stuck in mud

Operation Kitchen Collection 3 days away…and no van!

Now, those of you who live in France will know that the French protect their work-life balance quite jealously. Thus, if an organisation or business is open on a Saturday, not only will it almost definitely be shut on Sunday, but quite likely at least part of Monday will be taken as compensatory leisure time too.


So it was that the garage in the village wouldn’t be open until Tuesday, the one in the next village would be closed until 2pm on Monday and the Renault garage in the nearest town would not send out a recovery vehicle without our french insurance company’s say-so. As we are in the process of re-registering our vehicles they are still insured in the UK with European cover, so that was out.

On the dot of 2pm I phoned the garage in the next village who said they were happy to help but the recovery truck was already out on a job and they wouldn’t be able to come until that evening. He would phone me as soon as it was back and we could meet the driver at the van.

That left us just 2 days to get the bloomin’ thing fixed before we were due to leave.  No point getting worked up, Ella. Just go with the flow. (I’m actually getting much better at adopting the French laid-back attitude to life’s little ups and downs)

Later that afternoon, sure enough, the garagiste phoned to say the recovery truck would be at the ‘breakdown scene’ in 10 minutes.  We jumped in the car and sped down to Jacques’ place to find our knight in shining armour already there, furtling about under the bonnet of our van.

Using my hastily-acquired and rehearsed car mechanic’s vocabulary, I explained that the problem didn’t seem to be the clutch as that was quite new. And the gearbox wasn’t making any horrible graunching noises so it was probably not the root cause either. Perhaps the linkage?

‘The mechanic listened and nodded politely as he wiped hishands on a rag, then climbed into the driver’s seat, put it into gear and drove the van up onto the back of the pickup truck, as Colin and I stood watching with our mouths hanging open! “Mais, ça marche!” But, it’s working, I squeaked as he jumped down from the truck. He laughed and explained that there is un controlleur which had broken, and although he had pushed it back into place to move the van, it would come off again as soon as we tried to change gear. ‘Not a big job’ he assured us, ‘I’ll order the part and it’ll be ready by Wednesday. No need to follow him to the garage. Just give him a ring on Wednesday afternoon.  Ooh, the relief! We went home and had a relaxing evening, which may or may not have involved a celebratory glass of wine.

Wednesday was a busy day for work with several online customer meetings and a video-conference training session that I was delivering to a group of school librarians all afternoon. , But everything was prepped and in hand. Then mid-morning I got an email from one of our friends and former neighbours from the old village, Francine, to say that they had remembered that we wanted some cuttings off their ornamental sage bushes. Antoine, her husband, could come round with them that afternoon and help us plant them.

I love these two to bits, but being retired themselves they don’t quite get that Colin and I still both work, and from home. If you are at home, you’re available as far as they are concerned.

A hasty message back explained that I would be working all afternoon and wouldn’t be able to come down to see them. I couldn’t just leave a room full of people whom I was in the middle of training, even if they were several hundred miles away, to see old friends and plant some cuttings (I did actually put it more diplomatically than that!). And we would be leaving at 4am the following day to go to England. Perhaps we could rearrange for when we got back?

I was on my mobile to a  customer when the landline rang. Picking up the voicemail, I learned that as Antoine had already taken all the cuttings and they wouldn’t keep, he would pop by anyway and leave them outside. I felt awful! They are so kind and we have had such a laugh with them – I really felt bad that I couldn’t take the time out to spend with them.

Antoine in fact turned up about 5 minutes before my training session was due to start, so I at least managed to say ‘Bonjour’ and thank him for thinking of us.  We still got a full demonstration of how we should plant the one hundred or so twigs that he had kindly prepared and brought over, with lots of mime and repetition so that we couldn’t possibly get it wrong.  After a full round of kisses goodbye he set off to complete his next errand and I shot upstairs to my librarians.

Automobiles de Bouessay

That afternoon saw us doing our thing at work, rushing off to pick up the van from the garage, stopping for a chat with the garagiste who told us all about his brother in law, who was Scottish and had served in the RAF before settling in France.  When we got back to the mill the bucket of cuttings was sitting on the mill-pond wall, staring at us in an accusing way. It was true, they wouldn’t last until we got back from England, and we couldn’t let Antoine down, so in the pitch dark, in the pouring rain Colin and I planted 100+ sage cuttings.  I’m not even sure we were putting them in the right way up as we were literally feeling our way across the piece of ground we had earmarked for them. Hopefully at least some of them will be up the right way and will ‘take’ so that we can show them off to Antoine in the summer!

Right. Next. Take delivery of the new kitchen.

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