13/04/2012

I cut some more wood for the wood burner. Oh it’s so nice to be able to use a chainsaw again! Which is a weird thing to say. Unless you happen to be a Forestry Officer who hasn’t worked in Forestry for over 20 years. Yes, that would be me.

The other good news is that the aged FIL will be staying in hospital until at least Tuesday next week.

LSS takes the opportunity to catch up on some of the clothes washing. Unfortunately the aged FIL’s equally-aged washing machine is just about to expire. It works fine until it needs to either fill or empty itself; at which point it decides it just can’t be bothered and leaks water all over the kitchen floor.

12/04/2012

Phone and Internet are now working! WE’RE ONLINE AGAIN! Without having to use a dialup telephone line!
The telephone line is still trailing along the ground though; Orange/France Telecom haven’t yet fixed that.

As the morning is bright and sunny, we decided to work on clearing up some of the front garden which is overgrown with nettles and brambles. It’s so nice not to have to look after the aged FIL for a while!

As the afternoon clouds over, an Orange/France Telecom engineer arrives. He immediately spots the fault; (it’s not difficult to see, remember the line is trailing along the ground). However, that’s not his department. He’s actually come to ensure the internet is up and running (it is). He fiddles around with it a bit, and says:
“Ah, ha! You could have a line speed of 2 Mbps!”
“Great!” we enthuse.
“Ah yes, but, if I set it to 2Mbps it won’t be stable. Because of the distance from the exchange it would be best if I set it to 1 Mbps.”
“Ah, well, as long as we’re online, I can’t see it making much difference between 1Mbps and 2Mbps.”
“No, no, you’re right there. However I will need to report back to head office that you only have a 1Mbps connection.”
“Fine, fine, whatever you say.” (Little did we know…)

11/04/2012

We have decided that today is rabbit poo day.

Eh?

Well, the late MIL (Mother-In-Law) used to keep rabbits. (Vegetarians look away now).

These fluffy bunnies were for food, not for pets.

(Right, vegetarians, you can start reading again). Whenever the cages were cleaned out, all the detritus was just dumped in a pile in the garden. Over the years this gradually turned into a very dark brown, rich compost. There must be several tons of it. Well, we decided instead of just leaving it there, we’d dig it into our garden. I managed to start the tractor, and as there was a large metal carrying box already attached to the rear, simply used this to carry two 44-gallon drums full of rabbit poo to the other house. The now-empty 44-gallon drums will become our new compost bins. And every time we visit the other house, we’ll bring back a large tub of the stuff.

LSS started washing the kitchen walls, which are brown in colour. I didn’t say the paint was brown, I said the walls were brown in colour. I think the paint used to be white originally. The ceiling is brown too. I have no idea how we’re going to clean it sufficiently before painting it; I suspect even my industrial-size tub of sugar soap won’t be sufficient. I do have a Karcher pressure washer though. Hmm.

The kitchen

10/04/2012

The aged FIL is taken back to hospital for a scheduled operation. He has diabetic feet and is due to have a sort of balloon inserted into an artery in one leg in order to improve the circulation. However, he insists that he doesn’t have diabetes.

“Yes you do; it’s why you have diabetic feet.”
“No, I don’t have diabetes. I just have a problem with something the doctor described as blood sugar.”
“Yes, that’s called diabetes.”
“Oh, I didn’t know that. I thought I had a problem with blood sugar.”
“Yes, you do.”
“Hah! You see! I don’t have diabetes!”

(Repeat until bored).

09/04/2012

Today was the day we attacked the pantry! Yes, pantry. That small room where you store food. It’s right next to the kitchen, obviously, but strangely the floor level is lower than that of the kitchen so you have to step down into it. Nobody thought about doing anything about the height of the doorframe though. It’s about 4 foot 6 from the floor, which means I have to remember to duck when entering the room. Even LSS has to be careful, and she’s shorter than I am.

The thing is, the shelves were attached to the wall by means of wooden brackets. And not only the shelves, but the wooden brackets too had all succumbed to the dreaded woodworm. (Why do they call it woodworm? It’s a beetle!) Anyway, all the old shelving and the brackets were removed with the aid of a hammer. This was probably overkill; I suspect they would have fallen off by themselves if I’d left them alone for another few days.

The pantry

LSS used the vacuum cleaner to remove the spiders and cobwebs from the ceiling. It’s a wet-and-dry vacuum cleaner, which is probably just as well. Mind you, I don’t think the spiders were particularly concerned about which type of vacuum cleaner it was.

08/04/2012

Could it possibly be Sunday again? Where does the time go?

We went to a restaurant in Salbris with three of LSS’s cousins as a treat. They had not seen LSS for a very, very long time. Twenty years? Something like that.

07/04/2012

Not much progress to report; the aged FIL is still taking up much of our time. We did manage to plant the tree seedlings which we brought over from the UK; four elders, two (possibly) peach trees – at least the leaves look like peach leaves but we can’t be sure as neither LSS nor I can remember planting peach trees; and something which could possibly be a cherry tree when it grows up.

I managed to clean up the “orchard” (simply a row of about 8 trees in a small clearing in the woodland – the trees had been planted about 15 years ago and abandoned). None of them are as tall as they should be, which is not that surprising as they were choked with weeds and brambles. They’re looking a lot tidier now. I think two of them are walnuts. There are a couple of apple trees, and two dead sticks. And an anthill.

