Monday, 31 March 2008

Mummy-os, Daddy-as

Feeling a bit deflated and at a loose end this evening. What on earth are we going to do tomorrow? Looks like it is going to have to be housework! Ahhhhhhhh!

After so many months working on the apartment, we have nothing left to do. Our first guests are installed, for the next three weeks.

And a wonderful couple they are. They estimated that they would arrive vers quatre heures and so they did. Anyone who drives for 1000 kilometres and manages to arrive when they said they would - are clever in my book!

They were elderly, both categorised as disabled (walking with sticks) and charming. They have been coming for la cure at Lamalou every year for the last seven years - longer than we have actually lived in France. They know Lamalou better by far than we do! And every year they have stayed at the Villa des Pins.


Within five minutes of pulling up outside the apartment, they had people tooting at them and stopping to chat - all people they have met and known from previous years. It seems the same people come at the same time of year, year in and year out, for la cure. It is like a strange holiday camp.

We proudly showed them in, and were a bit disconcerted - they were polite and very complimentary but did not seem overly impressed with our renovations. It is easy to forget that our 'modern minimalistic' style does not necessarily appeal to the more mature French guests. Oh, well. We like the apartment anyway....

They arrived with everything but the kitchen sink. They are obviously used to the previous owner(s) who used to strip the accommodation down to the barest minimum. Anyone who drives 1000 kilometres with washing up liquid, coat hangers and 10 kg of apples has to be surprised when they find we have provided a 'welcome pack' of bread (they are French you know!), milk, fruit juice, toilet rolls....and of course a bottle of wine. They were delighted when they realised that we were leaving the last item for them!!

And what was wonderful?! We could understand them, and they us, with no difficulty. They are from the north of France you see!!

***
Had a very interesting chat on and off throughout the evening with Nic. Mainly about Occitan and other languages....as taught in France.

It all started when she told us how she had got on in her Occitan test today. I noticed that when she mentioned the subject in English, she pronounced it differently to when she discussed it whilst talking French.

Phonetically it is OSSITAN in English but OKSITON in French. And in Occitan....it is LO Oksitan. And I have used capitals versus lower case specifically to show the differences.

In her year there are just 12 students doing Occitan, of which 10 speak it at home! That astonished us! We think of it as a 'dead language' but it is still actively spoken day to day by many families!! Incredible!

Her Occitan teacher, who she thinks is not TOO old (ie late twenties, early thirties), was brought up speaking it at home and also teaches French, Spanish as well as SVT (basically biology) at college level. Incredible again!

Nic explained that Occitan is a SLOW language compared to French and indeed English. She went on to expand on this, at our request. In French, each syllable gets the same weighting whilst in Occitan - the degree that you accentuate a syllable, changes the meaning of the word. Fascinating!

She went on (we were enthralled...all this from our eleven year old daughter!). In Occitan, you do not have personal pronouns. The ending of the verb determines this instead.

In addition, any name or noun can be altered slightly by being given a specific ending depending on whether you consider the person/thing you are referring to, to be above or below you in the hierarchy of life.

We were confused, so Nic explained using a story they had been studying today. All about a wolf and a fox.

The fox referred to the wolf as (phonetically French) loupos, whilst the wolf called the fox renardas.

See?! An ending -os implies you are superior, whilst -as implies you are inferior to the speaker. What can I say?! A fascinating language!!

Nic will be doing German next year, so further insights into languages will follow....she is only one of about ten in her year that will be doing German rather than Spanish. A sign of where we live, I suppose, where those that do not speak Occitan at home, often speak Spanish!

Nic has asked whether we would consider getting together with Edwige who lives in our village (a girl one year above Nic at college who she is friends with).

Edwige's grandmother was brought up speaking Occitan (and also speaks French, Spanish and a little English!) and brought Edwige's father up to speak Occitan and Spanish as well. They all live in our village, and Nic wondered if we would ask if she could join in with them at home once a week maybe, to practise speaking Occitan in a day-to-day way. They have already asked if we would do this with Edwige, inviting her around to speak only English with us.

Our local pharmicist has asked the same - they want their daughter to speak all the languages she is learning 'as a native would' ie in a practical way. It is seen as the future - where everyone should be able to do whatever job they decide, in several languages.

