Most of the time I love my life in France, especially today when the sun is shining, the cows are manfully (or should that be 'cowfully'?)chomping their way through lush, knee high, buttercup- spattered meadows, and the snow is creeping away from the mountain sides.
But into each life a little rain must fall....and we've just had the wettest month since we came to the village five years ago. That I can put up with, as long as it's another five years before we get an April as wet as this last one.
No, its the dark cloud of customer service that really rattles my cage. We've got used to the two hour lock-down experienced in every French town from 12 to 2 pm, so we adjust our retail expeditions accordingly. We've got so used to it that the speeding cars, and log-jams outside the bakeries are a subject of jokes:-
'Oh that car's just shot the lights, it must be five to twelve.'
'Why are those cars parked all over the road? Has there been an accident ? Oh no, there's a boulangerie over there.'
I'm also accustomed to asking for something in a shop to be told they've sold out, and recieving a shrug of the shoulders when I ask when they will be getting it in again. Four or five months ago Captain Sensible wanted two small replacement wheel for his mower . They had them in just the right size...he was overjoyed, small things please him no end,but there was only one in the display unit. After what seemed like hours I found an assistant. I enquired if they would be having more.
'Mais oui, madame.'
' Ah, bon' (standard reply) 'Quand?'
'N' sais pas .'...shrug
Every time we go past the shop, he insists on stopping to see if the wheels are in. I stay in the car....the shop's a cross between a garden centre and a farmers supplies, it smells of fertiliser and rubber wellies and bores me stiff. I watch him go in, and I watch him come out, still no wheels. The grass is almost high enough to graze those cows on.
Today was a totally new customer service failure. As we walked past the tourist board we thought we'd see what was coming up in the next few weeks. Now, if there's one thing we like to do on a sunny Sunday it's to find a car boot sale, or vide grenier'.... 'attic emptying' is the French term for it. We don't buy much, if anything, but it's fun to see some of the ancient French farm implements, and pointless bric-a-brac. It's also a great way to see more of the area we live in. We've found some beautiful little villages we would never have seen if it hadn't been for the lure of a vide genier.
So, I was really pleased to see a calender of forthcoming car boots displayed on the wall in the entrance to the tourist office. Vide greneirs aren't regular events as they are in Britain, a village is only permitted to have one a year (I think this is the rule, but as with all things in France there is conflicting information on this). This makes it difficult to keep track of them.
The list was photocopied onto a sheet of A4, just the thing to stick next to the kitchen calendar.
I go in to the office..
'Avez une calendreir de vide greniers?'
'Oui madame, sur le mur, a l'entree.'
'Je sais,mais je voudrais un à emporter.'
'Vous n'avez plus?'
The long and short of it was.. ..yes, they had a list, it was on the wall as I came in, no, they couldn't let me have one as that was the only one they had.
If I'd been in England I would have said;-
'It's a photocopy, for God's sake. How much effort is it going to take to run me one off?'
Sometimes, for the sake of international relations it's a good job my sarcasm doesn't kick in so quickly in a foreign language.