Monthly Archives: January 2012

Upgrade Me

Well, this weekend I was hearing Beyonce singing in my ears (no she didn’t really come by to say “S’up girlfriend”, although that would have super coolio). It was just that her song kept playing around in my mind. You know that one call “Upgrade Me”? You wanna know why?! Cuz over the weekend Dude and I were working on upgrading the electrical at the house.

Now, I’m sure I said before that the existing electrical throughout the house is pretty good. The electrical in the garage was probably done around the 1940’s and the electrical in the house was done around the 1970’s or 1980’s and Dude said that it was done well so we aren’t going to mess with it. What we do need, however, are some more lines run with some new plugs and switches. We need to bring the living room up to the 22nd century cuz before a week ago it had no electrical in it. Also, we are running lines to have more lights, plugs and switches in the bedrooms and also internet throughout the house.

The biggest deal ever, though, and the biggest “upgrade me” part is the new electrical panel that Dude is installing.

Remember this piece of work?

Well, now, wait for it…….wait for it…..BAM! We have this beauty!

How awesome is this?! Awesome, right?! Dude says we will have the best residential electrical in all of France. I think he just might be right.

So this past weekend this is what came to pass chez moi since it was cold, rainy and dreary outside and we needed to accomplish some more projects inside.

The panel was actually hung on the wall a couple of weeks ago, but didn’t have any lines running to it. We were still working off all the old stuff in the house. So this weekend we busted out all the neutrals, hots and grounds and put them together and ran those puppies through the flex we had put in WAYYYYYYY back in the summer when we had thought we would have already finished this project by now.

Well, the first run of wire went pretty well. We were able to get all the wire (we ran 7 circuits, which is 14 wires plus grounds) down into the flex and ran from the small electrical box in our room down into the garage and to the new electrical panel.  This run is going to be for the electrical in the living room, some of the plugs, lights and switches in our room and some electrical for the kitchen.

Now our panel looks like it has just had open heart surgery with all those wires hanging out. I think when this panel is done and it has about a bazillion wires in it, I will crown him with the name of Loqutus (all your Star Trek-The Next Generation fans will get that).

Check out our make-shift wire roller. I have no idea how the electricians here run their wire! We had to invent something and even then, it was a big pain in the butt!

From the little electrical box in our room, Dude ran the wire over to the living room (remember the tracking we did last weekend) and now, Viola, we have some electrical for all our future needs.

The new main electrical panel in the garage is going to be a beast and Dude says he will have it all dialed in so that we can have the lights and the hot water tank and the heater on timers (that will be a big help since in our house we have a teenager who knows no meaning of costs savings). I swear Tinki will leave every light on in the house, turn the heat up full blast and drain the hot water tank all in one day!

After the first successful run, we decided to make another from the kitchen (starting at a new plug for the washing machine) and going to the main electrical panel. It started out with me putting a string with a piece of trash bag on the end of it into the flex run where the wires were going to go. Then Dude took the vacuum cleaner and sucked it down the hole so we had something to put the wire on to pull it back up through the flex. This bunch of neutrals, hots and grounds wasn’t as big ( 2 circuits which is 4 wires plus grounds) and the flex line was only 20mm in diameter.

Dude attached all the wires to the green line in the garage and I went up to the kitchen and pulled on the string to get the wire to go through the flex while he was down in the garage pushing the wire into the flex. All was good until we came to a nasty bend in the flex and then the wires just wouldn’t budge. I went to the garage to grab some gloves thinking this would help me in pulling the string with the wires since the green string was a bit hard to hold onto. Well, not so good an idea cuz I ended up pulling too hard and tugging the flex up and I did this

Yup, I cracked the dry wall where the plug was going to be. Boy was Dude pissed cuz now he had to cut another hole in the dry wall to relocate the plug (new plug shown in the picture just above my mess up) and then he was going to have to do a dry wall patch. Also, we had to give up running this line cuz it just wasn’t working out.

So now we had to go back to our little, blue electrical box, take it out of the wall (we just put it in last week to replace the orange one), cut the flex line and re-run it through the bedroom as a stub-out. This proved to be really arduous since it already had all these wires sticking out from the run we had just done. Taking the box out, cutting the flex and subbing out was not in the grand scheme of things. Dude was so pissed off that I thought he was gonna walk out and leave me (seriously it was bad), but then he came to his senses, realized that I was the best thing that had ever happened to him and finished the job.

With the box back on the wall, we tried it again with the little green string, the piece of trash and the vacuum and voila, it worked, second electrical run complete.

Now it was time to go and check out the new DSL/CAT 6 box to be installed, this is for internet and phone which has 10 runs and 2 main DSL lines. Dude decided that he wanted to put our internet and phone into a box (remember this one with the Rasta Flag) and have it on the garage wall. So we had to run the pipe (you know that stupid PVC junk cuz they don’t like metal pipe here) and have it go around the wall of the garage and out the back door for the telephone and internet and then come down the wall and into the box. So here is what it looked like after melting PVC with a hand-held blow torch to bend it (system-D, cuz we didn’t have a PVC blanket to do this) and smelling that delicious, blue, PVC glue.

Not bad for two people who have been sniffing glue, huh?!

And look, the lines were run for this one, too!

We are just waiting for the façade to get done (of course) before we can run the new phone line outside, but it looks so much neater than this

which is what we had before and we kept hitting it with our head when we wanted to go out the back door! Now it’s all nice and professional looking.

Now, back to the main electrical panel. Dude got all into putting in the new breakers and making it all look nice and neat. Of course, the whole time he was doing this he was complaining about the stupid French electrical.

Here was some of his complaints; why is this so small, how do they expect you to work in this thing, everything is too close together, why do they run it like this cuz it makes no sense, why do they have so many extra wires, how the heck do they expect you to fit it all in there when you have to use all this dumb car flex, there aren’t enough rungs, this parafoudre thingy is weird, why did they do the grounding this way, why when you buy the LeGrand panel do you have to pay insane prices for the accessories cuz they don’t come with the panel ( like spending 200€ for the panel and it comes with nothing and finding out you have to buy the gulottes separately, all the breakers separately, the parafoundre separately, the breaker for the parafoudre separately, the screws to screw the gulottes into the panel separately, etc….etc.. etc..