We might live in the middle of nowhere, in a small village, but there is a real belief here that education is important and that languages should be taught to be SPOKEN actively and not just as book learning. Enlightening!

Sunday, 30 March 2008

Finally Finished!!!!

That is it! No more renovating for a while.....we hope!!

The apartment is finished, and looks GREAT even if we say so ourselves.

See what you think. Check out the internal photos - don't worry too much about the words. I have not got them sorted yet.

http://lamalou-apartment-1.blogspot.com/

First guests arrive tomorrow....wish us luck!

PS
Fancy a holiday or short break in the South of France? We know a delightful, newly renovated apartment for rent......

Saturday, 29 March 2008

All Posted Out This Week....

....as you might have noticed. Just too busy and too tired to get around to posting each evening.

But what have we been doing?!

What do you think!!!!!

Building a sofa-bed of course!
I have to admit there was a lot of time between the two photos above - it came in lots of bits!!!We were SO pleased - it will fit either way!Look at all the space - it looks SO good!!
***
Wanting two large pictures to go on the walls, whilst minimising the cost....what do you think of these? I made them myself! Out of some free plastic placemats we were given last year some time at the local supermarket.

OK. They will look better once they are on the wall, I promise.....

Thursday, 27 March 2008

An Apple For The Taxman

You know you are getting old when even the Taxman looks young! And I mean YOUNG as in - looks eighteen, and hopefully was at least twenty five years old!!

So there are Richard and I sitting one side of the desk whilst the charmingly helpful Controleur des Impots told us which of the boxes on the form we needed to fill in.

We asked lots of questions, specifically to ensure that we were up front and honest. We have a real bugbear against people who try and 'avoid' paying their due, and then are moaning minnies when they are found out!

Our experiences here in France have shown us how fair and incredibly non strict the Taxman is - provided you are up-front and honest with them to begin with. If you are not and they find out.....God help you. They have SERIOUS powers down here!!

So here are a few snippets from our meeting:

So you are worried, Mr/Mme Upex because you had a paying guest the day you actually bought your apartment last year whilst not having yet got a SIRET number?!
Don't worry - forget about it. We are not interested in such little amounts....

So you feel you have to fill in my form, correctly stating that you own the apartment 'jointly'? It makes absolutely no difference in tax terms (because you are married and live at the same address) but if you do that, the Commune of Lamalou will hit you for TWO taxe professionale fees each year which (unfairly) cannot be offset against your income.
So forget about that - just one of you complete the form as 'owner'.......and save yourself 300 euros a year straight off!!!

You intend to rent out your apartment, Mr/Mme Upex - so you understand that you need to register for a specific regime?
Yes, that is correct.

You also look after a couple of properties for friends, and you therefore understand that you also have to register under a second regime - and therefore will incur further charges from me (the Taxman)?
Yes, that is technically correct, but the amounts are not really serious are they, so lets just declare them all under the simpler, 'renting out' regime shall we.....
***
We came away bemused and very happy. But we did get the feeling that the French Taxman really does consider our extra income as hardly worth all the paperwork, and so was trying every which way to keep our lives simple!

Of course, this was invariably because we actually told him about the extra income rather than trying to keep it secret!

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

The Taxman Cometh.....

In France we are eagerly awaiting the arrival of our Impot Sur Les Revenus forms for 2007.

One of the joys here, in our experience, is that although there is a wealth of red tape - we have always found very helpful officials to go through it with us.

Our first memorable experience - completing our first ever French declaration of income form. This saw us dashing off to the Impot office in Bedarieux to ask for help. The lady behind the desk just said: Oh, give it here! She filled in our two figures, asked for our signatures and put it in her out tray.
That was easy!!!!

Our next memorable experience - same form, same reaction. The lady behind the desk tried to do the same but we said WAIT! We have earned a little extra this year keeping an eye on a friend's holiday home.
Oh pleeeeeease! she said. Just forget about it - we don't bother with such little amounts!!!!
We liked that!!

Today we received a letter from Le Controleur Des Impots. Oh dear - the head man for our region writing to us?! NOW THAT IS WORRYING!!

After examining our file, it has come to his attention that we have acquired an apartment with the intention of renting it out......and he is inviting us to complete an attached form at our earliest convenience.

