Sunday, May 18, 2008

Lawnmowers

Yesterday was one of those day when I marvel that the French could have managed to develop chip and pin technology, put a spacecraft in orbit and and build an aeroplane, yet they can't manage to keep the shops open during the lunch hour. It's like the 21st Century in a 19th Century overcoat.

I needed to buy two things - not your everyday things mind - but two things nonetheless. I needed a new lawnmower and a toaster. A lawnmower that makes toast would have been excellent but sadly that's yet another invention I don't have time to invent.

Living in a rural area, there is no shortage of suitable places to buy a lawnmower. However, with only three hours between opening time and the 2-3 hour French lunch hour, during which just about everywhere, and certainly anywhere selling lawnmowers, will be closed, it meant a mad gallop around the countryside at breakneck speed whilst trying to digest the pros and cons of the different models.

Now this leads nicely on to one of my other gripes about France. How come 'entrepreneur' is a French word, yet the French seem to be the least entrepreneurial race I've ever come across. Too much socialism if you ask me. No-one can think for themselves. Every shop sells the same thing at exactly the same price. Even in the market (sorry Dulwichmum) I looked at the same cardigan at the same price on three different stalls.

Now, I'm blonde, but even I know that if you puts your goods up for sale at a slightly lower price, chances are people will recognise a bargain and you'll probably sell twice as much. If everything is the same price what's to make you choose one shop or stall over another? The appalling nature of French after sales is legendary, so that wouldn't sway you. Whoever you brought it from, if it broke the next day, they'd refuse to refund your money and blame 'La Direction' with a gallic shrug.

So, gallop we did around the various shops looking at the different models of lawnmower. Now what I know about mowers could fit on a lilliputian postage stamp but all I knew was that it needed to be self propelling.

Our very expensive (and only 5 years old) Honda mower has developed a seemingly irreparable problem with it's self propulsion meaning that you have to push the flaming thing over hill and down dale, sometimes in temperatures approaching 46 degrees. I have not so fond memories of a time last year when, due to the imminent arrival of guests in our cottage and some untimely rain, the grass had a sudden growth spurt.

It was a hot day in mid-August and the thermometer registered more than 40 degrees as I pushed the great weight of the mower around the cottage garden.The garden has a slight slope which appeared to mysteriously transform into a 1:3 hill by the time I was half way round. What's that old saying 'men perspire, horses sweat, ladies glow'. Trust me, I was way beyond glowing. I was lathered up like a Grand National racehorse on the final stretch after Bechers, dripping from every pore, in a most unladylike way. In the end, I stripped naked and finished the lawn in the altogether - a liberating experience, but not recommended in suburbia.

So, eventually a suitable model was found (by suitable I mean the cheapest I could find) which was sold in an unmarked box with 'Made in China' in large letters on it and no mention of a Briggs and Stratton engine.

On opening the box at home, the assembly instructions appeared to have been translated straight from Mandarin on Babelfish and were just that, babel, but I've always worked better with a picture so I just used the one on the box and the end result bore more than a passing resemblance. However, the 'spanner' provided for the purpose of tightening the various bolts proved to be a plug spanner which was worse than useless. Now, before you think to congratulate me on recognising a plug spanner, I have to admit that it was in fact my dear old dad who illuminated me on this point. Personally, I wouldn't know a plug spanner if it hit me on the head.

Oil was added, petrol put in and the moment of truth arrived. One pull of the cord and it started straight away. Even our 'easy start' Honda used to need a couple of tugs and that was after I'd called DH to check which lever had to be pulled, which one pushed and did I need it set at the hare or the tortoise? If you have a Honda lawnmower, you'll know what I mean.

The lawn was duly mown (or is it mowed?) and the end result was excellent although if I have a tiny criticism, it's that the self propulsion is a little on the nippy side. You kind of have to jog to keep up (no MBT shoes or funny flipflops needed to tone my bum!) and it does tend to drag you into the bushes. Precision cutting is a little tricky too but hey, it's great for deadheading your flowers!

DH (also known as Mr Brandname) was, of course, horrified that I had bought a major piece of garden equipment without him. "What sort of mower is it?" He demanded. "A lawn mower". I replied. "Yes, but what SORT of lawnmower?". "A GREEN one".

13 comments:

DulwichDivorcee said...

But surely you need some lovely strapping Gallic youth to do your mowing, especially as Mr VLIF is off earning crusts? Maybe you could get someone on their 2 hr lunch break .....

HER ON THE HILL said...

