Tuesday, January 27, 2009

And on the 4th day EDF said 'Let there be light' and lo the electricity came back on

Phew, that was some storm! 76 hours with no electricity, water, telephone or mobile signal - it was like one of those 'how would you manage in the dark ages' reality shows. (And the answer is.. not very well!)

It all began on Thursday night when torrential downpours flooded the road at the bottom of our hill. I set off to drop the children at school to find the road underwater and the flood waters rising. We sat for a few minutes and hummed and hawed about whether to turn round and go home but DS suddenly said 'but dearest Mama, I've already missed loads of school, I'd hate to miss any more'. Personally I think he was just trying to look as if he'd miss it in the sure hope that he was heading home but such an utterance from a teenage boy is so rare that I was spurred on to ford the flooded road in the Grand (3 ton) Gasguzzler and we headed on to school.

On the return journey the waters were already quite a bit higher and I was regretting my impulsive decision to carry on. I had visions of the floods separating me from my darling offspring for days on end so I rushed home to get the CH for a second opinion. (He was still cleaning).

We arrived back at the floods at the same time as M. le fermier avec l'accent inpenetrable.

He called out to me but as usual I didn't have the faintest clue what he was saying. It could have been 'hey bitch, fancy a night on the tiles with a hot French farmer' but eventually I worked out he was saying

'Thas nar be gang croos them watters come middiy' (except in French of course)

I told him I'd sent my kids to school some 23kms yonder. He raised his eyebrows and suggested a quick holiday in the caribbean or did he say...

'Thars be weyse ta gin get em' (still in French of course)

Well, it's never wise to go against the advice of a French farmer so a quick phonecall was made to school to say that as I didn't have time to build an Ark, I'd be coming to pick the children up toute de suite.

Children were collected and we returned home to do battle with the raging torrents only to find them neither raging nor torrents. In fact the water had gone right back down again. The children sniggered. What was that I said about trusting a French farmer?

There had been much discussion on the news about the Atlantic Storm that was heading our way. It, or should I say he, even had a name... Klaus. Great, a german. He'll be rushing across France to make sure he gets his towel on the sunbed first! We were on orange alert for severe winds gusting over 100mph. It eventually became a red alert with winds approaching 180mph but by that time we'd lost all power so we were blissfully ignorant.

The storm hit us on Friday night and despite the millions of euros spend last year on improving the electricity network in our village, the first sign of strong winds and the power went off. Of course stupid Klaus didn't realise how inconvenient it is to have an Atlantic Storm on a Saturday because France is closed on a Sunday so if you suddenly discover that you haven't got enough food in, or you've run out of milk, it's tough luck till Monday!

The wind was quite incredible and just roared constantly. It sounded like the airforce fighter jets that sometimes fly low over the valley. The CH's first job was to go for a walk with the children. What is it with men? All the information given out said 'Stay inside', 'Don't go out if you don't have to' and what does he do? Goes for a walk in a near hurricane down a heavily wooded lane.

I did point out that in all these 'Storm Chaser' documentaries you see, they chase storms in open countryside not under tall trees but he just said that in this Nanny State we live in, it's good to take the odd risk. Well fine, but our life insurance has just lapsed and I don't want to be widowed and childless all at the same time.

At first (like the first few hours) it was fun. We snuggled in front of the woodburner, played cards, Scrabble and Monopoly, read loads and went to bed early. By day 4, the cards had been chucked across the room, just the mere mention of Scrabble bought on a migraine and Monopoly had become monotony.

The charm of having to collect water from a icy spring down the road to pour into the toilet cistern for flushing soon wore off and four days without a shower or a bath... well, thank goodness we didn't have to be seen in polite company. And believe me, a bad hair day for four days makes Jill a very irritable girl.

The water company finally showed up with bottled water on Monday afternoon, shortly before the supply was reconnected, Sunday being a day off, of course even after a 'tempĂȘte'.

The dog became a nervous wreck, first from the wind, then from the dark, then from the candles and spent most of the four days emitting truly disgusting farts that had us running from the room. Meanwhile, the temperature dropped into single figures in every other room of the house and the toilet seat was positively glacial.