Uh Oh! What the hell are we supposed to put in all these little boxes?!

So off we went to the Impot office to ask for an appointment. Richard approached the front counter and asked if he could book a rendez-vous.

The lady read the letter and said to go upstairs.

Richard approached the first floor front counter, where a gentleman attended to him immediately. Richard explained that he wanted to make an appointment. The gentleman read the letter and said " Come in now - I am free". He was the head man, le Controleur Des Impot for our region himself!!

None of this business of your UK tax office being based in Glasgow whilst your wife's is in Cardiff!!! And both as far away from where you live as possible to discourage personal visits!

Here the head honcho himself actually speaks to members of the public who turn up at the front counter and is happy to see them immediately?!

We were gobsmacked, and Richard was desperately back tracking....but I am not prepared!
I have not got all my papers with me!
I don't know what questions to ask yet!
We are worried that you are going to be angry because we did not know about this form, and did not fill it in when we bought the apartment 5 months ago!

It's OK, Monsieur, we don't worry too much about forms so don't panic. Just give me a phone call when you want to pop in and I will be here waiting......

I LOVE the Taxman!!!

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Joyeuses Pâques !

Breakfast in our household this morning!Large 'Easter eggs' are not so common here yet but chocolate chickens, bells and even fish (?) abound. The girls managed to make do anyway!

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Saturday Night, Sunday Morning

Lazy day for me. Late in the evening, I am snuggled up on the sofa waiting for the 'come and get us' phone call.

They do not 'do' prom dances here. And LeeLee got quite jealous when first her cousin(s) and then her best friend in the UK went to their proms at college.

Proms are one of those things - you deride them until your one comes around......

Here, they have cents jours du Bac parties for students in premiere and terminale classes at lycee. Basically to 'celebrate' that there are just one hundred days until their Baccalauréat exams - as in PANIC!

For those in premiere (as LeeLee is) - 100 days until their French Bac.
For terminale - until their full Bac.

The lycee organises the party in conjunction with a group of students. Each student pays 10 euros for a ticket (in advance) which gets them a professional disc jockey, and free food/alcohol all evening - from 20:00 until 3:00am the next day.

Seven hours of free booze?! One hundred and fifty 17/18 year olds?! Sounds like a recipe for disaster to me!!

It is restricted to students in these two classes, and they are allowed to buy tickets for boyfriends/girlfriends provided they are over the age of 17. So LeeLee could not take Kevin - one of the problems of having a toyboy!

LeeLee and two friends who live locally are going together - one of the other parents offered to take them, and I am on pick-up duty.....at 3:00am unless she calls earlier.

Leading up to D-Day, I pester her to get an address for where the party is.

But Mum, everyone says it is easy to find! It's at the Salle de Fetes at Le Bousquet d'Orb. You cannot miss it....

Yeh, right! Not a chance am I driving to a little town half an hour away at 3am in the morning with no idea where the salle is!

In the 30 minutes before she is due at her friend's house, she gets FIVE completely different directions from five different friends......

Finally we agree that she will call me when she gets there with the name of the road. Which brings us to the issue of her phone. Yes, it is charged. No, it has no credit. She is already in debt to us for the ticket price, and buying the minimum 10 euro credit will wipe out the rest of her next month's allowance.

OK. Compromise time. LeeLee will take Richard's phone. And I will travel with her's in the car - at least it does SOS if I need it!!!

2:15 am LeeLee calls to say - come and get us. Things are starting to get nasty. Ok I am on my way....

I drove for half an hour, along the Orb valley, from one town to the next. In that time, I saw one other car. ONE other car, and that was in the middle of Bedarieux - the biggest town in our region. I did not see a single person on the streets, no drunks - and all this in a country with 24 hour drinking. For goodness sake - this was Saturday night, Sunday morning of a holiday weekend! Incredible!

I drove into the town, expecting to hear the party before I even saw all the drunk teenagers causing havoc on the streets after nearly seven hours of free drink. How wrong can you be. I keep forgetting this is not the UK!

When LeeLee said it was getting nasty what she meant was, yes, a few people were starting to throw up and couples were beginning to bicker. There was no violence what so ever and no wandering away from the salle causing problems in the town.

