French workmen - a whole new ballgame.
In England looking in the yellow pages was always a risk. Cowboy hucksters everywhere. But here, everything's different. When we moved in, there was an unexplained space in our handsome stone fireplace. It was crying out for an antique cast-iron poelle or stove. You know the sort: one with a pipe that leads up through the chimney and through the roof. So, you find an artisan and say 'I've seen a stove at our local Brico that's really cheap....'. Response: a very loud Non. We've learnt that there's a highly-involved network with all artisans. The client (i.e. us) must go to the outlets they recommend where they have established contracts. And, of course, those outlets have the most expensive items imaginable. So, nothing for it but to find more funds and go along with the status quo. When in Rome...
Result? Good job we did. Our artisan discovered that the last owner had damaged the chimney and blocked it up. If we hadn't employed someone highly skilled, we'd have set the whole place on fire. French bureaucracy may be irritating, and difficult for small businesses to set up trade, but at least there's no room for cowboys.
Last night, toasting our toes in front of our new (expensive!) poelle, Him indoors mused it's like when he left his last job rather like he started it, fired with enthusiasm.