Things my beloved does: abuses MY car

Right before we moved to France, my husband rushed off to his local Mercedes dealer in Germany waving his bonus cheque and made a substantial down-payment on a 4×4. Having advised my husband to wait while I investigated the tax implications of such an acquisition, I was not a happy bunny. Even though Mercedes is a global company, there was no way legally we could continue to insure and pay for a German registered car while living in France.

As a consequence, I had to put in train the rather long and very tedious process of re-registering the car in France which starts with parceling up the number plates and sending them to the German consulate in Marseille. I won’t bore you with the rest of the process. The car was effectively off the road for 6-weeks and I, yes I, had loads of paperwork to complete and visits to offices in difficult to find locations.

Having, finally, successfully re-registered the car, we then had to exchange it for a new  model as we could not transfer the German operating lease. So much for the EU! Needless to say my beloved was over the moon. Me, much less so. The car was used mainly for business purposes, indeed our personal use of the car was less than 10%. I had to keep a record for the French tax authorities. In addition, despite it effectively being a “company” car, not all of the costs were tax deductible as it cost much more to run than was fiscally permissible. A point which rankled with me.

Finally, the operating lease came to an end and this time my husband was forcibly prevented from acquiring the car with a balloon payment. That’s right, he’s not a signatory on any of our bank accounts. A very wise move on my part. Initially, one of his clients allowed him to use one of their pool cars but that arrangement ended with the contract.

Initially, the thought of not having his own car, was difficult for him to digest and he mulled over a couple of options which, to humour him, I appeared to entertain. But, finally, he conceded that we could manage perfectly well with only one car. However, I have had to point out that use of my car does carry with it a number of conditions. Yes, note the use of the possessive, it is my car, not our car. My beloved now just borrows my Smart and we hire a larger (and more comfortable) car for longer road trips.

There’s just one teeny, tiny problem…….I don’t really like lending anything that’s mine. There are rules to be followed:-

1. When the light flashes indicating that it needs more petrol, please fill it up. I do not want to get into the car, see the flashing light and wonder whether I have enough in the tank to make it to the nearest petrol station. My beloved has run out of petrol on a number of occasions, I have not.

2. The car should be left in the same condition in which you found it. For example, if birds pooh on my car while you’re using it, you immediately clean it up. I keep cleaning fluid and roll of paper in the box in the boot of my car for this very purpose.

3. I do not like to be seen in a dirty or untidy car. It gets a weekly trip to the car wash where it is carefully washed, hand dried and vacuumed. If you get it dirty, you know what needs to be done. I don’t have to spell it out.

My beloved knows what will happen if he doesn’t follow these three simple rules. We have been married long enough for him to appreciate that I make promises, not threats, and I have an elephantine memory.

Yesterday, which started bright and early, saw me glued to my office chair until the late afternoon. My husband went off for his late morning swim and returned, so it seemed, in the blink of an eye, demanding to be fed. I pointed him in the direction of the fridge and a home-made lasagna.

When I finally managed to escape for a quick ride, before heading to the shops for supplies for dinner, I had a bit of an unpleasant surprise.  As I went to open the car door I noticed that it was now splattered with bird pooh, where before it had been pristine. Obviously, this had happened while it had been entrusted to you know who.

There used to be a series of car adverts for Toyota Aris where unfortunate things happened to friends who abused the beloved small car of their wife, friend or husband. These adverts struck a chord with me. I think you can see where I am going with this one. I am currently plotting my revenge!

Tax office terrors

In France taxes are dealt with locally. However, I have found that you can never get anyone on the telephone nor do they respond to email, your only real recourse is to attend in person. The office’s opening hours are 08:30 to 12:30, weekdays only. I had previously written to them about this matter but had not received any response. My accountant had then written to them and it had similarly fallen on deaf ears. There was nothing else for it, I would have to attend in person.

Unfortunately the tax office, along with that of the main post office, is close to the beach and surrounded by that holy grail, free car parking! So, of course, it’s absolutely impossible to park within a kilometre of either when the weather’s fine. By the time I’d found a parking spot and walked back, it was 08:16 and I was already 19th in the queue!

Everyone is dealt with in turn by the receptionist but it’s a frankly long-winded affair. Most of the issues arise from the elderly, and you understand I’m not including myself in this group, being unable to make their declarations and payments on line or advise of their change of address.