It was quite sweet to listen to the three 17 year old friends in the back of the car on the way home, who had had a super wonderful time, commenting on 'those idiots who drank too much and ended up chucking'.

I was impressed.

Students were manning the door and no one (and I mean NO ONE) was allowed in if they did not have a ticket. Each ticket holder was matched against a list of names of people who had bought the tickets, and if they were not known personally by those on the door - they were asked for ID. Each student allowed through the door, had a wristband put on them so that they could go outside and smoke during the evening - and be let in again. At 1:00am the teachers turned up and stayed until the end, to make sure nothing untoward happened. One pane of glass got broken in the door, when it banged shut in the wind. That was it. That was all the damage done by 150 students drinking free booze for seven hours!

Free drinks were biere, cocktails mixed to order, spirits, mixers and fruit juice. The full gamut....but still no problems?!

Many drove themselves there on mopeds, so did not drink (I WAS impressed!). Everyone had a lift organised to get home, many car-sharing with parent-chauffeurs.

There were 150 students at the party, and no trouble?! No fights?!

When I arrived, there were some students standing around on the corner and in the square waiting for their lifts. There was no singing, no loud voices. I doubt any one in the town knew what was going on. Bizarre!

All in all, a totally different experience to what we were used to, and expected. How on earth will LeeLee cope in the UK?! It will be a MAJOR culture shock. It worries Richard and I.

PS
During my drive there and back, I was on the look out. For the police.

I could just imagine - night duty, bored out of their mind with nothing to do on a Saturday night Sunday morning of a holiday weekend, and only one car on the road.

I would have been a tempting 'pull' (in the car sense!!). Especially since I have headlights that point to the left instead of the right!

Friday, 21 March 2008

Apartment Progress

I LOVE making flat-packed furniture. We are a good team. I read, and reread the instructions. Richard wields the technical equipment. And carries the heavy boxes of course. Now that we have finished with the circular saw, Xena is able to come with us to the apartment. She LOVES it. She is interested in everything we do. She did wonder why we were building a tower-block of kennels only suitable for toy dogs though!Only problem, for a dog that usually sleeps 23 hours out of 24, she is awake the whole time she is down there.

When we get home she collapses onto her bed by the fire, and this evening could not be bothered to stir even for her dinner.

It is hard work all this renovation, you know!
***
Cleared out and cleaned the bedroom today.

Took the home-made, tacky, fibre board (covered with sticky-backed plastic) foot board off the bed.

Put the mattress cover in the washing machine and scrubbed the bed-frame. Ah - and was asked by Richard if I had remembered to switch on the water before setting the machine going.....We had major problems finding bedside tables because there was not enough room for normal ones. But Ikea came up trumps in the end. Having got the bed and tables in place, we were then able to put up the reading lights. Tomorrow we will pin the cables neatly. Doesn't it all look good! We are getting there. The bedroom is an impressive size - there is more than seven feet between the end of the bed and the wall. As Richard said, we have never had a bedroom that large in all our married life!!
***
In the kitchen, there are no drawers. So we decided to put up rails with hooks to hang up all the utensils, etc. Only trouble - having to drill into the old tiles. Always risky. Richard started with his smallest 'bit' and the drill on its lowest setting. Five minutes later the tiles were not even showing a scratch.

Upping the power, he tried again. Five minutes later, still no effect.Finally, with the hammer action on fully, Richard managed to start making a hole in the tiles. What on earth are they made of?! Reinforced concrete?
***
We even have the wine cellar set up at the apartment now! Originally the new microwave sat on top of the new fridge/freezer, until Richard pointed out our elderly guests might have problems reaching it!

So it now sits on the shelf next to the oven - and we have a place for wine bottles. Seems a great compromise to me!
***
This is our front garden now, after the 'grand theft Camellia'. Noticed this morning that the pump for the fish pond out front has also been removed! The previous owners are obviously having problems accepting the fact that they have sold on some of their properties!!!

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Flowery Language

This is a picture of the camellia in the garden of our apartment. OUR garden, bought and paid for 5 months ago when we purchased the apartment from the elderly couple who owned the whole property - and rented it out as 10 apartments.

For the first time in ages, we did not go to the apartment yesterday (went to Ikea instead!) and guess what?!

