Cut off from the rest of the word

France Telecom came to install a new line at our neighbour’s house on Friday, since when we have been without a working telephone line or Internet access, hence I am sitting in an Internet café writing this.  I am told that the FT engineers are very busy at present, and probably will not be able to come and fix their breakage before Wednesday.

Ah well, just have to take advantage of the peace and quiet, I suppose.

Bye until we’re back on line.


Is la grève pissing people off?

Are the French public, normally sympathetic to strikers, beginning to frazzle around the edges, as the fuel stations run dry, public transport comes to a halt, and the rubbish piles up, not to mention half-term school holidays beginning this weekend?

Because I’ve spent a couple of hours this morning on the telephone, trying to locate some material we need to finish the central heating project, and have been met with the most  uncharacteristic churlishness.  Don’t confuse this, please, with after-sales-service disinterest. They are not one and the same thing.

Normally I find people courteous and helpful on the telephone, but today both those qualities have been noticeably lacking. So is it the strike, the very early arrival of winter complete with frost, or just one of those days?

I’m not going to phone anybody else today.



THWednesday Word


Departmental Papers (ASC)

The word oxymoron is of Greek origin. It combines the word oxy (=sharp) and moron (=dull, stupid, foolish). Thus, oxymoron not only names a contradiction in terms, it is an oxymoron as well.

Microsoft Works” is often quoted as an oxymoron. Personally I have no problem with Microsoft. It has always worked for me.

I can’t think of anything more worthy of oxymoronic entitlement than “French after-sales-service.”  So elusive is this concept that when it is actually forthcoming, the world momentarily stops spinning and you have to poke yourself in the eye with a pointy stick to make sure that you are not dreaming. In the fifteen years we have lived here, only once have I had this surreal experience, and that was with a small local company who sell and hire tools and equipment. Our lawnmower failed after two years in service; I returned it asking for a quote for repairs, and heard nothing for eight months. When I eventually telephoned to enquire after it, they said a new mower had been awaiting collection for seven months. No, there must be a mistake, I said, our mower was only guaranteed for one year. No mistake at all, they insisted, they had replaced the mower with a new one.  To have expected them to telephone to let me know would perhaps have been expecting a little too much. Needless to say (but I’ll say it anyway), we have remained faithful customers, and they never fail to deal with us politely and efficiently.

Sadly, they are so rare as to qualify as a species on the verge of extinction, if indeed it ever existed at all.

I remember the computer we bought from a major supermarket several years ago. When we brought it home – a drive of 50 kilometres, and plugged it in, it said helpfully: “No hard disk found.” Back it went (100 k round trip), brought home a new one that wouldn’t connect to the Internet. Took it back (another 100 k round trip), left it with them for three hours, assured by SAV that it had connected perfectly and was now working properly. Took it home, no Internet connection. Engineer sent out – found there was no modem in it. Took it back (another 100 k round trip), salesman hiding from me. Another salesman asked whether I actually had any experience of using computers, and whether I’d remembered to switch it on, because it was very strange that I was having so many problems when nobody else was. The saga continued for 8 months while I struggled in vain for a replacement that worked or a refund until I resorted to AFOC (a militant French consumer rights organisation) to get my money back.

About a year later I bumped into one of the staff from that department, now working in a different supermarket. He came over to introduce himself, and said that he had been embarrassed by the behaviour of his previous employers, as the entire batch of computers had been faulty, a situation of which they were well aware.

Since then we’ve had DVD recorders that didn’t record, a television that turned itself on during the early hours of the morning, toasters that didn’t toast, and now the 4-month-old espresso machine that doesn’t espress. Back it went yesterday, with receipt and guarantee card, to the local supermarket from where we bought it. Could we please, we asked, have a replacement or a refund to buy a new one.

