The blog has been rather quiet recently, but that’s because life has been, well, quiet. Although I am quite good at writing at length about nothing, there are limits. However, a few things have happened in the past week, positive and negative.
Les Saints de Glace
First, the weather. Definitely nul points. May is often a damp, chilly month. Our late neighbour always said it needs to rain in May before the summer drought sets in. There are exceptions, of course, but this month is sticking to form.
A very chilly but dry April, which Météo France says was the coldest for 20 years, has passed the baton to its younger sibling. May is also the month of les Saints de Glace, the pesky canonised trio whose saints’ days are the 11th, 12th and 13th May. During this period, we can expect the weather to be unsettled and chilly. And it is.
What might appear to be unsupported legend does have some basis in meteorological fact. In unscientific terms, it’s winter’s last gasp before the warmer weather sets in. Parts of northern France can still expect frosts around this time: “Saint Servais, saint Mamert et saint Pancrace, apportent souvent la glace.” My post about les Saints de Glace (see link below) explains more about it.
As well as being the last day of les Saints de Glace, today is also le jour de l’Ascension, a moveable feast. Various sayings are associated with this day, including “S’il pleut à l’Ascension, tout s’en va en perdition.” If it rains on Ascension Day, everything will go to hell, i.e. the crops will fail. It hasn’t rained yet, but it may do this evening, and rain is forecast every day for a fortnight!
So our heating and hot water system has chosen this moment to go on the blink. The SF, who is made of sterner stuff than me, has taken cold showers. I wash with hot water from the kettle. I know: compared with past occupants of this house, we are spoilt.
We had a heat pump and associated gas boiler installed six years ago. This replaced a similar system that had been effective but was now decrepit. People are happy to sell you these all-bells-and-whistles systems, but they disappear into the woodwork when they go wrong. The modern systems are overly sophisticated. Most local chauffagistes are simply not knowledgeable enough to repair them, but they would rather go AWOL than admit it.
After being let down several times, we tried another local firm this week, thanks to a recommendation. They seem efficient and respond quickly. Even their technician appeared a bit fazed by the system, but replacement parts are on order.
However, no repairs are possible before next week. Today is another of the bank holidays that fall in May in France: Labour Day (1st May), VE Day (8th May), Ascension Day (a moveable feast) and Pentecôte (also a moveable feast – 24th May this year). The holiday is usually taken on the day it falls. When it’s a Thursday, like today, people faire le pont (make a bridge) and take the Friday off as well.
New Carte de Séjour
On a brighter note, I reported to the Préfecture in Montauban yesterday to swap my carte de séjour (ID card) for the Withdrawal Agreement version. If you already have a card, the process is fairly painless, although it involved a long wait following the initial application (six months in my case).
As a British citizen, I am a Third Country National (TCN) following Brexit; as an Irish citizen, I’m a citizen of an EU state. But I don’t have a carte de séjour as an Irish citizen, and the application process involves reams of documents. Life’s too short, so I’ll make do with the TCN one.
Because of Covid, the number of people allowed into the Préfecture at once is restricted. Under the stern injunction, “If you are more than five minutes late, your appointment will be cancelled,” I turned up a bit early. The sliding entrance doors were firmly closed. The rather harassed lady on reception told those of us waiting outside, “You’ll have to wait until I tell you.” At least it wasn’t raining.
Once inside, it all went smoothly. I have suffered French bureaucrats who make Rosa Klebb look like Mother Teresa, but in all my dealings with the Préfecture, I have never experienced anything but courtesy. Being able to speak French no doubt helps. A smiling lady dealt efficiently with the small number of documents I had to bring and good-naturedly corrected my fumbling with the electronic finger-printing machine.
“How long will it take for the new card to arrive?” I asked at the end.
“Between one and two months.”
Hopefully, it will be sooner than that. And I hope much sooner for our boiler.
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