Arrived today to find NO CAMELLIA BUSH - just a dug over empty garden!!!!!

Madame, it seems, came and dug it up to take home - it had been a present from her husband many years ago, you know......

Words failed me!!! For the first time in ages.....
***
Richard and I were watching a UK TV programme this evening where couples try running a restaurant.

As the 'front of house' greeted the diners, we both simultaneously turned to each other and said: How rude! She did not shake their hands!

Then, two seconds later, we both realised what we had said, and remembered that we had never been greeted by a handshake when going to a restaurant in the UK.

We have become too French! We now expect more obvious displays of (old fashioned?) courtesy - just like here.

Today, even the man who serves in the Tobacconist shop that Richard used to use (before he gave up smoking 2.5 years ago!) greeted him at Bricomarché and shook his hand! Now that is courtesy....

When we then went on to Intermarché, we were packing our stuff at the till when the person behind us greeted us with shaking hands (for Richard) and kisses (for me). He was the nurse that came to our house each day for a fortnight to inject Richard's tummy after his heart operation....
***
I have always been the one to go through the girls' homework with them, which became especially important when we first moved to France. It is amasing the vocabulary you learn when your daughter is doing the embalming of bodies in Egyptian times, in French!!

Yesterday evening I helped Nic with her maths homework - fractions, I LOVE fractions!

Tonight, after dinner, Nic got out her school books and started her work. What are we doing this evening? I asked.

She replied: Mum, this is MY French homework!!

Oh. Spoilsport. I LOVE French homework.....
***
If I was asked the question, I would probably say that I was a dog person rather than a cat one.

DOG = loyal, thinks you are wonderful whatever you do.

CAT = doesn't give a toss about you, or anyone else for that matter.

Today, our cat Smokey really pushed her luck. Fed up with the lack of vermin available to play with in our house, she has been importing her own over the last few months.

Today, she decided on a change of diet......she brought in THREE, yes THREE, snakes!

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Gadgets

This is a post I had just written when our Internet connection disappeared for what seemed like forever. Seemed a shame to waste it.....
***
Foire de Gadgets at our local supermarket today - heaven for Richard and me!

We got a 4-way USB hub for 12€ which in turn meant I could buy a USB keyboard light as recommended by our Scottish friends Carol & John, costing just 8€! I have always wanted one for my late night typing sessions!

What else did we get, I hear you ask. You must know us so well.......

A USB card reader that will take about 4 different sizes of memory card - we have so many of them littering our life (old camera ones, old laptop ones, old phone ones, etc). Well we can use them all again with our new PCs thanks to this little gadget!!! And it only cost us 15€!

Are we suckers or what?! But happy ones.
***
Today (real today, 19 March) was scheduled to be 'buying the big furniture for the apartment' day. We had been racing along to get the place finished and the floors all hoovered and washed in readyness.

So today was to be an Ikea day. It had to be a Wednesday because it is the only day other than Saturday (and who on earth goes to Ikea on a Saturday except lovers of BIG crowds!) that LeeLee gets brought home at lunchtime on the bus - and therefore does not need us to be her chauffeur at midday.

Monday evening - all plans in place, lists written (we have SO much to buy!) and Nic packed and ready for the journey.

Then as she went off to bed, LeeLee mentions in passing that she has her TPE at 13:00 - 14:00 this Wednesday and so expected us to be there to pick her up when it was scheduled to finish.

What?! Have you not been listening to us this past week? We are 'booked' to be at Ikea this wednesday!

Oh, are you? ponders our older cherub. Yes, I do seem to remember you saying something about that.....

Of course we did!!! How long have you known about this TPE?!

Only about a week or so........

*?*!*?*!? (or words to that effect). YOU will have to sort this out yourself! say furious parents of disgruntled teenager.

So the new plan.....LeeLee will sleepover with a friend Tuesday night, then eat lunch on Wednesday with another friend, and (after her TPE) will phone us to tell us it has finished and walk around to the mediateque to wait for us.

So simple.

Ha!!!

All going to plan. LeeLee phones us just as we are leaving Ikea. We tell her we will be about an hour and a half.

Little while later, we realise that we cannot pick her up on the way past - because all the spare seats in the car are occupied by Ikea boxes.....

