The labyrinth of frustration

Four years after I first posted this, we still correspond regularly and he never fails to make me laugh. Having just emerged victorious from a day-long battle with Three Long Beeps and Four Short Bips I was reminded of how a well-meant remark from me led him into the labyrinth of frustration. 🙂

 

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Susie Kelly - Writer

There’s a man I don’t know who lives somewhere in Florida. Well, when I say I don’t know him, I’ve never met him, but through a mutual struggle with a particular piece of software, we connected on a forum, and have for a couple of months been exchanging emails on a variety of subjects. Mainly photography with a dash of philosophy thrown in, and a soupçon of literature. He’s a very funny man who has a great way with words, and his emails always make me smile. But this one beats the lot, and made me cry real tears of laughter.
He had recommended Vonnegut to me, and I returned the favour by suggesting David Sedaris, whose book “Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls” is currently producing snorts and chuckles in our household.
Here’s what Mr Florida wrote last night, and it will resonate with anybody who has ever needed to…

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Windows 10 Anniversary update – success at last!

So a week after I first attempted to upgrade Windows 10, I have finally succeeded.

There are howls of frustration, shrieks of rage and threats of suicide all over the Internet by broken souls battling to download and install the upgrade, so I knew from the outset that the problem wasn’t me, or my computer.

I tried every solution suggested on every technical forum, clearing the cache, playing around with the command line and downloading a variety of files that were all ‘guaranteed’ to fix the problem, which they didn’t. In fact they seemed to create new ones, as my wifi network adapter stopped working, I couldn’t reach any websites, and the computer had almost come to a standstill. In fact it came to many standstills over the six days, either downloading to 99% and then going into a coma, or giggling “Oops, something has gone wrong!” and falling into the apples as the French say.

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In case anybody should be reading this who is having a similar problem, here is how it worked for me.

First, I unplugged the computer. Actually pulled the plug out of the socket, and left it for an hour before reconnecting it.

Secondly a message popped up out of nowhere, saying that I needed to sign in to my Microsoft account, something I had forgotten I had and have certainly never used. I managed to find some scribbled details in a grubby little notebook that is falling to pieces, and duly signed in.

This time, when I started the download within a few minutes it was up to 35%. Previous attempts had taken up to 18 hours to reach 99%. Things were looking up. Our Internet connection is always very slow, but at least it was moving forward. And when it reached 100%, oh happy day! – it then verified the download – YAY! – started the installation and completed it.

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Whether it was the unplugging of the computer, the signing into the Microsoft account, or just a fluke, I couldn’t say, but if all else has failed, give it a try.

Now, how to make the Epson printer use the big black cartridge instead of the little black one that it has emptied? I’d like to get this fixed, as the printer is now refusing to print, which meant I had to drive a 20 mile round trip yesterday to get two important documents photocopied. Another day, another challenge.

So, Epson, who have not responded to my polite call for help, take note:

 

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The Poitiers paperchase

Facebook keeps reminding me that I haven’t posted on my author page since 22nd September. Do I detect a slight admonishment? I plead extenuating circumstances, to wit:

I have had nothing to write that I think could have been of any interest to readers, and even if I had, I have been too busy to do so.

Mainly, but not exclusively, it dates back to that fateful car journey  at the end of June when our car broke down and our caravan was damaged. The car limped back home, only to put an end to itself shortly afterwards by releasing its handbrake while parked on a slope, and smashing itself to bits on a concrete pillar.

The quantity of paperwork necessary to sort out the insurance claims seemed disproportionate to the value of the claims,  but all the boxes had to be filled, in triplicate, accompanied by photocopies of numerous other documents that I had to hunt for in dusty old files, and sent off, only to be returned days or even weeks later asking for more information. .

It didn’t help that our misfortunes coincided with that time of the year in France when everybody shuts up shop and heads off to the Midi for their summer holidays and you can’t get hold of anybody for a month. Unfortunately our lovely insurance broker who has taken care of all our needs for the last twenty years, and speaks perfect English, happened to be on his well-deserved holidays when the accident happened, and has subsequently been seriously ill in hospital ever since, which means that I have had to deal with the French-speaking lady, and while my French is fairly good, it doesn’t extend to arcane French insurance language and laws and my conversations with the company were sometimes as clear as mud. It took several weeks for the payment for the car to arrive, and three more weeks to find a suitable replacement, an English-registered vehicle.

