11 Dec 2006

Rubbish Days / Good Days

The following day with my blank credit-card sized card, we go to the dump with a car full of rubbish, and my newly-acquired Certificate of Domicile (duly stamped the Maire of Bize Minervois’ official stamp, and signed).
The dump is about 6 kilometres away and services a few villages around the area. It’s all very well organised – separate areas for every imaginable type of waste disposal. Part of the bigger picture of France’s very strong push to be ‘green’. 
The bulk of my rubbish went into the cardboard box section, but I had a big plastic bag of ‘variables’ – and yes there was a container for variables. I went to the small office, met the man in charge, produced my paperwork, filled in a few details on a form and got my number stamped onto my card. I’m now an official French ‘tipper’.
Back to the village, my last official job for the day was a trip to the Post Office to get my mail held until my return here in January. Not that I’m expecting much, but my letter box is built into the garage door, and behind the slot is a small box. So if it gets full, nothing else will go in. And here, there is quite a large amount of advertising material. In the few days I’ve been here, there has been so much it’s just been left wedged into the slot i.e. it’s never even made its way inside into the box.
So, the trip to the Post Office was interesting. Saturday morning, open for a few hours. Fortunately when I arrive there’s no one else there. So when I make myself understood what it is I’m wanting (my mail held at the post office until 9th January), I fill out all the forms. And then I add that I also require a 3-page fax to be sent (it’s the paperwork for the purchase of the car), and that seems to stall things. 
The man sorting the post in the background, who speaks a little English and who is helping translate for me, appears to be the only one who can send faxes. In the meantime, there are two more people in the post office, both waiting patiently. Interestingly, it appears things work as ‘first in, best dressed’, and at that time it seemed to be me. Figuratively I mean. The lady serving me did her utmost to appear busy, while doing nothing, waiting for the man who did the faxes to finish what he was doing, before he could attend to my fax.  
Still there are people waiting. I was feeling a little embarrassed by this stage. Finally he gave up dealing with the post and disappeared through a door. Only to come out 5 minutes later to say ‘it’s not working’. A customer at the counter helpfully clarified the conversation. A few minutes later he tried again, and came out with the good news that ‘it is ok’. In the meantime, the lady who was attending to me has actually served another customer. The old lady who had patiently taken a seat was also seen to – she had only wanted a stamp. Ah, so much patience I must learn …. this is all the norm here it seems.
Oh, and while all this went on, another older woman had come in briefly, heard me struggling with my French and intervened - in very good but heavily accented English – and got things moving. When she departed, she said if ever I needed any help again, I must contact her. Which was so nice. But I don’t know who she is or where she lives. Obviously in the village somewhere.
And this is just a few incidents that have happened in the last few days that have reinforced for me just how very friendly the French are. In my visits here in the last couple of years, I can honestly say that the vast majority of people that I’ve run into have been just so friendly. I know the stereotype, but in my mind it just ain’t true. I’ve come across the odd aloof (ok, rude …) waiter, the odd ‘can’t be bothered’ shop attendant … and so on. But that happens to me in other countries too. I’m so pleasantly surprised by just how friendly and helpful people have been. And I’ve hardly met anyone yet.
Well, actually I met the neighbours on one side. An older couple who Mdm and Msr told me are ‘very nice’ and grow vegetables (must be on some land away from here – they have no back yard). I met them yesterday, as he pulled up outside his house in his little van full of vegetables in the back. I also met his wife as she came out to meet him. 
And today, the door bell rang. I opened the door - no one there. But I saw my neighbour walking towards the back of his van and he waved. And then he grabbed the biggest lettuce in the world and came back and gave it to me. ‘From my garden’ he said. As it turned out, it came with ‘un (or is it une?) escargot’. I was unsure of what to do with the little critter that was making a break for it up the side of the sink. I was all for disposing of it quickly and humanely, but Janice would have none of it. She released it into the safety of the courtyard, where it is no doubt living the life of Riley in my geraniums!
Corinne and Pascale came around to the house – I was under the impression that I’d spoken to Corinne on the phone back in September and that her English was very good. It turns out that I had been speaking to Mdm’s daughter-in-law, not Corinne. Neither Pascale nor Corinne speak any English. Their own daughter and a grandson is with them. It also turns out that not one, but two of their sons are pompiers. And perhaps one day the grandson too, they say. 
They come inside, and show me how to clear a pipe at the back of the heater, and after about 10 minutes or so, it’s firing up. It stays on until early evening. It certainly doesn’t throw out a lot of heat, but sure takes the chill off the place. Pascale tells me that if I have any other problems, I am to ring them.
There is just more unpacking. We’re trying to get as many boxes unpacked as possible and just put away ‘somewhere’ - with a view that when I return, it will be easier for me to find good homes for most bits. A lot of the time is spent setting up the TV with the video, recorder box and DVD player. We can’t seem to connect the satellite box to my telly (Msr’s telly has gone upstairs into a spare room). So I can play videos and DVDs but not get any TV. So when I return, I’ll have to get the specialists out for a visit.
Even more time is spent trying to set up the computer. When I was packing everything up, I was so careful to label all the leads and cables with stickers, A to A, B to B. So I figured everything would be foolproof. That was all in theory, and it mostly worked. That is, the printer, speakers, scanner, wireless router and a few other bits all have the correct cables linked into the back of the computer. Steve, who was the ultimate gadget and electronics person, had things wonderfully wired up and working perfectly – but in a way that is beyond my comprehension. And it appears I have failed in labelling things entirely correctly. 
Behind the desk is spaghetti junction x 100. And added to this, there are plug boards which have to be re-wired to a French plug (Janice’s department – though she did teach me over a glass of wine how to do this). The bottom line is that at the moment, my computer is not up and running and I will have to get someone to come and see to things when I return.
There is also the added problem of the French-UK-US leads. That has mostly worked. The phone works! But there seems to be a lost lead (the all-important wireless router) that doesn’t fit anything. It’s not one that I’ve labelled (god how did that happen – it’s SO important) – and there’s nothing it seems to fit into.
I have also had an interesting conversation with French AOL. This is the ISP which has been recommended to me, and I was given what I thought was the English-speaking number. Not so. But when I finally got through, it was a very helpful person who spoke a little English, who said I’d come through to the wrong department, but someone would ring me back tomorrow after 3pm.

Moving sideways

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