The satellite dish arrived yesterday. So today I had no end of fun pointing the dish. You see, the bearing had to be set to just a smidgeon* to the left of Alpha Centauri.

*smidgeon = half a parsec, or 29,000 light years give or take a kilometer

Then I had to set the elevation to 29.5 degrees Kelvin, assuming the complete verticality of the mounting pole, which I found to be just a whisker* out. The skew was minus 22 degrees, which is anti-clockwise in case you were wondering.

*whisker = 2.5 semi-inches

Fun fact: the statellite (to quote Delboy) is 38,633 km away. So it is very difficult to see, and impossible to center in the crosshairs of an optical viewfinder (if you happen to have one, which I don’t).

I’ve been up and down ladders all day so I’ll now be able to enter the Olympic ladder-climbing competition if there is one.

After all of that, I finally obtained a satellite lock. Then the fun really started; configuring my router to connect to the satellite modem. I won’t bore you with further details, but the end result is that we are now online via satellite. Oh, I see. You thought that because you were reading this post, our Orange internet connection was back? Shame on you.

So sucks to Orange; they can fiddle with the internet connection as much as they like now; we don’t care.
And if you’re in France, I can recommend this chap: http://steve-pritchard.fr/

Here’s our previous connection speed with Orange, on the rare occasion that we were actually connected:

Orange speed test
Orange speed test

And here’s a screen print of our current connection via satellite. Not done through the same website as above, because it’s not a DSL link. I think it may be a bit exaggerated, as the connection speed is advertised as being a maximum of 22Mbps. But it’s still faster than Orange:

Europasat speed test
Europasat speed test

And obviously the characteristics are different because of the latency (which could cause problems if I was into online gaming – I’m not – or if using VOIP – which I may want to set up later if I can ever find a USB handset which works with Windows 7). Using the web is slightly different; there is a slight delay in fetching web pages, but once they start loading it is fairly fast.

And whilst on the subject, in local news, our village is loudly proclaiming that fibre-optic connections are now available (in the village itself only, of course). Provided by Orange. With a photograph in the local paper showing the blistering results of the speed test from the same website as shown in the first photo above. Now bear in mind fibre-optic is capable of a gigabit speed i.e. 1000Mbps. So what speed do you think their test results were showing? Here’s the photo which appeared in the paper, which can be found online at http://pierrefitte-sur-sauldre.fr/sites/default/files/bulletin_ndeg46_0.pdf (just in case you thought I had used photoshop on the photo):

Fibre optic speed test
Fibre optic speed test

And now that we’re no longer using Orange for the internet connection, the phone line seems to be working again.

Oh yes – and LSS is now using Bouygues for her mobile. Reception seems a bit better; she can now even make telephone calls (although she does have to be in the garden, standing on a chair, with the phone held horizontally to do so). We have now ordered a Bouygues sim card for my mobile as well.


This morning we loaded up the trailer, and went to the déchèterie (municipal dump) in Lamotte Beuvron to get rid of the mouse-chewed mattress and the metal tub full of broken shower glass. We also collected an old chest freezer from LSS’s cousin. This was from the estate of the late Aged Aunt. We then had lunch with the cousin at the pancake restaurant.

The Orange internet and phone connection is still going up and down like a yo-yo, which makes for very interesting telephone conversations.


I had an email notification that the satellite dish is on its way to us from the UK. The company we’re going with is Europasat. It’s a British company with offices in several countries.

As it wasn’t actually raining, LSS cut some grass with the tractor, and I used the Stihl brushcutter to clear the waist-high weeds around the borehole and woodcutting area.

And regarding the greywater reedbed sump, I’ve decided to stay with the system we already have i.e. a 12V submersible bilge pump. I’ve ordered a spare via Ebay. However, once the water table has dropped a bit I intend encasing the plastic barrel in limecrete. This should eliminate the need for bricks to weigh it down.


Wildlife Diary: It seems that Mrs Duck has once again been unlucky. I found four empty eggshells in the reedbed; so some predator has scoffed this year’s brood again. They did not have the appearance of eggs which had hatched; and if they had hatched, where were the other six?

I spent the morning cutting up one of the fallen aspens which needs to be processed for the woodshed.

And guess what? The internet and telephone came back on. I thought that the “cease payments” instruction would have had an effect! I then received a text message from Orange saying service had been re-established.