We are still awaiting compensation for the caravan, but are told it should be done within 8-10 days

As a French resident your car has to be registered in France, and so on to the next phase of paperwork, which took us to Poitiers yesterday, confident that I had everything necessary to obtain a ‘carte grise‘ – the vehicle registration document, which would mean the car was officially registered as French and we could then have new number plates fitted.

Two stops were necessary, firstly at the Centre des Finances Publiques and afterwards at the PrĂ©fecture. I checked the opening times before we left – French Government offices are notorious for their erratic opening hours. Centre des Finances Publiques is open in the afternoons from 1.15 to 3.45, and the PrĂ©fecture all day until 5.00 pm, so we should theoretically at least be able to wrap up the whole exercise in one afternoon.

We arrived 10 minutes before the Centre opened, anticipating that it would be busy and we’d have a long wait if we were at the back of the queue. When the doors opened a polite smiling young man asked each person what they wanted and directed them to the appropriate counter. He pointed us to the first floor, room 106, where a friendly lady processed the ream of paperwork in my folder and within ten minutes we had the necessary ‘quitus fiscal‘ – a document certifying that there was no tax to pay on the vehicle, one of the essential pieces of paper needed for the next stage of our venture.

Off we set to the other side of town to the PrĂ©fecture. While TOH drove off to find a parking place, I went and asked at reception which form I needed to complete. A polite and helpful young man led me to another counter and patiently went through all the steps needed and listed the papers to include with the form. I thought I’d brought everything with me – original registration certificate, bill of sale, certificate of conformity, utility bill to verify address, certificate of a contrĂ´le technique – the French equivalent of an MOT – and the newly acquired ‘quitus fiscal‘ and proof of identity. One thing, however, that I had overlooked, was a stamped self-addressed envelope. Dammit!

No problem, the young man said, you can get one from the post office, it’s only two minutes away. He led me out of the door and round the corner to show me the way.

Off I trotted to the post office, where there were several counters for various services, but none for somebody wanting to buy a single stamped envelope. There were four people ahead of me in the queue, and a young woman asked each what they wanted and directed them to a counter. She escorted me to the parcel deposit and collection point, and it was there, when I went to pay for the envelope, that I found I had left my purse at home. It seemed silly to pay for a 1 euro purchase with my bank card, so I bought ten envelopes. Then I trotted back to the Préfecture and continued assembling all the necessary documents.

That was when I discovered that I needed a photocopy of the utility bill and my driving licence. In the past it used to be the person at the counter who provided the registration document – they would make the copies for you. I went to the photocopy machine and remembered that I didn’t have any money to pay for them, so I trudged back to the place where I had been filling in the forms. As I approached a young woman was waving at me rather urgently. I’d left my nine stamped envelopes there for anybody to take, so she had kept them safe for me. Thanking her, she asked if I had everything I needed. No, I replied, I’ve forgotten my purse and have no money to pay for the photocopies. Give them to me, she said, I’ll do them for you. Which she did. Finally everything seemed to be in order, and I went to the ticket machine to take a number – most public buildings around here work on that system, so that people are seen in the order they arrive, like the fish counter in supermarkets. No queue jumping!

The kind young woman caught up with me and explained that there was no need to take a ticket, because the department that deals with vehicle registration is only open in the morning.

La vache!” I exclaimed in frustration. That would mean another seventy mile round trip tomorrow, just what I had hoped to avoid.

But no, she said. Look, you take one of these brown envelopes and put all your papers inside, then put the envelope in this box, and your claim will be dealt with tomorrow. And you have to enclose a blank signed cheque. Hm, I wonder how much it will be?

I have a premonition that my application will come back, as the contrôle technique validity is slightly out of date, but who knows, my luck may continue.

