Orange/France Telecom turn up again. Engineer number 4. This time it’s only one engineer, but with a proper high-lift cherry-picker vehicle. I suspect he’s the divisional manager because he does a thorough job; undoing the work of engineers 1 and 3 and re-doing it properly by fixing metal extension arms to the EDF pylons so that the telephone line avoids the tree branches. This is handy because when the local roads department come past once a year with their tree-branch cutting machine, it would have been a certainty that our telephone line would have been chopped into little pieces in several places.

Other than that, our research on where we can get DIY stuff is proving to be very annoying. Shopping for DIY stuff in France is not simple. Unlike Britain where companies have websites where you can add stuff to a basket, click Checkout and it tells you how much delivery is, this is not the case here. Yes, all right, we live in the middle of nowhere, but still! Come on people, this is the 21st century after all. Take Leroy Merlin’s website as an example. Half the stuff we wanted is not available to buy online. LSS called them to enquire about delivery charges, and was told that it depends on how many pallets are in the order. To deliver one pallet: a massive 79 euros! She then called Castorama – they charge 160 euros for delivery no matter what size the order! The small company in Aubigny called Weldom offers a 30 euros delivery charge, so it looks like we’ll be buying stuff from them.

This obviously explains why so many people here have car trailers. It’s our intention to get one of these as well, but the car will need to be re-registered in France first (because we’ll need a number plate for the trailer). This process is in hand but like anything here, it takes time.

We were originally intending to get 4 x 1000 litre water containers for rainwater recovery; these turn out to be too expensive so we’ll get 6 x 500-litre barrels instead.

In between showers of rain we managed to plough up the vegetable garden using the rotavator. It was the first time LSS and I had used one of these machines but after a while we got the hang of it. Two hours later, we were rewarded by the sight of a large expanse of turned-over soil. It will need to be done a couple more times before we’re ready to plant anything though.

Following our dusty labours, we carried the bathtub into the kitchen and had a well-deserved bath next to the warmth of the wood stove. Note the steam rising from the bath, and the colour of the water.

The kitchen bathroom


A strange sort of day. We fetched the aged FIL from Vierzon hospital, and once again there was no communication regarding his post-operative care. Very odd indeed. We’re starting to think that this is the norm for the French medical system.

LSS received a letter notifying her that her bank account is finally open. Unfortunately she is unable to transfer any money into it because she doesn’t have an electronic card reader. So if you’re reading this, have a Natwest bank account, and want to do an online transfer from the UK, make sure you have an electronic card reader before you leave. As for me, I can transfer funds quite happily because I’m with First Direct in the UK. That is to say, I would be able to transfer funds quite happily, but am currently unable to do this because I still haven’t managed to get a French bank account.

We’re currently also researching buying a wood stove with back boiler so that it will provide domestic hot water with hopefully a couple of radiators (especially in the bedroom which is a bit cold!) After all, there are 30 hectares of woodland so we shouldn’t run short of fuel!

Today I received an email reply from a UK supplier of wood stoves. I had seen on their website that they had wood stoves with back boilers, and wanted to know whether it was possible to have one delivered to France. Unfortunately this information was not forthcoming. Instead the email basically said (regarding back boilers) “Don’t do it! Rather buy the biggest woodstove that money can buy and rely on other methods of heating water. We’ve now stopped supplying stoves with back boilers because no British plumbers know anything about fitting them.”
Er, what?

LSS has written a letter to Honda France enquiring about getting a Certificate de Conformité for the ST1100. This is apparently needed before you can get a “Carte Gris” which is the name for the document which registers the bike in France. She also wrote a letter to Hyundai so that she can get her car registered here too.

Oh, and Orange/France Telecom turned up to look at the problem with the line. Let’s see, this will be engineer number 3.

Unfortunately they haven’t fully explained the problem to him. He can see that the line is trailing along the ground; however, as the only equipment they’ve given him is a ladder and a wooden stick, there’s not much he can do about fixing it to the EDF pylons at twice the height of his ladder. You think I’m joking? No, I’m not. This is what privatisation is all about, people. Departments not letting the left hand know what the right hand is doing.


Success! We have a working wood stove again. The problem was partially the chimney and partially the wood stove. I now know how to dismantle this particular chimney pipe for cleaning purposes, and how to semi-dismantle the woodburner in order to scrape caked soot from its inner workings.
Note to self: Buy some chimney sweeping brushes.

As for the hospital doctor’s meeting, the MATTERS TO DISCUSS was not a meeting with the doctor at all. It was a meeting between LSS, myself (as a not-yet-French-speaking-observer), the aged FIL, the doctor, and THREE administrative staff of the hospital. They were basically highly upset about the letter which LSS had written to the director, and took great pains to point out that it was, basically, all the fault of LSS.
“You didn’t tell me whether he needed any sort of special care or not,” LSS stated.
“You should have asked,” was the reply.
“He wasn’t offered the option of a wheelchair,” LSS said.
“You should have asked.” was the reply.
“I wasn’t told whether he should have a special diet or not,” LSS said.
“You should have asked,” was the reply.
“How do I know what questions I should have asked?” said LSS.
“You should have asked,” they said.