Time to celebr… uh-oh. Guess what? Correct. It’s gone down again. Perhaps they’ve now disabled it on purpose because we haven’t paid them for the service they provided in June. Well, yes, we have. They’ve been paid the exact amount for the services they have provided; i.e. nothing.

The phone and internet did come back on again after a while. So far so good, although the connection is still dropping out fairly regularly. We’re still intending to get rid of Orange.


Yesterday the two smallest chicks died. So that brings the success rate down to 25%.

I swept the boiler stove chimney.

And was internet access restored yesterday as promised by Orange?
No. Of course it wasn’t.

The neighbours with the gîte came around yesterday to get some eggs, and mentioned they had a friend in Romorantin who was the manager of the Orange shop there. They had popped into the shop with the intention of seeing if the manager could do something about the fact that they had no internet access at the gîte, but were unable to do this. Apparently there was a queue of about twenty angry people in front of them; all with the same problem. One had been complaining vociferously that they had been without telephone or internet for THREE WEEKS!

Pah. A mere beginner. We’re in the middle of week five.

Today I had planned on splitting and cutting more wood. Owing to the cloudy conditions we’re experiencing this so-called Summer, we’re having to light the boiler stove frequently. And, of course, it’s raining. So instead I cleared the floor area in the remaining part of the barn, ready for digging up and laying limecrete. So despite this stuff being stored there for 4 years, it was all in good condition; with one exception. A mouse had decided that our spare mattress would make a very good nest. So we’ll take that one to the rubbish dump and buy a new one at some point.

LSS called Orange, and as usual, all will be repaired within 48 hours. Rather cunningly, she also called their accounts department and arranged that our account would be put on hold. Why should we pay for a service we’re not receiving?


We are now independent of the electricity grid as far as our water supply is concerned. In other words the borehole pump is now running off the batteries. I worked out that an inverter should not be connected to the “Load” terminals of a solar controller; it simply can’t handle the current draw even though the controller has a 30A capacity. When I connected the inverter directly to the batteries, everything worked as it should. Celebrations are in order; so we’ll head off to Salbris this evening with Friend E. It’s the annual “Bandas” competition – these are small brass bands who normally play rousing music at rugby matches. This is to be followed by the customary fireworks display.

The oldest broody hen has now decided broodiness is over, and has left the nest along with her 5 chicks. She had 6, but one seems to have gone missing. The youngest broody hen still has only 2 chicks. So that’s a total of 7 successes out of 20 eggs. I suppose a 35% success rate is not too bad for our first lot.
Oh, and we have now ordered a satellite dish for internet access, so I suspect one day next week will see me at the top of a ladder.


The solar panels were connected up, and the inverter was plugged in. However it seems to have a problem running the borehole pump, so I’ll need to investigate why. It could be a dodgy earth connection.

The solar photovoltaic panels

Battery bank and inverter
On the broody hens front, we now have 8 chicks.

And I did a quick inventory of the fruit trees in the garden. We have two gooseberries, two blueberries, and three cherries. I mean actual fruit, not bushes. The strawberries did produce a fairly decent crop though, although they’re not too happy with all the rain. And the raspberries haven’t started producing yet.

Oh, and I got a text message from Orange saying we’d be reconnected on the 27th. Which will be the start of week 5 without phone or internet. I must admit, for some unfathomable reason, I don’t believe them.


I went to the gîte next door in the morning to use their wi-fi to check emails, and to start the process of ordering a satellite dish for internet access. Now the gîte originally had satellite internet through a French company called Nordnet, but it was apparently very unreliable, and too expensive for the service received. So a couple of months ago they switched to…. wait for it….. Orange.

Well, I was able to send and receive emails all right, although the connection was a bit slow, and dropped out once or twice.

It was a scorching hot day today, and they’re predicting thunderstorms tomorrow. Which means yet more rain, oh joy. We weren’t really able to enjoy the sunshine though, as it was incredibly humid. I spent the rest of the morning constructing a frame for the photovoltaic solar panels and sweating profusely. I should be able to connect them up tomorrow. LSS managed to cut some grass with the lawnmower, and then nearly buried herself in the garden trying to turn the soil over with the tiller in order to get it to dry a bit. The soil is still very wet. Well, the garden may not produce much this year, but at the moment the crop of mosquitoes and horseflies has been impressive.

In the late afternoon I went back to the gîte to check if I had any replies to my SOS messages about getting a satellite internet connection (not through Nordnet, I hasten to add). Guess what?

