The French postal service amazes and astounds me. In the UK, a postcode either relates to one large building or is shared between a very few properties so technically the Royal Mail have no excuse for late deliveries or delivering to the wrong address (!). Here in France, the ‘Code Postale’ relates to a town or commune and covers thousands of properties. This is of very little help to anyone trying to use a SatNav relying on a postcode rather than an address, apart from the fact that the first two digits indicate the Departement number so should stop any confusion between, say, Villefranche on the Cote d’Azur and Villefranche in the Midi-Pyrenees. (Why is that France has so many towns with the same name I wonder?).
Anyway, back to La Poste and specifically their splendid achievement in delivering mail to our house. When we first bought this house last summer I could not believe that it had neither a name nor number. It was just ‘Route de Nextvillage, 66300 Thisvillage’ The ‘Route’ is about 5km long but somehow, despite the fact that we didn’t even have our name on the postbox on the gatepost, letters arrived. I have no idea how. Deliveries from other companies were more problematical and we have spent hours standing in the road clutching the mobile phone trying to direct lost delivery drivers. Our immediate neighbours have a plaque by their gate with “Mas del Xot” and a picture of an Owl so we figured that if they could give their house the Catalan name of “Owl House” we could name our house Maison des Collines as there are patently more hills here than owls. My great aim in life here is never to upset the locals so my first port of call was to La Poste to source their opinion – to which the answer was that it was ‘not compulsory’! Just to double-check I called in at the Mairie and the lady who worked there (now retired) just happened to speak pretty good English and sarcastically suggested that we would be calling the house “Mon Repos” or “Chez Nous”! I painstakingly explained the fact that actually no, we were going to use a play on words and call it Maison des Collines as our surname was Hill and she very nearly cracked a smile!
The reasons it has taken so long for us to take delivery of our shiny new name-sign are for once nothing to do with French tradesmen, so I won’t go into the details. Suffice to say that last Saturday, the plumber (?) finally turned up with the right drill bit and the house now has a name. I have not had any letters yet – and am hoping this is just a coincidence!