live, I had previously set up my mobile so that any voice messages are sent to me via email. And when I checked my emails, there was a voice message from Orange saying the problem was now affecting several persons, and it would be resolved tomorrow at the latest. So which is it? Left hand, this is right hand, how do you do?
[Update 03/06: Visiting Friend E again, I received a text message on my mobile, saying we would be reconnected by the 6th. So we now have three possible re-connection dates: the 3rd – which is today and therefore increasingly unlikely; the 6th; and the 11th.]
[Update 04/06: As suspected, we were not reconnected on the 3rd. We once again visited Friend E, where LSS telephoned Orange to get an update. We were told that this was a general problem. We were just one of those affected by an outage affecting an entire area; and some people had been without a telephone since the 18th May. Or in other words, stop complaining. The new possible re-connection date is now the 7th.]
[Update 06/06: Well, the second date has come and gone. Still no telephone or Internet. Two dates to go…]
[Update 07/06: Nope. Still not connected.]
[Update 08/06: We once again visited Friend E in the village, where LSS once again called Orange to get a progress report.
“What? Your telephone isn’t working? There was a general problem in your area. But it was resolved on Monday 6th!”
“Well it’s certainly not resolved. We still have no phone and no internet.”
“Oh, it must be a problem with YOUR line then. It will be resolved within 48 hours.”
“So that’s by Friday 10th then?”
We’re not holding our breath. Anyone want to sell us a satellite dish?]
[Update 09/06: I received a text message on my mobile, saying we would be reconnected by 18:00 today.]
[Update 10/06: We weren’t.]
[Update 11/06: Guess what? Correct. Still no telephone or Internet. In the morning we again visited Friend E. She works at a local school, and has given us her spare house keys so that we can use her Internet if she’s not there, which is rather decent of her. Aside from the current Internet debacle, we normally see her at least once a week, and when visiting us she always brings a home-baked cake or muffins. She loves baking, and this is unfortunately evident by her size. We give her some eggs fairly frequently; apart from the baking, her young son likes to have boiled eggs for breakfast on Sundays. In return, she insisted on paying for one of the youngest hens, so as a result we named the hen after her.
Anyway, LSS tried yet again to contact Orange, without success. When she eventually got through to their automated system, a voice said (in French) “Thank you for calling Orange. Good-bye.” <click>
She tried again several times, and when she finally managed to get through, the same thing happened again. Later in the afternoon LSS tried yet again. This time, she was able to speak to somebody. Of course it was a call centre somewhere in North Africa. She was told that this was a general problem, and we were just one of those affected by an outage affecting an entire area.
“You’re just reading from a script of random answers, aren’t you?” asked LSS. “You see, we were told initially that this was a general problem. Then we were told this general problem had been resolved, so it was a problem with our line. Now you’re saying it’s a general problem again.”
“We’re paying for a service which we’re just not getting.”
“Oh, you will receive some compensation.”
“That’s not good enough. Look, it’s not YOUR fault. But Orange needs to sort this out. We live in the countryside; mobile reception is poor, my father’s ill in bed, and without the phone we can’t be contacted. If anything happens to my father which could have been prevented by us being contactable, I shall be getting a lawyer and taking your derrières to court.”
“We can send you a 4G box in the interim.”
“I’m sure the ducks in the pond would love to play with it.”
“Did I not just tell you that mobile reception here was poor? We have several friends who have 4G boxes – and even in some areas of Paris it just doesn’t work.”
“Oh. Right. Well, we will contact you with an update.”
“We have your mobile number, we’ll call you on that.”
“Were you not listening? I can only use my mobile when I’m in town. Use your imagination. Put yourself in my position for a moment. Imagine that you live in the middle of the countryside. Your mobile doesn’t work, because there’s no signal. And there’s a problem with your land-line, so that doesn’t work either. What are you going to do?”
“Oh. Yes, I do understand. Maybe we can send you a text message.”
I’ve asked a friend in the UK to research satellite Internet service providers. Our plan now is to get another telephone installed; an old-fashioned analogue type rather than an Internet phone. We’ll use a different company for Internet access; perhaps via satellite. Then we can get rid of this current setup.
[Update 14/06: LSS again called Orange from Friend E’s. “There’s a problem in your area; it will be resolved within 48 hours.”
“Oh yes. Well, you may think this strange, but I don’t believe you. I’ve heard that twice this month already,” LSS replied.
“No you haven’t!”
“Yes I have. On the 2nd of June, and again on the 8th.”
“No, really. You’ll be reconnected in 48 hours. Really you will. Truly, honestly, cross my heart and hope to work for Orange.”
“Right, I’ll be calling you back in 48 hours then.”
[Update 16/06: 48 hours later…. and LSS called Orange from Friend E’s. This time we’ve been promised that we’ll be reconnected by tomorrow midnight. So I guess we’ll be calling them again on Saturday morning.]
[Update 18/06: Well, goodness gracious me. Guess what earth-shattering event happened at midnight last night? At precisely midnight, the little flashing red light on the Orange livebox continued flashing red. I did not see this event, as I was fast asleep at the time.
We again went to Friend E where LSS called Orange. This time she asked to speak to a manager, but was told this was not possible, as Orange’s procedures do not allow it. Instead, the <start sarcasm> very helpful telephone person </end sarcasm> arranged that a manager will be calling LSS on Monday. At 21:00. On her mobile. So on Monday night LSS will have to drive into the village where she can receive a signal on her mobile.
This is going to be the last update for this particular post. Otherwise it will turn into a book in its own right. This afternoon I am going to be taking the laptop to the gîte next door where I will hide behind a bush and use their wi-fi to do some Internet research on satellite dishes, and then sign up for a satellite Internet service. If you are reading this post, you may take it for granted that we finally re-appeared in the online world.]
I think one could expect this sort of service in a third-world country. But in Europe? I’m starting to think that the France of today IS a third-world country.
But we don’t have any alternatives; what used to be France Telecom is now Orange. Although I had suggested switching to Bouygues Telecom, LSS said that this would not help, because they would just go through Orange, who are the sole suppliers of the infrastructure. And the reason that this is such a problem for us is that the telephone itself is essential in case the Aged FIL pushes his emergency button. And how would we contact the emergency services if there was a fire or medical problem? The telephone line is also the gateway to the Internet. These days everything is done online; from supplying one’s electricity reading, to checking one’s bank account and filling in tax forms. LSS also needs to be able to access a company’s website to fill in timesheets for her English lessons. I need to liaise with a publisher and printer because my next book is due out on the 15th. Submissions of proofs and all that malarkey is done electronically nowadays. Yes, we could copy everything onto the laptop and use that at Friend E’s house, but it’s a right pain in the proverbial. However, if access to the Internet is not restored by the middle of next week, this is probably what we’ll have to do.*
Anyway, as we were able to access the Internet at the friend’s house, we had a look at the local news. The nearby town of Salbris has been hard hit by the overflowing river, and lots of houses are flooded. There is also no drinking water available because sewers have overflowed and contaminated the town supply. I’m pleased that we made the decision to go for a dry composting toilet and a 49m deep borehole.