July 29, 2021

Workout before breakfast

I was up and out this morning at around 7.00 am as the sun was just creeping over the horizon to do something I’ve been thinking about since the area under the trees at the top of my land was cleared. Sebastien and his crew did an OK job of clearing the area but, let’s just say, they were not quite so careful about clearing up after themselves.

A small heap of debris was left behind and as I mentioned previously, there were quite a few small and some quite large branches together with other waste foliage that had been cut and left around the periphery. So this morning I thought that I’d go round myself, collect all of the latter up and add it to the heap so when someone did eventually come back, they could take the whole lot away.

Afterwards I thought that I’d take a look at the plastic that was coming out of the ground. It turned out that my ‘strawberries’ theory could not have been wider off the mark. This was simply a case of ‘what the eye doesn’t see…’ because when I began to pull some out, what I found was that it consisted of bales of waste plastic, probably old fertiliser bags or something like that, that had been baled-up with thin blue cord and then buried by some unknown ‘agriculteur’ at the edge of what was once one of his fields.

I managed to extract four lots, which was nearly all of it, and add it to the heap. At the end of it I think I might have cricked my neck a bit with the effort involved, but it was worth it and the area under the trees looked much tidier afterwards.

I finished at about 8.30 am and came in for a clean-up and shave and to have my breakfast. And just in time, because at around 9.00 am just before I began typing this, a small truck pulled up next to the heap that had now more than doubled in size and began loading it on. It’s still there because they’re doing a bit more tidying up, maybe because of the example I’d set. Anyway, it looks as though my early-morning workout was well worth it.

A footnote – it turns out that the guy clearing up was the one who was driving the tractor. He has just left after driving down to say ‘au revoir’ and ‘bon courage’. Very local and very pleasant… quite unlike those who all seem to work in the public sector in France. As a further aside, I also approached and made peace with my neighbour this morning with whom I’d had the disagreement about the generator. We bumped fists and agreed to forget and move on. Life is too short. So taken all round, this has been what I think was a very satisfactory start to the day 🙂

July 28, 2021

Rejoice!

As I mentioned in my previous post, Sebastien and his team came and did their work yesterday and I’m very pleased with the results. Not overjoyed, though, because although they cleaned up after themselves pretty well, they’ve still left quite a few small logs and branches around the periphery of the cleared area and also a small heap of debris that they somehow managed to ‘overlook’, all of which I want to see gone.

I won’t pay, of course, until they are. I’ll probably tell him when he sends his ‘facture’ that if he’d like to come over and get rid of all that stuff I’ll hand him a cheque at the same time. I do have one disappointment, though, which isn’t his fault. At some time in the distant past it may have been that the land was used to grow strawberries on. Whether that’s so or not I don’t know but what we’ve found is that there’s a lot of black plastic sheet buried in the ground, something which is done by strawberry growers, and which is now being brought to the surface.

I have a rotavator which is now in storage and inaccessible so I may have to hire a largish machine to till the ground while it’s soft and see if I can get it all out. If I do that, it’ll also help to extract the roots of the bushes that were left in and also help when it comes to make a level area if I should decide to move the caravan back up there, which is by no means certain.

Here are some shots that I took this afternoon, starting looking back up the slope towards the road.

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The next shot was taken looking directly across to more or less where the northern corner of the house will be.

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This shot was taken looking back towards the same area but from slightly further up the slope.

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The next shot was taken of the cleared area from next to the road.

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This shot was also taken from next to the road but slightly further round.

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This shot was taken from the point next to the road where I want Enedis to install my electrical ‘coffret’

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The next shot was taken from inside the now-cleared area just under the trees looking down the slope.

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This final shot of the cleared area was also taken from further down under the trees and shows the previously invisible boundary marker of my land, or ‘borne’, the stick with a red top, which had been hidden in the trees.

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Now, if you’ve read this far you might be wondering to yourself what the heck does he have to rejoice about? Well, the answer is that it appears that my visit last week to Véolia’s office at Terrasson where I made clear what I thought about their service may have paid off, because while I was inspecting Sebastien’s team’s handiwork with him, a technician from Véolia turned up!

He was a pleasant sort of a chap as most of the non-office types are here in France but it didn’t help that almost as soon as he started talking a pesky fly flew straight into his eye, something that they always aim to do. He had copies of the papers that I’d provided and we started by looking at the valve (or ‘vanne’) that I’ve been saying all along is already on my land, which will make connecting up a water meter a doddle.

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He agreed, but whereas I said that this was the valve for my land he said that actually it wasn’t and that it’s actually for the house opposite on the other side of the road. This came as something of a surprise to me because I said that the plans show the water main running across my land close to the road. He said that that wasn’t the case. It actually runs down through the trees several metres from the road as can still just be seen in the final shot below by the ‘alleyway’ that was cut through and still exists.

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However, he said that it would be a simple matter to cut my supply in at that point and implied that if I only want my inspection chamber that will hold the water meter a metre or so in any direction from the existing valve, it would be relatively quick and cheap to do. Then came the reason for my rejoicing. I asked him when things would start to happen, and he said that he’d get my ‘devis’ (estimate) out within the week.

I don’t want to start my celebrations too early because that doesn’t mean that a van with an engineer will come trundling up the road to do the work any time soon, but it does at least look as though there are reasons for optimism that the estimate of 6-7 weeks made by the hatchet-faced lady at Terrasson last week might be improved upon. And maybe by quite a bit 😉

July 27, 2021

Going places

Well, not really. Not very far anyway. I had a call yesterday afternoon from Sebastien, the tree man, that he would like to do the job today. That meant that in order to give his team plenty of access, I needed to move my caravan and all my other stuff out of the way, so I had to get moving straight away.

