So there we were, back in France after five years' absence, with a bit of money saved up.
Less than twenty four hours after our arrival there came a knock at our door. It was M le Maire, and his wife who spoke some English. In fact I speak French, having studied it to degree level, but the English by and large are not known for their linguistic prowess, and he had made provision.
Good morning, welcome to our lovely commune. You must connect up your house to our new main drainage system, and there have been complaints about the brambles in the end portion of your land, so could you please arrange for them to be cleared.
He was quite pleasant about it, and offered to let us have information on people who could carry out the work, and take a look at their quotations to make sure they weren't overcharging us. Please come to see him at the mairie as soon as we had more information.
Now when we had purchased the house it was alleged by the estate agent to be tout a l'egout or mains drainage. Our English neighbours however were of the opinion that there was a septic tank out in the garden which had to be emptied out periodically.
In fact both were true. What we worked out was this: at some time in the past the Council had come around and installed storm drains which emptied into the river downhill from us. Local residents took advantage of this occasion by slipping the workmen a few hundred francs to join their houses up to the storm drain. Our house itself was thus joined to the drains. However the little sentry box in the garden was still served by a septic tank. As it turned out though the septic tank leaked, so the contents were recycled into the garden. The lilac jungle (it's too big to be called a bush) enjoyed that greatly, and there was no requirement for emptying.
But now the Council had a sparkling new system, whereby all the household water was taken by the main drain, pumped uphill and passed through a reed bed which purified it to drinking water standard (our daughter and son-in-law have a reed bed system, and this is no exaggeration). Perhaps the commune gets some sort of reward or kudos for having all their houses on this system; in any case, the mayor was very keen on having the last hang-outs brought into line.
We consulted our English neighbours. Yes, they had been connected. If we liked they could get in touch with their friend who had done their installation and get him to come out and talk to us. We liked.
Yes, their friend said, he could do our work, no problem. He also did general building and decorating. Did he do plumbing and electrical work? No, but he knew a man who did. How about the roof? Yes, he could take a look.
The roof had a couple of minor leaks - we could see from the ceiling where it was stained. He looked at it, and said that he could do a bit of emergency work to make it weatherproof for the winter, but it needed reroofing. Did we want slates to match the front of the roof or tiles to match the back of the house? Slates are nice, but tiles are cheaper.
So we took his quote up to M le maire, who approved it. Slates or tiles? Well, they preferred slate, but would not object if we had tile.
Let the work commence.
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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