August 9, 2021

Utter craziness

I had lunch today with a companion in Brantome. Although we were going to be seated outside and although we were only going to have coffees at that stage, the waitress insisted on seeing our Covid passports before allowing us to sit down. It had obviously been impressed on her, I guess for the sake of the bistro, that she had to because when I told her that mine was on my phone but my (English) companion had left hers in her car, she apologised profusely and said that if I’d like to sit down and wait, my companion could go and fetch hers.

It took my companion about five minutes to get her awful A4 size printed UK version (there’s no QR code on a UK one so it’s not surprising that some establishments are rejecting them) and when she arrived back with it another member of staff scanned mine with his phone and didn’t even bother looking at hers. After that we were served with coffees and eventually with lunch while in the meantime other potential customers were being turned away because they were unable to comply.

So what’s crazy about this, you may be asking yourself? Well, firstly they ended up not bothering about my companion’s UK attestation and only scanned mine. But the main point is that although mine was genuine, it could have been anyone’s, not mine at all, a friend’s or relative’s or even a fake one that I’d just downloaded onto my phone from the internet. The only way to prove authenticity would be to cross-check an attestation against a proof of identity and how is a member of staff in a busy restaurant going to do that? And why should they?

This proves once again that politicians of all colours in all countries, it would appear, love knee-jerk politics. They want to be seen to be ‘doing something’ even when that thing is stupid and makes them look like the imbeciles that they evidently are. Why? Because they are never, never held to account…

August 9, 2021

Nice one!

With all of the time I had to devote to getting my house ready to hand over to its new owners, acquiring the land for my new house, finding a contractor, sorting out the electricity and water services (the list goes on and on…), flying my ULMs has had to take a back seat over the last few months. It’s been ages since I even started their engines and even longer since I flew them.

So now that I’ve reached a bit of a hiatus in all of the other things that I mention above, I decided that I have to get back onto my Savannah and X-Air. We’ve had unsettled weather for the last few days and with a change forecast for Sunday, that was the day that I’d had ear-marked for some time for getting going. I got a few things out of storage that I thought I might need – buckets, battery charger and some other bits and pieces – and shortly after lunch I started on the Savannah.

It’s been months since I last cleaned it and unlike the X-Air, which is covered up, the Savannah has been standing in the open barn, so as well as being covered in a layer of brown dust, parts of it, especially the empennage (tail section) were covered in tiny bird droppings. That was because they were immediately under roof beams on which the little buggers perch and poop, and whereas most of it came off very easily, the large splodges left by the bigger birds were much more difficult to remove.

However, after an hour or so of elbow grease, the Savannah eventually came up beautifully – possibly the cleanest it has ever been. I didn’t even have to use any detergent in the water, possibly because the dust acted as a very mild abrasive. I then removed the engine cover and checked the oil (OK) and water (needed topping up) as well as giving the engine a general check-over. No birds nests or anything else that shouldn’t have been there and all looked clean and tidy.

So then it was time to start and run the engine. In view of how long the Savannah had been sitting, I thought that its battery might have dropped to too low a level to swing the engine over. But no, it started quite normally. Despite having swung the engine over manually several times to prime the oil pressure though, it took a few moments to come up, which caused me some alarm, but then everything was perfect.

Here are some shots that I took after I’d finished the cleaning. I wanted to take them while the Savannah was outside but before I could, the only cloud in the whole of the Perigord centred itself over Malbec – over the Savannah to be precise – and began to deposit rain on it. After moving the Savannah back inside I had to leather it off again, but maybe that wasn’t a bad thing because as the rainwater was nice and clean, it came up even better and shinier than before.

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I ran the engine until it had warmed up and then switched off, meaning that after I’ve put a bit of air into its tyres (next time) the Savannah will be ready to fly. The weather forecast is pretty good for this week, so I should soon have it (and myself) back in the air. I’ll also get the X-Air out this week and do the same with it that I did with the Savannah. I topped up the Savannah’s tanks with about 12 litres of fuel and the X-Air’s with 20 litres, so if the X-Air’s battery has also stayed sufficiently charged, both aircraft will be ready to go. And I can’t wait to do it!

August 5, 2021

A roundabout

I feel as though I’m on a nightmarish roundabout in a hitchcockesque movie that sends you round and round in circles until you’re driven completely mad. Today I received a letter from SDE24, the organisation apparently charged with the responsibility of connecting me up to the electrical system. But reading between the lines, they’re not, as I’ll go on to explain.

They actually go by the grandiose name of Syndicat Départemental d’Energies de la Dordogne and it would appear that like many public sector organisations in France, they have an over-arching responsibility for nothing very much of any practical value, although you can bet your breeches that they cost the taxpayer a fortune.

Any right-minded person can see that if you have a nationwide, nationalised organisation like EDF it should be easy for a new client (like myself) to ask to be connected up and for them to do so. But not so here in France, where the main objective is to keep people in ‘jobs’ and off the unemployment register no matter what the cost. And you do that by creating lots of separate quangoes and ‘bureaux’ and ‘syndicats’ that can play pass-the-parcel with ‘dossiers’ and hang out even the simplest operation for the maximum amount of time so as to be seen to be ‘doing something’.

A ‘syndicat’ is a union. Now you may ask yourself, what need can there possibly be for a ‘union’ of ‘energies’ (and a départmental one at that, so there’s one in every départment in France presumably) and what role can it possibly play? And you might well be right to do so, given the letter I’ve just received.

The letter is headed ‘request to extend the electrical supply – commune of Fleurac’ at which point you might do a doubled-take, as I did. I’m not asking to extend Fleurac’s electrical supply – I’m only asking for my plot of land to be connected up, like millions of others all over France. But reading between the lines, you can see what’s coming here.

By asking for the electrical supply to be ‘extended’, that will probably involve a major study I’m almost certain. That will involve France Telecom, to ensure that no telephone lines will be affected, and Véolia to make sure that they won’t cut into any water mains. And that, of course, will be both time-consuming and costly. And who will be paying? Why, the client ie me of course.

