A Bed, Bolts and a Hammer-29 May 2006

One of the funniest stories about Le Clos des Guyons was when we let the two apartments for the very first time. All the advertising had to be placed as much as nine months in advance. So, we were desperately working to a self- imposed deadline. Margret and Alan, bed repairers to clos des guyons
As you can image it was total chaos. As the first guests drove through the gates I was still assembling the cupboard in their bedroom, the swimming pool was still filling with water and the grouting between the ceramic tiles in the lounge was still wet!
However, we managed to get over these problems, with the help of a good friend, and the local sparkling wine, we sat our new arrivals on the sun terrace.
I reckoned that if we could entertain them for about an hour the grouting would be dry(ish) and I could sneak into the gite for five minutes to tighten the screws in the furniture. All this was achieved with almost military precision and every thing seemed finally and just about OK.
Except, that is, for the bed.

When we moved from our house at Cléré sur Layon we had carefully dismantled all the furniture that could be disassembled and even more carefully put all the bolts, screws etc., “somewhere safe”, with the totally inevitable consequence that we did not have a clue where they were when we came to need them (and still don’t, even to this day).
Thus, when I came to attach the headboard and the foot end I had to use the nearest size bolts I could find which were much too small. The consequence being that the assembled bed veered on the side of what could be described as, “rickety”, to say the least.

Anyway, we finally got to bed about 2am, having had about three hours sleep the previous night, hoping against hope that we would not have a knock on the door in the early hours with two people complaining that their bed had collapsed underneath them.  Which was rather ironic, because in the small hours, a bed did collapse, ours!

In the panic to get everything ready we had moved one bed from our room to the apartment and replaced it with another. However, I had forgotten to replace the screws in the hinges which allow the base to fold in the centre, with the result that it did fold, under us!!
So there we were, at four in the morning, with our feet and our heads at the same height and our hips two feet below, at the bottom of the “V” shaped valley created by the folding bed.  It is a testament to how tired we were that we could not bring ourselves to do anything about it, and actually slept like logs in that position all night long!!
The next morning, after our visitors had departed for the Zoo at Doué la Fontaine, I crept (the french verb,”glisser”, is, I think, much more evocative), into their gite and had a look at the bed and, sure enough, the whole thing was hanging together by only half an inch of bolt.  At which point I went to the toolshed, found a hammer and bashed the bolts back home.
I then spent the rest of the day travelling around the regions DIY stores trying to find the correct size bolts. Could I find them?
No, of course not. Smaller bolts, no problem, larger bolts, by the case load, but the exact size, not a hint.
Thus for the next two mornings I,”glissé”, into the apartment and had a ritual bash at the bolts.
Finally, unable to live the lie any longer and over aperitifs one night, I came clean to our guests and confessed all.
There was a seconds silence whilst we waited for a reaction and then, to our great relief, uproarious laughter!
Finally, with tears of mirth in their eyes, we came to an agreement. If I would provide the hammer, they would bash the bolts back home every morning and night.
The happy ending is that Margaret and Allan became good friends, in spite of, or even because of, all the chaos that surrounded them when they arrived.
As I write this now,almost a year to the day afterwards, they are again sitting on the garden terrace, enjoying the
sunshine, content in the knowledge that they no longer need to wield a hammer before they can go to bed.

And did I repair our own bed?  Too damm right I did!

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An Anjou Evening….14/05/2006

This evening I have just driven back to Le Puy Notre Dame from the village of Nueil-sur-Layon where I had a rendezvouz with my Doctor, Dr. Delavigne, over a minor ailment.

On leaving the surgery I went to the village pharmacy to collect my prescription, passing a pleasant, if enforced, ten minutes chatting to the other three people who were waiting to be served, as the chemist spent the time fiddling about on his computer instead of serving the,  “patient patients”, as it were.

This would be anathema in Anglo Saxon Culture but except for the odd jovial comment tossed across the counter no-one seemed the slightest bit put out.

Finally, after the phamacist tore himself away from his technical problem and served the four of us, we all went,  in convoy, across the street to the bar, just opposite, where we quaffed a few glasses of rosé and discussed our ailments like old fisherwomen.   Everyone detailed old and trusted,traditional cures, passed down the generations, all with the solemn assurance that, of course, they work.  Which somewhat beggars the question why they were all waiting in a modern pharmacy for the latest prescription drugs!?

We then debated, in great detail, the meaning of the English word, “sir”.  Apparently, an English ‘Sir somebody or other’ , had purchased a house in a nearby commune.  I was reminded that the Gallic capacity for detail is extraordinary and never ceases to amaze me.  For example, I can remember a conversation over the cooking of artichokes which went on for over two hours and this is a subject that can be summarised as, “wash them, boil them, eat them with vinaigrette!”  And so, “sir,” was OK when I explained it was similar to a french seigneur, (Lord), but then some bright spark, determined to analyse the word to the nth degree said:-

“What about Mick Jaggar, he’s not of aristocratic blood and he is a sir?”