For the first time we boiled some water using the kitchen wood burner – came in extremely handy for our bath in the garden! I used a couple of my old army ponchos in order to screen the bath from the prevailing winds…

The bath with a view

06/04/2012

Orange/France Telecom visited today! They connected up the telephone line but obviously it’s not working yet. Once they had gone we wandered down the road to see how they had installed it. They had used the existing EDF electricity poles, and simply strung the telephone line from pole to pole. Not very well, either. The cable was tangled in some tree branches next to the road (the branches that are regularly pruned by the local Department of Roads branch-chopping machines), and the last bit of the line (furthest from the house) is trailing along the ground. We can’t even call them yet to tell them to come back to fix it!

04/04/2012

My apologies for the break in transmission, but this was due to circumstances beyond our control.

The truth of the matter is that we are spending the majority of our time looking after the aged FIL. We jump out of bed in the morning and drive to the other house, get him out of bed, take him to the lavatory, and feed him. Then we put him back to bed, drive back to our house, manage to do one or two things and then it’s time to drive back to the other house to get him out of bed, take him to the lavatory, and feed him lunch. Then we put him back to bed, drive back to our house, manage to do one or two things, (have you noticed a sense of déjà vu yet?) and then it’s time to drive back to the other house to get him out of bed, take him to the lavatory, and feed him dinner. Then we put him back to bed, drive back to our house, and pretty much collapse with exhaustion. Generally we need to do his shopping as well, which also involves visiting the chemist for all his prescriptions (literally two shopping bags full, I’m not joking). Unfortunately things can’t continue in this vein; we just don’t have much time to get on with the renovation of our house.

In fact now that we think about it, the hospital in Vierzon has not done a good job at all. The aged FIL was simply discharged. No chat with the doctor about what care he should have at home. No word about any special diet. No advice about what assistance is available. No nothing.

The LSS was so annoyed about this she wrote a two-page letter of complaint to the director of the hospital expressing her displeasure with the way the discharge was handled. She mentioned this to the aged FIL who was in complete agreement; this was not the way he should have been treated. He was, in fact, quite annoyed with the hospital, and said that LSS should also mention this in the letter.

I have managed to clear away the banked earth from the side of the house to expose the foundations, revealing lots of missing bricks. Fortunately it’s a double wall otherwise I suspect it would have collapsed by now. The temperature is still below zero at night, and with no insulation in the house it’s pretty chilly! The wood stove is proving to be a real blessing.

Mind you, on a positive note we have managed to order our phone line which came as a bundle with unlimited Internet (hooray!) and television (which we won’t be using as our television is still in a box somewhere in the barn. We don’t intend using it other than for watching DVD’s. It’s an old analogue model so can’t receive the modern French digital signal anyway – this will come in handy when they come around to enquire why we don’t have a license).

We also requested a letter box from the Post Office.

Cat appears extremely happy and is proving to be a hit with the local mouse population. Literally. But she still eats her dinner and is not putting on weight. She must have hollow legs.

29/03/2012

French Supermarket Petrol Stations

These are usually the cheapest place to buy petrol. This low price, however, has its disadvantages. If you arrive before opening hours, you have to wait patiently until the little hand moves to one minute past the official opening hour. At this point the cashier-attendant suddenly appears from nowhere, and ambles slowly into the little kiosk, where he presses the magic button and the petrol pump display windows flicker into life.

The other disadvantage with the Supermarket petrol station involves the actual payment for your petrol – especially if you don’t have a French bank card, a Carte Bleu, (which means you can use the automated pump).

So you have to drive forward to the cashier. This is when you discover that when the cashier kiosks were first designed, the Renault 2CV was the only car available in France, and the kiosk design has not changed in the intervening years. From any other car you have to lie down on the passenger seat, and extend your double-jointed arm downwards through the car window, then upwards into the little tunnel at the kiosk, in order to put your card into the machine which the cashier is usually holding just out of your reach. Entering your card pin number involves further contortions, and if you wear spectacles you normally end up with them dangling upside-down from one ear. None of this is helped by the fact that the cashier kiosk is always on the left-hand side of the car. Of course, for a left-hand drive vehicle this is fine. But for our right-hand drive vehicle it’s a problem.

Actually, I say it’s fine. Well it isn’t. I’ve seen drivers of left-hand drive vehicles struggling too. Fortunately LSS is generally in the passenger seat, but even then she has to fold her arm into sundry different positions in order to pay for the petrol, no matter how close I can bring the vehicle to the side of the building.

The other option of course is to leave your vehicle where it is once you have filled the tank, and walk to the kiosk. The height of the window means you have to crouch down to pay, but this certainly makes things easier. However, even this method has a disadvantage. When you have paid and return to your car, the vehicle next to you shoots forward to the cashier, blocking you in. And inevitably the driver will be a long-lost cousin of the cashier, leading to a long conversation.

We fetched the aged FIL from the hospital this afternoon. I sensed an air of disapproval from him about my driving; maybe I wasn’t going fast enough. Or maybe it was just that he was unsettled about being in the left-hand seat of a right-hand drive car. He didn’t say a word though, which is probably just as well as I probably wouldn’t have understood him anyway. LSS managed to borrow a wheelchair from her cousin; I had to pump up the tyres as they were a bit flat.