We do read quite often complaints about French bureaucrats, but based on my experiences yesterday, and indeed generally, I cannot fault them. At each place I went there were people there to help to keep the machine running smoothly and efficiently, and they all did so with a smile.

I also discovered recently that we had been paying the tax man money that was not owed to him, which has to be reclaimed, which involves hunting out another load of paperwork and writing a long letter in French and hoping that the tax office will be helpful and obliging.

So that’s part of the reason why I haven’t updated the Facebook page. Another reason is that thanks to the French health care system, both of us have had numerous appointments with our doctor and various specialists over the last few months, and TOH had an operation ten days ago. That itself required three visits to Poitiers – first to see the surgeon, again to see the anaesthetist and then for the actual operation. A trip to town does take a hefty chunk out of the day.

I volunteer at a charity shop on Tuesday afternoons and all day on the last Saturday of the month, help a 95-year-old lady with her paperwork on Wednesday afternoons, go to photographic club on the first and third Monday of each month, do the club meeting notes, and have a book club meeting on the last Friday of the month. This Thursday morning I start restorative yoga classes to try and restore some bendability to my rigid spine.

Add in all the other day to day tasks that keep life ticking over, the shopping and cooking and looking after the animals, it really doesn’t leave too much time on my hands, especially as I’m still working on the book, which has been greatly delayed mainly due the aforesaid interruptions.

And finally, my attempt to download the latest Windows 10 upgrade is now in its fifth day. Every download either fails to start or runs for about 15 hours up to 99% and then freezes and crashes the computer. I’ve tried every solution I can find on the web, nothing has worked so far. In an hour I shall go to bed, and leave the update that I began downloading at 10.15 am still running and only up to 67% eleven hours later. I’m fairly certain that when I come down in the morning, it will once again have failed.

So that is why I have been absent for so long not only from Facebook but from social media in all its forms. Just ain’t got the time at the moment, except for whipping in to Facebook for a few minutes every day to check on messages and share a few of those things that really matter to me.

Normal service will probably be resumed eventually. I hope.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cords and chains

Next Sunday will be the first anniversary of the day we drove to Dunkirk to collect Tommy from the SPA.

He’s changed so much over the last year. He is unrecognisable from the scrawny, scabby and staring-coated dog that he was then, and is far more relaxed and confident than when he arrived. He still stands at the gate looking wistful if we go out without him, but he’s no longer frantic that he’s going to be abandoned again.

The one area that we hadn’t made much progress is walking on a lead. He’s a puller, crouching low, digging in his claws and putting all his weight on his broad chest, and at 30 kilos he’s just too strong. We tried several different designs of no–pull halters, and a harness, all without success. He just pulls too much. Consequently we have been unable to enjoy taking him out, which means that we haven’t been able to enjoy going out ourselves for any length of time and leaving the dogs at home.

But I recently bought a new ‘no-pull’ halter that actually works! It’s just a few feet of soft woven cord that fits the dog’s head in a figure of eight – you loop it over the head, twist it up under the chin and loop it back over the nose. There are no straps, clips or buckles to adjust. It doesn’t ride up over the eyes, there’s no pressure on the neck, and it works like a dream.

So yesterday we went out for an afternoon on France’s ‘green Venice’ – the Marais Poitevin. As it was a sunny Sunday afternoon we wanted to avoid the busiest areas, and so headed for MagnĂ© where we followed a narrow shady lane down to the river bank. We wanted to cross the river. There was no bridge. But there was this:

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Tommy needed no encouragement to  jump aboard, but Tally was most reluctant and had to be pulled from the front and pushed from the back. 🙂 Terry then hauled us across to the far side of the very green river.

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We followed the bank along to the lock.

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The lock keeper’s cottage and two lock-winders

Tommy was interested in the lock, and the dog in the boat in the lock.

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Our walk continued over the weir.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Thanks to their halters, both dogs walked beautifully, without pulling

We didn’t meet any other walkers.

We had to wait for the return ferry.

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And then it was our turn to chain back to the other side.

All made possible by this:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s called The Perfect Pace no-pull halter leash. And it’s a “Yes” from me, a 5* product.  For the first time since Tommy arrived, we were all able to go out together, hassle-free. Who would have thought something so simple could make such a change.

