Saturday, 22 December 2007

Baaaaah Humbug

“T’was the week before Christmas, and all through the house, the appliances were breaking down, and Mummy became a total grouse…”

Is it just me or have we slipped into a parallel universe or something? Is The Doctor on the prowl, battling some unseen electronic foe on behalf of mankind while we only see the fall-out? If so, do you think he’ll lend me his Sonic Screwdriver for a bit? So far this week the phone spent a day in a huff, the boiler has been playing silly buggers, the oven has a cob on and to cap it all the coffee machine is having a tantrum. The toaster won’t toast, the hair-dryer won’t dry and the tumble dryer is making a very weird noise. Plus the dog has decided that ‘come here’ now means ‘run away in the opposite direction as fast as you can’. What’s going on?!!

All I have to say is BAH HUMBUG! I need a big injection of Christmas spirit, preferably single malt and no ice. On the positive side the presents are all bought and wrapped and hidden, but I haven’t actually packed any clothes for our trip yet because I have been running in circles trying to sort out the curve-balls and round up the dog. I was telling my Mum all about my woes on the phone yesterday, ringing off at one point to have yet another go at Pickle for trying to ride the dog like a horse (he just doesn’t get it) then calling back to carry on my rant. She was very tolerant; I think I even got away with all the swearing I was doing. I’m seeing her on Sunday so I’ll soon know. Her response though? She laughed. I guess she’s seen it all before – kids teasing the dog, dog chewing the fixtures and fittings, fixtures and fittings that break down just when everyone is leaving town for the holidays… I hope one day I can muster a giggle too. In the meantime, I am promised a very relaxing Christmas chez Ma & Pa and I can’t wait to get there – provided the newly mended car doesn’t join in the fun and games of course. We are dumping the dog with friends who have a boisterous puppy themselves whom Tiggy adores so I hope she behaves.

Meanwhile, I need to find a babysitter for the boiler because the plumber wasn’t able to fix it because it needs a new part. We seem to be plagued by boilers more than anything else, having had to fully replace the one in our own house in England after it drove our tenant insane for 3 years. The one in our French house has been playing up ever since we moved in, and it was brand new at that point. Who can forget the 300 euro water leak it produced on Christmas Eve two years ago? Well now it keeps losing pressure and switching itself off every night – just as we’re going through a cold spell with temperatures of minus 5 every night. Luckily I know the trick for getting it working again but it’s been Siberia in my slippers each morning for the past week and last thing I have then wanted to do is venture into the garage to talk nicely to the boiler. Thankfully the plumber only lives across the road and kindly excused the whopping errors in my French - just my luck that the verb for ‘to lower’ is only one letter different from the verb for ‘to shag’ so you can look a proper numpty if you pronounce it wrong… I think he got the message that rather than getting fruity with the thermostat each evening all I actually did was lower the temperature on it. While we wait for the spare part we need to keep the temperature up to avoid it switching off so now it’s more Sahara than Siberia; the dog is laying herself across the front door trying to catch a draft and I have been forced to reduce my customary 4 jumpers down to 1. But it could all go pear-shaped while we are away so that we return to a walk in freezer for a house with a bunch of frozen pipes. Oh the joy.

But I really must tell you about my great discovery last week. Having tolerated all the bureaucracy and crazy rules here for the last 3+ years - like giving way to the right on the roads, needing a medical certificate to sign-up to any sport and needing my passport as id before my kids can be left in the crèche at IKEA – I have found an area where the Brits have surpassed their French cousins by miles (or rather kilometres). It’s the Pet Travel Scheme. It sucks. I mentioned last time that I had to visit the vet the next day. Well, I came back spitting feathers, and not from a run-in with a low-flying budgerigar either. Here’s the thing. I want to take my dog to England now that she won’t have to wallow in quarantine for 6 months. I did some research on the internet and saw how many hoops you have to jump through in order to be allowed into other countries with a dog. Of course for the UK it’s not so much a few hoops as a full-on assault course, due to ‘our’ morbid terror of rabies (‘la rage’ as its called over here. Yup, the red tape will fill you with ‘rage’ I can tell you.) But it wasn’t until I went to see the vet that I found out that you also have to do it all in the right order otherwise the blokes at the border won’t let you into the country. I thought we were halfway there since Tiggy already has her tattoo and a rabies vaccination certificate. But the UK has rejected the tattoo as a valid form of id, only a microchip will do. So that effectively renders her rabies certificate invalid as well for the purposes of importing the dog. Ohmygod, I am starting to sound like a page from the DEFRA website. Someone stick a muzzle on me quick.