I’ve had my eye on a spot at the bottom of my land right from the very beginning so that’s where I decided to move to. I had no idea how long it would take and it was the end of the evening before I got everything down there.

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I was up bright and early expecting Sebastien’s team to make an early start and I was right. There’s a little deer that I see most mornings who comes onto the fields on either side of my land for her breakfast. She doesn’t seem to be too worried by my presence so long as I stay at a distance and I’m hoping that she’ll continue doing so in future as she gets to know me. Here are some shots of my new location that I took this morning.

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However, today was an exception for the little deer because while she was eating and flapping her ears to shoo the flies off she was disturbed by a tractor with a flashing light that came rumbling down the road and turned onto my land. After a brief discussion the driver got cracking on slashing down all the bushes and small trees that I wanted removed and shortly afterwards the rest of the small team arrived.

They’re still working as I type this and are making short work of clearing the desired area. I have to say that it’s making quite a difference. I don’t think, though, that I’ll be moving my caravan back up there anytime soon. The reason is that the contractor appointed by Enedis to do my electrical connection also came by yesterday, as planned.

So for the first time someone who knows what they’re talking about came to actually look at the job and he showed me what he’d found. I’m told that the previous potential purchaser of my land who backed out two years or so ago paid to have water and electricity connected and sure enough, as I’ve mentioned several times, there’s a water supply on the land.

There are also signs that a trench has been dug bringing a cable from the electrical ‘coffret’ on the other side of the road down to the corner of my land and the engineer confirmed this to be so. However, he showed me that whereas they’d dropped the plastic tube, or ‘gaine’ through which the cable passes, into the trench, there is actually no cable contained in it!

Why would they do that, for goodness sake, especially if as I’d been told, the previous person had paid for a connection? However, it is what it is and the engineer said that it’s likely that it will take several weeks for a cable to be installed and for my own ‘coffret’ to be installed on my land.

In that case, I might as well leave the caravan where it is. It’s closer to my neighbour’s house for my electricity supply and the cable now runs around the periphery of the intervening field and not across it. And as I’ll also probably be waiting several weeks for Véolia to stir themselves and connect a meter and tap to my water supply, there’s no difference there either.

My biggest problem is that although the area on which I’ve sited the caravan looked level, it’s far from it. Once again it’s tilted over towards the front left corner and although we’re not expecting rain for some time, I need to get it levelled up. It’s also very uncomfortable as it is (I had to sleep the wrong way round on the bed last night so my head was higher than my feet) so that will be today’s main task. Hopefully I’ll be able to sleep the right way round tonight 🙂

July 25, 2021

A taste of freedom

From the tyranny of Enedis and Véolia. I popped over to Leroy Merlin yesterday and purchased two 50 metre rolls of suitable 3-core electric cable and two each, in-line plugs and sockets to make up a pair of long extension leads. Then this morning in between the showers I laid a long cable across the intervening open field and connected up my caravan to a plug point in what used to be the former owner of my neighbour’s house’s chicken shed.

And now for the first time I have continuous power in my caravan without the clattering sound of my generator and the loud ker-ching sound of euros cascading out of my wallet. So I’m now receiving both water and electricity from my neighbour after agreeing, despite her reluctance, that I will be paying a daily or weekly rate for doing so, and we’re both happy.

As the tree man will be arriving this week to clear the bushes and small trees behind where my caravan is presently parked, I’ve decided that I’ll be moving it down to the bottom corner of my land so he can have full access for the machinery he’ll need. This will not only have the advantage of getting me away from where he’ll be working but it will also give me more privacy as well as being closer to my neighbour’s house.

In fact the more I think about it, if she’s happy with our arrangement, I could well end up keeping the caravan there for the long term as getting water every few days is not a huge chore, especially if I fit an electric pump in the caravan, and even when my own electricity is connected up, the premium you pay for a ‘temporary’ connection could well end up making it more expensive than the amount that we agreed that I will be paying her. And it will also be possible to run the connecting electricity cable under the trees where it will be inconspicuous and unlikely to cause an accident.

So something to think about, but every little step that I take is ending up making my life in my caravan a little more comfortable, which is no small deal I can tell you!

July 24, 2021

More Véolia… what??!!!

I went to Véolia’s Terrasson office yesterday with high hopes that there would at last be some light at the end of the tunnel only to have them dashed in a way that only the monstrous French public sector could be capable of. I don’t know where they find them from or if they are bred specially for such roles, but there was the now-usual unsmiling, hatchet-faced young woman waiting to ‘deal with’ my query behind the now-usual bullet-proof plastic shield.

I handed her the papers I’d brought with me and she proceeded to confirm every item that I’d written on them which seemed a bit pointless to me, as if I didn’t know exactly where I wanted to have the connection made and wasn’t sure of my own phone number. But I decided to just go along with her anyway in the interests of keeping the peace… after a mere 7 weeks. ‘So this is in Fleurac?’ ‘Yes’ ‘Lieu dit Labattut Basse?’ ‘Yes’ I almost expected her to ask me to confirm that this is indeed on Planet Earth but thankfully she did stop before then but still felt that she had to get me to confirm my mobile number and email address both of which were clearly shown on the paperwork.

Then came the crunch question. How long? ‘For a new connection, 6 to 7 weeks’, she replied. That’s when I hit the roof. No matter that there were by now other people waiting in the ‘salle d’attente’ outside. I told here that this was totally unacceptable as I’d already been waiting 7 weeks since I’d placed my connection demand on Véolia. She had the cheek to say that I should have made the demand when I bought the land and, infuriated even more by such impudence, I pointed out that that was exactly what I’d done 7 weeks ago.