At this point the aged FIL interjected that he knew nothing about any letter, did not at any time discuss the writing of the letter, and even after he had discussed the writing of the letter, didn’t actually agree that it should be sent at all. (See post from 04/04/2012)

“Gee, thanks for the support, Dad,” muttered LSS under her breath. At least I presume that’s what she said. It was, after all, in French. And rather short. And I don’t actually think you can translate that word as “support”.

So THAT was a complete waste of time. But still, the fact that the hospital staff at Vierzon decided to bring that many staff to a meeting in order to intimidate LSS, was, to my mind, an admission of guilt.
Oh – and if someone at the Vierzon hospital happens to read this – Please. Next time you want to intimidate someone, take the trouble to find out a bit more about that person first. LSS is not a simple village person who has stayed in the same village for all her life. She’s lived in another country for 20 years, and is not likely to be intimidated when faced with superior numbers of opponents; in fact this has the opposite effect as it presents more of a challenge. So there.

We’re still researching the best place to buy DIY stuff for the house. So far, we have a short list: Castorama, Leroy Merlin, and a place called Weldom in Aubigny. We visited a place called “Point P” but were not that impressed – it seems to cater more for the trade than the public.

We’re also looking for somewhere we can order a replacement wood stove. I want one with a back boiler so it can supply some of the domestic hot water. We found a website of a place in Neung-sur-Beuvron and paid them a visit. Eek! Talk about high prices. Not our cup of tea at all.


Today we visited Brinon in order to meet the bank manager of the local HSBC to get an account opened for me. Oh my goodness, the amount of paperwork required! They need lots of documents which we’re getting together in order to hand them in next week. LSS was able to find a local chimney sweep and has requested an urgent visit tomorrow. I think that chattering her teeth during the phone call was a bit of overkill, but it may have the desired effect. I will be paying close attention to how it’s done so that I can do it myself in future when necessary.

Unfortunately the lack of a working wood stove means we have to sit in the kitchen wearing several jumpers and jackets. We have plugged in a small electric fan heater, and this has managed to raise the inside temperature to around 8 degrees. For entertainment we watch the electricity meter whizzing around merrily.

Tomorrow we’re off to Vierzon hospital tomorrow to visit the aged FIL and also to meet the doctor who apparently has MATTERS TO DISCUSS. They refused to give any further details over the phone, so we’ll have to wait and see what it’s about.


LSS called a chimney sweep who promised to call back and didn’t. I’m starting to wonder whether we ought to get some huskies.

In the end we drove into town to visit LSS’s aged aunt and beg the use of her hot shower. We did stop off at the supermarket on the way in order to buy an apple tart as a bribe. This was quite successful because she is particularly fond of apple tarts. But as punishment for trying to bribe her, she force-fed us lots of pancakes.

This turned out to be a GOOD THING. We happened to notice a bathroom scale in the aged aunt’s bathroom, and tried it out. I had noticed my trousers were becoming slightly loose. Ah-ha! The LSS has lost 4kg since coming to France, and I’ve lost 9kg. This lifestyle of running around after the aged FIL has some use then!


Right, who left the refrigerator door open? It feels more like February than mid-April; it’s freezing cold!

We visited the aged FIL in hospital in the afternoon, and were looking forward to getting back to our aged wood stove in the kitchen in order to warm up.

Unfortunately we were unable to light it successfully. Smoke started billowing out of every orifice (even some we did not know were there) and the only solution was to fling open all the doors and windows so that we could see what we were doing. I grabbed the barbecue tongs and rushed the smouldering bits of wood outside. I suspect the stove itself has passed its’ use-by date but it could just be something as simple as a sooty chimney. Another job for LSS’s list tomorrow: find a chimney sweep.


A spot of grocery shopping in the morning results in my buying a couple of pieces of meat which would be ideal barbecue material. As it’s turned out to be a nice sunny day, this will be what we’ll do for supper.

LSS has been busy organising some “home help”; basically this is done by a company which specialises in looking after elderly people. Most of the costs will be met by the aged FIL’s insurance policy, but he’ll still need to contribute something. He’s not too happy about the idea but LSS has pointed out that we didn’t come to France solely with the aim of looking after him; we don’t mind helping out, but full-time carers we are not!

I spent the afternoon cutting through the stems of the ivy which is covering the future garage. Although ivy on a building does look attractive, it’s not very good for the brickwork. And this particular ivy has decided it likes the interior of the building as well, so it has to go. Chopping through the base should cause the majority of the vegetation to die off, at which time it should be easier to remove. I’ll tackle the root system at a later date.

At the same time, I prune the grapevines which are being smothered by the aforementioned ivy. It’s probably a bit late in the year to prune grapevines, but too bad.

With the day’s labour complete, I lit the barbecue. But as soon as I put the meat on the grid, it started to rain. However, we’re made of tougher stuff than that. LSS dashed indoors to fetch an umbrella, and I finished cooking our supper under the protective covering of a fetchingly-coloured purple ladies’ umbrella.

Barbecue with umbrella

“I’m coooooooking in the rain, just coooooooking in the rain…..”


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.


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…)


We have decided that today is rabbit poo day.


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