Yes, folks, my Sunday night consisted of me saying either “I don’t know” or “Cuz it’s France”.  Anyway, by the end of the night last night we managed to get a fair amount done.

Now what we have is sooooooo much better than this. Don’t you think?!

If you want to see more photos of our electrical job they appear on Flickr. To get there just click on the “More Photos” option under Photos on Flickr.

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Two Deliveries Gone Bad

So we still have no news on the delivery of our materials for the roof and façade. It’s been another interesting week here, as usual.

Here’s how our week started out (and finished). Remember when I said that Mr. Right Hand Man was going to call us mid-week this week for the delivery of our materials? Well, he ended up calling me on Monday morning just as I was about ready to leave to go to the office. He said that is was very possible that the materials could be delivered that day in the afternoon and was working on getting it done.

Problemo, I also had a delivery of five big pallets of materials being delivered that day to my office. The reason why this was a problem is because I really feel that I need to be home when these guys deliver my stuff to be sure it all goes well and there’s no funny business going on. It will be a very large delivery with a lot of materials so I just feel better if I am here.

The issue with the delivery at work is that us girls won’t be able to manage bringing up the five pallets of materials to our third floor office (the transport company really bites the big one and they will only leave the stuff at the door, not help us get it to the office) so I need Dude’s muscles to help us out.

So, on Monday, we had a last minute change of plans and I stayed and worked from home and waited for my delivery while Dude went to the office to help out with the delivery there.

The afternoon came and went and no materials landed at my house. Dude called me late in the afternoon to say that the transporter for the delivery at the office flaked, too, and they were instead going to do the delivery on Tuesday.

Can you believe it? Two flakey deliveries in one day! I do believe that one of my most favorite things to do is to sit around and wait for deliveries that never show up. I just love it cuz I have all the time in the world here in “kick-back” south of France!

Well, Tuesday morning came around and the delivery to the office did make it. That makes one down and one to go.

Dude and I showed up at the office on Tuesday morning to find that the transport company had decided to come very early and they just left our pallets in the entry way of our building. Gee fellas, thanks for that! Dude managed to get everything up to the office and unloaded so all was good by the end of the day for this delivery.

On Wednesday, Mr. Right Hand Man said he was still trying to get the delivery together of my stuff and could I please leave my gate open so they could put everything in the yard if it worked out. No way, Jose! I was gonna stay to see that it all worked out.

Well, no materials again that day. I called Mr. Right Hand Man to ask him what was up cuz I needed to know when this is going to get done. I also told him, again, that it was important that I know not just for me but also for my neighbors (remember the scaffolding will be in their yard). He said he knew and was really trying to get it together but his team had not finished another project they were on and he wanted the scaffolding to go up and the work to begin the same day that the materials were to be delivered, if it was possible. You wanna know what I think?? I think it’s totally possible in any other country but France! Man, they can’t even get my materials to me in a timely manner let alone add two other things to the same work day. I’ll believe when I see it.

Well, guess what’s happening now? Today it’s raining and it’s due to rain all the way until Tuesday night. That means no delivery and no work done.

Another delay that could possibly happen is that the weather report says from Wednesday on it will start to get really cold here, like -8C! Guess what, no work will be done if that’s the case because the concrete for the roof and façade won’t cure in temperatures that cold. Good grief! I might as well give it up for next week, too, and just expect it not to happen. This way if it doesn’t, I won’t be surprised and if it miraculously happens, I will be ecstatic!

I guess Dude and I will have to work on some more little projects in doors since there isn’t much else that’s gonna happen around here. Maybe we can manage to push another small project through to the finish.

Les Baux de Provence

By far, the most beautiful village I have visited so far here in the south of France has to be Les Baux de Provence. I have been several times and it is, without a doubt, the first place on my list to take visitors. To date, no one has been disappointed.

The drive to get to Les Baux de Provence is a long one through olive tree groves and flat lands with sparsely laid houses. Just before you reach the city there is a small descent into a village at the base of Les Baux where you will find a few shops, some restaurants and hotels. Once you leave this road and turn the corner, there you will see, high on a hilltop, the lovely town of Les Baux de Provence. The first thing that comes into view is the spectacular ruins of the chateau. It’s quite simply an amazing and formidable sight.

During the winter months, this village is calm and quiet with not many stores or restaurants open. During the summer months it is one of the most crowded and touristy places I’ve seen. The winter is bitter cold in this town so take care if you do visit to not go when the Mistrals are blowing. I’ve never been in a colder village than Les Baux when the Mistrals decide to wage their war on Provence. For every bit of cold days you encounter there, the hot days are relentless in the summer.

This is the place where time has stood still. This is the place of cobble stone streets, original cut stone buildings, ruins, and gargoyles. This is the sort of village I love since history can be seen no matter where you look. From the moment you enter the gates, you are transported back in time. The only thing that keeps your mind set in the present is the current fashion trend of the people visiting.

This is the village that has my hand prints everywhere. For each time I go, I can’t resist running my hands along the walls and feeling the history beneath them. This is how I link myself to history. This is what really excites me. It’s so easy in this village to find a nice place to sit and picture what life was like back in medieval times, the hustle and bustle, the look and the feel. This is why Les Baux de Provence is one of my most favorite villages to visit.

When entering the village the first thing you will notice is one of the most wonderful candy stores in all of France, La Cure Gourmande. It’s absolutely impossible to leave this store without buying several different types of goodies. The décor is as pleasing to the eye as much as the candy is. Everything inside is delightful and delectable and it’s one store you cannot pass up. The best part about it being the first thing you see upon arrival is that while you are continuing your tour through the village you can enjoy the tasty treats you’ve just purchased.

