November 25, 2018

The rainbow’s end

For weeks now I’ve been getting my place ready for my sister and brother-in-law’s impending visit from England. They’re arriving next weekend and will be staying with me for six weeks so I want to make everything as nice and comfortable for them during their stay as I can.

When they were here last time a couple of years ago the house was a bit cold so I decided this time around that I’d put up some new thermal curtains to keep the cold and draughts out. The trouble with that, though, was that I hadn’t touched the walls in the living room from when the previous people were in the house and they were in too much of a mess to leave as they were.

They had left behind a huge number of unfilled holes and those that weren’t empty still had plastic plugs in them. So that problem needed to be dealt with and at the same time, three walls that had been painted a ghastly orange-brown colour could at last be changed to white.

I’m now at last getting to the end of it. I’ve made good and painted everything up to the corner in which I have my computer, so today’s job was to shift it together with all of it’s associated ancillaries and junk and make things good ready for painting tomorrow. And I got it done while at the same time being treated to an awesome light show across the hills and valley to the east of my house.

It was a spectacular little rainbow. We had a chilly northerly wind and a few light showers today and it was during one of the latter that I noticed the rainbow and went out to take a few shots of it. I’ll let them speak for themselves.

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At one time I noticed that a foot of a second rainbow had appeared facing in the opposite direction to the original one.

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Later on while I was still working I glanced out of my window and saw that there was just the one rainbow again, but this time facing in the opposite direction. I guess that this was due to the movement of the sun but I didn’t have the time to drop everything and go out to take another photograph.

But in any case, it was a pleasant interlude in another otherwise boring day’s decorating. Luckily, not much more to do and I can’t wait now to get it all done and dusted 🙂

November 18, 2018

Urgent repairs

My house, like many old properties in France, especially towards the south where it’s hotter and drier, has been thoroughly neglected, certainly in recent years. Most of the paint on the exterior woodwork is cracking and pealing off and much of the wood itself is dry and splitting from the sun and rotten in parts.

This hasn’t concerned me too much because the windows and doors will be replaced with new double glazed units when the renovation and extension work that I have planned is completed and I was always prepared to live in the meantime with the problems and consequences arising from the items that were in disrepair.

The problem that has arisen, of course, is that the work has been subject to delay. I’ve got round my leaky roof problems by bridging the holes with pieces of bituminous roofing felt, things like that, but the woodwork has been more difficult to deal with, and in particular my house’s rear door.

In a word, it’s a real stinker. Whenever there has been a storm with the wind from the west, it has leaked like a sieve. I hoped that fitting weatherboards to both of my doors would help solve the problem but although this helped with my kitchen door, which is on an easterly elevation and rarely has to cope with driven rain, it didn’t do much to stop the water coming in through my rear door. And I do mean ‘through’ the door, not under or around, but through.

The earliest now that it will be replaced will be in the spring which still leaves possible poor weather in the winter still to come. I’m painting interior walls right now ready for putting up new thermal curtains before my family visitors arrive from the UK for Christmas and New Year and when they’re up, the last thing I want is for the ones over the rear door to get soaked if water comes flooding in all over the floor. So I thought that while it’s still dry and fairly warm I’d better do something about it.

The obvious problem was that much of the putty in the small glazed areas in the door itself and the windows on either side of it had dried, cracked up and dropped out. This was most likely how most of the rainwater was finding its way inside, but there were also other problems. Parts of the wood beading in the lower panel of the door were totally rotten and when I pealed off the lower portion today it brought a large part of the bottom of the door, which was rotten, away with it.

Now, I wasn’t looking today to create a work of craftsmanship or beauty by tackling the required repairs – it’s far too late for that and things are much too far gone. All I wanted to do was make things waterproof for the winter because if everything goes to plan, it’ll all be ripped out in the spring when the weather improves again anyway.

So my plans were to replace as much of the damaged glazing putty that I had to and then patch and seal the door in the hope of preventing future water ingress. The window putty was the most straightforward part, only made more difficult than it needed to be because they seem to like their linseed oil putty really soft and sticky over here, meaning that less experienced ‘glazers’ like me get totally garmed up with it all over their fingers, hands and tools and, inevitably as a result, the ‘job’ itself. Here are some shots of the window and door glass after I’d finished.

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The putty is still much too soft to paint over so I’m hoping that the weather will remain dry and warm as it currently is, until later in the week. If not it won’t be the end of the world but I would prefer to cover it.

