I’ve not been able to post for ages, mainly because since returning from Val’s, I haven’t had either phone or internet in my house. I’ll explain why in a moment, but I’ve just sat down in front of my computer having been out cutting my grass for the past hour or so. The reason I’ve come in is because at the time of typing this (around 4.30 pm) the temperature in the shade under my ’tilleuil’ is 28 degrees Celsius and in the direct sunlight it is 42 degrees. The late afternoon is when things are at their hottest here, so I’ll get back to my grass cutting a bit later on when it’s a bit cooler, and in the meantime I’ll make a start on this post.
First, the phone and internet situation. These I regard as essential services nowadays and in my opinion, no provider worth their salt should have any problem dealing with issues of any kind to do with the initial supply of the services or taking them over from a previous provider. But this is France and as I have come to find with almost all of the services, nationalised companies still predominate. As a result, there is very little competition and little incentive for them to do things efficiently and well, let alone ‘go the extra mile’ when inevitably, as it seems, there are problems. So things here take 3-times as long to happen compared to the UK and you only succeed in getting things done at all in a reasonable time-scale by investing an inordinately high level of personal involvement in the process.
I originally signed up for telephone and internet with SFR when I came to France two years ago but unfortunately the ‘boxes’ they use have proven to be increasingly unreliable. They have always been quick to offer me a new replacement but I’ve better things to do with my time than keep driving off to Perigueux or Sarlat to pick them up just because every time a small rodent within 5 kms of my house has broken wind and has knocked the SFR Neufbox out again. So about three weeks ago I cancelled my SFR contract and signed up with Orange, part of the nationalised telephone company, France Telecom. I thought that moving to an organisation with such experience would ensure a quick, smooth change-over but as usual, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I expected to have a few days without any service at all and warned my friends and family that I’d probably be incommunicado for a while. I didn’t mind, because it coincided with my going down to Val’s to pick up my new car and I’d decided to stay over for a week or so during which time I’d be able to log on using her internet connection. So I was delighted while I was there that I received several SMS’s from Orange telling me that my line was in place and that I could now connect up my new Live Box, and I looked forward to doing so when I returned home. Val and I had a great week visiting some lovely places, which I’ll come onto in another post, after which Val left for a short visit to the UK and I returned home eagerly anticipating launching my new telephone and internet service. I might as well not have bothered.
The first thing I found was that the Live Box stubbornly refused to connect and as the old SFR box that I still had was defunct, I couldn’t even find out if that would either. So I had to fume a bit over the week-end before going off to Perigueux to confront both providers. I started with the SFR shop where I explained to the assistant that I was an old SFR client. He checked on their system and showed me that far from it, as I was still connected to their service and suggested that their ‘client service’ (same words in French and English) department needed to deal with it. I’ve found on several occasions that the words ‘client service’ in French are a total oxymoron and so it was on this occasion. He dialled them up, gave me the phone and walked off, so they had to live with the consequences when I began to berate the person on the line quite loudly for their appalling lack of response and poor service with several other clients in the shop. Consequently the voice at the other end said it would terminate my service immediately, at which point I hung up, left and made my way to the Orange boutique in Trelissac.
There I was approached by a young woman who had about as much of a clue as a French poodle and the intention to do as little as possible to actually resolve any problems that might exist. She had no idea why I had received SMS’s from Orange telling me to connect my Live Box and said that I should talk to Orange ‘client service’, those dreaded words again. True to form, she dialled them and handed the phone over. I got another young lady who also couldn’t be bothered and said that I should just go away and wait for two or three days for things to sort themselves out. I was flabbergasted as the first woman had shown me a screen saying that my new Orange system was already alive and working, despite the original target date being the next day. So I decided that for the sake of another day, I’d do just that, although really I suspected that actually nothing would change in the meantime.