With the ruckus brewing, eventually a young, wet-behind-the-ears manager (I guess) emerged at that point from his office. Hatchet-face began to explain what the problem was and I then told him how appallingly Véolia had been behaving, how in 7 weeks they had done nothing to action what was a simple request that I could carry out myself in about 2 hours (fit a water meter and stand-pipe to an existing supply) and that they by their incompetence were now intending to condemn a person of my age to yet another 2 months without water in a caravan in temperatures of over 30 degrees.

He tried to bluster his way out by saying how complicated it was, how they had to use a mechanical shovel and therefore had to liaise with electricity and telephones to ensure that no lines would be affected and I replied that this was total rubbish as the water supply had already been installed and it was merely a metter of connecting to it, that I knew what I was talking about and that it would still take at most 2 hours of work to do what was needed.

But there’s no arguing with such people here in France, not so as to get any form of useful response out of them anyway. He said that they’d get someone down to my land to take a look ‘as soon as possible’ and they’d give me a call to arrange a ‘rendez-vous’. The usual response, but that counts for nothing. In due course I’ll be seeking and making contact with the ‘Médiateur’ responsible for water and making a stiff complaint but that won’t help to deal with the present issues and I’m highly sceptical that anything meaningful will come out of it anyway, but I will do it nevertheless.

Luckily, although as I’ve found, there are those here in the private sector who have a similar off-hand and dismissive attitude to customer service, there are still others who treat their clients with respect and do things properly. Such a person is the young man who came a week or so ago to look at the small trees and bushes that I need to have removed from my land so I can make enough space to reposition my caravan.

On the way back from Terrasson I received a message from him saying could I please send him my email address as he’d got it wrong and hadn’t been able to deliver his ‘devis’ for doing the work. I accepted it as soon as I got it shortly afterwards and after thanking me for my ‘confidence’ in him and his business said that he’d be able to start the work next week. So that’s good and how refreshing to know that there are people like him here and that not everyone treats their clients with the utter contempt that the likes of Véolia and Enedis do.

July 23, 2021

Be prepared

When I first came into the caravan at the beginning of July we had several days of quite intense rain and as a result I came across a couple of leaks. I hadn’t had any such problems while the caravan was parked in my garden at Plazac, I think because then it was pretty level while now I’m sure it’s a bit nose-down and dipping to the left corner where the water has entered where the roof and wall join, probably because it made a puddle there.

As we’re expecting some more rain this evening and over the coming days, I bought some flexible mastic to see if I could make a repair. I really needed a ladder to see what was going on and do a proper job but mine is in storage and too inaccessible to get out and I couldn’t borrow one for reasons that I won’t go into as they’re a bit sad. So I started off by doing the ‘easy’ repair first, on the caravan’s rear where a handle joins the body.

Not surprisingly as I’m becoming more and more familiar with the effectiveness of French craftsmanship, there was already sealant there that was clearly useless because, once again, whatever had been used had become solid and inflexible. There was a fixing screw inside the caravan that I couldn’t remove so I left it alone in order to avoid doing any more damage to wood that was already softened and just removed and replaced the sealant on the outside. It looks OK and I hope that it will do the job.

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Then came the more tricky repair, on the top left hand roof corner. I began by just moving my small trailer next to the caravan and gingerly climbing up onto it but that still left my head below the roof line. Nevertheless, just by feel I was able to remove some old sealant that had been applied there some time ago using alcohol on wads of kitchen roll and what came off horrified me. It was like half-sucked Jelly Babies, or Haribo Jelly Snakes for the non-Brits.

As I couldn’t see what I was doing, I removed what I thought was all of it, from the front corner of the ridge for about a metre and a half towards the rear. Then it was time to replace it with new material, a job that proved to be impossible one-handed from below without seeing what was going on. I then had the idea that I could stand on the pallet that my so-far un-erected metal ‘abri’ was delivered on if I stood it up against the side of the caravan and sure enough, this gave me sight of the job in hand, although I still had to apply the mastic one-handed while using the other to hang onto the caravan roof.

So I still had to do most of the job just by ‘feel’ and experience and doing it in yesterday’s more than 30 degree Celsius temperature didn’t help either, as the heat made the mastic ‘skin’ very quickly. Even so, I don’t think it turned out too badly as the following shot shows, although it was very difficult taking a photograph in such bright conditions.

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The proof of the pudding will be in the eating, though. I’ll be dashing off to Terrasson after finishing typing this and on my way back I’ll buy a small plastic spirit level to get the caravan levelled up better than it is at present. Then it’ll just be a matter of seeing what happens when it rains…

July 22, 2021

Véolia – not fit for purpose

Today Véolia showed that it is a travesty, an appallingly inept organisation, an utter shambles and one whose management should hang their heads in shame.

I have had a request outstanding since June 1st (that’s seven weeks) for a simple piece of work to be carried out to connect up my land in Fleurac to the mains water supply. It is merely for a meter to be fitted to an already installed water supply and for a stand-pipe and tap. With my plumbing knowledge I could do it myself in a couple of hours, but I can’t of course because the over-arching incompetence of the French public sector bureaucracy would then be unable to come into play.

After waiting for all these weeks and never getting any sort of meaningful reply from Véolia indicating that they either understood or cared about my request, at long last last week I got what I thought was a sensible response from ‘client services’ (an oxymoron if ever there was one) saying that I needed to go to a ‘local’ office.

The proposed office in question was at Bergerac, about an hour’s drive from here, and when I queried this the venue was changed to Sarlat, which, of course, is much closer. Now, in the real world a serious water company would have just said, ‘OK, you’ve got a water pipe there already, so we’ll get an engineer to pop along at a convenient time to see what’s involved and give you an estimate’.