The letter informs me that SDE24 will arrange for a visit on site by a ‘technical team’ – all this to do what the chap from the contractor sent down by Enedis did a week ago ie confirm that there’s a plastic tube already in the ground into which cable can be fed the few metres to connect me up. They grandiosely also inform me that ‘my dossier is complete’ ie they require no further information, and that they will keep me informed of the ‘study’ effected by the team. With a ‘devis’ for the work they propose also, presumably.

But then comes the the coup-de-grace that makes you want to stick pins in your eyes. They suggest that in order to effect my connection request I should, in parallel, make a connection request without delay to Enedis. So SDE24 will be doing nothing except laying a cable in the ground (I’m guessing here…) and it will still be up to Enedis to actually make the connection.

My mind boggles. At this rate I can’t see me being connected before Christmas. I have never before in my whole life encountered such monumental, crass stupidity and inefficiency. And they all think that they are so bloody intelligent and clever.

Now the next bit. On Tuesday I received the ‘devis’ to connect me to the water main that passes across the top of my land. There’s an access cover there in which it will be a simple matter to make a connection and then I want a water meter and valve to be placed a metre or so away from it, in a ‘regard’, which I think is a plastic box-like inspection chamber. For this I have been presented with a bill of over 1500€ which I must pay in advance of commencement of the work.

It appears that I was wrong when I previously said that Véolia is a nationalised monopoly. It isn’t. The French government owns something like 10% of it, but it is still a monopoly as there is no other water company supplying Fleurac. So I have the choice as to whether I pay this bill, which I think is somewhat extortionate, or not. However, if I choose the latter, I just won’t be connected. Oh, and I forgot to mention, the 1500€+ also includes 20% of VAT, so the government is in for a double helping. Welcome to France’s Brave New (Public Sector) World.

Now onto other things. If all of the morons that I’m dealing with do ever manage to get me connected up to services, even if they can just give me firm dates on which the miraculous events will happen (some hope) then I’ll be able to start thinking seriously again about getting my life in my caravan onto a more organised footing. This is by no means a trivial matter as I’ll be living in the caravan for a good year and you can ‘t do very much living inside a box that is just under 6 metres long and less than 2.5 metres wide with most of that space being taken up by fittings and furniture.

So you have to think about the outside and I’ve already started doing that by acquiring a metal store with a footprint of around 13 m² in which I will be able to keep my ride-on mower, tools and other items. When I can decide where to put it and make a base for it, that is. But I’ve also got other stuff that used to live outside and which will be a great adjunct to the caravan, especially if the current rather miserable, cool, wet weather improves and we end up actually getting a summer.

These include my large glass-topped table with chairs and large parasol and my smaller round glass-topped table and its smaller round parasol, all of which are currently being stored at my old neighbour, Chantal’s house. I can’t do anything with them until I know when I’ll be moving my caravan back up to the top of my land and obviously from what I’ve written above, I have no idea when that might be.

But there’s also something else. When I came from the UK I brought with me a suite of whicker-work conservatory (verandah for my European friends) furniture, comprising a round glass-topped table and four chairs plus a 2-seater sofa and two armchairs. They’ve seen better days and for most of the time, the latter were stored upstairs gathering dust in the ‘grenier’. But they’re still perfectly OK for garden furniture, especially until such time as my new house has been completed and I have a fancy ‘terrasse’ for something better to go on.

But I don’t want to just have them standing out in the open – they have cushions on for a start – and I don’t want to have to keep covering and uncovering them or taking things like cushions inside (where there’s no space anyway) to protect them from the weather. That’s when I had the idea of getting a ‘tonnelle’.

A ‘tonnelle is a bit like a fancy tent. It’s more stylish than a marquee, but when erected it can be left up to protect anything inside from the weather. Plus it’s also nice enough to sit inside in the shade, for a meal or drinks, for example. I was searching for ‘tonnelles’ on the internet and prices, as usual, varied dramatically. I wanted one with side curtains that can be secured to protect the contents and these varied in price from around 300€ to over 1000€ depending on specification (and snob value). And then there was always delivery on top of that.

I then came across someone offering just what I was after, a ‘tonnelle’ of 4m x 3m, for only 80€, brand new and unopened in its carton, and when on further investigation I found that they had 4 of them, I thought that it would be well worth a visit. I was already thinking that I’d be hard-pushed to get a table plus 4 chairs and a 3-piece suite into a single 4m x 3m ‘tonnelle’ but at over 300€ a pop, there was no way that I could justify buying more than one. But at 80€…

And so it was that I found myself yesterday trekking off back to the Gironde. But it was worth it. I’d already decided that I’d have one anyway – after all, I might not need it again after the year in the caravan, but after it had been brought down to my car, I opened up the pack to check its quality. And it was pretty good! So I offered 140€ for two and ending up paying 150€ – 75€ each. And at that price if I don’t need the second one for any reason (although I think I will) I’ll be able to sell it on in any case.

Here’s a shot (of the carton label) that shows what I came home with.

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I got back to Fleurac just before 7.00 pm after a drive of over 2½ hours each way but I think that the trip was worth it. I’ve not been feeling too well for the last few days – I think perhaps I might have a summer virus of some kind – and felt very tired as well as a bit rough. So after unloading my two ‘tonnelles’ I crashed out, for about an hour, which surprised me. However, I’m feeling better today so perhaps that was what I needed to help me turn the corner 😉

FOOTNOTE

Wow. It appears that my comments about SDE24 were harsh and totally unjustified. A neighbour who is acquainted with SDE24 appeared on my doorstep a half hour or so ago and said that I needed to go with him to meet a man from SDE24 who was about to arrive on site. When I arrived up at the top if my land the mayor was there as well so it looks as though a few cages may have been rattled.

The mayor left and shortly afterwards the man from SDE24 arrived. He said that they’d received the request from Enedis on 3rd August and had immediately actioned it, as was evident from the date of the letter I received this morning. He confirmed what we already knew and said that now things would be accelerated and not only that, but as the length of cable will be less than 100 metres, I shouldn’t need to make a contribution as SDE24/the commune should pay (if I understood correctly).