So I phone her mobile to warn her we will be a bit late. No answer - just voicemail. I say she could always catch the public bus home (we would pay!) and ask her to call us back to confirm what she decides to do. No phone call.

We get home and find no older daughter, so offload Richard and I call LeeLee again to tell her to be waiting outside since there is nowhere to park at the mediateque. No answer. Just voicemail.

Get to the mediateque. Luckily I still have Nic in the car, and so chuck her out and get her to run in and find LeeLee.

LeeLee gets in the car and asks: where on earth have YOU been?! You are late!!

Ballistic mother delivers a tirade about teenagers who have got a mobile phone which they never answer, and who never bother to check their voicemail.

But I set off from home 36 hours ago, not realising my phone was out of charge.......

AHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!

PS
Same Monday evening, same cherub enquires of same furious parents whether we remembered that she needed to be picked up from a party at 3am on Saturday in some village the other side of Bedarieux.

Words failed me to begin with - but I soon catch up.

What party? Didn't I mention it last month? No!

What village? Not sure. I suppose you want me to find out. Yes!

And now - you are NOT going to go to the party unless you can PROVE to us that your phone is fully charged and has plenty of credit!!!

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Safe At Last?

What can we say except - well done West Yorkshire police! All that manpower and hard work, and you found Shannon Matthews, alive.

Did anyone really expect this amazing result - after more than three weeks 'missing'? It shows that miracles DO happen in this sad world, a world that children like Shannon live in.

It is interesting to read the views being expressed on the police grapevine. The prevailing feeling is that this will be a very complex and (unfortunately) more unsavoury case than it first appears.

Whilst suspending judgement on the adults involved, note that an Emergency Police Protection Order is not standard practise on finding an abducted child. It is virtually unheard of.

Say a prayer for this little nine-year-old. She has to live through this nightmare, which is not over yet.

PS
And will this 'case' be fairly reflected in the performance statistics for the West Yorkshire Police Force? Get real!


Monday, 17 March 2008

Mirror, Mirror On the Wall....

What have we been up to over the last couple of weeks whilst unable to post? I knew you would ask that.....
***
Mirrors in the apartment. Seems a simple enough idea but, with us, nothing is THAT simple!

Although we decided not to replace the bathroom sink/cabinet this year, we did decide to put the new mirror up that was included in the ensemble - since it also had a light strip across the top with a socket. Thought that would impress our guests!

Great - that was a good start. Of course it did mean that Richard had to rewire the only socket in the bathroom which was of course not in the right place for the new mirror.....

The mirror we took down was quite large and an interesting shape. Seemed a shame to waste it, since mirrors are expensive. So lets use it in the bedroom - everyone needs/wants a mirror in the bedroom surely?!

Great idea. Shame it was too big for the only logical place for it to go - where only 7 feet tall people could see into it!

OK. So we needed to go and buy an alternative mirror for the bedroom. Did I mention that they are expensive? And it could not be TOO large?

Found a sale on and bought one with a wrought iron surround.

OK. So everything else in the bedroom is currently white, but we always planned to replace the bed next year with a wrought iron one. Well I did anyway. Not sure Richard was thinking that far ahead....

The new bedroom mirror went up. With allowance for only two screw holes at the top, and a wall that is not straight, it ended up sitting away from the wall by about three inches at the bottom! We just needed to go out (AGAIN!) and buy those really strong sticky tabs that are used to stick mirror tiles onto walls. Need I mention that they are not that cheap?!

So once again we are left with a really large, ornate mirror that used to be in the bathroom, was too big for the bedroom and is now propped up against a wall.

It really would be a shame to waste it. Mirrors are expensive you know!

With only one room left in the apartment mirrorless (have I mentioned before that it is a small apartment?), the main room had to have it. Surely everyone wants/needs a mirror in their main room?

OK. Maybe a mirror in the kitchen is a bit odd but WE HAVE A SPARE MIRROR AND I DO NOT WANT TO WASTE IT!

So onto the wall in the main room it went.

***
We have one mirror left. The tall one that used to be on the door of one of the large wardrobes we dismantled and took to the dump.

Mirrors are expensive you know (have I mentioned this before?!) and it really is a shame to waste a perfectly good one.