But as more time passes I realise that the fundamentally flawed French public sector logic doesn’t work in such a simple, direct manner. That’s because it’s really all about keeping people who are basically incompetent ‘working’ in offices and off the unemployment register, so what it values is ‘dossiers’, ‘plans de masse’ and ‘plans de situation’, anything that sounds more grandiose than just a simple address and something that little people can pore over in offices to make themselves feel big and important whereas it would be cheaper and much more efficient just to get an engineer on site to get his hands dirty and take a look to see what’s involved.

You think that sounds bad? Now read on to see what happened after I’d dragged all the way down to Sarlat this afternoon in sweltering temperatures of over 30 degrees Celsius and roads filled with tourists and camping cars. The Véolia office is built on top of a concrete anthill about 50 feet high. There’s no way in on foot other than by climbing up the concrete slope to the undistinguished (and almost indistinguishable) door thoughtfully placed right on top at the back.

There’s car parking for those who know about it – except today there were no spare places, so tough luck on people like me arriving on foot and climbing all the way up in such extreme temperatures, and also anyone arriving by car who would have had to go out again, find a parking space and do exactly the same thing. When I walked through the door to my ‘rendezvous’ it turned out to be with a rather soppy young woman sitting behind a large virus (and probably bullet) proof plastic screen who refused to remove her mask and whose speech was therefore almost unintelligible, made more so by a group of overalled engineers in the background talking loudly in an animated fashion.

So by now my irritability app was pinging 50 times to the dozen. I said look, I can’t hear a word you’re saying, so she grabbed a scrappy piece of paper and wrote it down. And it got worse.

The scrappy piece of paper turned out to be a photocopied form, very badly and lazily photocopied though, on an angle of about 30 degrees with large bits missing from its edges as a result. She wrote down the things that had to be attached to it (the aforesaid ‘plan de situation’ and ‘plan de masse’) and told me that I had to take the ‘dossier’ (because that’s what it would then have become… are you still with me?) to… TERRASSON!!

I said why the hell did I have to go to Terrasson when I’d been told to come to Sarlat… why couldn’t it be dealt with here? Because Fleurac is in the Terrason office’s area, that’s why, and who told me to come to Sarlat anyway? I blew up at that point and said that originally I’d been told to go to Bergerac but there’s no point arguing with little ‘fonctionnaires’ and picked up the paper to walk out. As I went she said that she’d tell her colleague to deal with my request urgently. I replied that that’s what everyone in Véolia had been telling me for over six weeks and closed the door behind me.

So as a result of this meeting I’d found out that Véolia’s ‘client services’ in Toulouse play a blindfolded game of pin the tail on the donkey when it comes to finding which local office deals with which area. I’d also received a form (such as it was – the person responsible for it in a private company would have been sacked on the spot) to fill in that I could easily have either received by email or downloaded from the internet which instead of delivering to its destination by the same means, I’ve now got to physically take to an office in Terrasson. I truly despair of the idiocy of such a system. It’s why France will always be a financial, bureaucratic and administrative backwater. There’s no hope for it because there’s nobody with the will and political backbone to do anything about it.

July 22, 2021

More caravan reality

I still believe that going for a caravan rather than a mobile home on the site where my new house will be built was the right thing to do. Aside from the transport aspect (it is much more costly to transport and site a mobile home compared to a caravan) there is also the logistical aspect. A mobile home must be connected to a septic tank sewage handling system before you are allowed to move in which sounds OK in theory.

However, all the house builders that I’ve spoken to include such a system in the house-build package and would be reluctant to allow someone else to install it because of potential insurance and liability issues in the future, which means at the very least that you’d be unable to move into your mobile home until the build was well underway and the septic tank system was installed and in working order. This wouldn’t suit someone like me who needs/wants to move onto the site before the build has started or, as in my case, even before the builder has actually been confirmed.

So that was the logic behind my decision and it’s now time to share some more of the realities of what daily life is like as a result. From the very beginning I took a decision never to shy away from any topic here on My Trike so it’s time to talk about emptying the caravan’s chemical toilet, something I’ve not been looking forward to and which I’ve been putting off as a consequence.

Surprisingly, to me anyway, I’ve managed to go for three weeks before needing to do so. I have to make a confession, however. I have taken measures – I’ll leave what those have been to the imagination of the reader – to limit the volume of liquid waste entering the Porta-Potti, which may explain why it’s gone so long before needing to be emptied. My initial expectation was that it would need to be emptied every week or ten days so for me, three weeks is a good result!

Nevertheless, despite the red sector still only just showing on the indicator, it became more and more evident in recent days that the time to do the necessary was approaching (or indeed, overdue…), so this morning I was off bright and early at 7.00 am with the Porta-Potti’s lower section, down to the public toilets in Rouffignac to do what had to be done.

Because even the villages here in the Dordogne use giant septic-tank like systems for their waste disposal, I’d specifically chosen Thetford’s (the makers of Porta-Pottis) septic tank-friendly chemicals in order to allow me to use the public toilet facilities in Rouffjgnac or Plazac so I approached the task full of confidence. I must say, though, I was surprised at just how heavy the Porta-Potti section was and I would advise anyone undertaking a similar task who finds the same as I did to handle it with great care in order to avoid any kind of unfortunate accident, especially when placing it in your car for transport!

Before getting underway with the job, I decided to do a quick recce of the gents toilets to ensure that there was no-one else in there and having confirmed the fact, went back to the car and returned with the object of the exercise. Now, before continuing, I have to issue a cautionary warning to any sensitive soul, especially if they’ve just had their breakfast. I was full of confidence as I swivelled the emptying spout on the Porta-Potti and gingerly tilted it to start pouring its contents into the toilet bowl but prepared as I was for what was to come next, I have to say that I was still somewhat taken aback.

