Sunday, June 30, 2013

Après le Deluge ...

Oddly enough, Saturday seemed calmer than usual in old Chambéry. A few shopkeepers redistributing stuff I didn't care to inspect too closely about the pavement in front of their shops, bar-owners blearily - and rather optimistically, I thought, mistakenly as it turned out - setting out seats and tables, and rather fewer people than usual at the market.

But it was a beautiful day, and little by little people started crawling out from under rocks or wherever it was they'd gone off to hide and sleep off the hangovers and forget all the highly embarrassing things that had gone on the previous night (it was, after all, Midsummer's Eve so a little bucolic excess is only natural, just avoid coupling with some guy with an ass's head is all I'm saying and that means you, Beckham) and the tables started to fill as bums got parked on chairs and the sky stayed obstinately bright and blue and furtive smiles scurried hastily across the faces of the bartenders as the cash registers went "Ka-ching!".

And the municipal employees were out in force, dismantling the stages and carting away the piles of rubbish (much of it hardly struggling at all) and generally cleaning up and hosing the last few drunks down the gutters, so that for once the place was sparkly clean for the sun.

I guess that everyone thought it was summer, after all, so even the small kids were out, dressed to the nines and being relatively well-behaved - as tends to happen here, on pain of pain - and playing at doctors and nurses up on the steps of the mairie whilst their parents relaxed under the parasols at le Refuge and the execrable Pierre proceeded majestically about, like a miniaturised galleon under sail, ensuring that the service was down to his usual low standards.

Incidentally, I think that one of his more impecunious clients must have made a deal at some point in the recent past to pay off his bar tab with straw hats which had, through a chain of circumstances too convoluted to go into in detail here, just happened to have come into his possession. It is the only reason I can think of - general French bad taste notwithstanding, not even Pierre is sufficiently stony-hearted to think that they are not sartorially challenged, and in any case I suspect he wouldn't actually dream of paying for them - why they have become part of the uniform of the serveurs.

I only say "serveur" from habit, and because I rather think it's part of the job description. In this universe, they are highly trained in the skills of not, in fact, serving anyone if that is at all possible. Oh, they wander around and if by some miracle you manage to catch their eye (I personally find proficiency at casting with a dry-fly rod to be an advantage here, doubtless hurts like hell but does rather draw attention) they will grudgingly take your order, but half an hour later as you stumble off, dehydrated, in search of a muddy puddle, you can see them standing about the bar, drinking and laughing merrily as they tell tall tales about the family at table 13, who've been there waiting for their kirs and a little grenadine for the kid since 1978.

But Saturday was Dumpster Day for us though, so when I got back we loaded up little Suzy and headed off to the dechetterie. Recycling and sorting your rubbish is a big thing in Ole Yurrup in general, and in our little corner of it in particular, and I was kind of apprehensive as the tip at St Pierre used to be presided over by a family of unreformed Nazis that always reminded me of particularly nasty Steptoes, only with exoskeletons, who would come all ironic on you if you so much as put red paper in the white paper bin. And if irony proved to be of no effect, brass knuckles always seemed to be an unspoken option.

But it seems they were pushed out for skimming off the top, selling some of the junk off and pocketing the proceeds. Where there's muck there's brass, as they say, and it seems that some people will happily pay for what others will pay to get rid of. I suppose that's called arbitrage, but small-minded nitpickers pointed out that technically speaking it's called theft, the rubbish in question not in fact being theirs to sell, and anyway naked capitalism offends (especially when its breasts are clearly visible) and so the municipality was obliged to Take Certain Steps.

So anyway, now there's a charming young woman who, when we explained our needs and the great variety of stuff we were getting rid of, inspected our bags and boxes and pointed us in the right directions. I still think you really need an advanced degree in sorting, with an option in the recognition of the various types of plastic so as to be able to put Barbies in one benne and Coke bottles in another, in order to do the job properly.

And of course there's always one, isn't there, the sort of chap who sits down every other night with a warm feeling of smug self-righteous ignorance to write Stern Letters to the editor of the local rag commenting on the depravity of the yoof, the disappearance of public morals and the general laxity of standards and lack of respect for elders today, who felt that, given as the afore-mentioned tribe of foul-tempered crustaceans was no longer there there to do it, he really needed to criticize us for putting, as per instructions received, paper into the container clearly marked "carton".