Salut VLiF! Welcome to blog land - and really love your writing! Great last para! What does he expect if he's never bloody there!

Have quickly caught up on some of the other May posts and left a comment on the Brocante one. I'm a linguist too (think it's mowed by the way, mown being the past particple - I have mown??! Actually, I'm a linguistic PEDANT so please forgive me!! I think mown in your sentence would be classed as adjectival and you wanted verbal - Christ woman, SHUT UP!!!!). God, sorry bout that, got carried away! Anyway, just want to say DELIGHTED to have found you (via Twaddle) - and have an extra keen interest as you are doing what I had planned to do (i.e live in south west France) but have only achieved thus far via a holiday house not a million miles from you on the coastal side of the Landes.

Must dash, but will be back.
xxx

PS: also checked out the Gite to get a better idea of where you were (got the map out!) and it looks beautiful...

HER ON THE HILL said...

Ps: oh yes, and couldn't agree more about the blooming lunch hour(s) - wouldn't mind if it started at a sensible time like 1.30 (as it does in Italy) which is all rather civilised, but MIDDAY? God, I'm only just out of bed and getting my act together when they're slamming all the shutters down on me. Bloody annoying!

(Very) Lost in France said...

DD - trouble with most of the Gallic youth here is that they are the products of years of interbreeding so most have six fingers and the IQ of a chicken!Think Lindisfarne (not the group). However, things are looking up as I've found a lovely anglo-saxon youth to take over the garden. We've not met yet but he's got a lovely voice. Maybe he can be Mellors to my Lady Chatterley. God, I hope he doesn't ever read this. He'll think I'm some poor lonely housewife with designs on him. A... I'm only interested in your gardening skills!

(Very) Lost in France said...

HotH - thank you so much for your kind words and for correcting my grammar. Pedants welcome here! You sound like a girl after my own heart. I shall pop across to your blog tout de suite.

Frankofile said...

Just found your blog (I enjoy HotH too) and love your style. Oh, and your writing style too. I'm writing much more sedately (my blog is read by my age twentysomething daughters, saynomore) but I so recognise your experiences, family- and France-wise. Have added you to my googlereader so there's another chunk of my day gone...

(Very) Lost in France said...

Hello Frankofile and welcome to my blog. Thanks for your kind words. My blog is likely to now be read by my 22 year old soon-to-be gardener as I just e-mailed him and forgot to remove the link at the end. No doubt he'll get completely the wrong idea and refuse to come and work in my garden. Maybe I should be a bit more sedate in my writing too! I'm off to bed now as it's nearly midnight but I shall pop over to your blog tomorrow. Bon nuit

WesterWitch/Headmistress said...

Honestly MEN - it is green and it mows lawn . . .duh.

Careful not to get the lawnmower and toaster muddled up though - buy a different coloured toaster - it works for me LOL.

Thank you for commenting on my blog . . . If ever you have the time alot of us hang out at Purplecoo.com . . .sorry not trying to push the site.

(Very) Lost in France said...

Is that the trick, Westerwitch? Maybe that's why my toast has stripes and my lawnmower leaves crumbs everywhere. Will try harder in the future! Thanks for the info on Purplecoo.com. I've come across some really interesting people since starting my blog so I shall head on down there soon.

The Lehners in France said...

Hi there, sorry I went AWOL. Wow talk about a growth spurt! It's good you got you new mower and assembled it "Toute Seule" it always makes them feel even more useless when they return.

Mines still away. I've been mowing and strimming and today I've topped one of the horse fields with the ride on mower. Now the ride on sometimes doesn't start, today it started on the button. I harrowed and topped for 2hours. Went to put it away, it wouldn't stop! I stood up off the seat, safety device should cut out the engine. No! I turned the blades on and stood up. No! I took the key out with the blades running and stood up. No! I turned the blades off lifted the bonnet and discovered a terminal to the battery had come off! Only in France, hey. Debs x
P.S. Would you like me to blogroll you?

(Very) Lost in France said...

ooh er....will it hurt? What's a blogroll? Bogroll I know (Oh there's always someone who lowers the tone!)but not blogroll.

The Lehners in France said...

I'm on your list of blogs you read, I thought I'd ask if it was OK to put you on mine? Doesn't hurt a bit, but as my list in un peu Franglais you may get more visitors. Have you visited me yet? Debs x

(Very) Lost in France said...

Hi Debs

Thanks, that would be lovely. I hope I haven't broken any blogging rules by adding your blog without asking. If so, I apologise. I've left you a comment on the 'bunny with a willy' post. Hilarious!