Having finally reached the head of the queue I explain the purpose of my visit to the receptionist, I’m filtered upstairs for yet another wait. This time there are just three people in front of me. However, these are weightier discussions, and I’ve a) no way of knowing how long they’ll take and b) how many people are actually available to deal with these matters. After a while, it becomes apparent there’s only one person available. I’m just hoping I get in and out before my parking ticket runs out!

Finally, it’s my turn. I’m ushered into an office with yet another gate-keeper. I once again explain the purpose of my visit and hand over the relevant forms, in duplicate. One in English, on which I require a signature and tampon, and the other in French for their records. The gatekeeper explains he can’t sign the form, I need that of the Controller who is seated behind the door, out of view but within earshot. He appears to be taking a rather long-winded telephone call. So they do respond to calls, just not mine!

Resigning myself to a lengthier wait or even having to return another day to collect the signed form, I’m taken aback when the gatekeeper quickly gets the Controller’s signature on the form and applies the tampon – nothing is official in France without a tampon! Absolutely nothing on the form has been checked and I’m in and out within 5 minutes! Okay, I had an hour’s wait to get into the Holy Grail, but once inside…….

I’m thinking I’m going to follow the same procedure, ie visit in person, for my French driving licence, our French residency and French passport applications down at the Prefecture, once I’ve concluded the great paper chase.

Return of the leg!

After making fairly good progress with the rehabilitation of his broken leg, in recent months my beloved has gone backwards. His hip is now giving him serious gip, he can’t walk as far as he did six months ago and he’s finding it difficult to ride his bike for any length of time. He’s recently seen the surgeon who operated on him, who organised a lift for his shoe as the broken limb is now at least 1 cm shorter, which has helped. He also advised that in the fullness of time my beloved would need a prosthetic hip.

When you get to our age, “use it or lose it” is very apt. In an effort to try and improve the situation my beloved has been to see a number of different physios and osteopaths. None have come up with any concrete solutions although their treatments have provided some relief. Finally, my beloved has turned to one of the physios who deals with many of the pro athletes living around here. He’s identified a number of potential issues which we can probably address. It appears that not all physiotherapy is equal, some is just too general, particularly given my beloved’s former and continued lack of flexibility in his hips and back issues which the injury has exacerbated.

Over the next couple of weeks, he’ll be undergoing a battery of tests and scans to determine his best next steps. Plus, he’s been referred to another local surgeon who’s a leg specialist rather than his own surgeon who’s apparently a shoulder man.

I can understand my beloved’s concerns. He loves sport and, apart from swimming daily, he’s been unable to ride or walk any distance recently. This tends to have a knock on effect on me. My injured knee has now recovered but I’m missing our daily walks and, while I don’t mind using the home trainer, I would prefer to go out on the bike. To be honest neither of us enjoys being cooped up at home, we much prefer the outdoor life. I’m hoping (and praying) he’ll soon be back to as good as new.

Proud boasts

My beloved and I can make two proud boasts. Neither of us has ever changed a nappy, and neither of us has ever been to a hen/stag party. Admittedly, when we got married many years ago, hen/stag nights were usually fairly tame affairs. I spent the night before my wedding enjoying dinner with my family in a nearby Italian restaurant while my beloved waited anxiously at home in London with his parents before setting off early the following morning to the church in the Midlands.

It has to be said that neither of us enjoys drinking copious amounts of alcohol and, if I’m honest, neither of us could’ve afforded a hen/stag do back then. A lot of our friends, particularly those from university, got married at around the same time and were similarly strapped for cash. When our respective siblings got hitched, they had hen/stag parties but I can’t recall whether we were invited. In any event, we didn’t go.

The subject reared its head because my beloved’s nephew is getting married next month and he’s just had his stag do, a three-day bender weekend in Prague. My brother-in-law went along, largely to keep an eye on his younger son who has Asperger’s. Neither of them seemed to particularly enjoy the event and my brother-in-law wasn’t impressed by the hi-energy evening event which he said had been provided by Calvin Klein.

“I think you’ll find that was Calvin Harris,” said my beloved, keen to score points! However, it seemed a shame to spend so much money on an event that neither of them really enjoyed. The nephew was ritually humiliated by his mates who were, no doubt, just getting their own back. No mention of the architectural splendours of Prague but maybe they didn’t feature on the trip!