Ah no, said the man, it would have to be sent away for repair. How long might that be? He shrugged. No idea, he replied airily, as if it didn’t matter whether or not it ever came back. We expressed our dissatisfaction that for an unknown duration we would be unable to make a nice espresso for ourselves or our guests, and asked if he thought it acceptable that a product should fail so soon, and that customers should have to suffer. He kept shrugging, pointing at the “procedures” book and saying there was nothing he could do. This seems to be standard procedure in France. He pointed to a box on the floor, containing a vacuum cleaner that had taken six weeks to repair. The owner was very unhappy, but what could he do? With the strike, he continued, it could take months for our coffee machine to return.

There is much that we don’t miss about living in England, and a few things that we do. And top of that list comes after sales service, English style, served with a smile, courtesy, efficiency and an understanding of the importance of keeping the customer satisfied.

Instant, anybody?

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What is it with the birds?

For the last three weeks, the owls have been unusually vocal. Every night, for hours. Lovely sound, but I’ve never heard it so often before.

Barn Owl

Photo courtesy of

Yesterday a robin flew into the dining room and sat on the doormat. That isn’t sensible, as we have two cats, and though both are aged and infirm, they can still pounce very quickly when they want to, and two dogs who are gentle but curious and put most things into their mouths. I tried to catch the bird, but it kept flying around the room, from one corner to the other. It landed on the upper windows above the sliding doors, and although I opened the windows it couldn’t find its way out from there. Then it flew straight into the sliding door and landed in a bedraggled, motionless heap on the floor, wings akimbo, eyes closed, mouth gaping open. I picked it up, held it against me for 5 minutes until I could feel a heartbeat, then put it in the garden in the sun in a safe place. Gradually it began to move, stood up, opened its eyes, closed its mouth, and began looking around. After 20 minutes it flew away.

Photo from: Click here

Today I found a wren in the office, fluttering at the window. It flew into the living room, fluttered at the window, flew behind the torchere, back into the office onto the computer, back into the living room window, behind the armchair, back to the computer, until at last I could herd it out through the living room door into the garden.

Photo courtesy of:

Although this year we were not invaded by tiny newts as we so often are, we did have bats in the dining room one evening, and the annual march of the stag beetles who come to die on the doorstep. I wonder why wildlife finds this house so attractive?



In our garden



Image from


Image from the wonderful Planete Passion website



On the picket lines

So, first it was the four-month-old espresso machine that decided to put its full weight behind the French strikers. After four days of civil disobedience, starting with a refusal to deliver any water, moving on to hissing, roaring and extruding steam from every crevice, reaching a violent peak by shooting  high-velocity streams of scalding water in every direction whilst simultaneously exploding the coffee pad, before adopting a stance of passive resistance – allowing water to seep constantly, effectively flooding the kitchen – it has now been temporarily suspended, pending investigation by Carrefour.  Such militant action by a relatively new employee is unacceptable.

Meanwhile the dishwasher has been watching  from the sidelines, deciding whether to join in or not. It gave a few despairing groans when asked to perform its simple task. When we ignored these, it clunked miserably. Being reasonable people, we listened to its argument that it had served faithfully for long enough to be entitled to retire gracefully and not be expected to work for a further two years. So it is now on its way to a well-earned retirement at the local déchetterie. 🙂

We are now watching all other electric devices with an eagle eye. They say these things go in threes. My nerves are quite wracked. 🙂 What if something decides to set the house on fire? Or the car?

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Is Scrabble cheating?

This morning I had quick game of Scrabble with the iPod. To be truthful, many quick games. It’s addictive.

We’re playing a custom game, first to score 75, level hard. Honours shared fairly equally.

I’ve seen some fairly strange words come up, notably of the 2-letter type, but I let them go.

Now, though, I’m beginning to wonder whether there’s a little gamesmanship going on. In the latest round, computer plays “preflame”, and gets a score of 70, leaving a handy space on the triple word for me to add a “d” and make two triple-word strikes that would put my score up to 74. Computer tells me that there is no such word in the dictionary, so I have to settle for a measly 20 points.  Computer just needs 5 points to win, but strikes with: “Visieing”, taking its score to 132 in only two moves.

So can anybody tell me what “Visieing” means?  Because I can’t find it in any English dictionary, and Google is no help. 🙄

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