I’ll still need to pay Enedis for the connection, however, and it still looks as though I’ll have to wait until September for that. Then there was lots of conversation (as usual in France) between the two of them, much of which I couldn’t understand, but it looks as though progress is being made, albeit slowly…

August 2, 2021

And still it goes on

I’ve just received a message from Enedis. Now, bear in mind that to date I’ve been in contact with EDF, Enedis and more recently a contractor (appointed by Enedis) in a so-far vain attempt to have electricity installed on my land. The gist of the message is that despite there being a ‘coffre’ (a system box if you like) just up the road and a plastic pipe (‘gaine’) connecting it into which cable just needs to be fed in order to connect to it, the network is ‘too far away’ to make the connection.

As a result, yet another bureaucratic monstrosity in the form of an organisation called SDE has now been brought into the equation and it is they who will be responsible for actually doing the above. One wonders how close the ‘network’ would actually have to be for Enedis to be able to do it themselves, especially after seeing how quickly and easily the contractor was digging up the ground and laying cable in the road outside my old house and in my garden just before I left.

So my ‘dossier’ has now been passed over to SDE and one wonders for how much longer this ridiculous pass-the-parcel game will go on, ridiculous if its repercussions weren’t so serious for me. For several more months I would guess, as this all started back in May when I filed my original request. And how much must this nonsense all be costing? One wonders how in all sanity such a system can ever have been devised.

On another note, I’ve been thinking about what to do with my caravan and in particular, where to locate it on my land. I started off up at the top end closer to the road and I suffered from a bit of a lack of privacy and some disturbance from passing traffic, although the latter was not that great. I’ve since moved it down to the bottom corner, mainly to make it more conveniently connectable to my neighbour’s electricity supply.

However, and today was a case in point, I’m finding that where it is, under the trees, it’s rather cold at night and especially in the mornings. When it was really hot a week or so ago, I thought that I’d welcome being in a cooler spot, but now it’s gone totally the other way. And my thinking is that aside from a few more hot spells that are likely to come along from time to time, the cooling trend will continue as the year proceeds.

My thinking now is that it might become very cold during the winter, although hopefully by then I’ll have my own electricity supply to run my on-board convector heater. Even so, my caravan will be much more exposed to northerly winds where it is compared to if I moved it back towards the top, especially now the scrubby undergrowth and bushes have been removed allowing it to be tucked under the umbrella of the tall trees up there.

So I’m thinking that while I’m waiting for my own electricity to be connected and while I’m relying on my neighbour’s supply, I’ll leave the caravan where it is. However, when I’ve got my own, and just before if I’m given a specific date when the hook-up will be made, I’ll move the caravan back up.

And this means that it would be a good idea now to prepare a level area for it and also to decide where to place the metal ‘abri’ (toolshed, or more of a workshop/store really as it is around 13 m² in area) and make a base for that. So that’s a decision taken and it’s now time to get cracking instead of wasting time doing other things that don’t matter, which I’m very good at!

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 🙂

June 25, 2021

This is how it is

For anyone coming to live in France who will have to deal with the French public sector, brace yourselves because this is how it is. It’s an utter shambles that has a total disregard for the public who it’s supposed to serve and is merely a way of keeping lots of inefficient and incompetent people employed at the taxpayer’s expense. Read on to know what it’s like – and this, mind, is not a one-off. From my experience it’s always like this.

First let’s take EDF, the bloated and, it would seem, wholly inept state run electrical supply organisation. I’ve had run-ins previously with EDF but the current debacle takes the biscuit. I need a new connection on my land in Fleurac, a pretty standard procedure you might think. What could be easier than applying to EDF and then handing the administration and everything else over to them because, after all, they are supposed to be the experts. Err.. steady on, far from it. It transpires that they don’t know their arse from their elbow.

To make things complicated so it’s difficutt to apportion blame when things go wrong, because they always do, there are two state run electricity organisations, EDF who the consumer buys their electricity from and Enedis (as they are now called) who are responsible for the network. Now you’d think that the average consumer doesn’t give a toss how the electricity they use arrives in their home and therefore wouldn’t have anything to do with Enedis and you’d be right for most of the time. You’d think that it would be up to EDF to communicate with Enedis cutting out the consumer completely but no, that is far, far too simple for the French way of thinking and would avoid most of the cock-ups that the French public sector excels in.

So when you log onto the EDF web site, as you do nowadays, the more so as getting through on the telephone is an almost impossible process, and eventually find the link that takes you to the ‘ask for a new connection’ page, you find that it tells you to contact Enedis and gives you a link to the appropriate page on its web site. So far so good and you are suitably impressed as I was.

And even more so when you decipher the byzantine programming logic that asks you to create an account (huh??) and then tells you to do a ‘simulation’. This is Enedis-speak for ‘tell us where your land is and where on it you want our cables to terminate for you to connect to’ and when you’ve deciphered that, you enter into a process that is very well done, that brings your land parcel up onto the screen from the French government’s official web site, with a pointer that you then move to the desired position.

It then takes about 20 seconds for the system to find where the closest network node is to connect to, draw a dotted line from it to the point that you marked, provide an estimate of the cost involved and when it is likely that the job could be scheduled for. Marvellous, you think to yourself, these guys have really got this process screwed right down, what could possibly go wrong?

Hmmm… everything I’m afraid, because this is France. You sit back waiting for notification from Enedis acknowledging your request and telling you what the next step will be and when. It’s then that the true nature of the animal energes – in the form of a message from Enedis after a week saying that it’s no good contacting them for a new connection, you need to talk to EDF. Hah! Gotcha!

So you then have to go through the tortuous and time-consuming process of contacting EDF to explain to a human-being what’s been going on. They then come back to you after another delay of a few days with a reference and tell you to contact Enedis again. But the catch apparently is that nobody at Enedis either knows or cares about all of the brilliant stuff that you did on their web site showing where the nearest connection point is to your land and how a new connection will be made. This I know as a fact because of what happened today, which I’ll go on to explain.