Misleading leads to misunderstanding

So, justifying my optimism that there was a solution, and confounding my pessimism that it would not be found, the RAM saga has ended happily. For those who have an interest in such things, here is the explanation. For those who don’t, you can stop reading now.

The existing 3 go. of RAM in the computer was in two modules, both of which are the same size physically, but one supplies 2 go. of memory and the other supplies 1 go. of memory

The idea was to remove the 1 go. module and replace it with a new 2 go module, giving a total RAM of 4 go. But as mentioned in the previous post, that did not work. The computer declared that it only had 1 go. of RAM.

The first attempt to rectify the situation consisted of ramming reseating the new 2 go module back into its slot, and the result was an improvement – 3 go. of RAM now found, bringing us back to square one and still leaving 1 go. AWOL.

Let me ask a question.

If you had two objects before you, indistinguishable except that one carried a reference “1” and the other was marked “2”, would you logically expect the numbers to be indicative of their capacity? If so, in this instance, you would be wrong.

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Because the module marked “2” only supplied 1 go. of RAM, while the module marked “1” supplied 2 go. Geddit?

So with the new 2 go module rammed reseated, and the original “2” that was actually 1 replaced with the original “1”that was actually 2, we achieved the desired 4.

Oh never mind.

Why do things never work?

Some people are optimists, and some are pessimists.

I fall between the two. Mostly I’m optimistic, but when it comes to anything vaguely technical, or electrical, I’m a pessimist. Not because I expect things not to work, but because I know from experience that they won’t.

No matter how carefully, methodically I follow instructions from start to finish, step by step, when it comes to “Click here to complete installation,” I know damned well there will not be anything there to click, or if there is clicking will cause smoke to billow, or blow all the fuses in the house. And that’s a fact.

Therefore it comes as no surprise when the RAM upgrade for my laptop fails to upgrade.

Lightroom running on 3 go really struggles, and to export a photo I have to close down all programmes, restart Lightroom, export the photo, and restart everything again. For each photo. Which is tiresome and time consuming.

So I am pleased to find that the 3 go can be upgraded to 4 go. No more than that – it’s an old 32-bit machine but adequate for everything – except Lightroom.

And I speak to the Dell RAM suppliers and ascertain the exact, precise 2 go. RAM module necessary to replace the 1 go. module, and order it, and am thrilled when it arrives. And pessimistic that it will work.

As usual, my pessimism is totally justified. After following all the steps to replace the module, so that 4 go. are now firmly snapped into place, I restart the computer.

And how much RAM do you think it finds?

1 Go.

That’s right – instead of adding memory, it has subtracted it. What was 3 and should now be 4 is instead 1.

Surprised? No.

Frustrated. Yes.

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I am optimistic there is a solution somewhere.

And pessimistic that I’ll find it.

How to turn a Gallic shrug into a charm offensive

There are many joys to living in France, but until recently dealing with customer service has not been one of them. ‘French customer service’ was in fact something of an oxymoron. Our first unpleasant experience, 16 years ago, came courtesy of a major supermarket chain from which we bought a computer one Friday evening. After plugging in our new acquisition, a message popped up on the monitor: ‘No hard drive.’ We unplugged, replugged, rebooted, switched on and off several times. ‘No hard drive’ insisted the monitor.

On Saturday we returned the computer to the supermarket, and told Service Après Vente there was no hard drive. Impossible, they said, all computers have a hard drive. Not this one, we said. After switching it on and twiddling, they reluctantly agreed there was no hard drive, looking at us suspiciously as if suspecting we might have whipped it out for fun. Begrudgingly, they gave us a replacement.

We plugged it in and it whirred into life! Four hours later, it was stubbornly refusing to connect to the Internet, and it was too late to make another 50 mile round-trip to the supermarket, so I phoned the helpline, which was premium rate. Put on hold for an hour, I finally gave up. Same result on the Sunday.

