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Archive for February, 2011

So here I am in rural Provence, two days after leaving the Lyon flat in the hands of the removal men and I’m already realising that living in the country is going to take some getting used to…

We’re staying with Mr Piglet’s parents for a month until we can complete on the new place and I’m already considering it as a test run, a kind of practice for real life living in the country.

Right now though it feels like I’m in some kind of reality TV show.

This morning, I was home alone and settling in for a nice, relaxing day of doing nothing. The prospect of doing nothing seemed like heaven after months of property hunting and weeks of box packing. But today someone, somewhere had decided that my day was going to be anything but relaxing…

After I had finished pampering myself I went to open the bathroom door as my cats were scratching it, only to have the door handle come off in my hand ! « No panic » I thought, « I just need to pop it back on and Bob’s Your Uncle ! ». After a considerable time trying to get the handle back on, I realised that there was no way I was going to succeed, however hard I tried.

Not willing to admit defeat I looked around me considering my surroundings. “Great” I thought, “I can squeeze through that window and get back into the house through the front door or patio doors”. Not an ideal solution at 7 months pregnant but a solution all the same! The Beaux-Parents never lock the house so this solution seemed ideal. But then I realised I had locked all of the house before locking myself in the bathroom as I was scared someone would walk in off the street… There is no street here , this is rural countryside with the closest shops 20 minutes away ! It began to dawn on me that I was stuck in the bathroom, wearing nothing but a bathrobe and a pair of crocs with only the window as means of escape and no where to escape to.

Like a light bulb going off in my head I remembered I had my mobile with me. Excitedly I looked to dial my Beaux-Parents to come and rescue me but alas, it is a brand new phone and I hadn’t uploaded any of my contacts yet. I’d been more interested in using it to chat on twitter and facebook than to make calls ! Instead, I called Mr Piglet only to be greeted by an automatic SFR message saying that his number was unobtainable. What the hell ? So, in desperation I texted him, hoping that my message would get through and that he would pick up my message sooner rather than later.

As luck would have it (and thanks to our psychic connexion) he got my message straightaway and called me to make sure I wasn’t just having a pregnant brain moment (yes, I have lots of these) and when he was satisfied that I was really stuck he called his Dad, summoning him to the rescue.

A little while later I heard a car pull up on the gravel outside and voices that weren’t those of the Beaux-Parents. Curious and anxious for help (and at that stage for the loo), I climbed out of the window to investigate. It was the cleaner and gardener ! I didn’t even know they were coming ! What they thought of being greeted by a rambling, pregnant English woman in a bathrobe climbing out of a window I will never know, I think I have certainly provided something for the locals to talk about. Regardless, I discovered with relief that the man had a tool box with him and we all climbed back into the bathroom to take refuge from the cold whilst he worked on the door.

Freedom ! After some handy work with pliers and other tools I cannot name, the door swung open and we were liberated, just as my Beau-Pere arrived ! I cried and mascara ran all down my face, never had it felt so good to be free, just like a damsel in distress that has been saved.

Now I will be sure to keep at least one door unlocked at all times, not to lock myself in the bathroom, keep my mobile phone on me at all times and load my contacts into it by the end of today.

Can you think of anymore « safety tips » for country living ?

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I know, I know! Photo is spelt with a “ph” and not an “f” but I thought I’d get away with as I’d recently read that spelling things like photo and elephant with an “f” in France is now acceptable… Personally, I find this disgraceful, how can you accept different spellings just because people do not learn the correct way to spell? In this case however, it’s practical for me as Friday Foto is better than Friday Photo… anyway…

I’ve not posted much recently as I’ve been on bed rest with the pregnancy, had a really bad back and just generally tired so typing blog posts or surfing the net has been very hard work. This text is a preface but from now and the next few months Friday’s will be dedicated to photos.

So to sum up my week in photos:

Baby Bunp: it is getting bigger and so am I! Next ultrasound is 28th February and we can’t wait!

Boxes, boxes and boxes: my life is almost all packed up in removal boxes ready to go. The big removal day was delayed (thankfully) and will now take place next Tuesday!

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Why is it that you often have to leave a place to fall in love with it just a little bit more?

Lyon (photos taken my Mum!)

In two weeks time I will no longer be Lyonnais as I up sticks and move in with my in-laws whilst we wait to complete on the house in the country. I’ve been desperate to get away from Lyon, its pollution, traffic and some of the ignorant inhabitants whom I have recently written about, so why is it that I’m now feeling so nostalgic?