Strolling through the streets you can find many lovely shops and cafes.

Every nook and cranny has something to offer. One of my favorite shops to browse is the tapestry shop. They make the most lovely hand crafted tapestries I’ve ever seen, many of them with fairy tales scenes or stories on them of the medieval times or renaissance in France.

During the summer, Les Baux de Provence puts on a show like no other. The town really comes alive with hundreds of people dressed up in medieval costumes walking about the town. Little stands are everywhere with merchants selling their goods. During this time, I don’t need to let my imagination run wild, the town freely offers up to me exactly what I crave.

As you make your way through the town you will come to the famous chateau which is now in partial ruins, but well worth the visit. You can choose to tour with or without audio. If it is your first time visiting the chateau, I would suggest spending the money on the audio tour, it comes in several different languages and tells of the history of the castle which is quite interesting. You are invited to roam freely and climb around the remains of the chateau. The view is spectacular and during the spring and summer there are shows which allow you to see the workings of the catapults (and some lucky guests can even try their hand at them), dressage, archery, live bird and bear shows and more. If you do not mind the heat and the crowds, this would be the time to go visit and experience the village in all its glory. The shows take place between 1 April through the end of September each weekend, holidays and school vacation times.

If crowds are not your thing, then the time to go would be the beginning of autumn when the weather can still be warm. The village will not be so crowded, but the stores and restaurants should be open for the most part.

Besides visiting the chateau, don’t forget to stop by St. Vincent’s church. It has beautiful stain glass windows (donated to the church by Prince Ranier III of Monaco), stone pillars with gorgeous carvings, gargoyles on the exterior who still watch over the town, and a wonderful white sarcophagus of a woman located on the left side of the church. This church was originally built in the 12th century and has had some updating, but for the most part remains like it was centuries ago.

If Santons are your thing, be sure to visit the Santon Museum. There is no admission charge and it is open all year around. You will enjoy the different exhibits this museum houses and there is even a documentary film on how the Santons are made. It’s quite interesting and a delight to see.

Then there is the view from the fortress wall just across from St. Vincent church. It’s absolutely breath taking. There are these fascinating homes that people have built right into the rock. You can stand there forever and not get tired of the beauty of this place. I know because each time I go, I have to literally tear myself away from it.

Take time to stop and have a refreshing drink at one of the many cafes or restaurants. It offers yet another opportunity to marvel at the history that is surrounding you.

After making the tour of the town, I always go around to see the buildings and ruins once more just to remind me of the feel, the texture and the sense of history. I just can’t help myself and I’ve even gone for a third trip around. There’s just something about this place that grabs me.

I definitely know that this village will be one that I visit time and time again. It’s one of those provincial towns that just stays with you, in good way.

If you want to see more photos of Les Baux de Provence they appear on Flickr. To get there just click on the “More Photos” option under Photos on Flickr.

For more information on the village of Les Baux de Provence, click here to go to their office website. This link will also take you on a video tour if you so choose.

The Little Sunday Project

Since we are pretty much dead in the water right now on this roof/façade thing, Dude and I have moved on to some small projects that need to be tackled (and believe me there are thousands in this house) that don’t have any bearing on the roof or façade to be finished.

This weekend was really windy (gusts up to 95 km/hr) in our neck of the woods which makes for an awful day outdoors so on Saturday afternoon we just chilled. Dude was busy making his nifty, new computer he just got all personalized and stuff and me, well I decided to relax and watch some of my favorite French TV shows. I was in luck that day cuz I got to see two episodes of Tous Ensemble and an episode of Maison a Vendre (both of these shows happen to be ones I watch every chance I get) and then I topped it off with an episode of Ghost Whisperer. I was thoroughly addicted to that show in the states and cried my eyes out when it was canceled. Thanks to the French love affair of all things American, I get to watch it here. It’s in French, but hey, what could be better than watching one of your favorite shows and learning French au meme temps?

When Sunday rolled around and the wind was still blowing with the continuously strong gusts, Dude suggested we work on a small project that wouldn’t take all day plus forever like our other projects. One of the things that needed to be done was getting an electrical run into our living room. I think I’ve mentioned before that our living room was, for the previous owners, an indoor terrace. This room was most likely used only in the spring and summer months, hence no insulation, not heat, and no plugs or switches for electricity. Well, this happens to be my favorite room in the house and Dude and I have been arguing over whether to keep it a living room to use all year around or live like the previous owners and only use it half the year. Folks, I’m not going down without a fight on this one. I am determined to get this room in order to be able to use it whenever I darn well please and it looks like I’m on the winning team so far.

So today was the day that Dude suggested we make an electrical run from the electrical box that will be in our room (which is the main box for all the new electrical runs we are doing in the house) to the living room. Since the walls in our house are about 50 meters plus thick, we decided it would be better to run tracking through a window in our room that leads to the terrace. It would be a bit invasive to drill a hole in the wall to run the electrical and neither one of us wanted to make any more large holes in the house, especially one that was going to be through a wall that used to be an exterior wall. We had already dealt with that this past summer when running the iron rod through the house and we didn’t really want to experience that again.

You’re probably wondering why we have a window in the house that looks out onto another room of the house and why it has bars on it. The reason is that our bedroom used to be the end of the house. The terrace/living room was added later on. If they would have sealed up the window there would be no natural light into the bedroom since that is the only window. Also, the bars were decorative (no we don’t live in a bad area) so we left them cuz I think they are super cool.

So back to the electrical. Dude decided that he was going to change the electrical box in our room, as well. He had put in this orange one back when we were doing the drywall and flex runs but he was never happy with it since it is too small.

He was up in the air about what he wanted to do with it, but in the end just decided on going with this one that is bigger and also a nicer color. I much prefer blue over orange.