The nephew’s partner is having a Brittany-themed weekend in Blackpool which my sister-in-law has (wisely) declined to attend. This frankly sounds equally horrendous. My header photo assumes the two events swapped places and my beloved’s nephew had to dress up as Brittany!

I get the impression that the hen/stag dos, along with the weddings, are part of some sort of competitive game where each successive couple tries to outdo one another. Personally, we find it all rather sad and pointless, but then maybe it’s just us.

“What about the nappies?” I hear you cry. That’s far easier to explain. We’re childless from choice and we generally steer well clear of children until they’re potty trained and can communicate a bit.

Steamy summer

In an effort to combat August’s steamy temperatures, I’ve taken to getting up really early. A quick ride on the home-trainer, breakfast on the balcony and then a spot of housework, followed by a cold shower, all before my beloved wakes. He’s been finding it more difficult to sleep in the heat as there’s not too much difference between top day time and night time temperatures. We don’t have air conditioning instead we rely on the passage of cooler air through all the open windows.

Early morning is about the only time the temperatures fall below 26C and the cicadas give their cooling leg rubbing a rest. If only keeping cool was that simple for the rest of us. In an effort to reain cool, I’ve been wafting around the flat in cool floaty outfits while my beloved is permanently topless. He’s been swimming daily in the pool which has certainly helped his mobility but he’s finding it difficult to concentrate in the office, the hottest part of the flat, in the afternoons.

According to the weather forecast the top day time temperatures should start to ease below 30C this week. Welcome news for all but the most ardent of sunbathers like my sister, who’s over here for the next month. It’s unusual for the Cote d’Azur to have these daily high temperatures for two consecutive months (July and August).

Even the Domaine’s animals are feeling the effects of the heat. The dogs wearily trot out for comfort breaks and hurry back home into the shade. The rooks have found themselves some shady perches in the forest, the pigeons only appear late afternoon and potter about in the shade. We’ve not seen hide nor hair of Mr Squirrel though the magpies are still upsetting anyone and everyone.

My beloved, in his own inimitable style, has not been helping with the work load quite the reverse. He dripped sweat all over the marble floor and then walked in it. It was easy to see the imprint from the soles of his shoes. I was not happy as I’d only recently swept and washed it. I had to re-wash it because his sweat strips the shine from the marble! Of course, I could’ve wait for him to do it……but hell would probably freeze over before that happened.

When it’s this warm, you really don’t feel like cooking or eating much, just plenty of cold soups, fresh fruit and salads which means regular early morning trips to the market. I’m aware this is beginning to sound like a moan. It isn’t, not really. I’m just looking forward to a slight dip in temperatures to make it much more pleasant throughout the day. When it’s hot, productivity slips alarmingly and sitting in the car with the air conditioning on full blast is a welcome option.

Things I’ve done: the apple strudel incident

Two years after we’d gotten married, my beloved and I were living in a Barratt built bungalow to the north of Leicester. It was a two-bedroomed bungalow, though I used the second bedroom as a dining room. This meant we gave guests our double-bed and slept in the lounge or, in the case of my youngest sister Jane, she slept on a put-u-up in the lounge.

When my beloved and I got married, I was still at university. We bought a one-bedroomed maisonette in Leicester, from whence I commuted to University at Loughborough, which 18 months later we sold to our upstairs’ neighbour. We moved across town to a new Barratt development of bungalows and town houses, next to a squash club and small shopping centre, which was a much easier commute for both of us.

My youngest sister Jane has always adored my beloved and was a fairly frequent week-end visitor. We’d driven into Leicester to pick up some Apple Strudel for Saturday evening’s dessert from an excellent patisserie called Elizabeth’s, which is probably no longer there. My beloved dropped me off with just enough money to buy the strudel and said he’d pick me up from the nearby taxi rank.

Leicester used to have, and probably still does, a complicated one-way system so I wasn’t unduly disturbed not to finding him waiting for me at the taxi rank. 45 minutes later  – remember this is in the late 70s, well before the advent of mobiles – when I was cold and cursing him under my breathe, my sister popped up. They’d been waiting for me in the slip road behind the taxi rank and I hadn’t seen them, nor had they seen me, because they were behind a coach!