But first, I’ve been receiving SMS’s and phone calls from Enedis for the last couple of days setting up appointments with me to meet on my land to make the new connection and then changing them again. Luckily I’m a pretty good-humoured person so I went along with the flow. However, I paid particular attention to the final message that I received yesterday that said that my meter box must already be in place on site as otherwise they’d not be able to make the connection and they’d charge me for an abortive visit.

When I looked into it more, I found that for a ‘raccordement provisoire’ (a temporary connection) it is my responsibilty to provide a ‘compteur chantier’ (a work-site meter system) which Enedis will connect to. This is, in effect, a house-hold electrical system but in a box, as shown in the two following photographs.

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At the time of asking, which was yesterday afternoon, I only had until this morning to acquire such a thing, almost an impossibilty you might think. But no, I often achieve the almost impossible (miracles on the other hand are out of the question) and so it was in this case. I located such a box on LeBonCoin (the one in the images) being sold in the Gironde to the north-west of Bordeaux. I then just had to jump in the car and go and buy it, which is what I did, leaving home at about 5.30pm and getting back, flushed with success at 10.30pm and ready to drop straight into bed.

So there I was thinking that I’d cracked it. Ah no, silly me. This is Enedis I was dealing with. The re-arranged appointment was for this afternoon (time to be confirmed) but at around 10.00am while I was in the middle of packing boxes for my move I got a phone call saying that Enedis would be on site in 20 minutes. So I dropped everything and dashed over to Labattut thinking that at least by the end of the day I’d have an electrical hook-up for my caravan.

Trouble was that when I saw the Enedis van driving up, there was no equipment attached, which I thought was strange as from my ‘simulation’ both they and I knew that the nearest connection node is on the other side of the road from my land and that it will therefore be necessary to cut a small trench across it to take the cable. And so it was that the two Enedis engineers on board said that under the circumstances they couldn’t do anything today (bearing in mind that I made my application several weeks ago in what I thought was plenty of time) and that I had to make a further application via the Mairie onto yet another public sector organisation, the Syndicate de something-or-other electrique, to cut the trench.

The French logic doesn’t seem to understand that the averge consumer knows nothing about cutting trenches, doesn’t have the machinery or know-how to do so and thinks that really this is something that Enedis should do as part of the network connection process. No, that as I said previously, would make it possible to avoid this kind of cock-up which would never do as it would then be impossible to generate all the extra paperwork to keep everyone busy. And anway, who cares about the poor old consumer who’s paying for all of this…

So off they went and around I went to the Mairie. Jean-Paul, the mayor, knew no more about all this nonsense than I did. He immediately picked up the phone, called his contact in Enedis and asked what the heck is going on. I wasn’t party to the conversation but he said to leave it with him and he’d update me, but the long and the short of it is that I won’t have an electrical connection for probably 3 weeks after moving into my caravan and that I’ll have to get my old generator going again that luckily I brought with me to France and still have, even though it currently won’t start.

So what about Veolia then, another state-run disaster area, I asked Jean-Paul. I told him that I’d contacted them weeks ago explaining that, as he knew, there’s already a connection on my land and that all I need is for a water meter and stand-pipe with a tap to be installed. However, since then after receiving an acknowledgement I’d heard nothing more. I also explained that it’s an impossibilty, even harder than EDF, to contact Veolia by phone.

So he picked up the phone again and after hanging on for about 15 minutes, eventually got through (several ladies who were in the Mairie organising for the up-coming elections and had been listening into the conversation were by this time incredulous). Jean-Paul then handed me back the phone and sure enough, the lady on the other end had found my initial communication but seemed to think it normal that I’d heard nothing more.

It seems that they have to issue me with a ‘devis’ (an estimate) for doing the work before they can proceed but it was a waste of my time asking why, given that it had been weeks, they hadn’t done that. However, bitching, although reasonable, won’t help much because this is the French public sector you’re dealing with. It’s impervious to negative complaints so I’ll now have to wait in the queue for another 3 weeks, without water in my caravan of course, while Veolia creeks into action and deals with my request. I hate being such a nuisance to them. It must spoil their whole day…

June 24, 2021

A dedicated professional

Unsung heroes come in all shapes and forms and are found in all walks of life. I saw one in action yesterday in the form of the guy who came to clean out my fosse septique. He turned up in his large tanker truck and wasn’t fazed at all by the fact that the workmen laying the electric cables still had half of the road up leading down to my house. He was parked up next to my house and had the fosse septique’s lid off in a jiffy. Those of, let’s say, a more sensitive disposition should maybe look away now.

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After pulling on his overall he was quickly on the job and it was soon obvious that he knew what he was doing and was serious about doing a proper job. There are no half measures with this chap, he’s an expert in his line of work.

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There were no snags and after getting my house’s old fosse septique, which hasn’t been cleaned out for going on 15 years I’d say, as clean as a whistle inside, he pumped back some of the water he’d taken out to keep the bacteria happy. Then he cleaned up, wrote me out an invoice that I paid by cheque and he was gone. All done and dusted and no mess in not much more than 30 minutes, plus he was a genial fellow into the bargain. A fine service I’d say for only 208€.

June 23, 2021

Another early start

I woke up yet again in the early hours and couldn’t get back to sleep and I can’t just lie there tossing and turning when I’ve got things to do. So I was up again before dawn and after a wash, shave and an early light breakfast I decided to tackle an essential job on the caravan, namely sealing the toilet compartment with waterproof white silicone sealant.

It has to be done because even if I can’t take a shower in there for the moment (the water heater still hasn’t arrived and the supplier who says it’s been delivered hasn’t replied to my message of a few days ago), in a few days time I’ll be washing, shaving etc in there and water is bound to be splashed around, in which case any nooks and crannies that it might get into have to be sealed up. I started the job at around 7.00am and was all done by 8.30am when the guys arrived to continue the work they’re doing to bury my and my neighbour’s electrical cables and was very pleased with the results.

