Monday, August 11, 2008

Ladybird, ladybird fly away home.....

We finally came out of hiding after dark and slid off to bed, having first closed the shutters and curtains and lowered the blinds.

The next morning, I got up bright and early, made myself a cup of tea and got ready to go for my morning perambulate around the garden, feed the chickens, and generally enjoy the peace and quiet while the rest of the house sleeps.

I opened the shutters........ and there she was, MACIW, sitting on the path steps. Flaming Nora! It's only 8.30am and she's already here. I stepped back quietly into the house before she saw me. Damn, damn, damn. My morning walks with my tea are sacrosanct. I spent 10 minutes plotting alternative routes out of the house, through the big barn but the big oak doors stick so they make a racket when you open them, through the small barn and out by the cottage and north of the pool.. but all roads led back to where she was sitting.

In the end I went out onto the balcony and sorted out my ironing which now has a red light on top so passing light aircraft can avoid it. Not how I like to start my day. Still, it was a job that needed doing.

9.30am.. BANG, BANG, BANG. She's knocking on the door. For heaven's sake, it's Sunday. Where are the flaming parents? Having a lie in while their little demon wakes us up? I ignored the knocking. 'Hello' she called in her nasal whine (this kid needs her adenoids out, pronto!). 'Hello, Hello' she went on.... and on...... and on.

In the end I flung open the door, nearly knocking her off her feet. 'You really must go back to Mummy and Daddy' I said through clenched teeth. 'Have you found the dog's lead yet?'. 'No I effing well haven't you little devilspawn' I thought 'Not yet sweetie' I said.

Today I had a barbeque. Not much in the normal scheme of things but for someone with my incendiary record, to have successfully lit a fire without it ending up with a visit from the pompiers (fire brigade) was a real achievement. The local pompiers are so used to visiting that Monsieur B from the paper shop often pops by to use the phone to call his wife if he's running late. I don't mind as I've certainly had my money's worth from them.

Last year, I set fire to the kitchen. Easily done isn't it? No? Oh well, it must be me then!

It happened like this.....

I was waiting for some guest to arrive. They'd said they would be there are 5pm but it was now 7 and there was no sign. DS and DD were hungry so I put on a pan of oil to do chips to go with our steak. To say I'm easily distracted is a bit like saying that Robert Mugabe is a bit of a tyrant so when the missing guests finally turned up, I went off to do my hostess bit, completely forgetting the chip pan.

DS and DD, in a rare moment of sweetness, came over to say hello too. The usual chat ensued. 'How long have you been in France?', 'Why did you move?'. Sometimes I think flashcards would be useful. Eventually DS excused himself to go and watch a TV programme.

Minutes later he came tearing back yelling 'Mum, you've set the house on fire!!'. 'SHIT, the chip pan' I shouted and legged it back to the house to see black smoke streaming out of the kitchen window and the door into the dining room.

In my past life as a stewardess I was taught how to handle a fire. One of my more obscure claims to fame is putting out the Head of Fire Safety at Heathrow Airport when he accidentally set himself on fire during a training session.

I didn't panic too much and quickly soaked towels in water to smother the fire. The kitchen was filled with choking black smoke that was already lower than the level of worksurfaces. I hesitated, thinking about how nice it would be to replace my kitchen (you know, the one that needs carbon dating) but knowing my luck, I'd wait a minute and the whole house would go up so I crouched down and administered several towels to the pan. For a split second it worked before the sheer heat just set fire to the towels as well. By this stage the flames were licking the ceiling and the halogen lights were starting to melt and big globs of burning plastic were dropping everywhere.

Realising I was fighting a losing battle I grabbed the phone to call the Pompiers. As it was a Sunday I was put through to a regional call centre who seemed insistent that I lived in a village about 40kms away from mine. 'No, I live in Le Mas, not Le Mas Grenier' I kept insisting. In the end, in desperation I yelled 'Just call the Pompiers in M de Q and tell them Mme. VLiF's house in on fire. They know which one it is'. I could almost here the sirens the instant I put the phone down!

DS, who is definitely the child to have around in a disaster, suddenly remembered that as our car came from Belgium, it is a legal requirement to have a fire extinguisher fitted. He ran to get it and by the time he got back, the guest from the cottage had arrived to lend a hand. He took the extinguisher and aimed it at the fire. Within seconds, it was all over.

Now I'm not a particularly houseproud person, but one of the worst things about the smoke was that it showed up all the cobwebs. They were like cargo netting across the ceiling and I'd cleaned that morning. I was mortified.

The pompiers arrived to be confronted by a black faced English woman who seemed intent on apologising for the poor quality of her housework and the 'toiles d'arraignée' hanging everywhere.

On the plus side it got rid of the loirs (dormice) in the loft above the kitchen - my neighbour reported them running along the telephone wire into her loft - Hooray, there is a God! On the minus side, the damage wasn't severe enough for the insurance to pay out for a new kitchen. Damn and Blast. I should have waited that other minute.

I'm thinking of adding another column to my guestbook called 'What I had to do for the owner during my stay' to which can be added 'put out fire in kitchen', 'mended leak from underground water pipe', 'mended handle on pool roller', 'changed tyre on car'..... So, who wants to make a booking then?


Jaywalker said...

Your claim to fame is awesome. Damn! I am so impressed. I am also fairly incendiary, but usually limit myself to setting fire to my sleeves and melting chopping boards.

(Very) Lost in France said...

Ah, but I can't carve vegetables like you can, Jaywalker! VLiF

Anonymous said...

Do the Pompiers come to your door every year with a calendar, looking for donations? Ours do. The first time they came I had only been in the house 2 weeks and couldn't speak a word of French. Msr Le Pompier presented me with what I can only describe as the nastiest, flimsiest calendar I have ever seen. Thinking it was worth about 2 Euros (at a push!), that's exactly the amount I handed over. As he wrote down my address and how much I donated on his clipboard, I caught a glimpse of what all my neighbours had donated: 20 Euros, 50 Euros, 150 Euros - a little bit excessive for calendar I thought. Then it dawned on me, it wasn't about the calendar at all (I can be a bit slow at times!), it was an excuse to come to the door to get donations -oops. By then the pompiers were long gone and I was left with the most awful thought: What if my house goes on fire and I need their help? I can just imagine them taking the call, looking down their clipboard and saying 'she only gave us 2 euros, lets leave it another half hour eh lads.' Luckily my house didn't catch fire that year and I have managed to rectify the situation by giving a handsome donation every year since.

(Very) Lost in France said...

Hi TT, yes indeed they do. M. B usually turns after dark, bangs on the door and frightens me half to death. I usually give about 10 euros then quickly 'send the calendar to Grandma', a euphemism in our house for chucking it in the bin.

The postie gave me one too but I was very distracted at the time so I just took it and gave her nothing. I wondered why she was staning there mouth agape and hand out. I'm sure she threw away my post for the next week. I did rectify the situation the week after though and normal service resumed! VLiF