Porta-Potti’s Youtube demonstration video is tame in comparison to the real thing. It uses a fresh-faced young lady with jewellery and full make-up who merely pours out clean, fresh water with a smile on her face. The reality is wholly different because what comes out could not be further from clean, fresh water and if you are unable to narrowly avoid the splash-back (I did thankfully), you can end up with a whole lot more than a smile on your face, I can tell you!

My advice has to be ‘DON’T LOOK!’, but you have to, of course, in order to ensure the reliability of your aim because the last thing you’d want would be to spill any of this stuff on the floor and have to clean it up afterwards. The glugging sound it makes and the small surrounding splashes are stomach-turning enough and I can guarantee that you wouldn’t want to be ankle deep in this stuff and standing in front of the toilet pan when someone else comes walking through the door…

But eventually the job is done and it’s time for the post-disposal clean-up. After what had gone before and I’d flushed the toilet about three times, I was pleasantly surprised, however, by how little was required. There was a wash basin on the wall and with a few swishes of several hanks of toilet roll soaked in water, the job was done.

Sure, there was a weird ‘chemical’ smell hanging in the air in the aftermath but I’ve experienced much worse in other public toilets I’ve been in in France (much, much worse…). And if anything, the toilet itself looked cleaner than before I’d started. So that was it, after a hand wash it was time to pop the Porta-Potti back in the car and head off back to the caravan – for a hearty breakfast 😉

On a lighter note, the window stays on both of the large windows on the south-facing side of the caravan are now broken. The ones in the bedroom end already were and I was using a length of wood to prop the window open but now the ones in the ‘salon’ end have gone too. I’ve ordered a pair of what I hope will be suitable replacements but I won’t know until they arrive in the next day or so. I hope that they work because with the temperatures that we’re currently experiencing, wide open windows are a must and broken window stays don’t help much in that regard.

July 21, 2021

One small step

Now the whole world (and everyone passing Labattut Basse in their cars…) will know that it really is serious.

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Yes, a house really is going to be built on this piece of land. It won’t remain a scruffy caravan site for ever 😉

July 19, 2021

Whoa, steady on!

It looks as though perseverance and determination might be paying off. Wait for it… just before lunch I received a telephone call from a nice lady at Enedis. She explained that if I sent her a copy of my permis de construire by return, in the next few days she’d be able to arrange an appointment for an engineer to come on site and see what’s involved in getting me connected. Then they’ll be able to send me a ‘devis’ after which, if I accept and pay half in advance, they’ll be able to go ahead with the necessary work.

So that’s Enedis on the move as well as Véolia and the tree man. I’ve not yet heard from the latter and I do hope that he comes up with the goods as he made a very good impression on Saturday.

But that’s not all! This morning I received a short USB printer cable that I ordered over the week-end from Amazon. It only cost 0.99€ delivered which was probably cheaper than my driving to pick up one I already have that’s in storage with the rest of my main computer stuff. This cable together with a lead from my Fimi drone charger allowed me to connect up my Canon printer to my laptop and print off the label that will enable me to send off my Freebox.

Until this is done and been received by Free I’ll still be paying for the fixed telephone line in my old house, which is annoying to say the least. The process to cancel the contract is ultra-complicated and bureaucratic as befits France and seems to be designed to ensure that as well as paying a 49€ disconnection fee, the subscriber also gets to continue paying for the line for at least a month after they’ve moved house. I think it’s yet another example of something which is unfair and should be stopped, but the French seem to tolerate such abuses.

I’ve been living in my caravan for nearly three weeks now and what are my conclusions so far? The main problems are not having water and electricity and whereas I originally thought that my outgoings would be quite modest, the reverse is actually the case as I’m spending at the rate of 500€ a month just for fuel to power my generator.

Another downside is the number of flies and other nuisance and/or biting insects. The problem is well-known, at this time of the year especially, but it’s being exacerbated by living on the open grass where they attack you anyway if you’re just out walking. Now they can come in through the open caravan door, the more so as it’s very hot right now, and plague me as I’m sat as now at my computer. There are always quite a few horse flies around that can give you a nasty bite that itches and irritates for days if you don’t spot them landing on you but even some very small flies can give you a painful nip before you know it.

We’re also into the ‘aoûtat’ season now. These are microscopic mites (the larvae of a tiny spider actually) that live in grass and foliage and multiply at this time of the year (hence their being named after août, the month of August). Once they get on you they migrate, usually upwards, to find any warm moist folds of flesh. That’s why ladies find them in places like under bra straps and men (like me) in the creases of their moobs! The trouble is that once they’re on you they puncture your skin and inject a substance that liquifies your flesh at that point, which they then consume.

As far as I’m aware there’s no really effective way of dealing with them and people are often plagued by them non-stop until they eventually die out as the autumn approaches, the weather gets cooler and they presumably morph into tiny spiders that don’t bite. Because I’m wearing shorts the whole time, I initially picked up a good crop of them when I mowed my grass the first time and even though I covered up over the week-end with jeans tucked into socks when I did so again, I’ve got them all around my ankles and further up my legs on my shins and calves. The itching has kept me awake some nights.

Another down-side of my land here is that it’s a very poor place from which to fly my drones. The reason is the number of trees in all directions that end up blocking the signal between the controller and the drone. Luckily when this happens, the drone automatically returns to the take off point but whereas I could do some long and very picturesque flights from the garden of my old house in Plazac, that won’t be the case here. I’ll keep trying but I don’t hold out much hope, which is a shame.