The door itself was a bit more problematic. My plan was to just fill any gaps in the wood beading and panels with putty but when I pulled off the bottom section of beading it brought a large chunk of the bottom of the door, which was rotten, off with it. This explained how much of the water was getting through but it meant that it had to be patched in some way.

I did it by shortening the side beads a bit, screwing on a wooden panel across the lower section of the door (above the weatherboard that I fitted a couple of years or so ago) and filling any gaps with putty. I then gave it a quick coat of undercoat just to protect the new wood a bit and here are some shots of the final result.

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Like I said earlier, not very pretty but if it now stops rainwater entering the house, that’ll do me. It’s just a matter of keeping fingers crossed and waiting to see what happens. With a bit of luck, if we have a dry winter the work will have been unnecessary and if so, I won’t mind that either 😉

November 11, 2018

Hello, hello, hello…

What’s this then? Yup, it’s the metal corner bracket (called ‘une gâche’ here in France) that detached itself from my trailer while Wim and I were driving to pick up the second load of my wood order two days ago.

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Hardly worth bothering with you might think – why not just order a new one? And when you check the price on the internet – around 2€ depending on the supplier – you might think that you’re right. That’s until you check the delivery charge which, this being France, is totally disproportionate given the cost of the item itself, at from 10-15€!!

They still just don’t seem to get what e-commerce is all about in France and while I was checking the on-line cost and availability I still found several suppliers who show catalogues of parts on their web sites and expect you to phone them to ascertain price and availability of the item(s) that you’re interested in. Incredible.

The two items that are must-haves down here in the rural Dordogne if you have a wood burner are a wood splitter and a trailer, so there was a good incentive for me to return yesterday to look for the missing bracket. Wim and I both heard it hit the ground without realising what it was until we arrived at our destination and although we both had a rough idea where it happened, neither of us was sure.

We looked for it on the way back but without success and I decided that I’d return to search again yesterday. It didn’t help that it was raining yesterday morning but after it had eased off I went back, parked my car in the area where I thought the bracket fell off and got out to search for it on foot.

I started by going downhill on the side of the road that we’d been driving on and then back up on the other. We hadn’t been driving fast so I thought that it couldn’t have bounced very far and could only be just in the grass on the verge at the very most.

After walking up past my parked car I found it just as I began to walk back down again, nestling in the short grass at the edge of the road, and here’s a shot of it that I took this morning before getting it ready to be reattached.

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Here’s a shot of the trailer corner before I started work. Luckily I already had a few large diameter pop rivets which were a bit long, not that that mattered too much

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And here are a couple of shots of the finished article with the trailer now all ready to go for it’s next job.

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I also picked up the parcel of parts needed for the replacement engine for the Kia yesterday and dropped them in to my mechanic. He said that he’ll be able to start the work in the next few days as he’s only got another couple of jobs lined up ahead of it. That’s good news. I took a look at the engine now that the special paint that I applied to it has dried and it looks great so and I can’t wait to see how the work goes.

Evening edit… back to say that unfortunately I wasn’t so lucky today with my log splitter. It looks as though the leak is probably coming from an invisible crack or split in the pump’s baseplate, so not repairable, not by me anyway. So I’m now on the lookout on le Bon Coin for a replacement. There are quite a few good ones listed but I’ll just watch and wait as I’m in no hurry for now 😉

November 9, 2018

Good for wood

The principal reason that I’ve been so keen to press on with my ‘To-Do’ list is that I have family coming over from the UK for Christmas and New Year and I therefore need everything to run as smoothly as possible while they’re here. I also need to be able to keep the house as warm as possible so having a good supply of wood is paramount.

I have an excellent supplier of wood who offers very good value but does not deliver so I have to pick the wood up myself using my large trailer. With the Kia still being out of commission, I needed to get the towbar that I’ve bought fitted on the C-Max so I could use that to tow it but with everything that I’ve had to deal with in recent weeks it’s just been impossible to find the opportunity to get underneath the rear of the car and find out why the rear bumper won’t come off. So that presented me with a big problem – no tow-car, no trailer, no wood.

That’s when my good friend Wim stepped in as he’s done so often in the past and offered the loan of his Daihatsu which has a tow bar fitted – and not only that, he also offered to give me a hand to get the job done this afternoon while the weather was dry, which was a big bonus. So I started the day by giving my wood store a good clear out and here’s how it looked afterwards with my saw and splitter also cleared out of the way to make getting the wood into the store easier.