When I got the caravan some idiot had ‘sealed’ the toilet with black gunge that was a completely solid plastic and consequently wasn’t a sealer at all. I had to strip it out doing as little damage as possible, and they’d also ripped out what was probably a perfectly serviceable Thetford cassette toilet and installed a ghastly cupboard unit in its place which also had to be removed.

Here are some shots that I took before I started working on it.

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And here are some shots that I took earlier this morning of the finished job.

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So at least I’ll have a working toilet and bathroom when I move into the caravan on my land at Fleurac shortly. Depending on what happens (or not) over the next few days I may have neither electricity (in which case I’ll have to get my generator going) nor water (I’ll have to buy a camping water carrier) but at least I’ll be able to have a wash and shave and retain some semblances of a civilised lifestyle before I sort out all my services 🙂

June 22, 2021

Next please!

And today it was the turn of my plant pots, which are the first things to actually be moved out and taken to be stored. I was originally going to take them straight to the land in Fleurac and leave them there but I then thought that there could be two problems with that. Firstly, it’s obvious that they could easily be stolen from there, although theft and crime in general doesn’t seem to be a major problem here.

Secondly, and more importantly really, if I drop them onto the land before it has been ‘terrassed’ ie cleared and levelled for the caravan (and the house) and an access onto it created, they will be in the way wherever they are. They would therefore have to be shifted around and would probably end up getting damaged, which would be a great shame as almost all of them were brought all the way from England when I moved here.

So I decided to ask for help and my good friend Victor came to the rescue once again and said that I can store them at his and Madeleine’s place until I can move them in a few weeks time. So with that I loaded them all into my large trailer with old plastic tarpaulins wedged between them so they wouldn’t get damaged and took them there. I didn’t take any shots while they were in the trailer but here they are all unloaded and safely stored in Victor and Madeleine’s garden

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This wasn’t the only thing that I did today, though. First thing this morning I went over to Labattut (my land) and replaced the name and address on my new letterbox with an all-plastic one that I made using my Brother label machine. With all the rain we’ve had I knew that the original paper one that I’d printed off on my computer would have run and be almost illegible and indeed, so it was.

I need to have my name and address clearly visible because it’ll soon by my principal address and I’m also now beginning to order stuff to be delivered there. A case in point is a 13m² metal garden store that I’ll be erecting next to my caravan at Labattut. I’ll be able to store the main tools and equipment in it that I’ll need to be able to ‘do things’ there and I’ll probably also run a temporary power cable into it. And who knows, I might even be able to put a washing machine in there which could be a huge help.

But maybe I needn’t have worried too much about my new address not being known, because when I opened the mailbox this morning, what did I find inside? A postcard from Victor and Madeleine who are coming to the end of a get-away in their camping car, that’s what, with a greeting headed ‘Postbox Test’. So I now know that at least the Fleurac postman knows where to find me 🙂

June 21, 2021

Total nightmare day

Excuse the ungrammatical title of this post but it really does say it all. Today was one disaster after another, each one worse than the one before.

I went to bed pretty early (for me) last night in the caravan – 10.30pm – but was awoken at just before 5.00am by crashing thunder and rain hammering on the caravan roof. I tried to get back to sleep again but in the end gave up and made a dash for the house when the rain had eased off a bit at around 5.30am. It wasn’t then worth trying to get a bit more shut-eye on my sofa so I just got myself washed and shaved and had an early breakfast, thinking about my plans for the day.

Men were due to arrive at around 8.00am to dig up my garden in order to lay a new electrical cable to supply my house and I thought that after they’d got underway I’d be able to snatch time between the expected possible showers to start shipping suitable stuff in my trailer into storage. However, that idea was immediately dashed when the man in charge said that sorry, they’d have to dig up the whole entrance down to my house for the whole day and that if I didn’t move my cars, they’d be unable to get out.

So any thought of shifting stuff in to storage immediately went out of the window – yet another potential moving day lost. However, I thought that I’d be able to make the best of it by spending the day loading stuff into boxes, something that I could do indoors even if it was raining, but little did I know what was to follow.

To kick off with, I thought that it might be a good idea to clean my oven. It’s one of the items I’m leaving behind as the new buyer is taking quite a few things, which I’m happy about as it’ll save me having to (a) transport them and (b) pay for storage. I hadn’t realised just how bad it was and it took me the next two hours or so. So this was lucky really, as the job had to be done and it would have caught me out even more if I’d left it to the last minute.

Then before I got busy filling boxes, I thought that it’d be a good idea to make up my usual stock of salads. When I buy in the ingredients, I have always have enough for nine, so instead of making one at a time, which is tedious and inefficient, I make up a whole batch and keep them in the fridge, gradually working my way through them. This occupied me for the next hour or so, bringing me up to about lunch time. It was about then that I went out to see how the workmen were getting on and here are some shots of what I found.

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The entrance to my house had indeed been totally ripped up. They’d actually started at the bottom close to my garden and when I’d popped out earlier there was already a large trench there with a growing heap of soil and rock, mainly, beside it. They’d then extended the trench right back up to the road where there will be a control box and as well as already inserting a large red plastic tube in the trench that will contain the cables, they’d also begun extending the trench into my back garden.

When they’d arrived, I’d shown the man in charge where there were underground pipes to do with my ‘système d’assainissement’ that would need to be avoided. However, I’d totally forgotten about the mains water pipe that passes along the back of my house and then turns up at the corner where they intended to bring the new electric cable to the surface. It was just then, just after I’d taken a pee and the toilet cistern was refilling, that the house lost its water supply.

I went out to see what was going on and sure enough, the young digger driver had cut through the mains water pipe and the trench that he’d just dug was already filling up with water. Luckily he had the presence of mind to go and turn the supply off at the main stopcock before consulting his colleague as to what to do next. I then had a telephone conversation of about 20 minutes at the end of which I said that I was off to make some tea only to then realise that I couldn’t, because there wasn’t any water. However, I was then surprised to hear the sound of running water and when I turned my kitchen tap on, water came out as usual.