July 18, 2021

Making slow progress

Painfully slow. It’s practically impossible getting anything done with Enedis and Véolia and when I tell my French friends and neighbours they say, ‘Yes, it’s awful isn’t it’. But they just accept the situation and don’t do anything about it. It’s how things were in the UK back in the 1980s – worse probably – but it would appear that nobody on either side, government or public, can be bothered to do anything about it.

I did manage to make some progress, though, last week. First Véolia. I’ve been phoning and phoning them for 6 weeks for them to connect me to the system. The work involved would be simple and very straightforward as there is already a mains supply on my land (that a previous buyer of the land arranged before backing out) and all that Véolia need to do is install a temporary water meter and a vertical standpipe with a tap.

So you’d think that the obvious thing to do would be to get one of the several Véolia vans that go driving past every day to stop, for an engineer to take a look and for the job to be booked in. But no, all that the ‘client service’ operatives want to do is keep telling me that my ‘dossier’ is being actioned – but with never any indication of when. That would be out of their sphere of responsibility, they tell me.

But finally last week I got a result – not for an engineer to come and view the project (that will come later and to do it now would put the office-based staff out of a job) – but to go to Véolia’s office in Sarlat on Thursday for a meeting. It’s utterly pathetic – the more so as the person I was talking to was in Toulouse, evidently had no idea where Fleurac is and initially wanted me to go to Bergerac, over an hour’s drive away, compared to 25 minutes for Sarlat. However, I must be thankful for small mercies, I suppose.

I’m also on tenterhooks with Enedis. I was told that my ‘dossier’ is being dealt with (no, I couldn’t speak to the person dealing with my dossier – far too dangerous I guess) and that someone will be calling me this week to move things on. However, they still do not appear to have a clue what’s going on.

Although I know that my friends in Chateau Malbec paid a lot of money about three years ago to have a connection run across the road from the main ‘coffret’ on the corner of their land just up from mine, then along my side of the road down to my land and then back across the road again to connect the house that they built there, Enedis still keep suggesting that I will have to pay again to do the same when there is already a mains cable on the corner of my land following that work. If so, this will become a major bone of contention but yet again they seem totally unable to see that the most logical thing to do would be to send an engineer to take a look and do a simple assessment of the situation.

However, I have had more luck with the private sector. A friend originally told me about someone who could do the ‘terrassement’ work that I wanted (reshaping and levelling the land) and when I contacted them they said they could, but not the knocking down of the trees that I need done to widen my land to its maximum at the top end near the road. He told me that he did have a contact though who could do that work for me and gave me his details.

Since then I have heard nothing from the ‘terrassement’ guy after he said he would give me an estimate for what I wanted done. I also contacted the tree man who said that he’d come to take a look at 5.00 pm that afternoon but never showed up. I’m sick to death of tradesmen down here who think that they can treat clients in such a way, probably because they’ve got plenty of work – for now. That won’t last forever though and I won’t be joining any queue to give them work in the future when their order books start to get a bit thin. And they can take a running jump now as well, as I’ll tell them if they should get back to me at any time soon.

But luckily they’re not all like that. Victor gave me the contact details for another ‘terrassement’ man – Guy Canaud – who he said is more reliable. I contacted him one afternoon last week and he said that he couldn’t talk because he was busy at that moment but that he’d be able to later. When I called again he said that no, he couldn’t do the tree work but that he would give me the contact details for someone who could.

Following my previous experience, I had a bit of a ‘déjà vu’ moment, but to my surprise and satisfaction he called me back later on and said that he was with the person concerned and that he’d hand me over. Sure enough, I talked with what turned out to be a young man with a young family who was motivated to drive his business and turned up at the agreed time the next day (Saturday) to assess the job.

He told me that he’d do a ‘devis’ (estimate) for me and that if I went ahead, he could do the work in early August. When I said that wouldn’t he be taking the usual long summer break in August, he said that no, he wouldn’t as his wife has a snack bar in Les Eyzies and will therefore need to work right through the summer (he said that that’s why he had his toddler son with him at the time).

I hope that he does do the job. I find his attitude admirable and unlike the other two scoundrels, I think that he and his business thoroughly deserve to succeed.

It’s hot, over 30 degrees Celsius, as I type this but earlier this morning while it was still cool I ran over my land again with my ride-on mower and afterwards took some photographs. The first one shows my little encampment along the north-western edge beside the trees that I want to remove.

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The next shot was taken from the corner next to the road where the underground mains electric cable is situated.

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The third shot was taken from the opposite corner (south-west) next to the road looking down to the far end.

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The next shot was taken looking in the same direction but from a quarter-way down and gives a good impression of how the land widens and falls away in the north-eastern corner.

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The following shot was taken from about half-way down and shows the north-eastern corner in more detail with a view of the valley beyond. That’s the view that I’ll have from the kitchen of my house, bedroom windows 1 and 2 and the terrace that I propose to have outside the eastern side of my living room accessed through double-opening doors.

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The next shot was taken from the eastern boundary looking back up towards the road (west) and shows how the slope increases immediately after the level at which the house will be built.

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The following shot was taken facing towards the north-eastern corner and shows how the land starts to fall away towards the valley just before the boundary is reached.

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The next shot was taken from that corner looking back up towards the top (western end) of the land.

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Now a shot looking back towards the south-eastern corner where you can see that the land is quite flat. I’m thinking that I’ll move the caravan and my encampment down there while the work is being done to remove the trees as having no water and electricity there will be no different to now.

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And finally the view from the north-eastern corner of the valley beyond. Unlike my house at Plazac, I don’t think that this view will ever be lost by having anything built between it and my house – not in my lifetime anyway – which pleases me greatly.

