We left the house in France last time with the plumbing sorted out, and the luxury of indoor facilities. Hot water, and even the washing machine and dishwasher plumbed in.
Unfortunately our first priority had been the electrical system, not the plumbing, and we were no closer to getting that sorted out. Our builder knew a man who did electricity. In fact it was the same person who did the plumbing. But he had grown tired of the new, strict building regulations and didn’t do it any more. Fear not, there was somebody else, but he couldn’t start with us till September (it was January then). But then electrician number two decided to return to England, as the financial situation in France was not good at that time. This was March, and he hadn’t got to us by then. The lights flickered ominously. Turning on the mains each time we arrived to stay for a while was always an adventure.
I always prefer to go by personal recommendation, which is why we had ended up with English workmen in France, and not because I was avoiding dealing with the French: I had asked our next door neighbor, the English one. Now I was stumped, but Brian and John put their heads together and in the English language newspaper they found an advertisement for an electrician who, from his telephone number, they thought must live not too far away. We phoned. He would be happy to come round and take a look, give us a quote.
Enter Rod the electrician, a very pleasant person, and what is better, someone who is prepared to work with French bureaucracy. Rewiring? No problem. Lots of sockets? No problem. Electric radiators? No problem. An earth? You mean we don’t have one already? We didn’t have an earth. We had owned the house and spent time there for sixteen years without an earth. But no problem.
He looked over the existing wiring, and turned a little pale. It’s seventy years old, he said. From the nineteen seventies? we suggested. No, he really meant seventy years old. Dating back to the initial renovation just after WWII. Probably the first time they had electricity in the house. No wonder the insulation was coming off in crumbs. And the fuse box still used actual fuse wire. He talked of two-phase and three-phase. Whichever we had (don’t ask me) it was the wrong one. And don’t touch that switch! He talked a little with the locals and discovered that the factory which had been demolished in the village had contained large numbers of these switches and the locals, never ones to waste things that were going free, had installed them in every house in the place. And every one gave the householders an electric shock.
I have to say I did get a little over-excited at the thought of all the electrical appliances I needed. I’ll have a double socket here, and a double socket there, here, there, here, there, sockets everywhere. In the bathroom? No problem. In the shed? No problem.
Can’t do it till September, he said.
Doreen lives in the empty bit in the middle of Wales, where since her retirement she has taken up writing. She says it's better than working any day.
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