I went out to speak to the workmen and they did indeed confirm that all was back to normal. When I asked if they carried some kind of emergency kit in their van to deal with such emergencies they said that indeed they do as they cut through underground pipes the whole time and not only are they permitted to repair water supplies, they are an easy repair to do.

But not only did I find that they’d repaired the mains supply, they’d also decided that rather than waste time avoiding the underground pipe that enters my grease trap taking water from my kitchen and bathroom, it would also be quicker and easier for them to bust their trench right through it and reinstate it afterwards. Here’s how they did it.

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The man in charge said that it was quite lucky that they did, actually, as either due to faulty installation when it was put in or through ground settlement, the length of piping between the last bend and the entrance to the grease trap was lower than the entrance itself. As a result it presented a ‘trap’ which had filled up with muck and silt, which they’d cleaned out before reinstating the pipe. And when they make the system good, they’ll make sure that there’s a continuous fall into the grease trap.

But my problems didn’t stop there. The sound of running water that I’d heard in my bathroom wasn’t just the cistern filling up – it was the cistern overflowing, luckily just into the pan itself. I surmised that because I’d just flushed the toilet when the supply had been cut, it had presented the least resistance when the supply had resumed (like a tap being left open) and a piece of grit had flowed into the body of the water level valve in the cistern preventing it from closing. There was only one thing for it – I’d have to strip the valve out and try to clean it and then buy a new replacement if I was unsuccessful.

This took me the rest of the day, so nothing got moved into storage today and no boxes were filled. However, I did get the toilet working again, which was a relief in more ways than one. The workmen had also made good progress. My back garden was still in a state of total disarray (they said not to worry as they’ll be reinstating it properly) but they had at least opened up the entrance again so tomorrow I’ll be able to get my trailers out. They’d also put barriers around their open trenches at each end before knocking off work at the end of the day.

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I have to admit that the entrance to my house will probably end up being an improvement although they will most likely have inadvertently made it into the full 4 metre width for a ‘chemin rurale’ that it never was before. I noticed that their trench at the road end was beginning to slowly take in water and as I’d had a leak in the box that contains my water meter last bank holiday, that luckily I’d managed to repair, I nervously checked to see if it had returned. However, it was as dry as a bone and I also couldn’t see any water in my neighbour-at-the-back’s box, so I left it there.

Will I get any removal boxes filled tomorrow? Who knows. Will I manage to dodge any showers and get stuff moved out of my garden tool and wood stores into storage? I’ll have to wait and see. What I do know is that having been up since before the crack of dawn this morning, I should sleep like a log tonight. If nothing else goes wrong, that is…

June 20, 2021

Just what I don’t need

Just before I started typing this we had the most vicious thunderstorm come sweeping through. Just beforehand I took down the small parasol in my back garden because tomorrow a contractor is coming to dig up my back garden as part of France’s programme to bury electrical cables (yes, I need it right now like a hole in the head, but that’s not what this post is all about) but the large one is still half up over the table and chairs in the front of my house.

It was being buffeted so much by the wind I was scared that it might get damaged and the table and chairs were (and are) so wet that I wish now that I’d taken that down too, while it was still dry, as both parasols will soon need to be transported over to Fleurac and be erected outside the caravan.

I’ve just checked the weather forecast and rain, sometimes in large quantities, is projected for the whole of next week. I’m now beginning to despair somewhat. I’ve moved house several times in my life and every time it’s been in the rain. And it looks like this time is to be no exception, despite the time of year and the marvellous weather we’ve been having up to now. I want to move everything out of my house and into storage by next week-end if possible, which means shifting it during the coming week. I’d also like then to be able to move the caravan onto my land in Fleurac.

Beyond garden stuff, I can’t think of much else that I can shift in an open trailer in the rain. I always intended to hire a van to move my household furniture and other items anyway, but it now looks as though I’ll need to carry much more in it, meaning that I’ll probably have to hire it for longer. And it also looks as though what I do carry in it, I’ll be loading in the rain… 😐

June 20, 2021

Another busy day

And they are all going to be like that from now on until I move out. Yesterday I decided that it was time to install my new fridge in the caravan. I took the old one out over a week ago and it’s now gone to the déchetterie and the new one has been ready to be put in for about the same amount of time.

The old fridge was one of those ‘multi’ power supply ones that could use 12V or 220V electricity or gas and that don’t work very well on any of them as a result. Now the caravan can’t be used for touring it makes sense to have a ‘proper’ domestic fridge that runs only on 220V mains electricity and it took me a little while to find one that would fit into the available space, a small Beko model.

The original fridge was about the same depth overall as the Beko but was of much reduced depth in its bottom because of having to fit over the caravan’s wheel arch. This was all well and good but this considerably reduced its capacity and made it much less functional for long term use, as I intend to use it. The Beko is much better in that respect but the difference means, of course, that it sticks out more into the caravan itself.

I don’t care about that and in fact, as you can see in the shots that follow, I came up with a design that incorporates a little wooden shelf over the fridge that will not only protect it from any cooking spills or splashes but will also be handy for placing small items on while the gas hob is in use.

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There is a metal plate below the sink/hob unit of the same width that originally incorporated all the switches and knobs associated with the gas hob and the old fridge. As the new fridge doesn’t need any of those and the gas hob only requires the three original control knobs and air entry holes I had to make blanking plates up to cover the rest. I then just painted the whole thing gloss black which leaves a bit to be desired from the aesthetics point of view but is still an improvement on what was there, which was rusty with its paint flaking off in places.

I needed a small piece of plywood to make the little over-fridge shelf from and the other day I came across quite a large sheet in my garden tool store that I’d forgotten about. While I was getting it out I also realised that some pieces of roofing sheet left-over from when I built the tool store might be suitable for repairing the floor of my large trailer that collapsed in places when I loaded the old ride-on mower to take to the déchetterie, so I got those out too.

And to cut a long story short, when I tried them in place, although a bit heavy they were ideal, so I then spent an hour repairing the trailer. If I’d planned it a bit better I could have got the replacement floor supported better than I did, but it didn’t turn out too badly and now at least, to my relief, I’ll have the trailer to use to take my ride-on mower, cement mixer, plant plots and other heavy items into storage. Here’s how it looked.