Their internet connection had gone down. Using some command-line tools I was able to trace the problem to the Orange name server (the computer which tells your browser where to go to get to a website). As a test, I asked it to look up www.google.com. If I translate its response into English, it was basically “Google? Never heard of it. No idea where to look. Sorry, can’t help.”
There are normally two name servers (one for backup purposes). Unfortunately it appears the main name server also didn’t know where the other one was, so couldn’t ask it for help.

As for OUR Orange progress report, LSS has now received text messages from the manager of the Orange shop, saying that Orange are desperately trying to talk to LSS but, for some reason, the phone doesn’t work.

No, really?

LSS has asked for a message to be passed back saying that she’ll be in town giving an English lesson between 17:00 and 18:00 today, and they can try her mobile then.* Although she’s not really interested in speaking to them, she just wants them to fix the problem.
*They didn’t.

Actually, dealing with Orange bears all the hallmarks of that somewhat old joke about onions. You must have heard it.

A man goes into a Portuguese greengrocer’s shop and asks for a pound of onions.
“Sorry,” says the greengrocer. “We don’ta hava no onions.” (You’ll have to imagine the accent.)
“Oh dear,” says the customer. “Well, in that case, I’ll have a pound of onions please.”
“But I justa tella you!” says the greengrocer. “We don’ta hava no onions.” (Actually he sounds more Italian, but never mind.)
“Ah, I understand,” says the customer. “Yes. Hmm. Well, instead I’ll just have a pound of onions.”
“Right!” exclaims the greengrocer. “How do you spella the ‘Tom’ in ‘Tomatch’?”
“Tee Oh Em,” says the customer.
“That’sa right! Now, how do you spella the ‘Pot’ in ‘Potatch'”?
“Pee Oh Tee,” says the customer, puzzled.
“That’sa right!” exclaims the greengrocer. “Now, how do you spella the ‘F***’ in onions?”
“There is no ‘F***’ in onions!” says the customer.
“That’sa what I’va been trying to tell you!”

I’ll get my coat.


I expect you’re on tenterhooks wanting to know what Orange said.

Well, LSS went to the Aged FIL shortly after 08:00, and called 3900 as instructed. A computer system took the details, and then a recorded voice said, “There is a problem in your area. We are experiencing a high volume of calls at the moment. An engineer will investigate. Thank you for calling Orange. Goodbye.”
So much for the detailed information.

The good news is that two of the eggs under one of the broody hens have now hatched. We have one little yellow chick, and one black. I hope we get some more over the next few days; hatching two out of twenty eggs is not really that brilliant.


So, I mentioned a “Domino” in the last post. LSS had sent a text back, asking what this was, because nobody from Orange had mentioned it before. Well, she received the reply. A “Domino” is what Orange call a little device which you plug into your computer, and it then provides an Internet connection!

Via 3G.
Which doesn’t work here.

After LSS returned from giving English lessons, we had supper as usual. The plan was to take the car into the village at 20:45, ready for the telephone call from the Orange manager at 21:00. Of course, it was pouring with rain.

Well, just before 20:30, LSS’s mobile beeped. It didn’t ring, it beeped. “You have one missed call,” read the screen, “Timed at 20:20. The caller did not leave a message.”.
Swearing profusely in French, LSS grabbed the car keys, and we left for the village. On the way there, the mobile beeped again.
When we stopped in the village (where we managed to find the strongest signal yet – two bars), two text messages arrived from the manager of the Orange shop. The first said that she was at that moment on the phone to the Orange Service department, and LSS should have her mobile ready at hand, because they would be calling her at 20:30.
The next text said simply: “Make that 20:00.”
Yes, even SMS texts from Orange don’t come through on time.


“You have one missed call”, read the screen, “Timed at 20:35. The caller did not leave a message.”
We waited, in the car, in the rain.
The village church clock chimed nine times. No promised telephone call from the Orange manager was received. We waited until 21:07, then headed home.
LSS has now changed her mind about Bouygues Telecom, and will be contacting them tomorrow, with the first order of business being the changing of her mobile provider to Bouygues.
She did send a text to the manager of the Orange shop to tell her what happened, and received a reply with the following advice:
“Call this number – 3900 – tomorrow morning after 08:00 and you’ll be able to speak to someone to get more detailed information about your problem.”

We can’t wait…