I got into the car and my beloved called me a silly cow for not waiting in the right place. I was swift to point out that if anyone was in the wrong place, it wasn’t me and smashed the apple strudel into his face. There was what might be called a pregnant pause then my sister in the back seat, said: “So, no dessert!”

My beloved had been wearing a beige coloured anorak at the time of the apple strudel attack which I took into our local dry cleaners to have cleaned. On collecting it, the owner asked me how it came to be covered in apple strudel. I admitted that I’d thrown it at him and the owner said: “That’s what the wife thought!”

I’ve never thrown anything more at my beloved largely because it was such a colossal waste of a lovely dessert. Similarly, he’s never again called me rude names. Also, I now never leave the car without my coat, handbag and the house keys. You could say that we both learnt a powerful lesson that day.

 

 

Orange hell

Having been away for over a month, it was good to have a few days on my own to tackle the inevitable pile of work, including housework, which had built up during our absence. It was all going splendidly. I’d invoiced everyone; cleared the administrative backlog; I had washed, ironed and put away all our holiday clothes; I’d cleaned and vacuumed; and, was starting to feel all was well in my world, until the internet went down.

It was 22:00 so I rebooted and got the internet back but the WiFi didn’t work, at all. Hoping matters would resolve themselves overnight, I went to bed. Sadly, there was no change the following morning. I have Orange Pro which promises to sort out any problems within 24 hours. I rang my local techies whose help desk number I’d gotten while we were having the WiFi service extended (at great expense) and left a message on their answer phone. Not a good sign. As I was still within my three-month guarantee period, I also rang the installers, who are yet another branch of Orange.

Unfortunately, while the installers were very helpful, they didn’t have any technicians available until Monday. However, they were going to contact the local techies to try to organise something for either this afternoon or, at worst, tomorrow morning! This saved me from going through the Orange system where the likelihood of speaking to another human being is under 10% I promised not to leave the premises.

I was just grateful that I didn’t have to cope with my beloved who goes apocalyptic when the WiFi goes down. It fortunately doesn’t happen too often and I always have to deal with the fall out.

I have learnt that the best way to deal with these situations is plenty of deep breathing to maintain my cool. I work on the basis they’re more likely to help the polite ones rather than angry customers. I could be wrong, but that’s what I’d do. Meanwhile, what’s a girl to do without any internet?

Of course, I’d already tackled all the obvious jobs and it was now way too hot to think about cleaning out the cupboards on the terrace, or indeed cleaning the terrace or the windows. Jobs best saved for when the mercury dips well below 30C. I couldn’t even catch up on the television programmes I’d missed while away, or watch current programmes, because our service is delivered – yes, you’ve guessed it – via the internet.

I looked on my very long list of “to do” jobs and they either all required the internet or it was far too hot to undertake them. I didn’t even have a good book to read, though I suppose I could continue cataloguing my ever-growing collection of cookery books. In the end I decide to catch up with an old friend and then have lunch. I had intended to go food shopping this morning so it was slim pickins’ but I manage to pull together a salad.

During lunch, the help desk rings to say a technician will be with me this afternoon. I break out the bunting. After lunch I go into the office and once more reboot the WiFi, more in hope than expectation, and it works. Hurrah, I’m back in the land of the living. The technician who was going to visit rings to say he’ll monitor my line from afar and visit if there are any further problems. He confirms there was an issue with the WiFi for the whole town from last night, but it has now been resolved. Well, that’s a relief. My Orange hell was nowhere near as bad as anticipated and I had used the down time wisely.

Holiday photos: day 14

We were in the Basque country which I always say is green for a reason! The day after France’s triumph in the World Cup final, the heavens opened. It wasn’t cold, but it did pour down. We watched the rain battering the hotel, which is adjacent to the beach, from the warmth of the surprisingly quiet Thalasso Spa. Goodness knows where the other guests had gone.

On a day totally bereft of any sporting action, what were we to do? There’s only so long you can enjoy the Spa facilities before you wrinkle like a prune. Fortunately we were able to grab a few walks in between the showers for which we were fully prepared with umbrellas and anoraks. You can take the Brit out of Britain, but old habits die hard and all that………

Salvation came in the form of a report from Paris showing the incredible parade of the World Cup victors in their open top bus progressed along the Champs Elysees, before  a reception at the Elysee Palace with family, friends and M Le Pres. Wonderful scenes in the garden of the Palais as the players and Macron  mingled with hordes of children all eager for autographs and selfies. It’s been a wonderful three-day celebration for France.