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I managed to get everything done (just) yesterday before thunderstorms swept in. They persisted on and off for much of the evening but had ceased by the time that I went to bed (in the caravan). However, I was woken up this morning by constant rumblings of thunder and made it back into the house at around 7.00 am during a lull in the rain. After a hasty breakfast I then returned to the caravan to fit the metal plate that I mentioned above that I’d left overnight in my workshop while its paint dried and after finishing I thought no more about it when, after I’d returned to the house, the thunderstorm resumed but with more intensity.

When I went back to the caravan, I found water on the floor and that the edge of the duvet on my bed had also got wet. The reason was that I’d left all of the three roof lights open as I thought that they’d give enough protection to not allow water to enter.

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But I was wrong. Luckily, things had not come to too much harm and it didn’t take too much time to mop the water up. The edge of my bed will dry during the day and in any case, I’ve had much worse while camping in a tent! But better to find this out now rather then when I’m installed in the caravan over on my land in Fleurac 😉

June 18, 2021

No joke

A large hole has appeared in my back garden. The local police are looking into it. That’s a joke and yes, the old ones are still the best.

But seriously, I’ve had to dig a hole in my back garden, the reason being to find the access into the house’s ‘fosse septique’ (septic tank). The reason is that the purchaser insists that I have it cleaned out. It’s been confirmed to me that this is a legal requirement when you move from a house – even if you’ve been renting it, it’s your responsibility to have the fosse septique purged.

I said that the fosse septique has been quite OK in the 9 years that I’ve been here and that the chance therefore that there will be problems during the next 12 months are pretty minimal. As it must then be taken out of service anyway I couldn’t see the point in disturbing it, especially as there was no way of telling where the access to it was without digging up half the garden to find it.

The purchaser, however, disagreed suggesting that there is no way to know what state the bacteria it contained are in and that he thought that there was a danger that they might ‘go wild’ in the intervening period. My mind boggled – imagine rampant bacteria from my old fosse septique raging through the local area, drinking, smoking and making loud noises and terrorising old ladies, children and animals. But he was insistent and as it’s the law I must comply.

So here I was today at this late stage of the game with yet another new task being imposed upon me when I’m already close to being overwhelmed. I contacted the local company who undertakes septic tank purging this morning and they said that if they had to search for the ‘regard’ (inspection hatch) there would naturally be a supplementary charge and that it would be better for me to locate it myself. So that’s what I set out to do after lunch this afternoon.

As it happened, I had a pretty good idea where to start looking from an indentation that there is in the grass and a hollow sound if you stamped on it hard and I was proved right shortly after I started digging. I didn’t even need my pickaxe this time even though I pulled out lots of loose rock which I suppose must have just been replaced there by someone years ago in the dim distant past. Here are some shots of the cover itself which I didn’t lift for fear of loose earth falling into the fosse. I’ll leave that to the contractor when they come next week.

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So that was another job sorted ready for the sale hand-over. All it needs now is for the contractor to come and do his stuff, me to pay them and him to issue me with the required paper.

This morning I was back at the déchetterie in Rouffignac dropping off an old ride-on mower that I got hold of shortly after I arrived in France. It didn’t cut too badly but I got it dirt cheap because at that time my grass was full of loose large stones and rocks that had damaged two hand mowers so I didn’t want to invest in a decent ride-on until they’d been cleared. From that time I’d parked it under a tree in my back garden covered by a plastic tarpaulin which has since deteriorated badly leaving the old mower exposed to much of what the elements had to throw at it in that time.

But now it had to go as I have to clear the both the house and garden . When I tried to pull it out by hand it wouldn’t budge because its tyres were flat and it had started to dig itself in. So I had to tow it out using my car and here are a few shots that I took before and after.

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I managed to get it up onto my large trailer myself despite the trailer’s floor finally deciding to split under its weight in the process. It’s been threatening to do so for some time and it has to do so now, of course, when I need it for transporting large and/or heavy stuff into storage. Unfortunately, I’ve just had too much to do over the last three months that I just couldn’t find time to put a new floor in but hopefully I’ll be able to manage by placing some old sheets of roofing board in the trailer bed that I’ve had stored in my mower shed for the last three or four years.

Anyway, thankfully the old ride-on has now gone as well as some other stuff this afternoon. As I left the déchetterie I said ‘See you next week’, to the chap who runs it. He’s been so incredibly helpful over the last week or so, helping me unload stuff and what have you. He gave is usual reply… ‘No problem’ 🙂

June 15, 2021

Gone but not forgotten

After checking on the new postbox that I placed on my land in Fleurac yesterday (yup, perfect job, everything fine and solid as a rock) today I got going clearing my house and garden of everything that has to go the ‘déchetterie’ at Rouffignac. Today’s priority was clearing all of the remaining bits of G-MYRO, my much-loved old AX3 microlight that brought me all the way down from the UK to the Dordogne when I first moved to France but ended up in the treetops on just it’s first flight down here.

They consisted of the wings, one of which was badly damaged in the accident, the empennage (elevator and rudder components), some wing struts and some old doors. They have been hanging around for 9 years and I only kept them in the first place in case they contained any components that might have been reusable. But they’ve only ended up being shunted around the garden and pushed to the back of my workshop, so it was time for them to go.

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In fact I should have done this years ago because as it turned out, even the tubes of the least damaged wing were bent so nothing from either wing could be safely re-used in another aircraft and although the empennage parts were OK, there’s no demand for such items anymore. So everything ended up being chopped up, another tiring and sweat-inducing job even in the shade in my back garden, and chucked in one of my trailers ready to be dumped tomorrow.

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The déchetterie was closed all day today but will be open tomorrow so it’ll be time for the last vestiges of MYRO to disappear forever. I thought it would be more of an emotional tug than in actually was given all the time and effort I put into it having rebuilt it twice before coming to France. But it’s time to move on. Parts of MYRO are still flying in 28AAD, the French AX3 that I acquired and rebuilt after a landing accident and there’s an exciting new future waiting for me just around the corner. It’s no good hanging onto the past.

