All was going well.
Well, when I say 'well', I really mean not too badly.
Up 'til now that is.
It's 7.30am, Wednesday. Last leg of the journey back to France from Scotland after watching Sunday's rugby. We've been up since 3.30. That's four hours. I'm just about to board the homeward plane from Stansted to Limoges. A female passport and boarding pass looker-atterer is asking me to place my hand baggage in the hand baggage measuring cage thingy. If it fits, then okay. If it doesn't, I have to pay extra and it goes in the hold. Fine, no problem. Or so I thought. However, minutes earlier, Christian had been told he could only take one item of hand baggage aboard, not two. So he'd transferred all his Scottish shortbread pack presents from a large carrier bag into his Adidas sports bag, which was already bursting at the seams with various personal and rather aromatic items of clothing, plus a sweater present for Isabelle, plus a Scotland hoodie top for Hadrien. Only they wouldn't all fit. So he'd shoved a couple of massive shortbread packs into my bag without thinking of the consequences (this being Christian's first trip abroad, he isn't well versed in the sensitive issues of cabin baggage weights and sizes - although I have emphasised on more than one occasion the importance of sticking within the limits). So, while my chum merrily scampers down that plane-boarding corridor having been okayed by the Gestapo, I'm left with the problem of trying to force a bag that's recently doubled in size into a hole that plainly isn't having it.
To make matters worse, I'm ill (being a hermit recluse, whenever I enter heavily populated areas, i.e. populations of around half a dozen or more, I immediately get hit with whatever germs are doing the rounds - this week it's apparently killer swine 'flu, with added bronchitis and probable pneumonia). Buckets of sweat drip from my hot head while I continue my battle with the confounded bag. The female passport and boarding pass lookerer-atterer clearly senses victory. A slight smile slithers across her face, like a snake. Any minute now she'll force me to give up and pay the price of being a RyanAir cheat. But I won't be beaten. Emptied bag, repacked, forced into hole upside down. Tight squeeze but it fitted. Then spent a good ten minutes trying to get the damned thing back out. Eventually boarded plane. Having been in Christian's close company for nigh on six days I was rather hoping for a seat to myself. But there was Christian, right down t'other end of avion, waving me forward to a tiny seat he'd saved in-between himself in the aisle and that other big bloke by the window. Ah well, never mind. Just play sardines. Piggy in the middle. Could be cramped but you'll soon be home.
Landed at Limoges around elevenish (French time), had a couple of coffees, found car and drove seventy miles home, collecting the dogs from the kennels on the way. Stopped off at our local town for a rustic lunch. Christian paid. Enormously grateful for his first trip abroad. And first time in an aeroplane. Excitedly entertained the other diners with tales of our adventure while knocking back a couple of much-missed Ricards. Couldn't really catch what was being said but everyone seemed mightily impressed. Then drove to Christian's and dropped him off. Insisted I come inside for a coffee. Went inside. Isabelle appeared from her after-work snooze. Showed her the snaps on the digital camera with Christian commenting. Then joined by Claude the plumber who's apparently been working on our house for the last couple of days. Eventually made it back home at around five-ish. Water disconnected - no water, no washing, no loo. Lit upstairs stove (Claude had already lit kitchen stove), gave dogs a quick run, fed and watered them (found six bottles of water behind fridge) and made tea. Then had a quick scotch. Phone rang. Hadrien. Come round immediately with camera. Claude's brother wants to see snaps. Went round. Stayed for supper. Isabelle kept saying how grateful Christian is for the trip. Hopefully he'll dine out on it for weeks. Returned home at around tennish. Snowing. Went straight to bed. Knackered.
Next morning (Thursday - yesterday), fancied a lie-in but no chance. Claude due to turn up at around 8.30am. Damn, didn't get any logs in last night. Kitchen stove's gone out and the upstairs stove's nearly burnt out too. No choice but to get outside to the woodshed and grab a few armfulls. So, wearing dressing gown and boots, I trudged through a foot of snow and stocked up. Then, with indoor loo non functioning, took advantage of the great outdoors. Damned chilly. (Shall spare further description as it falls into the 'too much information' category.) Spent the day trying to keep out of Claude's way but did lend a hand carrying the eyesore water tank from its former prominent position at eye level above the sink to its new position under the stairs. Messy old bizzo this plumbing lark. Downstairs floor all rather splashy. Claude plans to rectify a few leaky connections after lunch. This gave me a welcome two-hour break. First couple of hours I've had to myself in what seems like weeks. Went upstairs and checked emails, watery footprints marking route. Eighty three messages. Mostly Viagra, with loads about fake Rolexes, plus the usual 'bank requires you to log in again' scams. Scumbags. Then Claude re-appeared on the dot of two. Said the road to town was almost snow-blocked. Hmm, better make a dash for the supermarche and get stocked up (cupboard was bare). Slid off the road down the bottom of the hill. Chap pulled me out with his 4x4 and a rope. Stocked up and returned home. Snow thicker. Claude knocked off at 6.30. Bliss, time on my own. Knock on door. Christian. How's the plumbing? I've come for a look. Come round to supper. Went round to supper. Returned home tennish. Thick snow. Quick dogwalk. Bed.
This morning, Claude arrived at 9am. Old loo now standing in kitchen. Task is to plumb in new upstairs loo into old loo waste pipe. As I said, messy old bizzo. Shall visit local bank this afternoon to see if I can get some dosh out to pay Claude. I understand he's hoping to finish 'Stage 1' today. Hope that road down to town stays open.
Am really looking forward to a quiet week-end in.
Damn, just remembered: been invited round to Isabelle's birthday Sunday afternoon.
Taking a pause
1 month ago