I should perhaps point out, at this juncture, that everybody here is an expert on Mick Jaggar because he has a Chateaux locally and, apparently, he even plays cricket occasionally for the Saumur Cricket Club.

“Well no”,  I replied, “but like many other people he can be awarded a, “sir”, for the duration of his life, for services to the community”. I replied.

“Well what has he done for the community?”

“Got rich”, was one cynical response

“A lot of builders around here have got rich from the money he has spent on his Chateaux” was another thoughtfull comment.

“Yes, that’s perhaps that’s why he  is now a sir,  because he has enabled our stone masons to go on expensive holidays and buy good wine”, was another helpful suggestion, “He became a sir for services to the Anjou construction community”

“No I don’t think so”,I smiled, “I think it was for services to music”.

This time there were no laughing comments, just blank stares and looks of disbelief. I took advantage of this momentary state of shock to say my à pluses and à la prochaines and legged it.

On the way back to Le Puy Notre Dame, the road was empty and the countryside was silent. The sun was setting in the cloudless sky and, on the horizon, a ghostly moon was hovering between the soaring spires of the huge church, itself glowing almost white in the strong evening light. lengthening shawdows on road to le puy notre dame

On the slopes the sun was reflecting off the vineyards, clothed as they were in their bright green, new leaves, and on the lower fields contented Charollais cattle were lying in the lush grass, rhythmically chewing the cud, whilst their lengthening shadows reached into the dark, vibrant green of the adjoining corn fields. Two young rabbits hopped out of the shade of the pine forest as I passed through St Macaire du Bois and, in the spotlight of a beam of sunlight,  ran frantically around in circles for a few seconds, full of the sheer joy of life,  and then, just as quickly,  popped back into the dark, welcoming safety of the forest.

There are times like these when I think that there must be better places in the world to live, but, for the life of me, I can’t think of any.

à plus

Brian,  gites in loire valley

Men, Women and Clingfilm

Having succeeded in having the two accidents between us this year, it is transparently clear how difficult it is to carry out a normal life with only two left hands between two right handed people, for instance, have you ever tried putting a quilt cover over a quilt with just your left hand!! It also makes the difference between the genders quite apparent. For example, when she who is being cared for bellows:-“Put them in the dishwasher”, I have to individually look at every one of the big white things in the kitchen before I can come to a reasonable conclusion, based on the balance of probabilities, which one it is. No, this is not strictly true, even I know that the thing with the glass fronted hole in the front sometimes has sheets and things whizzing about in it.So I am not entirely stupid.

I then have to call Sheila to switch it on!

But the thing that really, really amazes me is that I am convinced that I am genetically incapable of pulling a length of clingfilm from a roll. Whilst Sheila whips off perfect sheets of whatever lengths she wants, I, on the other hand, acquire absolutely perfect 10 cm. equilateral triangles. After about five or six of these, the roll usually flies through the air and thuds into the opposite wall of the kitchen.

This is known as “problem solving” by Personnel Departments or as they have now decided to rename themselves, “Human Resources”, This, “rebranding”, is as silly as calling yourself, “The Artist Formerly Known As, (whatever his name was)”, and was done, I assume, to give the rest of us a laugh as we went about our daily grind.

I have carried out a survey amongst my friends and, whilst not exactly NOP, I have not met one man can get clingfilm from a roll. To be honest, there is one exception, an acquaintance I have found, who says he is an expert, but then he does not care for the Beatles, supports Aston Villa and thinks that Kilroy-Silk once made a sensible comment. Thus his opinion can be completely discounted.

But why is this ability so important I do not hear you ask?

Because Sheila believes that any food not covered by clingfilm for the 13.5 seconds it takes to get it from the cooker to the table is going to be infected by an incurable virus which turns your body to goo and ultimately will wipe the human race off the face of the earth.

This will, of course, make everyone very unhappy except the Taliban wing of the Environmental Movement who will be deliriously happy that mankind can no longer damage the environment, or as the rest of us would have it, live.

But, after a short period of time, their delight will turn to horror as they start to turn into Jelly and the words “Oh”, and “Shit”, will be uttered many times before being overtaken by a distinct “Gloop”, sound, and, faintly, in the background, the dying whisper of a scientist will be heard,

“I told you…….. you should have let us finish……. our virus research at Huntington Life Sciences!”

Even as the Human Race passes into the mist of history there has to be someone to say, “I told you so!”

Have a good day and be careful with the clingfilm!