27th November 2011

....so Monday morning we set off in good time for the test drive. Don't have GPS, so mappy.fr gave me the directions. Looked easy enough. Came off the motorway o.k. But then, oh no - isn't this the slip road to the motorway again?  Look, there's a big sign 'Land Rover', but unfortunately it was behind the barrier at the side of the A20! How far to the next exit?  30 km.  Nothing for it. Need to get off there and return and try again. 30 mins later, unbelievably, it happened again!  Eventually, with the aid of a very patient postlady, we found the garage - wasn't a road at all, just a dirt track leading to an industrial area, the garage hiding behind another building.
It's done. We've ordered Him indoors' dream car, but he'll have to wait until April for delivery from Solihull. I wanted the manual version, but they all carried that impossible 'Stop:Start' system. Imagine starting the engine on a cold morning, only to have it deliberately stop at the first set of lights. All in the name of global warming. Nonsense. Yes, the world's ice-caps are melting, but it's all probably just a natural planetary phenomenon. Meantime we're all suffering from the scientists' unproven nonsense.  So, ordered the automatic Freelander model, without that stupid system. And, of course, with GPS - complete with a Brummie (B'ham) voice. Where am ya? Turn roight at the next loights..... Now we're sorted.

20th November 2011

Have you had an unrealised dream your whole life?  Step up Him indoors.  In the very year we were born, a certain Maurice Wilks came up with an idea that's plagued us our whole lives. It didn't help that, growing up, the young Him indoors would wipe his sleeve against the misted-up bus windows and stare longingly at the factory on his doorstep.  Dad, please can I have one?  No; wait until you're older!  The dream? A brand-new Land Rover.
At last, 60+ years later, the chance has arrived.  So, my French being better, I looked up the nearest dealership and tried and tried to arrange a test drive.  Sounds simple enough doesn't it?  And, surely when they realise here's a customer interested in a brand new model, they'll be all over us?  Well, no. I rang about 3 times in all, each time being fobbed off by the dealer's promise to ring me back.  And, you know what?  He never did!  Can you believe it?  Problem was that when I looked for a different dealership in this area, it had the same man's email address.  Clearly someone too itinerant to be much use. Yet again, c'est la France. Can any Americans reading this please teach the French some customer-service?
Good news, at last.  I found another dealer further away (and not the same man, hurrah), and we've now fixed un essaye de voiture for tomorrow!  Tune in next week to see how we got on....

13th November 2011

Memories, like the corners of my mind...
At the 11th minute of the 11th hour of the 11th month of the 11th year, we stood on our French balcony staring up through the autumn canopy of our majestic trees. How our lives have changed!  Now we 'do as the Romans do', following the French way. National days here are always on the exact date, rather than the following Sunday or Monday as in the UK. Usually I can't remember them all, so am grateful to our local Intermarche supermarket, who always alert me by sticking a large poster on their door:  'We are open on the morning of......'  On Friday a number of French were wearing the Bluet de France cornflower, which acts as support for France's armed forces. Funds raised are used to provide social and recreational aid for the wounded.  I'm all in favour of teaching our children the meaning of the past.  To those who say 'what's the point? forget the past', I say it's only by understanding the past that we can know who we are, our failings, and aim for a better future. 
.....of the way we were.... postwar deprivations, hardships...but decades later, our generation's been lucky.  Property, employment came easily. But now the difficult bit...growing old. Him indoors: '...it's not younger I want to get, but older.....'

6th November 2011

So, in the end we sold our first French house at a loss.  I know, I know: the idea is to make a profit. I read that French property values have dropped 20%, and I can confirm that's certainly true around here. But, at least we recouped the loss by buying our Gaillac house at 20% less. Swings and roundabouts. What's surprising is so many people who still have the 'old' mindset of what they think their house is worth: 'Yes, it's terrible; our house has been on the market now for 6 years but, of course, houses in our price range aren't selling at the moment....'  No, no, no!  There is no 'price range'. A house is only worth what someone's prepared to pay for it. If 'values' have dropped, then you must drop your price.
What's galling is all the unforeseen extras. I've just had to pay the local vidangeur 200 euros to empty the septic tank. As the buyers so aptly put it:  chacun a son caca!  And, whatever you do when conversing with the vidangeur, don't make my mistake of confusing the French word 'vide' (empty) for 'remplir' (fill up)!!! A certain, appropriate, expletive comes to mind: merde!
And Him indoors? He doesn't trust the euro or banks in general. As he says, should we put our (reduced) net profits under the mattress or in the apparently new lunar bank headed by that well-known safe-as-houses net-keeper Ban-K-sy-Moon!