Shitty death its that time of year again and this years festive preparations will begin in about four weeks time.
Now then whats been happening. Well a small thing that had a major knock on effect was that I had a major PC problem. This has been sort of rectumfied for the moment but my 5 year old laptop has suddenly got very slow and arthritic and sounds as if it has very bad asthma. Even MrsF has noticed and believe me that is saying something. However for the moment it is back up and running. But as a resulyt of it being out action we are very behind with letters, email and a whole host fo admin that bloats modern life.
The first bit of news is that it looks like we will be getting another foster child. Actually there maybe more than one. She is a 16 year old girl who is one of six children. Two of the kids have left home and one brother is 18 which leaves Marine and her two younger brothers in care. The story is that their mum went out to the hairdressers one day a few years ago and never came home. Just disappeared into the ether. And no she didn’t know the McCanns. Anyway, dad remarried and the step mother hates the kids and wants nothing to do with them and for their part the kids feelings to her are mutual. God knows what dad is playing at but the kids have ended up in the care of the social services. The kids seem to get on very well with dad and dont seem to bear him any malice at all.
A few weeks ago a social worker rang us and said would we be able to have her from time to time. This time to time actually means every weekend and all the holidays – give or take. The reason for this is that due to budget cut backs -sounds familiar- they are shutting the small care facility they have in Lannemezan. MrsF understood it to mean they were closing it at weekends and during holidays, but I understood they meant closing it full stop. Either way it was not quite what we had been led to believe. Initially there were three or for families who had agreed to see her, but by the time they got to us they ahd all pulled out and I suspect you can guess why. I have to be honest we felt very sorry for this girl, I could not imaging what it would be like for a kid to be abandoned and then being dragged from pillar to post to try to find somebody to have her. She is a really nice normal girl (as far as one can tell after all she has been through) and knows Suzie and Claudia from school. Our decision to have her is easier because our brutes are still keen for us to do the fostering bit, despite the experiences of having loads of stuff nicked by that tea leaf Pierre. It also helps that Marine comes from big family, and as I said she knows S&C and they get on well and most importantly our lot are game to carry on. Based on all that we have said yes.
The long and the short of it is that we have gone through a sort of gradual introduction and she will be with us for the first time this weekend.However me suspects that in order to “keep the family unit together” they well may and try to slip the two younger brothers into the equation as well. Nothing has been said, but it just a feeling I have. We will have to look at that closely, becasue the implications for our own kids having two more of an age where the require more attention re home work washing and just day to day things is fairly substantial. Not sure how I would transport everyone, maybe I could put seats in the trailer! However it looks as if Marine will be with us for Christmas. She was here on Sunday and was talking to Suzie and Claudia and said she felt awkward about disrupting our family Christmas, but after they explained about last year and broken backs and all that she felt better – not sure why mind you.
MrsF and I have been elected on to the commitee for the equivilent of the PTA. For the last three years we have been trying to get them to do a Christmas fair and this year they said yes. The snag was we had four weeks to get it sorted. So far we have rented stalls to about Eight people who will sell stuff for the hefty sum of 5 euros a plot and are now in the process of building a Santas grotto and papier mache snowman and other whizz bang attractions.
The next thing on the agenda is advertising the event. There has been talk of me dressing up as a bloody elf and distributing leaflets to kids and parents. I don’t mind dressing up as an Elf, provided I can keep warm. The rest of the association feel that if I catch parents I can intimidate them into
confessing and signing statements donating prizes and supporting the event. Actually we have done everything on a budget of less than 100 Euros so we are almost half way to breaking even before the day starts. The first leaflets will go out
It is not warm at the moment. This morning it is 2c and damp and miserable. We had out first snow here at Bonrepos a couple of weeks ago and in the twenty odd years I have been coming or living here I do not recall it snowing here November. The ski stations opened a month ahead of schedule, although we have not had the opportunity to head up there with the kids yet. There is a high avalanche risk in all French resorts at the moment and with more snow forecast for this week it may be worth just hanging for for a bit.
Sledging conditions are very good however and the Green Hornet is greased and ready for the first run of the season.
Regular readers will know that for about a year we have been locked in combat with Orange as they kept charging us twice for our internet service. They had agree about three months ago to repay us, the trouble was they didn’t actually stump up the 240 Euros they had stolen. We arote to them several times including two recorded deliveries and they just didn’t even acknowledge the letters, let alone respond. I had enough and decided to employ the services of a Hussier de Justice – or debt collector. Ten days later we have out money.
The second battle was with EDF. To cut along story short our electrickery bills are fierce so we rang EDF and asked if tey could advise us as to how we could reduce them. They said they had a service where this technician would do a survery of your house and advise you. The catch was this cost 290Euros incl TVA BUT they gusraneteed you would start saving money immediatly. We decided to take them up on this and the bloke turned up and broke the news that his job was to advise people before renovation work was done. He could see we had new windows insulated the walls and the usual run of the mill stuff. In short we had been mis sold his services. We had a chat about what we might be able to do extra and he left saying that he waould make sure that we were not charged.