On Monday I took the machine back and said it would not connect to the Internet. After leaving it with Service Après Vente for an hour, they assured me the problem was fixed. They had connected to the Internet and tested the machine fully. It was in perfect working order. Back home, another 50 miles and 4 hours later, it was still not connecting to the Internet. An engineer was despatched to fix it. After taking it to bits and scratching his head, he announced that there was no modem in the machine. But surely there must be, I said, if Service Après Vente had connected to the Internet? They could not possibly have done so, he replied. There is no modem in this machine.

Disheartened with the machine and with Service Après Vente, on Wednesday I took the machine back and asked for a refund. That was not company policy. I could only have another replacement machine. I didn’t want one of these machines, I wanted a different make, one that worked. That was not possible. It wasn’t company policy. I drove home with a third machine.

14 frustrating months later the computer still didn’t work properly. If the modem worked, the monitor didn’t. It constantly crashed, froze, switched itself off. I can’t recall how many trips I made to the supermarket, where I was asked if I had owned a computer before, knew that there was an on/off switch at the back, had plugged it into a power source and was generally treated as a trouble-maker and object of ridicule. I am fairly patient and never resort to rudeness, but my patience and politeness were making no inroads into the intransigence of the supermarket.

A French friend gave me a telephone number for our local AFOC – Association Force Ouvrière Consommateurs – a consumer rights organisation. I phoned for an appointment, and the next day, armed with three A4 sheets detailing the whole saga, sat in a small office facing a man with a bristly beard and brusque manner.

‘Tell me what has happened’ he said, ignoring the papers. After two sentences he raised a hand, snatched up the phone, dialled the supermarket and proceeded to shout and roar. Three minutes later he replaced the phone, tore up the papers, and told me to go immediately to the supermarket and collect my money.

With trepidation born of months of abuse and disdain, I announced myself at the reception desk. The previously scornful salesman appeared at a sprint, wiping sweat from his brow and waving a fistful of bank notes and apologising excessively. Quelle satisfying volte-face!

A couple of years later we had ordered a supply of crushed limestone. The man who delivered it tipped three cubic metres of sharp stone chippings onto our drive. We had a mighty argument when I said it was not what we had ordered and that he would have to take it away and replace it. He shook his fist and called me an English whore, furiously shovelled the stuff back into his truck, failed to deliver our order, and sent an invoice laced with threats. After two months of invoices and threats, I telephoned the shouting man at AFOC, who shouted at the rude man while I listened on the other line, and that was the end of the invoices and threats.

Two years ago we bought a coffee machine from another supermarket. It failed after two months, so we took it back and asked for a refund or replacement. It was not company policy, explained the man at the counter. It would have to be sent for repair. How long would that take, I asked. No idea, he replied with a Gallic shrug. It was August, the factory would be closed, there was a backlog ……

Four months later, he was still shrugging, so I mentioned that I would pass the file to AFOC as the machine had been in repair twice as long as we had owned it. Within an hour, we’d received a full cash refund, warm handshakes and profuse apologies.

A friend who bought a new professional coffee machine for her café asked for a refund or replacement when the expensive machine failed after two days. She was told she would have to be patient until it was repaired, which could take several weeks. The fact that the machine was crucial to her business was of no concern to the supplier. When she pointed out that under European Law the supplier was obliged to give her a new machine, or a refund, she was told: “Madame, you are not in Europe. You are in France.”

When discussing customer service, lack of, with a French friend, they explained it thus: After the Revolution, all French people became equal, so being a customer does not make you superior to a waiter or salesman. Therefore, do not expect deference, and be thankful if you are treated courteously. The customer was not always right in France. In fact, he very seldom was.

Happily we have seen a radical change in this attitude over the last few years, both in the private sector and among the ‘fonctionnaires‘ who are generally unfailingly polite and helpful. We are all still equal, of course, but customers are treated with respect.

However, if you are unfortunate to find yourself with defective goods and faced by indifference and insolence, it’s comforting to know that help is available. Keep Calm and Mention AFOC. You can find your nearest branch on the Internet from their site: http://www.afoc.net/rubrique.php?id_rubrique=10

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Vive l’entente cordiale. 🙂

This post is linked to #AllAboutFrance where you can find an abundance of interesting posts which are indeed All About France.