Probably because I have had had a love hate relationship with the city for the last 14 years and it is the only place I have ever lived in France. The unknown of our new home and lack of familiarity of nearby towns, not to mention I have never lived in the countryside before, are becoming daunting as I watch my city loft become stuffed with removal boxes waiting to go into storage. Have we made the right decision?

My renewed passion for Lyon has also been fuelled by this weekend’s glorious weather, a stark contrast to the cold, grey days we’ve had recently. Also I’ve been able to enjoy some of my favourite activities here: the restaurants, shops and theatres Lyon has to offer… just yesterday I enjoyed cupcakes from Candy Cookie Boulevard and although not quite as special as I had hoped, they certainly did the trick in terms of satisfying my cravings!

Cupcakes: Fraises Tagada, Nutella & Coco, White Chocolate and Speculoos!

I also love wandering around the small backroads in Lyon centre and discovering small shops selling all sorts of wonders. Yesterday I found a great wine shop (I know, no wine for me at the moment, but I can store!), a craft shop and a doll clinic!

The Doll Clinic: such a cute shop to look at!

The fact that a British foodstore called Little Britain has also opened here has done wonders in helping with my cravings for British food products and taken away the feeling of homesickness that I’d been having, as I’ve been able to enjoy bacon sarnies, chicken pies, proper custard, Cadburys cream twirls and other much missed British goodies on demand (you wouldn’t believe I left the UK when I was 16 would you?).

Little Britian: Boulevard des Brotteaux, Lyon 6

"Little Britain" British food store heaven!

Despite my nostalgia I know that it is time to move on. A chapter of our life is coming to an end and a new chapter will soon open with the arrival of Little Miss Piglet. Life in the French countryside will be much better suited with a little one and our daughter will be able to enjoy greater freedom and various activities which she could only dream of if we stayed in the city.

And all is not lost. Lyon will be just a 40 minute drive or 30 minute train journey from the new place so it’s hardly as if we’ll be cut off from city life, British food or my favourite Thai restaurant! We’ll also be able to explore the nearby towns of Chambery, Aix Les Bains and Grenoble, not to mention wakeboarding and sailing on the lakes of Lac de Bourget, Lac de Paladru and Lac Annecy. Next winter we’ll be 40 minutes closer to our favourite ski resorts so really we’ll be getting the best of both worlds.

Now we just need to sign the Compromis de Vente tomorrow and cross our fingers, toes and arms that we get a mortgage!

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Who here pays their electricity and gas bills by automatic direct debit? Did you know that it is likely you are financing the utility companies by doing this?

I’ve always been useless at paying bills, I would open them, put them on my desk, have a couple of really busy days and they’d soon be buried under mountains of paperwork and forgotten about. Fed up with getting reminder letters, I set up direct debits for all of my utilities thinking it was the right thing to do…

Only it wasn’t, I’ve had some astronomical bills come through since and last summer I started paying scrupulous attention to what I was being billed and debited. The thing with direct debit is that because it’s so automatic and doesn’t require much effort we can have a tendency to not pay attention to how much we’re paying.

Since last summer I have been carefully checking our electricity consumption and comparing it to the bill. Each bill I have received since has been erroneous; the first one by about 30 Euros, the second one by 150 Euros and yesterdays bill by 400 Euros! Each time these amounts are debited from my account and I have to call up EDF to get them to correct it! It’s ended up taking me more time to sort out than simply writing a check and it’s always them that owe me money, never the other way round!

Yesterday really took the biscuit though as I was not expecting to be debited more than 700 Euros for my electricity bill as I hadn’t paid attention to the bill when it arrived so was caught rather by surprise.

Thankfully a quick call to EDF resolved the situation without any upset and the lady was really helpful, even suggesting I ask my bank to refuse the direct debit if it had put me in difficulty (not exactly what you want to do when you’re trying to get a French mortgage mind…). I have never come across someone as helpful as she was and I was truly grateful for her for not making things difficult for me. Within 30 minutes I had a corrected bill and credit note (a reimbursement would take 3 weeks and we’ll be moved by then). This is one of my only examples of good customer service in France but it goes to show that it does exist, albeit very rarely.

It appears I’m not the only one to receive high bills from EDF, I read on TF1 about some poor bloke that got stuck with a bill for nearly 60 000 Euros at the beginning of January. The poor guy still hasn’t managed to sort it out with EDF now, so he’s obviously not had quite as much luck as I have.

I can no longer afford to be financing these companies; if I want to invest money in them I’ll buy shares thanks very much! It’s easy for them to get away with debiting and billing what they want and then taking time to rectify, so from now on I’ll be paying all my bills by good old cheque thank you very much!

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