Wednesday, 23 May 2012

On the Road Again

It was time to take up my courage and start the process of buying a car all over again. After a disastrous foray into buying an unsuitable car off my boss a few months after I arrived in France, I'd lost all confidence in anything to do with a car, and most particularly, in driving. So 19 months after my first car ownership fiasco I was working towards a better second attempt. This would have been impossible without the help of Jean-Claude. Firstly, I could never have even visited a car on offer as I had no transport. Secondly, my French language ability is still too weak to negotiate or organise documentation via the phone.

I searched the internet. JC made the phone calls and drove me around. After half a day visiting all the concessionaires in Cafeolait it was clear I'd never get anything from a car sales yard. My budget was much too small. I wanted something I could 'feel around me', something easy to park, something cheap, something that had a WOF, something in a low mileage, something cheap. I found something that met most of those requirements, a Peugeot 206 2-door 1.3l 2000 model with rather battered bodywork.

It needed a controle technique (WOF)before it could be sold and it didn't pass-a problem with the muffler and emissions so that had to be repaired by the owner. I waited. The owner then had to have the car rechecked. I waited. His mother died in Turkey. I waited another two weeks. I was on tenderhooks wondering if I'd have to start the painful process of finding, trialling and waiting all over again for another car.

Finally the day came when JC drove me to Champhol to collect the car and I got to drive in France on my own for more than 5 minutes. I followed JC to his place. After 40 years of driving but nearly two years not driving in France I was nervous but survived. A week later I had driven myself all the way from JC's place to mine and found a park. This week I've been driving myself to and from work and looking for free parks near my studio for over-night. Yes, my new friend is my car. It will change my life as I develop confidence in driving in France. It's going to take a while getting used to the layout of everything on the left. I still have right-hand reactions when I reach for my seatbelt or the indicators. Tomorrow I must make a huge leap in competence and confidence and drive off the beaten tracks to somewhere I have never been, an hour away, with no GPS.
Tonight I'm researching the route and it's changing highways. My car is automatic (a rarity in France) so I can concentrate on where I'm going and all the different road signs I must come to grips with. My road code book is very helpful but there are a lot of signs and situations that don't exist in NZ. Like alternating days of the week for parking on your side of the road. I wonder if I'll see a sign alerting me to the dangers of wandering squirrels... well they've got a sign for everything, it seems. Fingers crossed my car and I survive tomorrow's trips intact. I'm attending a workshop involving state-of-the-art visual communication technology.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Inevitable hiatus

My blog's been suffering of late. My postings have become less frequent in recent months but there are good reasons why this is so... 1.I'm doing a lot of things for the second time around and so that's not especially interesting to write and read about, 2. I'm putting more effort into writing my book and that takes up my spare time 3. The weather has been so bad for months that there's little point in heading out and trying to take photos or even trying to visit places, do different things. 4. I spend my weekends at JC's house and he's mostly content to potter around his property. 5. I'm not feeling energetic or motivated because I'm emotionally stressed out much of the time. Why's that you ask? Well, being in a foreign country on your own without being competent in the language is exhausting. It's exhausting because I'm actively listening all the time, really concentrating and it never seems to get easier. I'm stressed because i don't earn enough money to get me out of the boxy lifestyle I must live in- being removed from gardening (my major passion in life) for two years means I have no way to get myself grounded in nature, to calm myself, to enjoy my favourite hobby. Having a couple of pots of flowers really doesn't do it.

I'm trying to find somewhere else to live because I'm fed up with my studio and its limitations, even though it's at least affordable. I need to have a few bits of my own furniture around me to create my own environment, my own oasis in this sea of strange challenges. I'm stressed because my professional talents and interests don't really get used and I have no control over my own work-it's patchy and always dependent on folks who don't do things in a timely manner, if at all. This may not be an uncommon situation but it certainly affects job satisfaction.

 I've been trying to obtain a car but am being forced to be extremely patient. I found one after lots of trawling through the internet and had a test drive but it needed a controle technique (Warrant of Fitness)so I waited for that. Then it needed something doing to its muffler so I waited for that and the retest. Then the vendor's mother died, in Turkey. Sad for him and frustrating for me as another two weeks went by just for that. My need for it wasn't urgent but all that took a bit of the gloss off plunging into a new lifestyle. Maybe next weekend I'll have my car.