So we changed out the box and viola. That was easy enough. Now onto the electrical run. The only invasive holes we had to make were two small ones just under the window so the wires could go through. With that done, we were able to run tracking from the wall in our room to the wall in the living room and put in a plug for any electrical we will need in the beginning and also a jack for the internet/cable box/phone. This is just to start us out so we have some power in this room and can start getting rid of all the cords that are running across the doorway and are somewhat of a hazard.

We started by manually cutting the track with a hand saw, but that wasn’t working too well and was taking too much time so Dude decided to bust out his new Christmas present that he hadn’t had a chance to use, yet.

So here it is, kabaam! A new Metabo saw. You should have seen the look of joy on this man’s face when he took that thing out of the box and was hookin’ it up (insert kid in candy store look here).

So away he went cutting the angles on the tracking so we could just get busy with getting it on the wall. So far so good. Things were going pretty well today. The stars must be aligned right or something.

During this process we had no connection to the internet and no phones as we had to unhook everything and run the lines through the tracking and re-hook them up. This process took a bit of time and Tinki wasn’t happy about itl but what teenager is jumpin’ for joy when you take away their connection to the outside world??!!

Once all the tracking and right angles and flat angles were up, the wires were run and the plugs installed, all that was left was the cover for the tracking. I told Dude that it was getting late so I was going to leave him to finishing the work and go make dinner. I figured that since this was the last part, it was going to be alright. Well, it turned out that cutting and fitting the cover on the tracking was the hardest part. It seemed that the cover didn’t want to fit very well and he had a hard time making it all come together.

About half way through making dinner I started to hear unhappiness coming from the living room. It just wasn’t happening at the end all nice and neat like the rest of the job. After several attempts and cuts and re-cuts, he finally was able to finish it up and here is what we have now.

It’s not pretty, but we didn’t have to go messing up any walls so I’m ok with it.

Besides, more than likely when we get to putting furniture in the room and fixing it up, there will be some kind of bookcase or something to cover it up anyway and all will be good.

Also, it wouldn’t be a real French house without tracking running up and down the walls, now would it?

PS- Dude told me to let everyone know out there that he hates French electrical 🙂

More Delays

Mr. Supervisor of our job ended up calling me a second time. He apologized again for the issue yesterday with the camion not being able to deliver our materials and said that his right hand man was on his way to our house to check everything out. Apparently, Mr. Supervisor is going on vacation for one week starting Tuesday and Mr. Right Hand Man is going to be taking over while he’s gone. Then Mr. Supervisor said that Mr. Right Hand Man was in front of my gate ready to tackle this thing.

I hung up and went to look out my living room window which faces our front gate. No one was there that I could see, but then again, he might not have arrived yet. I went out to unlock the gate and take a peek around just to be sure.

Nope-no one there so I left the gate open so Mr. Right Hand Man wouldn’t have to call me when he showed up.

About 10 minutes later I get a call from Mr. Right Hand Man saying that he was in front of my gate. I walked over to the window again and there wasn’t anyone there. So being that I am a fast learner and had logged away the information that the Guy (remember wawa..wa) had given me yesterday about being confused on where my house was, I asked Mr. Right Hand Man if he was on my street minus the one word or if he was on my street. He said, “I’m on your street minus one word”. Ah ha! Thought so. I said, “You’re on the wrong street”. Then I gave him directions to my house. Now, I’m pretty good with directions to my house since I’ve had to give them a few times to the other companies who have come to give us quotes and they’ve made it each time just fine so I felt confident that he was going to make it. Guy just happened to not want to deal with it the other day, I think.

So Mr. Right Hand Man said he was on his way and would be at chez moi in just a few minutes.

About 15 minutes later, no Mr. Right Hand Man. I couldn’t understand what the heck was taking him so long. Even though he was totally on the other side of town my town was not that big, seriously a 5 minute trek, max. I then proceeded to pick up my phone to give him a call to see if he was having some trouble since he hadn’t shown up yet or did he decide to stop for coffee and a pastry. I quickly located his call on my phone and realized it had shown up as a private number therefore I couldn’t call him back! I figured he would call if he was in deep trouble.

Another 5 minutes passed and nothing. Finally I called Mr. Supervisor to tell him the issue and he said he would give him a call. About another 5 minutes passed and I got another call from Mr. Right Hand Man saying that he was completely lost. I told him to find the center of town and I would meet him at the stop sign and he could just follow me home. As I started walking he gives me a call saying that he was near the school and was stuck in all this traffic. The school??!! No, no, no. I told him that he had passed my street. Now he was going to have to exit the town and go around because the street he was on was a one way street.

I told him that I was almost at the stop sign and would wait there for him so that he didn’t miss it a second time. He said that he was in a yellow car and to look for him. Roger that.

Finally, we spotted each other and he followed me back to chez moi. All was good. He took a look around at the work that was to be done. I told him all about the scaffolding being in our neighbor’s yard and they were fine with it and he examined the façade that was to be done. Then we went up on the roof to take a look around so he could familiarize himself with the project since he would be taking over the supervision of it for the first week.

After we chatted, we went back into our yard to see where the materials would be placed and to measure the gate so that the next truck they rented would fit! He also told me that he would have to cancel the bin that was to come since it was going to have the same problem; it would fit down the street and in our garden but it wouldn’t make it pass the gate. He was going to have to order a smaller bin. He also gave us the news that it wasn’t going to happen on Monday like we thought.

He was leaving the next day and would be gone until Wednesday. Therefore he would call me on Wednesday to arrange for everything to be delivered at the end of the week because he wanted to be around to be sure all was good. He also wanted all the workers to show up either that day or the day after to start getting to work.

Well, what else was I going to do? I said okay and that I would talk to him next week, mid-week. After he left I went and checked the weather online. Bad news, it was going to be windy for the next several days and guess what?? It’s supposed to rain on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Great! We are so close to getting this thing done and it just keeps getting held up. So now, it looks like it will be at least another whole week at minimum before work can get started.