Like a lot of people we have a monthly standing order to EDF and in September the metre is read and we either pay the difference or get a refund. This year we should have had a refund of around 200 Euro. However when we got the bill there was the charge for 290 Euros for the survey. We rang EDF who were not prepared to remove this from the bill. My initial reaction was to stop the payment, but I didn’t. Instead we rang the bloke who had been to see us. He was taken aback when he heard that the visit had been put on the bill as he had had it cancelled in August. He told us who to write to and what to write and to give his name and even gave us the cancellation reference. We wrote to his department in Toulouse two days after getting our annual bill which was mid September. They did not reply until the middle of October after our second recorded delivery letter. To cut a long story short by the 22nd November they still had not refunded the money. Now then our payment plan starts again at the end of November. I went to the bank and cancelled the standing order and then wrote to the place in Toulouse and EDF customer services (Recorede delivery) telling them that I had stopped and further payments and that the could invoice me bi monthly in the normal way. I also said I wanted the 290 euros back plus the refund of 200 Euros I was due from last year plus 150 Euros compensation and that as they were obviously not going to be reasonable and do things the nice way I would keep my money in my account and would deduct the money I was owed from any future bills.
EDF customer services have not responded but to be fair the next day the people in Toulouse rang and apologised and said they had authorised the refund to our account and it would be there in 10 working days. It was in my account the same day, which just goes to show they can do it if they want to. However I intend to stick to my guns and will deduct the other money from the next bill.
The point is that all businesses are dishonest and once they have your money it is like getting blood out of stone getting it back. We had the same thing in the UK with Sky and Vodaphone when we moved here and that was over 11 years ago. Talking of thieves a friend fo ours in the UK has just been given a bill of £11,000 by the inland revenue for over payment of tax credits. This depsite the fact that he had written to them several times telling them he though he was getting too much. Their response has been we wnat the money NOW.
But be warned French companies are very aggressive in a subtle and almost underhand way. As EDF, Orange, AXA, MMA and other companies take a bigger and bigger hold in the UK you can forget your notions of customer service and being able to have them over or get anything out of them. Trying to speak to somebody “Responsible” or in the “appropriate” department is a battle in itslef as for getting money back from them, well you just have to persist.
Last March when I saw the surgeon who did the repair on my broken back he said he was very happy about the way I had healed and was looking to remove the plate in December, in fact a date was actually fixed for the 17th. I have continued to make good progress and apart from a bit of stiffness in the left ribs – possible due to a screw between two ribs- I am on good form. I still have stick from my other back injuries sustained in the job, but all in all I cant complain. In fact I have gone down two sizes on my waist line and am fitter than I have been for awhile having lost 18kg since this time last year. The only odd thing is that I have shrunk by about 5cm. I suppose it is not that odd bearing in mind the compression to the spine and all that, but what is strange is that I have gone from being a 31″ leg man (M&S sizes) to a 29″ leg. All my strides fall down and are baggy round the arse and the legs trail in the muck. I look like a shaven headed friendlier version of Charlie Chaplin.
However back to the bit about my op. When I rang the hospital for my pre op consultation I found that he has thrown in the towel and isn’t working any more. Who did I want to see instead? How the hell should I know, I don’t normally knock about with neurosurgeons if I can possibly help it. Not that I have anything agiants them but I think you know where I am coming form. Anyway I was on the spot and chose a bloke, who as it transpires is a top dog and is contracted to Stade Toulouse Rugby club and the French National side. The touble is this bloke is one of those fellas with a big forehead and looks brainy but here is the BUT. He looks about 8. When I went to his office I asked if his dad was in, he didn’t get it and I decided best not to alientate the bloke who is going to cut up up and ponce about with your spine so I let it go.
He looked at the x-rays and scans and then said he was not happy about taking the plate out for a whole load of reasons and that he would leave it in for at least another 12 months. I have to say I am not too disappointed, as the idea of being cut open the week before Christmas and being laid up (as opposed to getting laid) over the festive season did not really appeal. Although having said that if they were going to do it I dont suppose I would have had much choice. As it is, it aint going to happen.
I suppose the other thing to mention is the economic gloom we expat Brits are having due to the weakness of the pound to the Euro. We have seen a very significant hole in the income as all my pension originates in the UK. Having said that every cloud has a silver lining and it means that prices in the UK have become comparable and with the economic problems there and the reduction in VAT and the cutting of prices it does mean that Father Christmas will be doing a lot of shopping at Argos next week.
As it is I have just had a phone call telling me M&S – the surveillance officers outfitters – are have a 20% discount to day. Now this is exceptionally good news as M&S now deliver to France. I will pop over and buy some new vests and tousers that wont fall down or drag in the mud.
We were due to go to York for Christmas this year, but having thought I was goint to be in Hospital the week before and unable to travel we cancelled that plan. Instead MrsF and I are heading to York for a couple of days next week. I have some bits to attend to re Old Bids estate and I want to see my Aunty Mary who is 81 before Christmas. It is a shame we wont be there but it obviously was not meant to be. Mind you with the price of flights, the falling pound and the cost ofliving going up I dont know if we could have all aforded to go this year. All academic now anyway.
Right have to go as I have a wooden reindeer to make, a grotto to build and a whole host of other festive treats.