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We started at around 2.00 pm and after making two trips loading the trailer fully each time, we finished just before 5.00 pm. And here’s what 3 stères of cut dry wood looked like afterwards all neatly stacked in the back of the wood store.

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I was really grateful for Wim’s help as with the two of us it took much less than half the time that it’s taken me working alone on the two previous occasions. We put the big stuff that will need splitting in the front where it’ll be easily accessible so with what I had already, I’ve now got plenty of wood to see me through the winter and beyond. In fact I’ll have quite a bit left over just as I did last year which has been a big help coming into the colder weather this year and needing to get the woodburner going.

Now I’ve got to take a close look at my splitter and find out why it’s leaking oil. I need to take the wheels off to get at the rear of the pump and for that I needed to buy some circlip pliers, which I did yesterday, so maybe I’ll be able to do that tomorrow.

There was another small setback today when one of the corner brackets securing the front panel of my trailer came off while we were driving to pick up the second load of wood due to the failure of the pop rivets holding it on. We looked for it on the way back but couldn’t find it so I’ll have to have another go again tomorrow.

It’ll be a busy day as I also need to pick up the parcel containing the parts that I ordered for the Kia from the post office at Rouffignac before mid-day. As I’ve said before, as soon as you tick one item on the ‘To-Do’ list off at least one, if not more get added. How I ever found time to work before I retired I’ll never know.

November 4, 2018

Another box ticked

Meaning another job off my ‘To-Do’ list. And a good one too, because today I finished the re-roofing of my wood store.

It’s been a few days since I stripped off the old roof covering that was letting in water and we’ve had a bit of rain since. Luckily I covered it up with plastic sheets that kept most of the water off and allowed only a little to get through into the inside.

As there was so much water lying on them, I removed the plastic sheets a couple of days ago as I wanted to start fitting the new covering yesterday while it was dry and although when I went out to start early yesterday morning and found a lot of dew on the roof surface that I had to remove with my hot air gun, I think that it was the wisest thing to do.

As a result, I was able to get all of the new covering on yesterday leaving just the finishing off to do today. I thought for a while that I wouldn’t be able to re-use one of the roof side boards but in the end decided that I might as well make the best of it and finally it didn’t turn out too badly as the following shots show as the sun was dipping onto the horizon.

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It’s a big relief to know that the job’s done because we expect several days of rain during the coming week and who knows what thereafter. Now, although I still have quite a bit of wood, I have to pick up the 3 stères that I’ve ordered that will fill the store up and be more than enough to see the winter out.

I’ve also got to check out my splitter because the last time that I used it, a week or so ago, some oil leaked out onto the floor. I’m hoping that something has just come loose but it’s not too serious if it’s something more major. I didn’t pay a lot for it when I bought it off Le Bon Coin some five or more years ago and there are some excellent, more powerful, ones for sale right now that I could pick up for less than having my old one repaired. I’ll know for sure soon enough.

November 1, 2018

BSP Auto…BEWARE!!

BSP Auto, located in Paris, is a vehicle hire agency. By booking to hire a vehicle from one of the major hire companies through their web site you get a much better deal than if you go to the hire company direct – at least you appear to, although I can’t vouch for that personally as I didn’t actually go through with the hire that I booked a few weeks ago.

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I’ll explain what happened as my experience with BSP Auto was far from satisfactory and from the postings about the company that I’ve since found on the internet, it appears that my experience was in no way unique.

But first some background. When my Kia Sportage went off the road back in June, my good friend Victor kindly loaned me his amazing Citroën 2CV to use as a ‘daily driver’ as it’s impossible to exist here without a car. I hoped that it would only be for a short while but as the problems with the Kia mounted up as I’ve described in various postings here on My Trike, the loan period got longer and longer.

With the end of September approaching and with the Kia still not repaired (in fact with a crankshaft bearing now gone) it became clear that I would have to buy a replacement vehicle, and as that would inevitably mean covering some ground to view the ones that I might be interested in, I decided to hire a car for a week. So on 21st September, I booked through BSP Auto to hire an Opel Corsa or similar from Avis in Périgueux for a week with unlimited use for 156€, which I thought was a very good deal.

But then, of course, fate played a wild card. I’d been thinking about what to buy and decided that I liked the look of the Ford C-Max, especially with the 1.8 litre engine as I wanted to be able to tow my twin-wheel trailer comfortably with it and also the top-of-the range Titanium version if I could get hold of one.

