One of the best things about living in a lovely area like this is having visitors to stay and showing them around. This week didn’t quite go to plan....
On Tuesday morning my husband drove off to the airport to collect our friends while I stayed at home doing a final tidy round. By 10.30 everything was looking perfect – the cream floor tiles were gleaming, a huge bunch of wild mimosa was sitting in a vase, the sun was shining and the views of the snow twinkling on the mountains in the distance was spectacular. I had found time to wash and dry my hair and had even brushed the dog and sprayed her with doggie deodorant (a marvellous invention that pleases us more than it pleases her). I sat down with a mug of coffee when she suddenly ran into the living room absolutely soaking wet and leaving muddy footprints everywhere. I assumed she had fallen into the pond again but when I followed her outside she was barking at the corner of the garage where the hosepipe to the outside tap had broken off and water was spraying everywhere. The dog goes completely mad around moving water and by the time I had made several attempts to reconnect the pipe we were both drenched and neither of us were looking our best when my husband arrived back with our friends. Possibly more importantly, the leak meant that the water supply to the house was no longer working (we are not on the mains here but rely on an underground well system). Luckily my husband managed to temporarily tie up the hose and running water and flushing toilets were back in order again and the rest of the day passed without further incident.
The next morning I was aware of an eerie silence from the boiler. It is a huge grey monster of a machine (with a rusty fire extinguisher next to it) but it had always seemed to work very well. We tried everything we could think of – i.e. pushing a couple of buttons and checking the pilot light, but nothing worked so I rang the boiler company. A very helpful lady said that she would see where the engineers were and ring me back to let me know when they could come out. When she rang back I had to sheepishly explain to her that we didn’t think we needed the engineer anymore as we thought we had found the problem – the oil tank was empty! The Oil company couldn’t deliver until the following afternoon so we went out for the day and then spent the evening in front of a roaring log fire and used fan heaters in the kitchen. The guest bedroom has electric radiators so our friends were nice and warm upstairs and we plugged the 2 fan heaters in the downstairs bedroom. This promptly fused an electric circuit which affected the bedside lights, clock radio and the electric shutters!
On Thursday morning we had an appointment with our Architect who brought round various artisans to quote for our renovation work and our friends were very impressed with the way everybody shakes hands and greets everybody. They weren’t quite so pleased by having to greet the Septic Tank man and we all spent quite some time washing our hands when he left.... I stayed in to wait for the oil delivery while my husband took our friends out for a scenic drive to Ceret and then up to Amelie-les-Bains, a pretty thermal spa town up in the mountains. I think they would have enjoyed it had it not poured with rain and the fact that they were too late to be served at the restaurants so ended up eating supermarket sandwiches!
It was still raining in the evening so for supper we went to a little restaurant in our local town. Our friends remarked on how nice it was that everybody who arrived greeted the diners with a ‘Bonsoir’, which I feel is a lovely French custom – apart from one woman who was hurrying in to escape the downpour and accidentally greeted everybody with a loud ‘Merde’ as she had caught her umbrella in the door-handle!
It doesn’t often rain here (honestly!) but when it does, it really rains, so the following day when we had spent the morning stripping out the kitchen cupboards (new one arrives next week!) and the afternoon on a very muddy walk, I was a bit hesitant about asking them to fill in the Visitors Book. Luckily they were very kind in their comments and I am looking forward to having them to stay again – when the renovation works are finished!