Monthly Archives: June 2012

Where Did Deborah Go This Time???

It’s never intentional — these unexpected life events that keep me away from the computer and away from writing and editing. But life in all of its upsy-downsy messiness has just breezed on through this past 4 weeks. I’m out on the other side now and hoping for some smooth but interesting weeks ahead.

The strange and scary bit was a week in the local French hospital. Too boring to get into — but I’ll be doing a lot of back and forth with specialists for the next few months. However, let me assure you that I’m not going ‘over to the other side’ anytime soon — trust me on that very firm statement!

Right in the middle of that bit of unexpected strangeness, we moved from our tiny-tiny-tiny village of Engomer into a proper Midi-Pyrenees town — St. Girons. And no, that was not without hiccups either.

The new 1-bedroom apartment that I found is in the old town section. Yes, there is traffic outside during the day, but it tapers off dramatically after 5:30 each evening. It’s a lovely old building of probably very late 1800’s to early 1900’s vintage. The windows are double-glazed and there are electric roll-down shutters in addition to the old-fashioned fold-back wooden shutters so I don’t feel like I am sitting out in the street listening to the passing motor scooters (lots of those!), cars, and buses. We also have a small balcony overlooking a long green garden (more on that in another post) with the mountains rising up behind and that side of the apartment is cool and quiet.

Here are two interior ‘before’ shots so you’ll be able to see the transformation in later posts. It’s a compact living-in-town apartment and it really is just what we have wanted for quite awhile! And by the way, no — I could not cope with this teeny-tiny kitchen ‘as is’ and it will be changing quite a bit.

Livingroom of the new apartment in St. Girons


Kitchen (the unimproved version!) in the new apartment in St. Girons


Whilst still in Engomer, 15 minutes outside of St. Girons, I was having a staying-in-bed day after being discharged from the hospital. Sitting there amidst a nest of pillows with my computer, via Skype I ordered the electricity to be put into our name and EDF did that quite efficiently with no snags once they ‘found’ us. It turns out that our building is known by two different numbers. Seriously, I had to laugh about it because this was like walking into an episode of the Twilight Zone as I heard the woman on the line explain that almost all of the buildings in town are still officially registered with their pre-World-War-II addresses, even if they are now another number altogether!!!

I encountered the same issue with France Telecom (aka Orange) as I was choosing the Unlimited Internet & Unlimited Telephone package. The woman on the line kept insisting that there was no such apartment number in our building and no one had had landline service in that building since 1993. What??? Then I told her the EDF pre-World-War-II building numbers story — and I heard her say, “Ah, there you are!” She then informed me that it would take 18 days before I would have a working phone line and internet and I could be the President of France or offer her a million euros and they couldn’t do it any faster.

After making an appointment 2 weeks earlier for the installation on this past Wednesday between 8 and 10 AM, I arrived at 7:50 AM. Then I waited and waited. No one ever arrived and it was clear that I’d been stood up by the installer. Grrrrr!!!

Back to Engomer, more packing, and when I called Orange to inquire about the missing installation man, some snooty idiot told me that it hadn’t been necessary because the phone was already on. No — it was not! I had picked up the brand new phone that was plugged into the apartment wall and listened for a dial tone repeatedly as I waited there all morning and it was most certainly not on.

After lunch, I loaded my car with boxes and bags, went back to the apartment, listened in vain for a dial tone, and finally sat waiting, waiting, waiting on my mobile phone (using up €13.50 in credit along the way!) for an Orange tech department person who again told me that the phone was already on. I retorted that I was sitting right there and no it was not, he said he would call the house line to prove it. Then he was quiet for a second or two before saying, “It would seem that you have a fault on the line. They will fix it from outside and you should have your phone on in 2 days. Au revoir, Madame Harmes.” And he hung up. Grrrrr!!!

The following morning, Thursday, was the appliance-delivery debacle (see below) and a mere few minutes before those men arrived, the installer from Orange (who should have been there the previous morning!) arrived at 8:15, picked up my phone, told me there was no signal (no kidding!), and he input some kind of code into my phone from his phone and the line was activated. Voila! A live and working phone.

This also gave me the ‘ability’ to set up my internet connection with a book full of all-in-French instructions for my Livebox. But without the internet already connected, I had no access to Google Translate to decipher words that I didn’t have stored in my limited-French-vocabulary brain. From somewhere in the past, I managed to dredge up memories of being walked-through that process by the online techs in Australia and I actually did it all correctly. Woo-hoo!

We had to buy appliances since the apartment came with none, so instead of taking the ‘cheap & cheerful’ (and potentially problematic!) option of buying used appliances, we decided to order a new front-loader washing machine and new refrigerator and cooker (stove with 3 gas top rings, 1 electric ring, and all electric self-cleaning oven). Easy, time-saving, and they’d just deliver it all to the door and bring them up the one flight of stairs so Mark wouldn’t have to do the lifting. Right?

That was the ‘in theory’ part of the story. I ordered all of the appliances from the same company up the road in the very large and metropolitan city of Toulouse. The washing machine arrived in 2 days. Hooray! But the refrigerator and cooker didn’t arrive for another 8 days. They are supposed to call an hour ahead of time to let you know when they were arriving , but they just arrived at 8:30 AM with no advance phone call.

Something had urged me to spend the night in the apartment on that previous night. I raced down the spiral of our stairwell, opened the large front door, then listened to the sound of two sturdy young men hefting those appliances up the stairs. When they wrestled the large boxes into place, I asked them to unpack each appliance so I could inspect them for damage prior to signing that I accepted them. Cardboard and styrofoam went flying all through the room and there were the pristine new appliances. I was ever so glad that I had asked for the unpacking when I spied a large caved-in left side on the cooker — and then one of the young men pointed to a matching caved in side on the right. Forms had to be filled in and I had to write REFUSED on the form, sign it, and they had to carry that heavy appliance back down the stairs. (sigh!)

Day after day the apartment has been filling up with furniture and we now have comfy lounge chairs, a coffee table and end table, a tv console with a flat-screen television and new dvd player, and some bookshelves, a bed, and wardrobes. Lots of pictures will follow in the days ahead as we assemble, arrange, and decorate! But we’ve been sleeping and eating here for 3 days now and we’re temporarily cooking on a camping stove with a tiny gas bottle. Ah well — living in flow.

Gads — I didn’t mean for this post to be quite so long!

Gotta run — boxes and bags to unpack. More soon — really and truly.

©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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