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That’s it for now. With the new week beckoning just around the corner, I hope that I won’t be disappointed and that what I’ve been told will happen actually does. I’ll have to wait and see, the more so as with running my generator, my electricity for my fridge, lighting and charging my laptop and phone is costing me over 15€ a day. That’s around 500€ a month… 🙁

July 12, 2021

Now you see it

Up to now, it’s been difficult to actually distinguish the land I’ve acquired in Fleurac from that surrounding it, but that all changed on Friday when I drove (yes drove) my ride-on mower around on the road from Malbec where I’ve been temporarily keeping it and mowed all of it, tight to its boundaries. Afterwards I shot some footage with my Fimi X8 2020 drone from which I lifted the following photographs.

This shot was taken looking down from the south-east.

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The next shot below was taken looking down from the south and shows the little encampment I’ve made comprising my caravan and my two trailers with my ride-on mower and generator between them and gives a good impression of the land’s dimensions.

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The following shot was taken from the south-west and gives another perspective of the width and length of the land and also a glimpse of the fine view I enjoy of the small valley to the east.

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The next shot was taken looking down from the due east and as well as showing the length of the land in perspective also shows the proximity of Chateau Malbec where I have my two ULMs. The runway itself isn’t quite visible.

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And finally a closer shot of my caravan’s position close to the trees in the north-western corner.

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But then the fun stopped. I’d temporarily switched my generator off while I was cutting the grass and when I restarted it all was not well. Somehow a switch on the front panel had become damaged and had shattered causing a major short of the generator itself. The damage was terminal and although the engine was still running perfectly, the machine itself was scrap.

Luckily the financial loss was not that great as I’d acquired it very cheaply years ago back in the UK when I needed power to work on MYRO, my elderly and now departed AX3. The main problem was one of convenience. Losing the machine on Friday afternoon meant that acquiring a replacement in a reasonable amount of time, let alone over a week-end, would be difficult if not impossible, and in the meantime I’d be without any electrical power for my fridge especially and for lighting.

But I resolved to give it a go and turned to Le Bon Coin, the trusty free-ads site that has served me so well in the past to see if anything suitable was available. Various local ‘brico’ stores were offering a range of modest machines at what I regarded as inflated prices but as I needed something with enough power to run my fridge, microwave, kettle and even my heating if necessary, I wanted something a bit more beefy. So Le Bon Coin was a good place to start, especially as it offered the chance of acquiring something from a private seller over the week-end when the shops were closed.

And I soon found what I thought was an ideal machine, almost new condition, 6000 watts continuous power and at a very attractive price. The only problem was it was located in the Correze, to the north in a beautiful part of the country but 2 1/2 hours drive away. But that wouldn’t matter if the machine was a good ‘un.

But sadly it turned out not to be, for me anyway. It was as described by the seller, in excellent condition and very little used. And sure, it had a rating of 6000 watts – but in 3-phase mode only. In single phase its rating was a mere 1600 watts, totally useless for my purposes, so there was nothing more for me to do other than head off for another 2 1/2 hour drive back home again.

This left me with a dilemma when I got back. With the forecast of continuing hot weather, I was in desperate need of a generator, but I couldn’t see anything else suitable on Le Bon Coin. So I decided that I’d have to buy a ‘cheapie’ low-power machine from one of the ‘brico’ retailers which I hoped would see me through my time in my caravan and which I could then dispose of afterwards.

An internet search revealed that the most suitable options were two machines in the Castorama sale but there was a fly in the ointment. The closest store was in Limoges to the north, not that far from where I’d been earlier in the day but after phoning and checking availability I gritted my teeth and headed off back north again for yet another 2 1/2 – 3 hour drive.

The store was due to close at 8.00 pm this being Saturday but even though I had to ask a passer-by for directions, I got there with time to spare. However, after arriving I was treated to the most gob-smacking experience that could only ever happen in France. The store was plastered with sale (‘soldes’) banners but when I located the generators the prices shown were 20-25% higher than shown on their web site. And when I pointed this out I was told that yes, that was correct as the sale prices only applied to items purchased on line.

So there I was, a guaranteed customer ready to buy with money in my hand but they refused to sell to me, preferring to lose a sale there-and-then and a customer for ever, as I refused on principle to pay the higher in-store price and will never set foot in Castorama ever again. So with empty hands I set off on the 2 1/2 – 3 hour drive back home again.

By now my situation was becoming desperate. I’d borrowed a small generator which I’d hoped would be able to run my fridge, give me some light and charge my smartphone and laptop. However, it fried my phone charger so I was reluctant to use it on equipment of value such as my fridge and laptop, but they seemed to be unaffected so I had no choice. In a last-gasp attempt before my laptop battery ran out I looked again at Le Bon Coin and lo-and-behold came across a suitable machine in Bordeaux.

I sent the seller a message on Saturday night before turning in and phoned him on Sunday morning and luckily he agreed to do a deal when I could get there by mid-day, or a bit later. To cut a long story short, the seller turned out to be a very pleasant chap from Georgia in eastern Europe. The machine was OK, we agreed a price and because he was very fond of Brits he even threw in a bottle of Cotes de Bordeaux red wine! So quite a day to remember!

The machine is running as I type this and has been faultless. It’s a bit noisier than my old generator but that’s hardly surprising as it’s considerably more powerful with a bigger motor. That will hardly please my obnoxious neighbour who lives in the house on the opposite side of the road who had the cheek to insist that I turned my old one off within 24 hours of my arriving on my land because he valued ‘his solitude’.

I told him in no uncertain terms that I had no intention of doing so and I’m afraid that his solitude is the least of my considerations and not a reason for having food rotting and milk turning sour in my inoperative fridge. For goodness sake, some people 😕

July 7, 2021

Who’d have believed it

I’ve just realised that it’s a year to the day since I flew my X-Air 24ZN (formerly G-BYPW) over the Channel from south-east England to its new home here in the Dordogne.

