Wednesday WOrd


Dieppe Image via Wikipedia

In the very tiny hours of last Sunday morning, the clocks whizzed forward by one hour, which means we now have to get up one hour earlier than we used to, something my inboard clock has still not happily adjusted to. This change is something we should welcome, as it heralds Western European Summertime, with its promise of balmy days, glowing sunshine, erupting flowers, ripening tomatoes and the casting off of clouts.

Summertime, and the living is easy, fish are jumpin’, and the cotton is high ……….

Summertime, so far, in south-western France, has been cold, wet and windy, and the living in an old, draughty, unheated, inadequately-insulated farmhouse is many things, but not easy. Yesterday the drive to Dieppe was  characterised by grey skies of varying intensity from silvery-soft to dirty net curtain, rain of varying density from tickling drizzle to fist-sized splodges (interspersed with hail and something that looked like sheets of ice falling on the windscreen), and crosswinds shoving trucks and tankers around like dodgem cars.

The ferry rocked and rolled from side to side, so that the windows showed one moment a seascape, the next a skyscape, to the accompaniment of a chorus of breaking glass and crockery, and pitched from back to front causing small children to fall flat on their faces and elderly people to slip down the stairs. The winds reached 55 mph, and the fish would have had to leap 15 ft. into the air to clear the tops of the waves.  Complexions ranged from pea-green to corpse grey, and the fascinating man sitting near us who wore a multitude of coloured bangles on each wrist, an extraordinary arrangement of grey side-whiskers forming handlebars to his ears, a very large, wide-brimmed purple felt hat and a garment that looked like a grey serape, distressed me by opening up a deep, waxed-paper container and looking into it as if he would at any moment fill it with his breakfast and lunch.

A shipwreck in stormy seas, by Claude-Joseph Vernet

To the ferry’s credit it arrived intact and dead on time in Newhaven, where the rain was being driven in horizontal sheets across the roads by screeching winds, and the temperature wasn’t very much above freezing. This morning London is bitterly cold with quite violent winds, and people are swaddled in woolly hats, scarves, padded coats and furry boots. Further north the roads are impassable due to heavy snowfalls, and tomorrow we can look forward to a frosty start.

Western European Summertime? Surely a misleading description, something Trading Standards should be investigating?

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The Fly in the Web writes about REAL LIFE in France, sans les rosy-tinted lunettes, and anybody thinking of moving here could do worse than read her posts to learn what goes on behind the idyllic picture postcard views of L’Hexagone, so that when reality kicks in, as it does from time to time, it doesn’t come as too much of a shock.

The Fly has been kind enough to send me this magnificent “Vraiment Française” award, unworthy though I am, so thank you very much, Mrs Fly.

In turn I’d like to send it to Screamish, who’s writing a novel and raising twins. I hope they don’t swallow or stick up their noses these pretty trinkets. 🙂

It all makes sense, not

It’s been a busy few days, with two birthdays to accommodate, the arrival of friends and the planting of the vegetable patch, which is more of a project than it sounds, because before we can plant it we have to fence it to deter one very agile bantam who enjoys raking up the earth after I have raked it, and two dogs who like running on freshly raked soil. So that means hammering two-metre fence posts into rock-hard ground. Anyway, I digress.

What this is about is the fosse septique, compulsory inspection of.  Every fosse septique in France has by law to undergo an official inspection. The cost in our part of the world is €68. However, if your fosse has been inspected by the inspectionman within the preceding four years, this charge is waived.

Now it happens that we share our fosse with our next door neighbours, who we will call Mr and Mrs B for the purpose of simplicity. The tank is in their garden, but the drainage therefrom is on our land, an arrangement that dates back to the time when their house belonged to us, being one of our gites.

When they bought the house two years ago from the previous owners, who we will call Mr. and Mrs. A for the purpose of simplicity, they wanted to have the tank inspected and verify that there were no problems with it. At the time they had not yet completed their purchase, and so the property was in the name of Mr and Mrs A. (Are you keeping up?)

Last summer the fosse came up for its compulsory inspection, which was duly carried out. And in due course we received an invoice from the inspectionpeople for €68, as did Mr and Mrs B.

I buried our invoice beneath a pile of paperwork, and forgot about it.

Some months later came a “Command to Pay” from the Public Treasury.

I went to see the Public Treasury, and explained that our fosse had been inspected within the previous four years, and was therefore exempt from the new charge. They sent me to the Inspectionpeople, where I explained the situation, adding that when the first inspection was carried out the property had been in the name of Mr and Mrs A, but that it now belonged to Mr and Mrs B, with whom we share the fosse, and that they and we were asking them to cancel the respective invoices.

The lady to whom I spoke and explained was polite, sympathetic and understanding of the background to the fosse, and said that the gentleman who carried out the inspections would look into the matter and telephone us within the next couple of days. That was about one month ago.

Not having heard anything more, I took it that the matter had been rectified and the invoices cancelled. But just to make certain, this morning I telephoned the man who had not telephoned us, and spoke to him at length. The long and short of it was that although there is only one fosse, each household has to pay for it to be inspected, even though it only requires a single inspection. No amount of discussion could change his mind. One fosse, two households, two invoices.

When I pointed out that it had been inspected (by him) within the previous four years and should therefore still be exempt, in accordance with their own regulations, he agreed to cancel one invoice, but is insistent that the other must be paid, and that it should be shared with the co-owners.

This is France, bien sûr. 😀

Fried toads

Got to do something with them, we’re overrun, so I decided to fry some of them tonight.

Bananas, that is  🙂

Here’s a nice but slightly naughty recipe for a chilly evening. It’s called Kuih Kodok in Malaysia, kodok being a toad:

Three bananas

1 cup of flour

1½ tablespoons of sugar

1 egg

A little water

Break the bananas with your fingers into smallish pieces. Mix with the flour, sugar, beaten egg and enough water to make a thick batter.

Fry tablespoonfuls in hot oil until golden brown, then turn over and fry for a further 2 minutes.  Drain on kitchen paper, and serve hot with a squeeze of lemon juice. Makes about 10.