Monday: I complain to our local French bank that my debit card has stopped working. I mention that this was particularly annoying when I ended up having to pay for an expensive oven with my New York bank card, and again when my card was refused at the Péage on the E81 between Rennes and Le Mans. In the latter case, if my wife had not been with me, in possession of her own bank card, I would have had to throw myself on the mercy of one of the drivers waiting in line behind, whose good graces in these days of road-rage could not be guaranteed.
Tuesday: I receive a response from the customer service counsellor at my bank. She tells me that I have been overdoing it recently. The most I can charge to my card in a month is apparently €2,300. I point out that we are having our kitchen done this month and that €2,300, on top of normal expenditure, doesn’t cut it. She then agrees to up my monthly allowance to €3,000. I make an appointment to see her in person next week. The subject? Whose money are we talking about here, mine or the bank’s. I have to remind myself that I live in France.
Wednesday: A company called Le Du, of which I have not previously heard, sends me a dossier concerning work it proposes to carry out this year to update and augment our electricity supply, which has been less than a hundred per cent ever since we had electric radiators installed. Maps and photographs are included. Jean-françois from next door is very excited. He has been lobbying for this for several years in anticipation of his upcoming retirement, at which point, aged 59, he intends setting up as a full-time mechanic, working from home. The work will entail the removal of a ten-metre-high pylon in our front garden that serves as the hub for all the existing overhead cables linking the houses of our petit hameau to the national grid. The last time the electricity people carried out a major intervention in our garden, they drove a digger straight through the front hedge – something they neglected to mention when they packed up and left.
In the evening, I receive an email from Enedis, a subsidiary of the state-owned electricity giant EDF, for which Le Du turns out to be a sub-contractor, asking me to assess the quality of the work carried out. Am I extremely satisfied, moderately satisfied or dissatisfied with what has been achieved? I point out that the maps and photographs appear to be in order but that, thus far, no employees of Le Du have darkened our door.
Thursday: On my way back from Lidl in Rostrenen, more than half of whose customers are elderly Brits on the lookout for bargains, I have to stop the car to allow a tiny red squirrel to scamper across the road in front of me. “Reds” are not exactly a commonplace in Brittany, but they do exist. This one, I am pleased to note, is particularly bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Later in the day, while passing through our home village of Plusquellec, where the roads in and out are up prior to much-needed resurfacing, I have to stop again, this time for a chicken dancing figures of eight in the exposed rubble next to the mairie. Too busy pecking, it appears entirely unaware of the fact that it is dicing with death but eventually scuttles into the hedgerow. I am reminded of the fact that my friend Hilke struck a deer with her van a few weeks back and has lived off venison ever since. She has also, I am reliably informed, eaten a coypou.
Friday: Signs have gone up all over the commune protesting the threatened closure of one of the three classes at our local junior school. The regional government in Rennes, acting on instructions from Paris, has decreed that the number of classes provided must conform directly to the number of children aged between six and eleven in the commune. Sadly, Plusquellec and two neighbouring villages, have dropped below the threshhold this year and are required to sacrifice one class (i.e one teacher) while increasing numbers in the remaining two. Jacques, our mayor, together with his counterparts in the other two villages, says that he will resign if Rennes doesn’t relent. He argues that the commune has spent a lot of money in recent years to attract couples with babies and young children. A new housing estate, constituting the nearest thing to urban sprawl for miles around, has been opened opposite the sports ground, several of whose residents have children that will soon be ready to go to school for the first time. The ruling makes no sense, except to the minister in Paris for whom the logic is no doubt irrefutable. But my money is on Jacques.
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