23/05/2014

In the afternoon we paid a visit to BricoDepot in Orleans to obtain sundry building supplies which will enable me to start work on constructing the corridor between the lounge and the barn. Once the solar panel installation has been completed, that is. The corridor construction entails building a partition wall and door in the bedroom, before I use a hammer and chisel to open up a doorway leading into the barn.

Other items on the shopping list included an air compressor (the aged FIL’s is now a melted pile of scrap due to the fire) and a small generator (to power our essentials should there be another long-lasting electricity outage – which, with the current state of the weather, is highly likely).

Shopping at BricoDepot is both a good and bad experience.

Good; because they usually have items in stock. Except for today, of course. The generator I wanted had sold out, so I’ll need to pay a visit to the branch in Bourges tomorrow to get that. But it’s at a good price, so it’s worth the trip.
Bad; because although BricoDepot is owned by the Kingfisher Group (which also owns B&Q and Screwfix in the UK), the customer service (ah, those foreign words again) is typically French. Their stock is placed on heavy-duty racking, reaching to the ceiling in some places. I asked for some assistance in retrieving ten timber beams from a high stack, just out of reach. Assistance was promised.

Having waited for nearly ten minutes, LSS then joined me, having been wandering around on her own looking for other bits and pieces. Successfully, I may add. She went off to ask for assistance. Assistance was promised.

After yet another ten minutes, she went to ask again. Finally a fork-lift truck operator appeared. Unfortunately his forklift was already heavily-laden with another customers’ purchases. He joined the queue waiting to pay, which by this time had grown enormously. I’d had enough. I climbed onto the lowest stack of timbers, and at the full extent of my arms, pulled the beams I required from the upper stack one at a time. It’s a good job I’m tall. The fork-lift truck operator watched this operation expressionlessly, then said something like “Do you need assistance?”
“Désolé, je ne parle pas français!” (Sorry, I don’t speak French), I retorted, then added in English, “When we asked for help, you lot couldn’t be bothered. Now you can bu**er off; I’ll do it myself.” Uncomprehending Gallic shrugs resulted. (When we had finally paid for all our purchases and left the shop with two fully-laden heavy-duty trolleys, we noticed a group of five employees in the car-park all chatting away and smoking cigarettes. Now as an ex-smoker myself, I have no issue with people taking smoke-breaks. But when a shop is busy and there are insufficient staff, as a manager I would not countenance having five employees taking a break at the same time.)

Having loaded the timber beams onto the trolley, we moved on to the aisle containing doors. At this point LSS received a telephone call from Présence Verte on her mobile. The aged FIL had pushed his emergency button. Again. Obviously, as we were in Orleans, LSS requested that the next person on the list (M&O) respond to the call. It transpired that there had been a thunderstorm, and the aged FIL’s electricity supply had tripped. Again. M&O managed to reset it successfully. We’ve received a quote from the company for which LSS’s cousin’s husband works (well, it’s the countryside; everybody either knows everybody else or is related) for the re-wiring of the aged FIL’s house. It’s around €4500, which is roughly what I estimated it would cost. The aged FIL will be able to afford that, so as soon as the second quote is received (from the emergency electrician who attended last Saturday) we’ll be able to authorise the work. This emergency-button-pushing due to failing electrics has to stop!

The good news today was that we received a refund from the French National Health Service for my dental work (tooth filling), which brought the cost down to a meagre €17. When discussing this with T&M, they did point out that in contrast to dental work, there is a six-month wait if you would like to have a checkup at an optometrist – and unless you have a “Mutuel” (a top-up healthcare payment), spectacles are horribly expensive. The annual cost of the “Mutuel” itself is also rather high, so we’ve opted to do without. As we’re planning a visit to the UK towards the end of the year to stock up on some essentials, we’ll try and book an appointment at Vision Express for an eye test. Not that either of us need spectacles yet, but it would be nice to have an official verdict!

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