My goodness, I can hardly believe how much has happened in my life since then, all of which was totally unforeseen at the time. I’ve had virtually no time in the intervening period to fly either it or my Savannah F-JHHP but since then I’ve sold my house, bought a beautiful piece of land in Fleurac, have conceived my own plans for a new house to put on it and found a brilliant local contractor who will be building it for me. All in all, I’m about to embark on one of the most exciting new phases in my whole life.

And to think that I came here for a quiet retirement… 😉

July 4, 2021

Everything’s gonna be all right

These last few weeks, months actually, have been very fraught, very fraught indeed, what with dealing with the sale of my house and the work getting it ready to hand over to the new owners, dealing with the purchase of the land at Labattut in Fleurac on which I’ll be building my new house, making my own design for the latter, obtaining a ‘permis de construire’ for it, finding a contractor to build it, ordering the services (electricity and water) for the site, obtaining and preparing a caravan to live in on the land pending the construction of my new house after my old house had been sold, finding somewhere to store the furniture and other items that I want to take with me to the new house and doing the move itself.

I’ve mentioned previously and I’ll do so again, my French neighbour Chantal, was wonderful in the run up to the latter and during the move itself, helping me to fill boxes, load them onto the van I hired for the move and get them off again at the other end and also cleaning right through the house before the door was locked so the new owners could walk in and immediately start using it. She was an absolute treasure and we both ended up at the end of every day leading up to the move itself totally dog-tired and ready for a cold beer or two. I could never thank her enough for her help and support over so many days.

The crunch day (final signing off of the sale agreement) was Wednesday 30 June and as the date approached I thought that I’d make it in time, albeit just by a whisker, after hiring a van for just the two days prior. It rained on both of those days as it always has on every house move that I’ve ever done in the past, but luckily we were not too inconvenienced as we were able to dodge the showers and the biggest problem was just the mud underfoot (I had to hose the van down and mop out the cab floor before returning it on the Wednesday morning). Here’s a shot that I took of the first part of the first load being loaded onto the van before being driven off to the storage location.

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As the move progressed, however, it soon became abundantly clear that I’d never be complete and cleared out of the house by the 3.00 pm deadline when the house would be signed over in the notaire’s office in Montignac. I therefore asked the buyer if I could hang on to a key until the next day knowing that he would agree, and indeed he did.

That meant that I could concentrate on moving out and leave relocating the caravan from my garden to Fleurac until the following day, by which time I thought that I would surely be cleared out. But even that was not to be and I did my final run to the ‘déchetterie’ with my final trailer-load of rubbish on Friday (by which time I didn’t need access to the house itself) before loading some paving stones and my hosepipe that I would be taking with me from the garden at midday.

Here are some shots that I took of my caravan on my land in Fleurac on July 1, the day after signing off the sale of my house.

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By then I actually hadn’t stayed overnight in my house for well over a week, ever since I’d completed the work on replacing the windows in the bedrooms. I’d been sleeping in the caravan on my front garden and had survived the odd thunderstorm waking up every day to damp, misty mornings which, admittedly, usually then developed into bright sunny days.

However, the morning after my first night in the caravan at Labattut was a different experience entirely. I woke up early and this was the sight that greeted me when I opened the caravan door as the rosy glow of the sun began to peep above the horizon just after dawn.

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Before I left for the last time on the Friday, I turned round to take one last look at my old house and took two final photographs. I’d spent nine good years there and afterwards I sent a message to the new buyers saying that if they are half as happy there as I had been then their time there will be very happy indeed.

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But now it’s time to move on, albeit with one tiny tinge of regret. I leave behind Toddie, my old dog, resting in the corner of the back garden. Ever since he passed on, in a way we were still together. But Chantal said that it was his spirit that was important and that leaving behind what are only his mortal remains is of little true importance. I’m sure she’s right because she is in much closer touch with such things than I am, but I truly do still feel the wrench as he and I were so close, coming to France alone as we did, together just the two of us.

But the other side of the coin is that already great things are starting to happen even though I’m sitting typing this in a caravan with no mains water (I have a 20 litre container that Madeleine kindly loaned me) or electricity (see my Enedis woes in my previous post – I’m currently running a small generator for power and lighting) and boxes stacked all around me that I will soon have to start clearing.

Right up to this moment I’d had no guarantee that my house design (my own) was buildable or even that I’d be able to find a contractor prepared to build it, let alone at a price that I could afford. But that all ended on Saturday afternoon when I met a brilliant local housebuilder who over the course of 1 1/2 hours set out his detailed proposal for the construction of my new house exactly according to my plans and every dot and comma of the ‘permis de construire’ that I have been granted.

As his presentation continued not only was I totally impressed and absorbed by the quality of his work and the detail into which he’d gone (even down to the type and style of doorbell that will be provided) but I also became more and more convinced that I would ultimately be disappointed when he came to the final cost which I thought would be way above my budget.

Previously when preparing my design and plans I’d done a considerable amount of research on what a house of such a style and size would cost to build, but on the other hand, he’d included so many quality details and features that surely it would end up costing so much more than the ‘pro-rata’ figure that I’d come up with and which formed the basis of my budget? But no, this was not so! The final figure that he came up with was exactly dead on my budgetary median, and that can mean only one thing.

My project will go ahead, come what may. Up to that moment I’d taken a huge leap in the dark and there was always a danger that I could take a tumble as a result. But in one stroke that danger was removed! So all the time, pain and effort of the past few months will be worth it – and even the discomfort of living in an old caravan for a few months will eventually deliver the ultimate reward of a gorgeous new home in a fabulous location and what could be better than that 🙂