vendredi 10 septembre 2010

C is for Communication

C is for Communication

Cela ne casse pas trois pattes a un canard — it’s nothing to write home about

It’s good to talk — and write, and twitter and email…

Remember, when you buy your dream home in France, that one day in the not- too-distant future, you will have to spell out your new address to someone in the UK or, even more alarmingly, a call centre in Mumbai.

With our address including — Chemin du Tour du Pre (five words), Saint Antonin Noble Val (four words) and the optional Tarn et Garonne (three words), it was never going to be easy. Generally, people cope with the first line OK, but by the second they are beginning to lose the will to live. The word France, however, seems to pose few problems.

We have had letters addressed to us in Sant Antoni Noble Val, Saint Antonia Noble Val (I have a friend called Antonia, so am quite fond of that one), Saint Antonin Nobel Valley and Saint Antonin Noel Val. The latter was from HM Revenue and Customs, so didn’t contain tidings of seasonal joy. We have also been transported to the Torn et Garonne, but it could have been Gavin’s Scottish accent to blame there. Accents do have an impact on your address, as a former colleague, who originates from Birmingham, found when she took a job with the Bucks Free Press and was puzzled to get letters addressed to her at Box 3 Press; and workers in Mersey House in Liverpool were equally perplexed to receive missives destined for Miss Maisie House.

Still our postman is very good and has helped himself and others by writing our name in BIG letters on our post box and delivering anything arriving in Saint Antonin from to us first.

But it’s not just the post. You also need a telephone. When we moved in, it was great ­­— we had a phone and a phone number. We phoned friends and family to spread the good news. They called us back. That lasted three days. Then we were told we were actually using our predecessors’ line and number, as they had apparently failed to inform France Telecom that they had departed. Blissfully ignorant and enjoying their new life in Charente Maritime, they were paying for our calls to the UK. And non, said France Telecom, we couldn’t keep the line or the number. We had to start again.

Three months later, after numerous visits to the Orange [part of France Telecom] shop in Montauban — easily recognizable by the crowd of dejected-looking people gathered outside, waiting for the doors to open — several visits to us by Cyrille of Orange on his moped, two defective Live boxes, various different explanations about the cause of the delay, lots of mobile phone calls and several letters, we eventually got our phone and broadband. And a questionnaire from Orange asking — “How did we do?”

During our Orange-less period, we had to use the Mediatheque [the local library that offers Internet access] in town for all our Internet needs. And they were fierce in there. On my first visit, I had already completed the necessary paperwork, booked my slot and arrived in good time. The lady at reception looked at her watch, frowned at me, and told me that there were ‘encore 3 minutes’ before I could be allowed anywhere near the computer, despite the fact no one was using it at the time. And the man at the next desk was severely admonished — he was using a computer when his girlfriend came in to find him. He let her look at her Facebook page while she was there. Bad idea. Madame from reception marched over and informed the poor girl that she could not touch the computer without first filling in the appropriate forms and showing them a copy of her electricity bill. (Forget national identity cards, all you need in France is an electricity bill — it’s the passport to everything.)

Communication. It’s not easy. Was it our accents or our handwriting? There must be a reason why, among at least one group of French acquaintances, we seem forever destined to be Govan and Dolly.

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