So, where were we?
Oh yes, camping out once again in our house in France. Half a roof by then, no plumbing, no heating, one tap, and a toilet you had to flush with buckets of water.
Well, it wasn't too bad really, and the weather was reasonable. When I say no heating, we did have an assortment of portable heating devices, ranging from an old oil-filled electric radiator with a cloth-covered flex to a gas heater which used expensive cubes of gas at the rate of one every other day if you ran it full blast. Electric kettle for hot water, and there was even gas in the bottle out the back for the cooker, after all that time.
There was also a small leak in the incoming water pipe. On the other side of the water meter, which made it their problem, not ours. We wrote a message on the "we called to read your meter" card, and you have never seen a French official body move so quickly. They, in the shape of a small Gauloise-smoking Frenchman, were on our doorstep the morning after the first day they could possibly have received our card. The old stopcock was out and replaced before you could say "Zut alors!"
The real purpose of our visit though (apart from the bread, cheese, and wine) was to look at plumbing supplies. We toured the DIY store with John the plumber, looking at toilets, baths, and basins. No, we did not need a fancy bath or basin, though we did want a vanity unit with a cupboard underneath to put the spare toilet rolls. We were happy to have a shower over the bath. Would the pressure be adequate for a shower? No problem, and luckily no need to put a header tank in the little bedroom upstairs. The immersion heater in its tank could go in the glory hole - you remember the glory hole? Rough floor, even rougher walls, pine lambris ceiling? All gone now, and what were we going to do about that? Brian the bulder was consulted: it would take a lot of plaster, but everything could be levelled up. Tiles for the floor? Of course.
There was a small possibility that the bath might have to be put on a platform, to give enough of a slope to the drain. I rather fancied a bath on a dais, I must say, but it turned out that we didn't need it. So no throne for me.
Brian got some samples of tiles, which were just what we wanted, and said he'd sort them out. We went home feeling almost cheerful. The project was moving forward, and we were really looking forward to having indoor facilities after fifteen years.
Then Brian phoned. There were no tiles to be had - what he'd thought were more of the same were another design completely, put at random on the shelves where our tiles should have been.
We bought some in England and took them over on the next trip. Have you ever thought about the weight of enough tiles to do the floor of a bathroom and toilet, even one of such an odd shape? We hadn't, either. The back end of the car was almost dragging on the ground when we boarded the ferry for the next trip. We were stopped, yet again, by Security before we could get on the ferry, and asked to open up, please, and had we packed the car ourselves? And could we open the bonnet please?
It turned out we couldn't open the bonnet; the catch had broken some time since we'd last had it up. You may have realised already that the old man is not one to be fiddling about under the bonnet of our car. Much embarrassment all round, as my husband jiggled and pulled. In the end the nice lady let us off, or got fed up, or something. I suppose we looked honest enough.
I have to say that the port authorites and Customs have always been very nice to us, in their own way. I particularly remember the time when my husband inadvertently tried to travel on my daughter's passport. There is of course a certain resemblance, but unfortunately the moustache rather gives him away. (That's his moustache, of course.) Did he have a photo driving licence which would serve to identify him? We had lived at our then address for so long and had never had occasion to renew his licence, so no. In the end he travelled on his official identity card, which he was not supposed to take out of the country but always forgot to remove from his wallet. Don't tell anybody.
That of course was many years ago now, and no doubt things are a lot stricter these days. As evidenced by the port security inspecting our car's contents nearly every time we travel, even though we look so innocent and law-abiding. And finding that the reason the car was dragging its backside was a few packages of floor tiles, and not any of the prohibited items it might have been.
Have a nice day, they said. Off you go.
Off we went.
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.
LIKE MY BLOG?
Hop across to my Contact page and join my mailing list.