OK. So it is a bit tatty and some of the mirroring has chipped off......but ideas on a postcard as to where it could go.

No, Richard, you cannot enter this competition!!!!
***
Today France honoured its last World War I veteran, Lazare Ponticelli, who died on Wednesday at the age of 110.

How do I know?

Because Nic came home from college this afternoon, telling us all about it. They had all stood up in class and taken part in a minute's silence. The teacher had structured their lesson all around the story, touching not only on the individual concerned but also the First World War in general.

Nic learnt, and will remember, more about this conflict than she probably will in any future normal history class.

We were impressed.
***
Happy St Patrick's Day!!

Wait a minute? Who says we are not to celebrate it this year? Just because Easter is so early?!

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Flaky - But Not By Cadburys!

Internet still up and down (can't think why?!), but at least I have found the pictures I meant to post yesterday. Richard's 'four men up a pole'. As with workmen everywhere, there are always two that watch.....
***
I brought home the seat cushions from the apartment to wash, and put them on the side in the bathroom. Guess who has colonised them?! Not sure she can see much out of the gap between the shutter and the surround though!!
***
Catching up with all the things we have been doing whilst NOT able to post, we went for a wonderful Indonesian meal at our friends (Riet & Albert) last week.

The saté sticks were delicious cooked on the barbecue. A glass of wine always helps the chef as well.....

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Incommunicado !

That's it. I knew I shouldn't have spoken too soon.

Those of you who have been following our sorry saga, know that our Internet/e-mail connection has been flaky since before Christmas and getting progressively worse. Working only five minutes in any one hour - and usually at around midnight. Very convenient....

Finally France Telecom decided that the communications hub for our whole Commune needed replacing and rewiring. Great!!!

Shame they did not get it right though the first time, nor the second time, nor indeed the third time.....

For almost two and a half weeks several of us in the Commune have been without the Internet/e-mail, and more awkwardly - without a telephone!!! Yes, they mis-wired many of us with the result that we were without an actual telephone connection as well!!!

What was REALLY annoying was that there was no error message on the line - if someone called, they just heard the phone ringing and ringing. Everyone just thought we had stopped answering our phones, or had emigrated.

And, just to rub salt into our wounds, they sent us our monthly bill....

PS
When Richard phoned through to report a major fault, France Telecom asked if he had any idea what might be causing the problem.

Richard replied - could the four workman, all working up the pole, with all the loose wires hanging out of the box, be a contributory factor?!

Ah, yes, maybe....

PPS
Guess how long it is taking our inbox to update today. We will get around to replying to all our outstanding e-mails, just be patient please!!!

PPPS
To begin with, we visited our local Café d'Internet once a week to keep on top of things. Then...they shut it down?! What is it about us and the Internet......

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

...And Sticky Backed Plastic.

When you are renovating a place for renting out - the temptation to replace everything with what YOU would want to live with, is overpowering. But you have to always remember that you are in this to MAKE money - not to spend far too much before you even start generating an income! But it is hard....for me anyway!

Our apartment had been owned by an older couple who did all the work on it themselves and were great believers in 'make do' and reuse. It appears they never bought a new screw or bolt - just found an old one and cut it to size! Even old metal shelf supports had been sawed off at the end when they found they were too long for the latest shelves - and the 'raw' cut ends carefully painted over!

Prior to stripping wallpaper and repainting the walls - we had to remove a multitude of things screwed and bolted to the plastered and tiled walls, all using different types of fixings.

The various knobs for hanging up towels and clothes as well as hooks for tea-towels and keys looked to have been home-made from bits of furniture, etc. Trouble was:
1. They left gapping holes and metal fixings in the plaster walls and tiled areas,2. New ones were expensive (it is amazing what these things cost down here!),
3. None of the new ones would line up with the old holes (that would be just too jammy!!), and
4. Of course drilling new holes in the tiled areas would be high risk (the tiles are very ancient and crumbly!).

So I brought to bear all those skills learnt watching playschool - I 'made do'.

And they did not look too bad afterwards even if I say so myself! And they at least went back into the old holes and made the walls/tiles look better!!
***
Work has progressed on our communications box - the old one is back to back with the new. And has it worked?

Well we are at least 'connected' tonight.....long may it continue!