And I wasn’t disappointed, so off I went back to Trelissac. It was just my luck to get the same young woman who did the same as before, so this time after she’d walked off while the phone was ringing, I just placed it on the desk and walked out. I’d tried several times before to manually connect my Live Box using the user name and password provided by Orange but purely by chance, I decided to try it again, but this time using the ‘idiot’s CD’ that came with it. And lucky I did, because the installation system included diagnostics that reported that either my user name or password (or both) were not recognised. So clearly either the box itself was faulty or my account had been incorrectly set up.
So the next day it was time to go back with it to Trelissac. On this occasion I was lucky to get the same young man who’d signed me up a few weeks before and unlike the lazy young woman who I’d seen previously, he was prepared to actually do something. First he called up Orange Technical and explained the problems and then he set to to test my box. Initially, he found as I had that it wouldn’t connect with the user name and password that I’d put into it but then, as if by magic, it suddenly did. I suspect that as a result of his earlier call, Technical had indeed found a fault and rectified it while he was doing his stuff because neither of us could otherwise explain why a ‘faulty’ box would, or could, suddenly heal itself.
But to make certain, the young man then did something for which he deserves much credit – he gave me a second, more valuable, Live Box to take home with me just in case the original one stopped working again. I thanked him for his efforts and went off clutching both boxes and couldn’t wait to get home to try my original one out. Sure enough, it connected and I had internet. But what about phone? The green VOIP phone light came on and I dialled my mobile which rang! I could hardly believe it – were all my problems over at last? Well, no actually. When I dialled my new home number, I could hear the ringing tone on my mobile but my home phone system remained stubbornly silent. Was I surprised? Well, no, not really, because this is France after all. Sure, when I logged into my Live Box and clicked ‘test phone’, it rang, but the second box that I’d been loaned behaved in the same way, so I knew things were hopeless for the time being.
I somehow knew all along that it would be too much to hope after everything that I’d already been put through that the system would work properly without a little bit more agony and so yesterday, a full five days after all this stuff had started, I called up Orange ‘client service’ myself. Except this time I was able to use my own home phone. After an hour talking on it and my mobile we had got no further forward, and as I had to go to Angouleme later in the day, I told them that I had to leave them to it. I dropped into the Orange boutique and dropped the spare box off with the same young man, who couldn’t believe it as much as me, but I had to go so I just thanked him for the help he’d provided me with and went off.
I got home from Angouleme late yesterday afternoon and the first thing I did, of course, was ring my home phone from my mobile. To my complete and utter surprise, it rang. I suppose I shouldn’t really have been surprised, but I was. After all, it had only taken the best part of three weeks for this little miracle to happen down here in sunny south-west France. I love the French to bits but I’m afraid that when it comes to technology, they do seem to get a bit flummoxed. I have to admit that I’m beginning to wonder whether flying in an Airbus really is such a good idea… 😐
Oh yes, just one last bit of news. On Monday, as my grass is now so long, it not having been cut for several weeks, I thought that it would be a good idea to go around digging out and picking up as many of the stones that have been doing so much damage to my mowers as I could. I was amazed that it took me most of the day and that I ended up collecting five barrow-loads of the damn things which I’ve now piled up in a corner of my back garden to be used in the future as hard-core. So I thought that mowing my lawn would be transformed into a new, possibly almost pleasurable, experience. But sadly, it was not to be. After typing the first few paragraphs of this post, I returned to my mowing later in the afternoon, which went well until I mowed over a lump of old metal that I think is the metal ‘tyre’ of an old-fashioned tractor, that is half-submerged under the ’tilleuil’ in my front garden. I’ve mowed over it many times in the past but this time the blade of the mower caught it and stopped instantly with a loud bang. When I pulled the starter rope, the engine wouldn’t budge and when I looked underneath, expecting to see a bent blade, in fact I found that the shaft carrying the blade was even more bent than that of the new mower that I bought when I first came here, that suffered the same fate. So once again, I am now left with no mower. I’ll have to take the two damaged ones that I have to the ‘décheterie’ to dispose of them as it would be a waste of time trying to sell them on Le Bon Coin as some locals try to do. And then I’ll have to find another – my third. The last one, which I talked about on My Trike when I acquired it, has only lasted a few months. I just hope that the next one lasts a little bit longer 🙁