Not feeling up to a bit of impromptu liver excision without the benefit of anaesthesia, especially given the heat, I let it go. And as I don't actually read the Dauphiné, I guess I shall be spared his latest missive, pointing out how the fabric of civilisation is being undermined by the short-sighted policy of this government in letting foreigners - even if they are non-black not that he's got anything against Arabs or Africans apart from their skin colour, unsanitary food and general appearance mind you, not racist at all - come into decent society and blithely get rid of their smelly alien rubbish without first removing the paper-clips.

Bit of a shame really, it could be rather fun to learn exactly how I am contributing to the moral decline of this great country by not filing garbage correctly, but quite frankly I really cannot be arsed. Which I suppose is just another sign of my inner turpitude. Too bad.

Next Sunday, should it by some unlucky chance turn out fine, it's open house/paddock here at The Shamblings so that people can come around to see us off with barely-restrained bleats of joy (that is not the title of a soft-core porn movie, by the way: I checked that out, just in case there were copyright issues), and to eye up the loose silverware. Which is not enough for some, so we've had some lunch invitations, one of which we took up on Sunday.

I'd rather forgotten the traditional French Sunday lunch. Five hours from whoa to go, and enough food for a small army. I can no longer really do that, around here it's every humanoid for themselves and the first one to get a sandwich ready leaves room for the others: I find I end up rather bloated. And that's after politely refusing second helpings of everything.

Anyway, things are hotting up around here. As our departure plans were rather put on hold by this préemption business we were unable to confirm a booking for our friendly local démenageurs, who were to have come in and emptied the place whilst we stood by in awe and watched, and shifted its contents down south to general applause: of course now, it being the busy season, they have reluctantly turned down our offer to honour them with our custom, so we're on our own.

This is what we call in the trade a right bugger, as it's going to mean renting two 20 cubic metre vans, boxing and loading the house, driving down and repeating the process in reverse, and then getting the damned things back here. All in the space of three or four days. The prospect is leading to palpitations and fainting spells: I'm sure we'll manage, more or less, but it will be one hell of a hectic weekend.

Also, the home phone and my personal emails got cut off today. As I started to find out when I came to send a mail off using the Orange SMTP server, and kept getting notifications that it had refused my login credentials. And then Margo rang, to say that the home phone wasn't working ...

Bugger it, I thought, this is going to mean a while on the phone with customer service ... I realised that things were perhaps a little more complicated than that when I dialled 1016, punched in our phone number, and got a recorded message telling me that the phone had been cut off for non-payment. Kind of odd, given that the bills arrive at the office.

I eventually got put through to a human being, who told me that yes, we hadn't paid our last bill, for some 660€ and which should have been paid two weeks ago: knowing full well that the monthly rental for the Livebox etc is only 60€ or thereabouts, this kind of surprised me. What surprised me even more was the fact that I couldn't find the bill - any Orange bill, in fact - in the accounts. So I got put through, after five minutes of the usual ghastly music and incitements to spend more on their services, to someone in billing.

Who kindly explained that "yes, the bill might seem a bit high, but you must realise, Monsieur, that we haven't actually sent you a bill since last August".

And may I ask just why that would be? Sheer laziness on your part, or something more sinister?

Ah, un glitch informatique de notre part ...

Then it seems to me, I said, very carefully picking my words and trying hard not to kill anyone or yell, rather unreasonable to cut off service for non-payment of bills which have not, by your own admission, been sent out. For God's sake!

Oui, mais vous comprenez, monsieur, vous les n'avez pas payées, ces factures, alors nous sommes obligés de vous couper. Vous pouvez la regler en ligne, vous savez ...

But you have killed my Internet, and I DO NOT HAVE YOUR FRIKKING FACTURE!

Eh bien je ne peux rien faire monsieur, je vous mettrai en rélation avec les services de recouvrement ...

And after five minutes of more dire music, the line goes dead as they guy at the other end "accidentally" hangs up.

So I call back and, very wearily, explain the situation yet again - had I mentioned that I had already been obliged to explain three times? thought not - and because I was feeling feeble and really do not need to have a heart attack at this time, agreed to pay by carte bleue on the spot in the hope that normal service would be resumed as soon as possible. Three hours later this has still not happened, good thing I wasn't holding my breath.

And it does, I admit, seem a wee bit pointless given that in ten days I will be having the phone cut off here anyway, but we cannot live without internet and mail access so what choice do I have? Whatever.

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