I’d seen one in Limoges which turned out to be awful (scratched, dented and dirty) and found that the best ones all seemed to be way up north, in the Paris area, which is why I’d decided to go for the hire car. Then lo and behold, the very next day after booking the hire car, a Ford C-Max 1.8 Titanium with low kilometres appeared for sale ‘just down the road’ near Agen. You couldn’t make it up!

Victor said that he’d drive me down to see it, so I didn’t need the hire car and cancelled it the day after booking it, on 22nd September. As the cancellation was within 48 hours of the hire date, according to BSP Auto’s terms and conditions, it would be subject to a 25€ cancellation fee, which I was quite happy with, meaning that I was due a refund of 131€.

I expected, as you do if you’re dealing with a reputable organisation, that my refund would be made on my bank card within 3-5 days but instead I waited and waited. A week later on 1st October I sent BSP Auto an email saying ‘Where is my refund?’ and received a reply an hour later saying that the refund would be made ‘to my account’ that week.

Later that day (1st October) I received what was obviously, from it’s format, a ‘standard’ email saying that it wasn’t possible to make a refund to the card I’d used to book the hire for what could be one of several reasons, of which they then listed a couple of examples that were clearly fictitious, and that I needed to send them my bank RIB so they could arrange a bank transfer.

Now, an RIB or Relevé d’Identité Bancaire is a French bank document which details the coordinates of your bank branch and account but does not, as I understand it, include details of the actual bank that you’re a customer of, so providing your RIB is a bit like giving your UK bank account number but without the sort-code.

I’d already sensed by now that I was going to run into problems getting this refund back and that BSP Auto were clearly going to use all means at their disposal to hang onto it if they could ie steal it. However, I was slow at the time picking up on their RIB ploy and just supplied the information that they’d asked for. So on 4th October I sent them a strongly worded email demanding to know where my refund was and calling them crooks.

This was probably like water off a duck’s back as presumably they must receive dozens, possibly even hundreds, of such emails every week, which they just ignore unless the client has the knowledge and motivation to take things further. Within an hour I received an email reply just asking if I’d sent my RIB, which I did again in the early afternoon the same day (4th October).

The next day, 5th October, I received an email saying that my ‘refund was being dealt with’ which, of course, was designed to put me back into ‘waiting mode and continue the delaying game in their favour. I waited until 14th October when I sent a carefully worded email clearly stating that if I did not receive my refund by close of business on 15th October I would take steps to commence legal action against them.

Much as in the UK, there is a ‘Small Claims’ court here in France, but in order to be successful, you must conform to a specific protocol and written procedure. The upside though, is that if you do and you do have a valid claim, it is bound to be granted. The first stage in the process is that the claimant must send the other party a letter that is called a ‘Mise en Demeure’.

This is a letter in which the broad details of the claim are set out and the other party is given a time limit by which the claim must be paid after which the claimant will commence formal proceedings. The ‘mise en demeure’ has a specific format and wording and it is easy to find model versions, depending on the nature of the claim being made, on the internet. The version I used can be found HERE.

The ‘mise en demeure’ must be sent to the other party by recorded delivery, which I did on 22nd October at a cost to myself of 5€. The letter stated that the other party had 10 days from the date of posting in which to make the payment before formal action would be started, giving them a limit of 1st November. The record showed that BSP Auto received it on 25th October.

Clearly BSP Auto are well used to playing this game and on the same day I received a telephone call asking me again for my bank RIB, which I duly re-sent only to receive a final email later that day (25 October) saying that the RIB was insufficient for them to be able to make a bank transfer (as I’d already surmised) and that I needed to send them my full bank IBAN, which I immediately did.

But no surprise, there was still no refund. Well, there was actually, on 31st October, the final day before the legal limit set out in my ‘mise en demeure’ expired. This says it all. BSP Auto knew exactly what they were doing, had no intention of making any refund without a ‘mise en demeure’ and then only at the very end of the time limit to which they were ‘legally’ entitled.

What an awful company one might think, and with good reason. A quick google shows that the internet is swarming with angry customers who have been bilked by them in one way or another, people like me who have never received refunds to which they were entitled, who booked vehicles at holiday destinations only to find that they were not available on arrival and had to pay again, who paid for extra insurance and were then told that it was not valid and had to pay over again and so on and so on.

So if you’re thinking about using BSP Auto for your next hire booking, my advice is BEWARE!! They come across as being unscrupulous, as does much of the vehicle hire sector, and are clearly well versed in the games that allow them to hang onto your money while giving nothing in return. Luckily for me I was able to take them on, albeit for a relatively small amount of money, and win, but there are many others who have not been so lucky.