A fraught week. There has been so much rain in Brittany in the last two months that our garden has turned into a swamp. The seasoned boards that I installed five years ago as “risers” on the steps leading down to our front gate have rotted away and the gravel is awash with slime. 

Building the steps was a big job, and now it all has to be done again. In the meantime, having first navigated the stone steps from our front door to the garden path, I slither down crabwise. 

The irony is that for five months, from May to October last year, there was virtually no rain. Temperatures soared to 40 degrees and more, making sleep almost impossible and causing the trees to lose their leaves long before their time. 

Up behind the house, our well dried up completely, which has never happened before, causing our neighbours to rely for several months on barrels of water supplied by a friend. We were more fortunate. Years ago, after a Manon des Sources incident, we opted to go with Veolia, the French utilities giant, which delivers water, rain or shine, together with reminders that no matter how much insurance we have against frozen pipes, we could always benefit from more. 

Anyway, our source is now full-to-overflowing, which is a worry. Méteo France, meanwhile, informs us that this year’s summer will be even hotter and drier than last year’s, which is hard to a take in. My wife, whose efforts in recent years to create a vegetable garden have been exhausting to behold, says that we must buy water butts ­­– which in French turn out to be mégots-d’eau – while the going is good, which I fear means that, in between reconstructing out garden path, I will have to learn to cut and bend the downpipes from our gutters. 

Retirement, I have discovered, is hard work.  

Another French word I learned this week was chausse-pied, for shoehorn – not a word that tends to be taught in language classes. It came up when we were in Rennes in the aftermath of yet another disastrous dental appointment. We had wandered into Galeries-Lafayette, looking for a decent pair of shoes for me that weren’t either Beatle boots, with elasticated sides, or sneakers. The pair I finally settled on probably match the description, brogues. They look smart and should ideally be worn with a Barbour. But they were 50 per cent off in the Grand Winter Sale and should, I like to believe, prove their worth over the years. 

The only problem was, I couldn’t get into them. My toes were happy, but my heels remained stubbornly stuck no more than a quarter of the way in. It was at this point that the assistant went to a cupboard and fetched the aforementioned chausse-pied, which sorted the problem in a matter of seconds. She also persuaded me to go for a size larger – the 46 rather than the 45 – which in retrospect was an excellent suggestion. 

Galaries-Lafayette is a French institution. You will, of course, know of the flagship store in Paris, with its magificent steel-framed dome and loggias (or galleries). But a number of provincial cities also boast branches, which resemble the ones Brits of a certain age grew up with except that they are vast, like Selfridges, and, while bang-up-to-the-minute, defiantly posh. If Hyacinth Bucket were French, she would definitely be a customer. 

I mentioned earlier that my latest trip to the dentist’s was a disaster. This was an understatement. Those who follow my progress in France will recall that back in October my dentist – his services secured only after a lengthy troll across the length and breadth of Brittany – drilled a hole in my skull intended as the anchor for an implanted molar. Sadly, the steel implant onto which my new tooth would eventually have been fixed fell out one evening over dinner. A substitute lasted longer, right up to the point this week when, after an amount of painful prodding, it fell out into the dentist’s bloody hand. 

A detailed explanation ensued, the gist of which was that a more radical approach was now required that could take up to three months to complete and would cost me a small fortune. The good news was that a broken crown on the other side of my mouth could be replaced quite easily during my next appointment on February 6 for just (hang on, let me check) 544 euros. As my Uncle Tommy would have said, cheap at half the price. 

The final chapter in my catalogue of woe concerns Barclays Bank, of which I have been a customer since joining the staff of the Financial Times in 1979. Last July, Barclays wrote to inform me that, post-Brexit, they were applying “limitations”  to the services they provided to customers living in the European Economic Area. Limitations? “We’re sorry to say,” they added, “that this means we need you to close your account”.  

This came out of the blue. Going from a full account to having no account certainly limited my options. As no other British bank would have me, my one remaining alternative was to lodge the lot in my French bank, Crédit Agricole, which is not only 50 per cent bigger than Barclays but a mere five minutes down the road and fully-staffed five-and-a-half days a week. Barclays assured me they would make it as easy for me as possible and would waive all fees and charges. At the same time, they were clear, over several telephone calls, that it was up to me, not them, to get the job done. 

Accordingly, this week I steeled myself to the task. It was a wearisome business, conducted entirely online, but I stuck to it until, at the very end, after reluctantly accepting an exchange rate for the euro of 1.103, I was asked to enter all sorts of numbers and codes against a running clock, which gave me just 80 seconds to push Confirm before announcing that I was out of time and had to start again. 

On three occasions, I failed the beat the clock, at which point I gave up and turned to a previously recommended money transfer specialist that not only delivered the cash safely into my French account in three hours flat but did so at a rate that left me with an additional 700 euros in credit. Barclays makes billions in profits. While closing branches up and down the country, throwing thousands of workers out of a job, and along the way attracting fines for rule-breaking that in the last six months alone totalled some £60 million in the UK and a staggering $360m in the US, the bank continues its pursuit of global dominance. 

Well, good riddance, I say. Because in future it will have to learn to get along without me.

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