Orange (formerly France Telecom) has been annoying us again.
Since the end of December, the status light on the Livebox has been performing like a traffic light. Red. Orange. Green. Repeat. With more of an emphasis on the red status. Just like a traffic light. So we’ve had intermittent phone and internet service. It seems to be at its worst when it’s windy; although it does also go down on perfectly windless days. And even when it IS working, the Internet connection is somewhat slow.Speed test Fortunately (since the last Orange debacle) we now have Satellite Internet as well. Which is much faster (see the spike in the “History” section of the above image). Unfortunately we have a 20Gb per month limit, so we tend to use it only when Orange is not working.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, an engineer visit was arranged.
When he arrived, he took one look and instantly diagnosed the problem.
These guys are GOOD. And experts in their field.
No, not really.

“Ah-ha!” he said. (In French of course). “I have taken one look and instantly diagnosed your problem. Come with me.” We went outside. Now the Orange phone line is attached to the EDF electricity pylons. Which run alongside the communal road traversing the property. And underneath these pylons is a hedge. Well, I say hedge. It’s a mixture of birch, oak and sloes in a line. And their upper branches are rubbing on the cable, which is approximately 4 metres from the ground.

The engineer explained that the rubbing of the branches on the cable was causing the problem, and he was unable to fix it until we cut all the branches. Now I will point out that further down the road, the telephone line is in a very poor state, having come off several of its support brackets. It is nearly touching the ground in places, and is obviously fairly old. It is no longer black in colour, but a sort of pale green due to the covering of moss and lichen. According to the engineer, the problem does not lie here; but rather with the approximately 5-year-old wiring which Orange installed after we’d moved in. Now I’m not an Orange engineer. But I very much doubt he’s right. Still, there’s nothing we can do about it other than carry out his instructions; they will quite obviously refuse to repair anything until such time as the line is completely branch-free.

So pretty much all work on the barn had to stop in order for us to take care of the hedge. We’ve now cut the entire lot back, by hand, to a height of approximately two metres. I suppose a couple of good things have come out of this exercise. We have some firewood. And lots of smaller branches which can be chipped and added to the garden as mulch. By the way, it does not matter which brand of gloves you use when dealing with sloes. You still end up with thorns embedded in your hands. They’re called Prunus spinosa for a reason.

Here’s what the hedge looks like now (note the branch-free Orange line – the lower of the two):

Orange telephone line

The trimmed hedge

And as we were in the mood for trimming stuff, the ivy over the garage had a haircut too:

Trimmed ivy

Drastic haircut

The ivy had reached the ridgeline of the roof, and had also grown through the eaves INTO the garage, where it was busily engaged in colonising the interior walls, and engulfing all the bits and pieces we have stored there.

We’ve had our first sub-zero temperatures of the season. Nothing spectacular; minus 8 degrees C is the lowest so far. And two full days of snow – although not consecutive. At the time of writing it lies approximately 10 cm deep.

“But hang on a minute,” you say. “What about Orange? Is it working fine now? Was the engineer correct? Were the branches the cause of the problem? Are you eating humble pie? With ketchup?”

In a word, No.
Since the hedge has been trimmed, the Livebox is still behaving like a traffic light. We’re going to have to ask for another engineer visit. Not at the moment though; with all the snow, the roads are considered impassable for school buses and Orange engineers. Although LSS is still happily out and about giving English lessons.

There’s fortitude for you.

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