June 14, 2021

Still at it

After mounting my ‘panneau’ on my land this morning I returned home to unhitch my trailer and then went off to Brico Marché at Le Bugue to put my next plan for the day into action. I only have just over 2 weeks before I move out of my house and I’ve already started thinking about my change of address. Contracts like EDF (electricity), Véolia (water) and Free (home phone) I’ve just got to cancel but there are many others who will need to be notified in good time of my new address.

But it won’t be enough for them just to be notified – I’ll also need a real address, even though I’ll be in the caravan, where I can receive post and that means that I’ll need a mailbox. And that was the purpose of my trip to Le Bugue because an internet search had revealed that Brico Marché has the cheapest mailbox around, less than half the cost of those being offered by other ‘magasins de bricollage’ and cheaper even than Brico Depot. That suits me fine as it’ll probably only be a temporary measure as I’ve seen other more elaborate designs that I’d like to have when the new house is finished.

After a quick lunch I assembled it with the intention of going straight back to my land to place it into position. I took all of the tools that I thought I might need plus a bucket of sand/ballast/cement mix without water. My plan was to get a hole dug and everything ready for concreting in at which point I’d nip just around the corner to Malbec to add water to the mix and return with it ready for use. My plan worked faultlessly but it was getting to that point that was the problem.

I took a pick-axe with me as I suspected that I’d need it but I hadn’t realised how soon that would be ie immediately. I started with a shovel which hit rock straight off and from then on it was pick-axe all the way and clearing the ever-deepening hole of rock and stone. There can’t be much wrong wih my health now because this was in direct sunlight at a temperature of 32 degrees Celsius, just stopping every now and then for a short break in the shade.

I wanted to get down to a decent depth as lots of people around these parts think that you only need to plant a ‘boite aux lettres’ support pole 10 cm in the ground and then wonder why it eventually falls over. I got down to almost 50 cm before deciding that enough was enough and was very pleased to find that by making a support base consisting of concrete plus hammered-in smallish pieces of rock, the mailbox stood firmly enough without any other support. I’m hoping that by tomorrow the concrete will have gone off enough for the job to be solid and permanent.

Here are some shots showing my land and the final result from across the other side of the road.

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And I had a very pleasant surprise to cap the job off. I got my phone out and as I was aiming it to take the first shot, a beautiful little butterfly landed on my finger. It then flew off and landed on the new mailbox itself.

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I don’t know if this was an omen or a blessing, but I thought that it was a lovely finale to the day. I’ve been toying with ideas for names for my land and hence my new house itself and the one that keeps coming back to me is ‘Pré d’or’ (look it up). The beautiful colours on the little butterfly’s wings now lead me to think that that will be the right choice, especially as the cut grass is now drying out in the sun and will soon be a beautiful golden colour.

I returned home hot and tired to be met with a wonderful surprise. My lovely French neighbour, Chantal, had taken it upon herself to clean right through the caravan and the results were evident to the eye (and nose!) as soon as I saw it. And she was still at it even as I got back, bless her. I’ll miss her greatly when I go as nobody could ask for a sweeter, better neighbour than her.

June 14, 2021

Now it’s getting serious

As from 9.00 am this morning.

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The ‘panneau’ that must be placed on site for two months to allow for any objections by any member of the public before any work can commence is now in position on my ‘terrain’. So if there are no come-backs (and I don’t expect any) before 14th August, work can begin on my new house. This will probably just consist of laying an access of rolled crushed stone that can then be used when construction proper begins and preparing and levelling the site.

I have in my mind that it will be some time after that that building work can begin but that actually isn’t so. One of the contractors that I’m seriously considering and will be meeting on site tomorrow told me that they could probably start the project in September, so not long at all really. Wow!

June 13, 2021

French Evier Water

Oooh, sorry, that must be one of my worst plays on French words ever, ‘évier’ being the French word for sink or handbasin. I had another trip back to Brico Depot this morning, I’m afraid, because one of the mixer taps that I bought yesterday was unsuitable to use over my main sink. Basically it wasn’t high enough to fill my Brita filter jug under and it didn’t have a swivel nozzle that you need in a kitchen sink to wash things away, when you’ve prepared food or done the washing up, for example.

It’s lucky that Brico Depot opens on a Sunday. It’s the only ‘magasin de bricollage’ that does and that’s because it’s owned by the UK company Kingfisher (of B & Q fame) who also run Conforama and Tool Station here in France. And it seems to be a policy that works for them from the number of customers who were there today. I just needed a simple, cheapoe kitchen mixer tap and after being refunded for the tap that I bought yesterday that I hadn’t even opened, that’s what I got. And I saved myself 10€ into the bargain, the two taps together now costing me only around 20€.

As usual with anything that a Frenchman has had his hands on, as I’m now finding all the time, what I took out was a total mess, a bodge up, and I was able to make things much better than before. Am I being unfair? I don’t think so.

The hole in the stainless steel main sink hadn’t been cut large enough for the previous tap’s body so it could never in a month of Sundays sit down properly and be watertight and presumably it had been like that ever since the water system was installed. The tap in the toilet was only held in by one bolt so no wonder it was woggly. Hopeless. I also found more leaks on the external valves where the external hose is connected and I’ll have to rectify those as well before the valves give up completely.

But it was enough for me today to end up with a working water system, outside leaks and all. Here are the new taps that I fitted today in the toilet and kitchen areas.

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This still doesn’t solve my hot water problem of course. The water coming out of the taps was lovely and warm today but that was because the outdoor temperature was over 30 degrees Celsius and the hose pipe was in the sun, but it won’t be like that in the middle of winter. I’m worried that the electric heater that I’ve ordered, but which still hasn’t turned up, may have too high a current drain and will keep tripping the supply whenever I use it so maybe I’ll have to think again before it’s too late. I also need to find somewhere where I can buy the two sink plugs that I need. They seem almost impossible to find.

Oh, and apologies to Evian for (almost, but not quite…) taking their name in vain 🙂