By the way, to add to it, Dude looked up our street on Google Maps and do you know what?? It doesn’t exist anymore! Nope-Google wiped it clean off their map! It used to be there cuz last summer we Google Mapped it for someone and it was clearly there. Apparently, when their car came to our town recently with their little cameras on top, they decided our street wasn’t very important so they took it upon themselves to decide that it shouldn’t exist anymore. Maybe that’s why these guys can’t find us! We’re on Mappy, so I know that we exist, plus I’m looking at my street everyday unless it’s a mirage.

So now I gotta go and get mad at Google Maps and tell them to put us back on the map and stop putting their two centimes in. Man, my work is never done.

I Thought We Had It In The Bag

So, today was the day that all the materials needed for the work on our house were to arrive. I received confirmation of this last night via an SMS message from the guy who’s been organizing this project. He said that a truck with all the materials will be at my house around 9:30am today and could I please leave my portail (gate) open so they could drive right in for the drop of.

This morning I got up and went down to open the gate around 8:45am just in case they arrived earlier.

Well, 9:30am arrived and I get a call from the guy who tells me that the people furnishing the materials can’t find my house and could I please call the main guy over at the store and tell him how to get to my house.

Okay-no problemo. So I take the number down and call over to the magasin to see what’s up.

The guy (whose name happens to be Guy, how convenient for me) tells me that he doesn’t know how to get to my house. So begins a “Who’s on First” type of conversation the main reason being that this Guy happens to be one of those Frenchmen who doesn’t enunciate (seriously a word slurer big time) and on top of that, he spoke at the speed of light and lastly, it was a PHONE conversation(always difficult anyway). For me, that’s three strikes and I’m out on the comprehension.

Did you ever watch the Peanuts Gang cartoon? You know when Charlie Brown is at school and the teacher is talking to him and all he hears is…Wawa..wa. Yup-that’s what I heard. I was, in fact, in Charlie Brown’s seat at school this morning.

Here is the excerpt of my conversation (sorry it will be in English for my non-francophone amis):

Me: Hello, this is Madame Fisher. I received a call saying you couldn’t find my house.

Guy: Yes, I don’t know where you live. Can you..wawa..wa wawa..wa.. I have the truck and wawa..wa.

Me: I don’t understand. Are you in (my town).

Guy: Wawa..wa.. wawa..wa.  the town with the swimming pool at the round-a-bout.

Me: Oh, you’re near the swimming pool? Then go around the round-a-bout, direction “centre ville”. Go through the town with all the magasins on both side of the main street. Then there is a STOP sign at the end of the street. Continue to go straight and then at the first street go right, then at the next first street go right and viola, chez moi.

Guy: No, no, problem. I can’t find wawa..wa wawa..wa.. I passed by the swimming pool.

Me: Okay. So are you at the swimming pool now.

Guy: Wawa..wa.. wawa..wa. your street and I didn’t find it.

Me: If you are at the swimming pool, no problem. I can go down there and then you can follow me back to my house.

Guy: Yes, follow you, but wawa..wa wawa..wa. not at pool.

Me: You’re not at the pool?

Guy: No and I wawa..wa wawa..wa. couldn’t find your house.

Me: Okay, if you’re not at the pool, where are you?

Guy: My house.

What the heck and what does the pool have to do with any of this!

Me: You’re at your house. What direction are you coming from so I can tell you how to get to my town.

Guy: No, I’m not coming from anywhere. I don’t know where you live and wawa..wa wawa..wa. Can you come get the truck at my house?

Are you kidding me! What in the world is this guy taking about!!?? It is not in the plan for me to go and get the truck from his house!

Me: I don’t understand what you are talking about.

Guy: You don’t understand?

I thought I just said that.

Me: No, I don’t understand. Mr. Supervisor said that the truck would be at my house today and now you are saying I have to go and get the truck at your house?! I can’t drive your truck!

Guy: wawa..wa wawa..wa wawa..wa.

Me: Look, where do you live? In what town?

Guy: (his town name).

Me: That is the town right next to me! I don’t understand why you can’t find me. Just go down the street and make a right just after the town sign and Viola, chez moi.

Guy: No, I tried to find your house and I can’t. The truck is at my house. It is also the magasin (name of magasin). Come get the truck.

Me: Oh, I know where you are. You are only 10 minutes away, but I can’t get your truck, why can’t you find my house?

Guy: wawa..wa wawa..wa, no you come to my house and truck will follow you.

Me: Ohh, I understand now. I will go to your store/house and then the truck can follow me back home.

Guy: Yes!

Me: Okay, I will be there in 10 minutes.

After hanging up the phone, I was like, what the heck was that all about and where did the pool part come into play! Why didn’t he just say, “Come to my store and the truck will follow you home”.

Done. End of story. 2 minute conversation! But no, he goes and tells me about some pool and not finding me and I was about ready to be sent to the funny farm cuz there isn’t a dang person in my household other than me that could talk to this guy who slurs his words and talks at the speed of light! Seriously, half way through the 15 minute conversation (I did shorten it for you guys, excerpt remember?) I was picturing myself never seeing these materials end up at my house!

So I went to get Dude and told him to come on that we had to get the truck and they would follow us back home. In the 10 minute car ride that followed I had to tell Dude the phone conversation since he was not in the room to see the whole thing unfold in all its crazy glory. At that point, since I had finally figured out what the issue was, I was now cracking up while retelling the conversation still trying to figure out what the pool had to do with it.

We finally arrived at the magasin and the driver of the truck was waiting for us. He then followed us back to our house. When we got there he looked at our gate and said, “I don’t think the truck will make it through your gate”. I said, “Let’s try it”.

So he went back out to the main street to get into his truck and proceeded to turn this gigantic (by French standards) truck around on this tiny street so that he could make the turn onto my street. He did manage that, but then he had to be really careful down my street cuz it’s very narrow and there is a balcony hanging over the street from the house that is located on the right, which by the way has some chips in it due to drivers with big trucks not paying attention. I made sure he stayed to the left and warned him about the balcony. Before he could get too far, he was again worried about not making it past our gate and got out of his truck to call his supervisor. He said that his supervisor was coming over to take a look and to help out.

