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!


justme said...

You survived the storms! Only just realised how bad it was....I kind of missed the news, and have only picked it up from bloggers.
4 days without a hairwash would leave me seriously demented....
Glad you and yours and your house, all ok! And the now laying chickens.....strange that!

justme said...

You survived the storms! Only just realised how bad it was....I kind of missed the news, and have only picked it up from bloggers.
4 days without a hairwash would leave me seriously demented....
Glad you and yours and your house, all ok! And the now laying chickens.....strange that!

KatduGers said...

Glad you survived the Great Wind! It was some experience! If I ever have to play The Minister's Cat again I may scream!!

softinthehead said...

Glad you came through unscathed (and unwashed). Enjoy those freshly laid eggs! :)

manu said...

aaah so youuu guys were among those who lost power! I was wondering out loud who these people were, since absolutely nothing of the sort happened my side of town!!! .. me and a couple of blokes were trying to do on-the-spot cartwheels on pont neuf cause the wind was strong enough to hold one up! .. yeah, being out in a storm must be a guy thing :)

dND said...

Glad to hear you survived and have power again. I was lucky and only lost power for Saturday but since then I've found that I keep losing power in the evenings - I think it's when they've finished the day's repairs and are trying to switch the repaired bits back in. After 6 powere outs in an hour last night, I gave up and went to bed - there are only so many times I can be bothered to reset the microwave clock in one evening!


Ps re your comment on chickens, my verifying word is eiggly!

Clare said...

I can't remember if you were out here in 1999/2000 when it hit us full frontal. No water for a week and EDF and FT decided that we really didn't need power or the phone for 2 weeks. I was heartily sick of Ludo and Snakes and Ladders after 3 days!

Anonymous said...

I hadn't even realised there had been any storm! I really ought to watch the news occasionally. Glad you survived unscathed - improved even, if the chickens are laying. I'm not very good with major storms - i managed to sleep through the Great Storm of 1987 and only realised something had happened when I got in my car to go to work the next day and realised there was a tree across the road behind me. Perhaps with 4 days of it even I would have noticed.

A Woman Of No Importance said...

We once had (elderly, we'd inherited them with our cottage - seriously!) and they laid very little over the winter period until the spring again - So perhaps there's been reason to the lack of eggs?

Glad you survived the storms intact - We've been without electricity (we have no gas and no log burner - yet), 48 hours before and not having hot water was a real cauchemar!

Le laquet said...

Sounds horrible - glad you survived. I did snigger at "the mere mention of Scrabble bought on a migraine and Monopoly had become monotony." You poor buggers.

Shakespeare's Housekeeper said...

How horrible for you all.
I too, would go mad if i couldn't wash my hair for four days.
We're prone to weird power cuts...leccy will go off at least twice a week, for no reason, for anything up to 6/7 hours at a time.
Sends The Writer mad.

At least the chickens are laying- foood!


(Very) Lost in France said...

JustMe - it nearly did to me too!

KatduGers - oh god, the Minister's Cat... it's all coming back now...!

SITH - it's omlettes - o -rama chez nous!

Manu - Hi, nice to see you back again. Yes, it's definitely a guy thing. I was happy to stay inside

DnD - likewise, glad you survived unscathed. Love the word verification!

Clare - hi again. Aaarghh! Two weeks... I'm having nightmares!

CA - my sister is just the same! She slept through the great storm of 87 too. I was in the Middle East but only the other day found a cutting from the K&S Courier of my good self posing with another T. Wells girl who lived there reading our 'Hurricane Edition'. God how lame!!

(Very) Lost in France said...

AWoNI - No, I think my chickens are just lazy! My Maran usually lays all year round. A friend told me that sometimes a shock will prompt them to start laying again so maybe that was it.