And August has arrived. Doesn’t time fly?

Well, we managed to take a long-weekend break at the end of July. We visited three cemeteries.

I can see your eyebrows raised in puzzlement. Well, these were not three ordinary cemeteries. We went to Normandy, you see. We visited Omaha beach, Pointe du Hoc, and also the D-Day museum in Bayeux. Very poignant.

But the best thing about the trip? No mosquitoes or horseflies! Of course there was a reception committee of these waiting when we returned.

Before we left, the tractor was unfortunately out of action. LSS had somehow missed seeing a large tree-stump whilst cutting the grass at the Aged FIL’s with the brushcutter attachment. A front wheel hit the stump, but the rest of the tractor continued going forward; with the result that the steering rod assumed a new shape with a 60-degree bend in it. I brought the tractor back here, with difficulty. It turned left fine, but turning right was a no-no. That was an interesting experience, as the road has several right-hand turns. Having removed the steering rod, I decided that bending it straight again was not really an option; it really needed to be replaced. So, as is my custom, I did some research. A replacement part could be ordered online. The best price I found was €230. Plus carriage, of course.

Now the Aged FIL’s neighbour had told LSS to go to a tractor scrapyard in a small town called Talcy, some 70km away. Their prices were very good, he said.

On the way back from Normandy, we realised that we would be passing fairly close to Talcy, so we decided to drop in and have a look. LSS called them on her mobile whilst we were stopped for lunch at the roadside. Unfortunately they were unable to say whether they had the part, or how much it would be. We decided to go in any case. When we arrived, we spoke to the manager and told him what we needed. He pointed out the location in the scrapyard, gave me a tape measure, and told me to go and have a look. “I’m busy,” he said. “Unlike some, I’m not on holiday.”

This did not bode well.

After some hunting around I found the right part; but of course it was exceedingly rusty; as it had obviously been out in the elements for several years. I carried it back to the office, where the manager started writing out a bill of sale. “Hang on,” I said. “You haven’t told me a price yet. It may be too expensive.”
“How much is too expensive?” he asked.
I thought for a moment, calculating that anything up to €80 would be reasonable. But let’s start low, and see if we can haggle.
“Anything over €55.” I replied.
He chuckled. “Oh, it’s nowhere near that figure.”
“That’s good,” I said.

He looked through his notebook, obviously hunting for the section headed “How to overcharge customers, especially when they’re English”.

“That will be €150.”
“Right,” I said. “I’ll put it back.”

LSS had stayed in his office chatting with him whilst I was out looking for the part. He had told her that these parts were over €400 new. He had also mentioned to her that he knew her cousins quite well – they go there for spares regularly.

We left in fairly short order; I think he was extremely surprised. Well, I wasn’t going to pay that price for a piece of rusty metal! When we got back I had a brainwave, and using my schoolboy German – with the assistance of Google Translate – searched through some tractor spares sites in Germany. You see, the tractor is a Deutz, which is German.

I found a brand-new steering rod for the grand total of €184, including postage. So I bought it. This was on Wednesday. It arrived on Friday. From Germany. Via DHL.

So the cousins are being ripped off by going to this place. Mind you, it’s not surprising; they have a deep suspicion of the Internet, and their attitude is the same as most people around here: France is The Best. Country. Ever. for buying stuff.

In other news, LSS has once again commenced digging in the barn, removing a thick layer of beaten-earth floor. Next it will be my job to pour the next batch of limecrete. The bathroom painting is nearly complete as well.

Oh yes – you were probably wondering if there had been any other developments on the telephone front. Well, we decided we would ditch Orange and go with one of their two competitors, SFR. We selected their cheapest package, consisting of telephone and internet only. Actually all we need is the telephone; but you can’t just get that – you have to have Internet as well. However, when we attempted to order it, we discovered that they were obviously getting all our details from our existing telephone number. Which was a problem. Because our address was shown as “name of road, village, postcode”. And the road mentioned is some five kilometres away. There was no mention of “La Darnoire” at all. And you can’t add anything to their online form fields.

Now LSS happened to mention this to Friend V in a telephone conversation. “Oh, that’s easy to fix,” she said. “Just go into one of their physical shops and they’ll sort it out for you.”
So we trotted off to their closest physical shop, which is some 35km away in Orleans…

There was one salesperson in the shop, currently dealing with a couple who had a young daughter. She was obviously bored, because she was running around pulling sample mobile telephones off shelves. There were two other people queuing to be served, and two more arrived just after we had joined the queue.
When it was eventually our turn, we explained which package we wanted, and what the problem was.
“Oh, that’s an Internet-only offer,” said the salesperson. “You can’t order it here. You’ll have to do it online.”
“But we can’t, because the address is incomplete and it won’t let us correct it!” exclaimed LSS.
“Sorry, can’t help you. Next!”

Salesperson Of The Year Award.

The next day, much to our surprise, the young neighbouring farmer came to see us. He’d finished his harvesting, and wanted to tell us that he’d already trimmed the offending tree branches impeding the Orange telephone lines. We were very impressed.

So LSS called Orange…
Actually, you can probably figure out what happens next, can’t you?

“So, you have a technical problem with your Internet?” asked the Orange-Support-person-in-Morocco.
“No!” said LSS. “Your previous engineer asked for some tree branches to be trimmed so that Orange could then replace the old telephone wiring, some 500 metres from our property. He said to call Orange when the work had been done, so that’s what I’m doing. The branches have been trimmed, so you can now arrange for the wires to be replaced. We don’t have a problem; the phone is working fine at the moment.”
“I see,” said the Orange-Support-person-in-Morocco. “And how long has this problem been going on? Let me just test your line.”
… pause …
“Hello?” said LSS. “Wait a minute!”
… click click click beep click …
… pause …

“No, everything looks fine from here. We’ll send an engineer out to investigate, and your problem will be resolved in 48 hours. Thank you for calling Orange. Goodbye.”

Later that day LSS received an SMS message from Orange, confirming the engineer visit, and warning that if no problem was found, the visit would be chargeable.

In the interim, LSS had found the mobile number of the original Orange engineer (“T1” from the last post) who had requested that the tree branches be cut. So she went to the Orange website and cancelled the unwanted engineer visit; then called T1. He said he’d come and inspect the work, and if it was satisfactory, arrange for new wires to be installed.

One final thought on modern telecommunications:
During our forced isolation from the online world, we realised that we were also cut off from world news. LSS found one of the Aged FIL’s radios; but obviously the only stations we could get were French, and local news (and football) was their main interest. I remembered that when I was a young lad, my parents owned a shortwave radio. The entire globe was accessible. They particularly liked the BBC World Service.

So, as soon as our Satellite Internet was up and running, I bought a small shortwave receiver online. It wasn’t expensive. When it arrived, I discovered I can listen to Radio China with no trouble at all. But where was the BBC news?

Well. It turned out that the BBC (and many other stations) stopped broadcasting on the shortwave band several years ago.

Why? Because they considered that in this modern technological age, everybody had access to the Internet, so they could listen to radio stations online instead.
And yes, it’s very good. You have your pick of almost any radio station in the world, no matter how obscure.

But when the connection to the Internet goes down…