So there we were, standing out on the street, with this truck blocking my street, waiting for his supervisor to show up. By the way, the winds had kicked up again starting last night so it was pretty cold and we were getting a bit blown away. Just my luck that when the work is ready to begin we have to deal with the stupid winds!

Finally the supervisor showed up and guess what?? It’s Guy! Well, in person he was still a bit difficult to understand, but our conversation was better face to face. The first thing he did was to look at the street name and then tell me, “Oh, this is the street name you live on! I was in your town this morning but at a street with your name minus one word and it was way on the other side of town”. By the way, the street name is nearly identical to ours, but with one small different detail. I didn’t know this until today! Seems he didn’t either or he would have shown up on time.

Then he said, “I drove all around and couldn’t find your house so I had to go back to the magasin and call the person organizing this to tell him. Then you called me so I could explain”. Remember the phone conversation that I didn’t understand. Yup-like I said, “Who’s on First”!

Well, could this be the reason why the mentioning of the pool came into play??? I now think that during our phone conversation he was trying to tell me that he was over by the town pool when trying to deliver the goods earlier in the day and found my street but not my house so he went back to the store. I believe the mystery has been solved! Dang, if he was more of a clear and crisp speaker I probably would have gotten that point!

So he now proceeded to take a look at my gate and then said, “I don’t think it’s going to work, but I will get a tape measure to make sure”. He came right back, measured the gate and said, “Ce n’est pas possible, pas du tout.”

I got out my phone and proceeded to call the supervisor of the whole job to give him the bad news and to ask how he was going to fix this problem. Obviously no materials, means no work done. Guess what?? The call went straight to voice mail so I left a message for him. Then Guy said to me that the company would have to rent a small truck and go get the materials in several trips for it to work, but because it was Friday today it wouldn’t happen until Monday. He said that when the supervisor called me back to tell him to call Guy and he would explain everything about what must be done for Monday.

So we all shook hands and the man driving the truck drove away with all my materials in it. Just as Guy was driving away the supervisor of the job called so I flagged him down and handed him the phone to explain away. They conversed for a few minutes while I stood there freezing my tootsie off in the growing-ever-stronger gusts of wind. Then Guy handed me back the phone and the supervisor told me not to worry, it’s all handled for Monday. He said he was sorry about it!

Then after I hung up, Guy said they told him when ordering the materials that a big truck would work no problem. That’s true for the street and the space in my yard, but they forgot about passing through my gate! Viola!

Oh well, c’est la vie en France! In the meantime, the wind has really picked up here and our tuiles are once again singing and moving around the roof. It looks like we are in for a few days of heavy gusts again. I can’t wait until this is done and I don’t have to worry about it any longer. It seems that the rain hasn’t been our biggest problem this year, it’s been the wind! I would rather deal with the rain at this point because there isn’t a risk of it posing a threat to my neighbors. I hope the workers are able to come next week and get started. That will be a whole lot of stress off of us.

In the meantime, I had better practice my slurring of the French language. I think that’s a skill that could come in handy in the future.

By the way, for those of you not familiar with “Who’s On First”, here it is for your enjoyment. This classic is one of my all time favorites. It never gets old!

 

Free Gift

Dude is in the process of gathering all the materials he needs to change the main electrical service and panel in our house. Even though much of the house has decent electrical, it still needs to be updated since the last time the house had any work done in this area was probably around the 1970’s or 1980’s.

Dude said that the existing stuff is still good and he’s not going to go through the trouble of rewiring the whole house if it doesn’t need it. The new panel is definitely warranted, though, and so are some new electrical runs along with some new plugs and switches since back in the day, they didn’t have cable, internet and all that modern stuff we now need to get through our day.

In this process he wanted a small panel to house our cable and internet boxes and phone stuff so he did some searches online to find something that he would be happy with. All the stuff he was finding in the stores here just wasn’t striking his fancy.

Well, low and behold he found what he wanted on Ebay and here it is. It just arrived yesterday. The picture of loveliness, I tell you!

Now the fun part. Apparently it came with a free gift that we had no idea we would be the proud owners of, this nice sort of Rasta Flag towel brandishing a “Black Roots” symbol.

Did I miss something here? Either the seller was trying to make us “feel the love” or he knows something about my background that I don’t. Well, at least it wasn’t sporting the marijuana leaf like they so often do! You should have seen the look of confusion on our faces when we opened the package and this was hiding inside the box. It gave us a good laugh for a while.

In any case, it’s a nice towel and I think it will be a lovely addition hung up on a wall somewhere in my 18th century French farm house. It totally goes with our décor 🙂 Also, it will be a lovely discussion piece every time people inquire about my “black roots”.

Afternoon Crash

My company’s accountants happen to be in the same building as us. We see them often and we have a very good relationship with them. The two people that I work with the most are very nice and easy to get along with and a big plus for me, they know how to work! These guys burn the midnight oil like nobody’s business and they get the job done.

They have been our accountants for quite a few years now, but I’ve only been working with them for the past 15 months. Well, each year they have a Welcome In the New Year party at their office for any and all clients that can come and say hello and spend an hour or two chatting.

About two weeks ago, we received an invitation to their afternoon “Cocktail”. Yes, folks, that’s what they called it. When I saw that, I knew we were in for it.

Well, today was the day for the “Cocktail”. One of the accountants had come down earlier to use our fridge as a holding place for some of the food since their fridge wasn’t big enough (big surprise, it’s a French fridge!) When she came down she reminded us of the fun we were going to have this afternoon.

Now mind you, this “Cocktail” was scheduled for 12:15pm, right smack at the beginning of lunch. Keep that in mind.

So when the hour arrived, off all of us went to the office of our accountants. When we got there it was already full with people. It seems their clients either really like them or the free goodies and drinks were enough to say, “I’ll be there”. I suspect it was probably both.

