15 Jan 2007

Back in France

An interesting journey – on standby until the last minute for the flight from Canada – one of the last allowed on and literally running for the flight. Arrived at Heathrow mid-afternoon, but my luggage didn’t make it. 

After registering the luggage as lost, I caught a bus to Gatwick for my onward flight. Given the problems that Heathrow has been having with luggage these last few weeks, and the fact that hundreds, if not thousands of bags are still laying in piles around the arrivals hall, I’m not that hopeful that my bag will make its way from London to Toulouse, and then by road to the village. I despair when I think of everything I’ve crammed into it – I didn’t travel particularly light this time.

Well actually I travelled light on the way out, but Nic has donated a few things for the house – a few framed pictures, carefully packed, and other bits and bobs. Not to mention some Chrissy presents (most importantly a jar lid opener for my arthritic hands!), my near-new Rossi boots from Australia, two smoke alarms for the house and a pair of sheep skin slippers for the cold! 

These I have to say were bought at great expense – ‘Go on’, says Nic, ‘they’ll last a lifetime.’ Hmmph – I may never get to wear them.

As I arrived in Toulouse late at night, I stayed in a hotel above the train station, and caught a train the next morning to Carcassonne. And then a taxi to the car yard to pick up the car. It was all made easy because Abdel had sorted all the paperwork while I was away. 

Just before driving off, I did a quick inspection to make sure the three bits of damage had been fixed. Nope, just two. Abdel said ‘merde’ and said could I bring it back on Friday, he would lend me a car overnight, and I could collect it on Saturday. Merde indeed – two round trips to Carcassonne. And I’m not sure I can find the car yard easily – it’s on the outskirts of town. 

I got lost trying to get onto any road I recognised, despite Abdel saying to just follow the signs to Narbonne. What signs? I ended up heading north instead of east, but I did get see a few other villages that I’d not seen before.

The nun-mobile is smaller than I remember, and looks funnier – nor is it a particularly smooth ride – but it goes ok. And it’s the same colour as most other cars on the road here. And it fits a washing machine in the back. Sandra, my neighbour from down the road, offered to come into Narbonne with me to show me how to get to the Carrefour centre and the location of a few other shops that I will be needing – hardware etc. 

A couple of hours later, with the seats in the back down, the washing machine is bought and loaded in. With room to spare. Patrick her husband helps me uninstall the old one (the one that only runs on VERY hot) and install the new. Pride of place in the garage. They stay for a few drinks – in a freezing cold house – and invite me down for dinner. But I am so tired, still jet lagged, and take a rain check.

I haven’t fired up the oil heater in the kitchen yet but think I will today. The weather has been fairly mild, but the house is very cold. I can’t imagine what it will be like if/when it turns cold. And odds are it will – it’s unseasonably mild at the moment apparently. The stand-alone radiator in the lounge room doesn’t really do a lot as there is no lounge room door. And the first night was so cold that I slept in a fleece, Steve’s thermal beanie, warm trousers and socks, and a blanket doubled up over the duvet. Not a pretty sight by any stretch of the imagination, and to boot, I was still cold! 

So as soon as Patrick and Sandra had left, I cut the cord of the electric blanket and put a French plug on it. I couldn’t use an adapter as this was the blanket I’d bought in Australia in October, and I didn’t have an adapter to fit.

As I drove into the village on my first day back, I saw a familiar smiling face in a little white van and waved. It was only after I’d waved that I remembered it was Pascale, the son-in-law. When I opened the garage doors, and tried to turn the power back on (it had been turned off at the source while I was away), nothing happened. No electricity. 

I was standing in the doorway wondering what my next move would be, and Pascale cruises by again. I suspect he’d gone around the block – I called out to him and he came over and showed me that it was another button I needed to press …. he grabbed his mobile phone, waved it around, saying that any problems, I must call him. Very reassuring indeed.

I collected my mail from the post office and had nice chat with a different woman behind the counter. This time, there were no other customers at all. A very pleasant woman who was happy to chat and reassure me that little by little by little, things would improve (with my French that is …)

The weather that day was glorious – not a cloud in the sky and the sun was warm, so I got an espresso from the bar and sat in the sun and opened all my mail. What a nice day to arrive back to.

Part of the computer problem is sorted – I was missing a vital bit of equipment – the recharging cradle the cordless mouse sits in, and which also communicates with the cordless keyboard. It turned up in another box – so after I plug it into the back of the computer, it’s away. 

But when the computer is on, the phone shows busy, which isn’t how it should be. So still no internet. I’ve contacted a guy from another village who deals with both computer problems and satellite TV – he’s coming around at 2.30 today. Fingers crossed.

Moving sideways

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