 In the meantime I've had my Nikon D60 lens die on me so my camera is virtually useless. That has affected my interest in blogging too, but it's also made me think more seriously about whether I want to replace it with a good quality compact camera. I need something small I can pop in my handbag and whip out discretely when something interesting happens or if I need to go overseas for work. I'd also like the idea of making mini videos. I'm considering a NikonCoolpix S100. Lugging a reflex around with its interchangeable lenses is not that enjoyable even though I loved my camera.
So things are changing slowly. I've included photos of a rather ingenious dog deterrent created by JC. Fed up with having his newly emerging hostas chewed and dug out of their pots he has come up with a really effective strategy. We think the dog understands it's a trap and a painful one for the nose or paws. It's working.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

The First of May

It's May Day! The First of May, FĂȘte du Muguet, FĂȘte du travail. That means almost everything is closed here and I have a day off work. The weather report proved completely wrong and instead of rain the day dawned sunny, initially chilly and then warmed up as the sun practised staying out for the whole day. I hope it's in training because up until now the year has been grey, wet, windy and depressing. Today was fantastic. As I write, a man is mowing the lawn in front of my studio. A sound of summer on the way.

By 9am I was out of my studio and walking through the town with my camera. I needed sunshine and peace and quiet and time to myself. I needed nature so I headed over to the park and its grounds to see what might be occuring. Trees were greening. It was too early for the birds to be truly busy. Most of them were not in evidence. Those that were were sleeping, strolling or honking from afar.

The canals with their islands are perfect habitats for the waterfowl: geese, ducks, swans and poules d'eau. I had the place to myself. Ah the sound of birds and water rippling gently, the sunshine, the azaleas and lilacs and blossoms, the tulips and narcissi. I walked past the ruins of a stone bridge, used only by a pair of ducks who had set up their nest there-what a great strategic decision. By the time I had explored all the gardens and admired the statues that were now displayed naked without their winter protective bags it was time to head back through the town. Things were waking up.I was feeling at peace and thoroughly enjoying myself. I'm looking forward to being able to get out and about more this summer once I have a wee car.

Folks were now about. There were flower sellers everywhere but on this day they only sell sprigs or tiny plants of lily of the valley, or miniature roses.JC had already bought me one a few days earlier. You give a sprig to someone you care about although I'm not sure whether this is done now because of tradition, duty or sentiment. The supermarkets are in on it, advertising makes use of it. Still, it seems quaint.
Arriving home I had the curious motivation to clean the cobbled paving outside my door. It's ancient and filthy, covered in moss and mud so that keeping things clean by my bed is impossible; it all tracks in. Armed with only an old trowel and no gloves I set to work, scraping between each paver, trying to remove the accumulation of dust, mud, moss, crumbling building facade, weeds. Residents must have thought I was mad but there was little choice. I don't have a waterblaster and if I did there wouldn't be a suitable tap to connect it to. There also wouldn't be anywhere to store it.

Once I'd disposed of all the mess I filled a bucket in the bathroom and washed it all down. Satisfying to have things a little tidier but the ground forms a hollow and so all the water and silt keeps collecting in front of my door. Oh well, it's better than it was and it got me outdoors.
It also gave me the opportunity to have a word with the rather severe woman living just along from me. She informed me her husband is the head of the syndicate of property owners who have apartments in the building. I took note and made sure I minded my Ps and Qs.

She mentioned that the apartment above mine was empty and had been for some time, she wasn't sure why. I enquired about it and she told me it was slightly bigger than my studio and had two tiny rooms plus the main room, no parking though. She would enquire about it for me and pointed out another apartment I had already spotted available for rent across from my building. She rubbed her fingers together indicating it was be more expensive than what I have now- Oh well gotta try, as I'm seriously looking for a new home; maybe not in Cafeolait because it's tiny. Madame said she would also be supervising the access to the building for the plumber as tomorrow- red letter day- the plumber is supposed to turn up and do the final repairs on the burst pipe in my studio.