We heard later that EDF drafted in staff from Germany and the UK to meet the demands of repairing the electricity supply to 1.7 million people although I have a sneaking suspicion that it was because dealing with a major emergency under the constraints of a 35 hour week and 2 hour lunches would have left us all without power well into next week.

Damage to the house was negligible - it's stood for 250 years so I guess it plans to be around for a bit longer - and we only lost three large trees which all fell well away from the house. The only other damage was to the roof of my chicken house - clearly my roofing is of inferior standard to the French artisans who did ours - which blew off in the strong winds, leaving the poor chickens wet and shivering. But, on the positive side, the fright seems to have shocked them into laying. Before the storm I was starting to feel like a refuge for useless egg-free hens as despite having five of them, I was still having to buy eggs in the market. Now three of them are laying!

And continuing the positive note, I now have a long list of 'Things I can do whilst holding a torch under my chin' which includes making a decent foamy latte, cooking pasta, washing up, and feeding the animals so the next time someone sends me one of those e-mail thingies where you are asked if you have a special talent, I can list several!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Save me from Anthea......

Quick, come into the cupboard with me but keep your voice down. I'm in hiding again. Not from mad guests with irritating children this time. I'm hiding from the CH. Don't let him know I'm here or he'll find me a job to do.

Six weeks off work and he's turned into Anthea Turner on acid! Lack of creative outlet for his talents has become late onset Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. He's a maniac with a mop, a dervish with a duster, a..... a...... zealot wiz ze 'oover (OK, OK, cut me some slack here. You try to think of something suitable that begins with 'z'!).

Every time I sit down he gives me another job to do, or worse still, a look. You know the one, a 'here I am slaving away and all you can do is watch 'Bargain Hunt' and drink coffee' sort of look. A 'what do you mean you are going out to have lunch with friends' look and if, god forbid, I act all innocent and go ahead and have that lunch with friends, I come home to a 'look at me, I'm exhausted from all this housework' look. You know, I really am grateful that he is doing all this housework stuff but who does he think does it for the other 9 months of the year that he's away?

If I go on the computer I have to type really quietly or I get the 'are you on the computer again' look. Honestly, he's got more looks than Greta Garbo!

So, the house is pristine, the washing is all done, the normal Eiffel tower sized ironing pile is gone and I know I should be grateful... but....!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Cheese wars

So, here we are, halfway through the first month of 2009, which may or may not be the year the whole world implodes according to the papers.

'Recession', they all scream except in France where they scream 'Cheese Wars' after Dubya's parting shot to those 'cheese eating surrender monkeys' as they are affectionately know by our American cousins was to shove a 300% import duty on their beloved Roquefort. (France is working on the premise that if you ignore the recession it will go away unlike in the UK where they tell you over and over again how bad things are then go 'Gosh, why has the exchange rate dropped?' Duh!)

Yes, that nasty Dubya has slapped a 100% import duty on a whole list of EU goods but singled out 'The King of Cheeses', made in my own region, the Midi-Pyrenees, according to a 1000 year old recipe, for special treatment.

Le Monde said that the US action meant that Mr Bush's presidency "will end on yet another crisis".

Hmm, not sure I would equate the global financial crisis with a decision to slap a whole load of duty on a smelly French cheese!

Robert Glandieres, the president of the Roquefort Producer's organisation, is quoted as saying 'this affair doesn't smell good'. A bit like his cheese then!

Last time this happened, the French sheep farmers retaliated by destroying a MacDonalds restaurant in Millau, in the Aveyron, and they are threating the same again. To be honest, as the French are the biggest consumers of MacDonalds in Europe, the chances are they will be hurting their compatriots more than the US but hey, you can't argue with a Frenchman on a mission, even if it is just over his cheese.

Friday, January 9, 2009

What a clever girl......

We just heard today that DD passed her Grade 1 piano with flying colours, just one mark short of a merit but she was so convinced she hadn't passed that she's delighted!

Grade 2 here we come....!