From the moment we walked in the door we were greeted with “Bonjour” and a glass of champagne. Okay… nothing like starting off the mid-day just right! For those of you who don’t know, I don’t really drink. I just never acquired the taste for it and yes, I know I’m in France, but still, that’s just how it is. Also I’m a bit of a light weight and will slide out of my chair after ½ a glass of wine. So having a glass of champagne in my hand at noon was just the picture I was going for of me enjoying life in the south of France and to say Boo-yaa to all my friends in the states 🙂

So there we were chatting it up with one of the owners of the accounting agency while the other owner was passing around little goodies and constantly trying to fill up my glass of champagne (by the way, he is the cutest and sweetest little Frenchman ever!). Well there I was nursing my champagne and eating all these little French goodies when all of a sudden my accountant (the one who came to the office earlier to use our fridge) decides she is going to hand me a plate with a piece of Galette des Roi (the first piece I’ve had this year)and another piece of some Parisian cake that I had never had before. I nearly died, cuz I was already buzzing from the few sips I had taken from my drink and the few goodies I had already eaten and here she was trying to feed me more sugar than I had seen in a month!

The rush of sugar was already well into my system at this point but what else could I do? I can’t refuse free French cakes! I just had to eat them, of course! So in the time span of one hour, I had drunk two glasses of champagne, eaten several goodies all laid out on the table and gorged myself on cake. All of this starting at noon and taken on an empty stomach (aka-no viable food source before the sugar gorge). I think all the pastries was the reason I was still standing. The adrenaline rush was now in full force.

By the time the “Cocktail” was over and we were back in the office, I was feeling a bit sick. I had a sugar rush so bad that my head hurt, my stomach felt sick and I was trembling. I really wanted to eat something healthy with protein, but I was too full on crap to be able to do so.

By the time 30 minutes had passed, all of us in the office were complaining about headaches and stomach aches and how we just wanted to go lay down and sleep! I didn’t know how I was going to make it through the rest of the afternoon at work! Finally about an hour later I was able to eat a sandwich which seemed to make that really awful feeling go away, but I don’t think I will be quite myself again until later this evening.

Next year I will be prepared for the “Cocktail” and be sure to eat an entire chicken before participating in all that French afternoon partying. For now, I am seriously laying off the sweets for about a month! I probably won’t keep that promise, but right now is seems like a good one to make.

About Ready To Start

This morning two people from the company who is going to be doing our roof and façade showed up. They had scheduled the appointment with us last week and said they would be at the house around 10am today. So, being that we are in France I took that to be more like 11am.

Well, I guess these guys aren’t French cuz I got a call this morning right after 8am saying that they were on their way. They had to up the appointment to an earlier time cuz they needed to squeeze in another appointment that morning and would now be arriving chez moi before 9am. Well, I guess that meant I had to get up early now didn’t it. It was time for the mad dash since I needed to shower and clean up the dirty dishes in the sink before they were to arrive. I made the mad dash and managed to get dressed but not clean up the dishes. Oh well, the house is under construction so maybe they wouldn’t even notice.

They made this appointment so that the foreman of the job could see where he needed to put all the materials and the scaffolding. I had gone over to my neighbors’ houses on Sunday evening to let them know that work was going to be done on the house, but didn’t have a date, yet. I also had to give them both the bad news and the good news.

Wait… you need the background info first. Background is that I have three neighbors who are going to be affected by this work. See, the back exterior wall that is being worked on is actually on the property line of two of my neighbors behind me. This means that the scaffolding is going to be in their yard while the work is getting done. The neighbor to the side of me has her garden next to my wall, but the scaffolding isn’t going in her yard, it’s going on our 1st story bathroom roof, but I still have to tell her about the work in case anything falls in her yard.

So the bad news for the neighbors is that the work will take place during a two week period or longer, depending on the weather, and the scaffolding is going to be set up in their yard. The good news is that once the work is done they will have a beautiful wall to look at instead of an ugly one. I think that’s a pretty good trade off, now don’t you?

Well, to my surprise and delight, the two neighbors behind me were super okay with the whole thing! Thank goodness cuz I don’t need any more issues. One of the neighbors chatted with me about how it was no problem and the workers could even go in and out of their house if need be and wanted Dude and I to come over and have some food and wine with him and his wife. Sounds good to me, but let’s see if he feels that way after workers are at his house making messes and being loud for a couple of weeks!  The other neighbor is really old and I think he has a problem hearing, but I kept telling him what was going on and he finally seemed to get it. I hope we are all squared away cuz this morning when I flagged him down to say hello he looked at me like he had never seen me before. This might be an issue.

Oh, by the way, the “let’s have a drink” neighbor’s wife asked me if I had chosen a color for the façade and you should have seen the look on her face when I told her it was going to be bright orange. She tried to hold herself together while her face was cringing. I gave her about 5 seconds and then said I was just kidding. She was so relieved and thankful. It was a mean joke to play on someone I had just met, but I couldn’t resist. She ended up laughing about it but it was just cuz she was so grateful that I was kidding! I didn’t blame her one bit for cringing either, seeing as it would have been 3 stories of bright orange for her to look at for the rest of her life! Fate worse than death, I tell ya.

So, back to today. The two guys came over and took a good look around for where they were going to put all the materials and how they were going to do this crazy scaffolding trick. The nice neighbor who wants to have us over for drinks let them in the house and out into their garden with no problem. That was very nice of them. The other neighbor wasn’t home, though.

Before the guys departed, we had a discussion on what was to be done and how it was going to be done and then the original guy who came over way back in the beginning to give us the quote said that the materials should start to arrive this Friday and then the work will commence.

Super duper. After they left, I ran back over to our “let’s have drinks sometime” neighbor and let him know. He said great and that he would even chop down his little plants that might be in the way to avoid problems with the scaffolding. Gee, that’s a nice gesture.