Holiday photos: day 8

Our trip to Bordeaux did not get off to an auspicious start as we were delayed by traffic jams caused by roadworks and accidents. I had booked a small, charming, B&B that had excellent ratings on booking.com for the next five nights. I had some slight concern as I’d been unable to contact them to reserve either a parking spot or advise them of our late arrival.

Our plan had been to arrive well before the start of the France v Belgium game and then head out to see Lenny Kravitz who was in town. Well, the best laid plans and all that saw us arrive at the B&B at half-time, after listening to the match commentary on the radio, only to find no one was home. We again tried to contact them to no avail and finally found another small hotel nearby for the night.

We watched the last 15 minutes of the game and then the hotel owner broke out the bubbles – how nice! I sent a few pithy emails of complaint to booking.com and we decided not to book another hotel until we’d slept on it. After an exceedingly good night’s sleep we decided to stay on at the small hotel for a couple of days. I hope Lenny wasn’t too disappointed that we were “no shows.”

Postscript: Chapeau to booking.com: profuse apologies plus offer to reimburse us for any additional costs.

I don’t like Mondays

“I Don’t Like Mondays” is an old song by Irish band The Boomtown Rats about the 1979 Cleveland Elementary School shooting in San Diego. My Monday wasn’t bad enough to take such measures though I’m just going to vent a bit here and then I know I’ll feel much better.

I don’t mind Mondays usually but the one last week started badly and just got worse. We had a flight back from Barcelona and wanted to get to the airport early as my beloved had received an email from BA advising the flight had been cancelled. However, checking the airport site, all seemed well but, just to be on the safe side, we wanted to be timely.

We woke at 04:00am, an ungodly hour at the best of times, and drove swiftly to the airport using Google maps on my iPad. The hire car office wasn’t open, so we dropped off the keys and the duly annotated booking paperwork in the letterbox provided and proceeded to departures where all hell appeared to have broken loose.

Our airline uses DIY labeling and printing of boarding passes. We managed to navigate the tortuous procedure but others were not so fortunate. We were soon thankfully seated eating breakfast in the lounge. We could only assume that the email had been some sort of computer glitch at BA. They’ve had a few of those recently. As we boarded the bus for the plane I reached into my bag for my iPhone to put it on “flight mode.” It wasn’t there!

I visualised what I’d done with it after I’d last used it and could clearly see myself switching off the Google route nap and putting it into its pocket in my bag. I also recalled hearing a metallic clang as I got out of the car but, at the time, had dismissed it as the seat belt springing back into place. It probably wasn’t. It was more likely my phone falling from my bag and into the well of the passenger seat. I tried ringing the hire car company while on the bus but the office was still closed.

I contacted the company as soon as we landed, after successfully navigating their answering system. Press the wrong button at your peril! I was advised by the call centre that they’d email the hire car office in the airport and get back to me shortly. Two calls later in the day and I’d been twice advised that the procedure was to get back in touch with the customer within the hour.

It was now well past any deadline so I decided to cancel my phone which you can only do on-line but there was a problem with the system and, despite my best efforts, nothing happened. I tried ringing Orange which has an automatic answering system whose main goal is to prevent you talking to any humans and I was quickly going round and round in circles, orange ones.

My beloved sensing I was on the edge of a precipice kindly suggested dinner out. A large glass of chilled rose, a generous salad and I was feeling much better. Still no word from the hire car company but my beloved had received confirmation of my line cancellation. An early night followed as we were off to Amsterdam the following morning. I decided to email the hire car company in my very best Spanish. Twice. Still no reply.

My phone is insured so I can get a replacement but I need the hire car company to confirm they can’t find it. Given that I know where I misplaced it, if they can’t find it, has it been stolen? In which case, I’ll need to contact the Spanish police, report the theft and get a reference number for it.

Finally, today I sent an email of complaint to Avis HQ and received an automated response – progress. I have peered into my crystal ball and I foresee a possibly frustrating trip to the Orange shop. Start praying for me now!