Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Pitfalls and pitstops

I really could do with things being a little less challenging at present. Maybe I should buy a large carton of vitamin B tablets because I'm definitely feeling a bit run down.

On Monday night after work I took possession of my car. I didn't want to do this at night because I felt it was too risky driving for the first time in France in a car unknown to me, arranged differently to cars in NZ, manual, out in the countryside without any streetlights or GPS. Unfortunately I had no choice. That's when the boss wanted to do the handover so I asked Michelle to come along with me so I didn't get lost and to supervise my driving. Thank God I did. Things took an unpleasant turn (excuse the pun).

I tried to keep to the right side of the road but the country roads are narrow and most are unlit. I had no idea where I was going and just followed instructions from Michelle. I didn't feel safe in this situation. In hindsight I should have asked her to drive but I've been driving since I was 17.

The car is practically a stationwagon and not well looked after though it seems to run well-enough. As I negotiated the country road my right tyre clipped the kerb. These kerbs are exceedingly tall in France so clipping one is a big deal. I kept control of the car but only managed to drive 100m before it was clear I had no functioning tyre/wheel. Here we were in pitch dark, two women alone in the country. What to do?

The first thing was to erect a reflective triangle and set it up on the road, then don a reflective vest. This is a legal requirement for all motorists. We couldn't locate the spare wheel and we struggled to find the right tools for changing a wheel. A man stopped but was unable to assist. Michelle called her husband to assist. He came as fast as he could and eventually, after much searching, found the spare wheel underneath the car- it eventually fell onto the road, an impossible situation for a woman to cope with. The run-down tool kit seemed hopelessly inadequate to me. It was difficult and fiddly for Thomas to use and try as he might he could not get the wheel to let go of the car. Another driver stopped by and the two men tried to help pull it off. No luck and an hour in freezing temperatures had passed. There's no AA in France. I felt left out of doing anything to help because I was shaking with shock, cold and despair at not being able to understand anything anyone was saying. Michelle rang the garage which normally services the car (we'd stopped in there with Martin before he handed over the car). Just as it seemed like the mechanic would have to do an emergency trip out to us another stiff kick from Thomas finally released the wheel's hold on the car and the spare could be put on. He drove 'my' car to Cafeolait and parked it outside the church while Michelle drove me there in their car.

It's still there (I hope) because I need to find a garage to fix the tyre or replace it and also to put on the new number plates. In the light of the next morning I was disappointed to see lots of gouges and scratches on the car that I had not put there and the interior is very run-down. It's a 2002 Peugeot 307 but mine is looking older. Why did I buy it? because I was informed that to try to find one on my own would be difficult and that I was getting a good deal. I had never had the chance to have a good and relaxed look at it because the boss had always been in a hurry and it was always full of stuff. He explained he'd made sure it was always well serviced and the engine did seem to run well.

All well and good but I'll be selling it. It's not right for me; too heavy and big in narrow town streets, too hard for me to park and I'd rather have something with better inside and outside aesthetics even if it's a wee twingo. An automatic would be helpful too. This whole experience has been another financial struggle: the cost of the car was more than double what I got for selling my NZ car, the insurance costs are high, I must find paid parking as most folks living in an apartment cannot park at home. There are the running costs and the cost of a Carte Gris is horrifying. That's the change of ownership papers and each time the car is sold it must have new plates.

Yesterday Michelle and I spent hours trying to secure those papers and plates at the prefecture. The day didn't start as planned for us, the weather was freezing and there was the inevitable long wait in a queue before being seen by an officious young woman. She wanted to send us away because my habitation situation is not normal (I'm not the person directly renting the studio). Michelle came up with a solution to get some documentation faxed through. It worked and I got to pay 284 euros for the privilege of buying a car that's no good for me. Sigh!

Bent may be able to help me move the car to a repair garage on Friday.Speaking of Friday-my personal effects are due to be delivered to me at last. Fingers crossed all is OK.
Photo of the model of car I've bought but in a different condition to mine.Mine too is green.


Post a Comment

I welcome your comments, contributions and feedback.