I was able to get a hold of the other neighbor just as I was about to leave for work, remember the one I tried flagging down to say hello and him not remembering me. Well, I let him know the date the work was to start, too, cuz he will have to leave his garden gate unlocked in order for the workers to get in and have their scaffolding set up. He said ok and that he was going to tell his other neighbor cuz apparently they share this gate? Like, the other neighbor passes through his yard to get to their yard?! France is so weird that way.

Well, let’s hope all is good with this. At least the company has been doing what they said they would so far, so I am hopeful. I won’t be elated until it’s done and it’s perfect, though. I’m worried about the façade since it has been around -1C and -2C here the last couple of nights and when it’s really cold, cement (hence stucco) won’t cure.  I had a look at the meteo.fr sight (that trusty site that tells me all my weather details here in France, but isn’t very trusty since it changes every 5 seconds) anyway, there’s no rain in sight (good) and it’s suppose to stay above 1C for a while at night (good again). Well, we shall see and here’s hoping. Onward and upward til Friday and praying that my neighbors don’t change their mind and give me any issues!

 

Weekend Mornings are the Best

Do you know what I like best about the weekend? The peace and calm I get to have each morning. I think I mentioned one time that I’m not a morning person. If I have to get up before 8:30am (or even 9:00am) I am not happy. So guess what that means? Monday through Friday I’m not happy.

But, on the weekend, the most glorious weekend, I get to sleep in. I usually do try to make it up by 9:30 am. This is of course if we have not planned an outing for the day, in that case I have to wake early and this results in another day of unhappy unless of course it’s a road trip. Then I manage to get over the early start in about .05 seconds.

From the time I was a little girl, staying up late and sleeping in was in my blood. My mom always said that she had a devil of a time trying to get my behind out of bed each morning. I remember her coming into my room 5 or 6 times to get me to get up! Ahh! I just hated it. Then as I moved into Jr. High School (which is what we called it back in the day) I was given an alarm clock. Do you know what I did? I would inevitably hit that snooze button 5 or 6 times!

I was the kid that couldn’t wait for college classes and be done with high school. Not because I didn’t like high school, au contraire, I am the weird kid you hated in school because I loved (and still do) school. The reason why I was ready for college was to shed that early morning schedule of high school and make my own, dang, late as possible, class schedule. You know what?? That is just what I did. I picked all my classes as late as I could possibly get them and I was in heaven through my college years. Finally, I had a schedule that would conform to my own natural instincts.

Lucky for me, Dude ended up being just like me. He loves to stay up late and sleep in. Well, that was one thing we weren’t going to argue about!

Then along came the kids. I vowed to teach those rugrats a lesson or two about how the schedule worked in our house. I was gonna make the kids “stay up late and sleep in late people” if it killed me. The first couple of months were rough, no lie. Why is it that little babies are early risers? Why can’t late rising be genetic? Boy did I have my work cut out for me! Everyone of my little darlings wanted to go to bed at 8:00pm and be up at 6:00am. Well, I was having none of that, mind you.

Thank goodness for soda and all things sugary. I just threw some of that sugary good stuff in their bottles each evening and fed them a great deal of sugary snacks before bed and that had them buzzing around the house for hours on a high with a big crash at the end and then off to bed around 11:00pm or so. Then they miraculously didn’t get up until 8:30am or 9:00am. Ahh! Success at last.

I hope you guys aren’t buying this. I wouldn’t put soda in a baby’s bottle. Please….I didn’t even bottle feed them, they were nursed and besides they liked the soda better right out of the can, anyway, so that’s how they got it. Soda in one hand, gummy worms in the other while racing around the house for hours in their baby walker 🙂

Well at some point in their early life success was at hand and all my kids, one way or the other, conformed to staying up late and sleeping in. This of course, did pose the same problem my mom had with me once they were school aged, but it was nothing that a few days of going to school in their pj’s didn’t fix and they soon learned that we can sleep in on the weekends but just learn to hate life during the week.

Now that it’s back to pretty much Dude and me (Tinki is homeschooled so we can make our own late school schedule) I have relished my weekends. Even though I wake up on Saturday and Sunday around 9ish, both of my guys tend to sleep in later than that which leaves me an hour or sometimes two of shear quiet and serenity.

I wake up, open my windows to my lovely garden and village, put on a pot of coffee and make breakfast, then I sit and read or surf the net (reading my favorite blogs). Occasionally I will turn on the TV, but not too often since it messes with the silence.

On the weekend there is no noise since the house is still sleeping and our town is so quiet. No hustle bustle feeling of trying to get ready for work or the day. I only hear the coffee maker, the wind in the trees, the birds singing and the tapping of the keyboard.

Since being married and having children I have had for the past 20+ years, someone always there next to me at any given time of day. There were little ones tugging at my feet and following me everywhere I go. They were my little buddies and I was never alone. It was exactly how I wanted it to be, too. I had a lot of children because I am an only child and I hated it. I still do. I wanted my kids to always have someone to play with or someone to fight with and many choices to do either of those with. As they got older the house was always full with them and their friends. Then there were all the extra-curricular activities which seemed to be so dang early on Saturday morning!

Now, with the oldest three gone and moving to a new place, quiet has come to our house once more. My few precious hours each morning on Saturday and Sunday are exactly what I need to refresh myself. It really is nice to not have to converse with any one, to know you have a few hours to yourself and your own thoughts and to be able to just breathe and be calm. Nothing is a rush and everything can wait. That is how I feel for those few precious hours each weekend morning. I can leisurely sip my coffee without knowing I have to run out the door soon. I even indulge myself in a second cup and leisurely sip that one, too.

The house could be falling down around me (and it pretty much is right now) but I don’t have to think about it or worry about it for a small bit of time. My weekend mornings are what stress relief is made of and is something I eagerly look forward to at the end of each week. Ohh, the sweetness of a quiet country life on a weekend morning, even if it is for only a few hours.  Then it’s back to the madness at hand called “Life at the Fisher House”….Well, I guess I had better enjoy the serenity when I can since I think I might be hearing my house fall down soon.

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