Long story short, we’ve had to start the process all over again: first the microchip, then the rabies jab, then the blood test (to check the rabies jab has produced enough antibodies) then a wait of SIX MONTHS before she can set foot (paws) on UK soil. And along the way you have to properly register the chip in order to get the Doggy Passport, which she also needs, but at this point the French put the boot in and won’t register the microchip unless she also has a tattoo! Merci beaucoup. You know, living here has added a whole new meaning to that phrase ‘mad as a box of frogs’… As of this afternoon I have indeed truly seen it all. Walking through the muddy forest earlier Tiggy and I came across a little old lady with her over-weight and bad-tempered Doberman. The lady was in full make-up... and a calf-length fur coat. Vive la France.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Just a quick word

I am determined to Blog a few lines before another fortnight slips by, especially as I have just included my Blog address in all my Christmas cards, telling my friends and rellies they can catch up on all our news here. So a hearty ‘Welcome!’ to any new readers; don’t fret, you will get all the gossip but only when I can disentangle my boy from the keyboard and myself from the daily turmoil and actually concentrate for half an hour. I am hopeful I may get away with it now as the kiddies are involved in a very interesting sounding game upstairs which has Pickle going by the name of Agatha and Poppet sporting shorts and a strappy top despite the inch of frost outside. At least they aren’t tormenting the dog who is currently flaked out on her bed after wolfing down a huge bone. I thought dogs were only supposed to gnaw on bones but ours likes to actually eat them - after crunching them into little pieces on my best rug of course. Then she buries what remains in the plant pots in the garden to marinade for a few days before digging them back up for another chew.

So, all is relatively calm at the moment, which makes a nice change from chasing my tail taking the kids to school, the dog to the park and the car to the garage. Yes, the brand new car is in for repair already and I am pootling about in a courtesy Fiesta. Oh the shame! Mind you, it’s a whole lot easier to park, I just hope they won’t mind all the baguette crumbs that Pickle has already smothered across the back seat. I should have known not to get a Ford, no matter how good the reports about the S-Max in What Car, with our luck we were always going to get a dud. Still, the garage didn’t sound too worried when I explained the problem. Luckily my French teacher was able to furnish me with an appropriate translation of ‘the bastard thing keeps cutting out!’

Meanwhile the whole household has gone Christmas crazy, spurred on by the children who are so excited that they had the tree up on 1st December and are ploughing their way through 4 advent calendars. We have a chart on the wall counting the ‘sleeps’ to the big day which they started crossing off in November. I didn’t get much of a look-in on the decorations this year; I was only required to trail some lights around the tree after Poppet had gone at it. It looks as though someone has vomited tinsel and baubles all over it, but we’re very proud she dressed it all herself. I’ve been busy in the kitchen instead. I’ve made mincemeat, shortbread, gingerbread and mince pies and Nobby made a Christmas cake. Someone stop me or I’ll be putting the sprouts on next. And we’re not even going to be here for it, we’re heading back to Blighty for a change. Wish me luck trying to hide all the parcels in the car. Mine still believe in Santa so they get a bit confused whenever presents turn up here in the post. They reckon the elves do all the shopping and wrapping – huh! if only! You have to sharpen your elbows before venturing to the shops these days. At least Nobby and I have agreed a system to make sure we get what we really want this year. We buy whatever it is we fancy and give it to the other one to wrap up for Christmas Day! I’m very pleased about it and Nobby is being exceptionally generous this year…

It has now taken me two days to write all this so I am going to publish and run before something else happens to interrupt me. The kids are both staying for lunch at school tomorrow and I am sooooo looking forward to a day on my own. Of course the dog needs to go to the vet now and I have a room full of presents to wrap but at least the soundtrack will be more Simply Red than simply shouting.

And… relax.