Just realised it's over two weeks since I last bloggeaued. Probably 'cos nothing worthy of note has happened recently. Indeed, a long lost cousin even asked if my absence was due to illness. Nah, just laziness and a lack of imagination. Renewed contact with her and other cousins from Mum's side of the family a couple of weeks ago when I discovered her email address in a dusty old drawer. I've said it before and I'll probably say it again: amazing stuff, the internet, for keeping in touch. Trouble is, one of my long lost cousins flatly refuses to have anything to do with computers. Fair enough, they can be daunting. Having been informed of my Luddite cousin's new address, I keep meaning to dig out my old fountain pen and write her a letter. Seems so very quaint in this hi-tech age.
Anyways..., so..., picking up from where I left off in my last posting, I did indeed make that second trip to Ussel to have another look at those modern telly systems. Still had difficulty understanding the technicalities of the various tellys on display in the supermarket showroom. Seemed very easy to spend a couple of grand (at least) on a mammoth screen, stand, speakers, DVD unit, another 'leccy unit thing (dunno what it is but it seems to be part of the kit) and a whole host of other bits'n'bobs which are apparently necessary in order to watch or listen to your fave progs. All seemed far too complicated to moi, not to mention bleedin' expensive. So, once again, I left the showroom empty-handed and totally confused.
The following day, I visited the supermarket at Aubusson to check out the half dozen, cut price, 40 and 32 inch Sony Bravias I'd seen there the previous week (probably last year's models or even earlier, but who cares!). Walked out with a 32 incher for just 380 euros (about 330 quid?). Pleased as Punch. Problem solved. No need for extra speakers, boxes, cables, wotsits and various other hi-tech gadgetry, or a living room the size of tennis court. Being used to a 26 inch screen (always thought it was quite big enough), this new 32 incher is positively massive. Was thinking of going for the 40 incher but rather relieved I didn't, a) because of price (around 600 euros - much cheaper than a lot of stuff out there but still way too expensive for a tight-fisted geriatric comme moi), and b) because the screen's too damned big for my comfy little upstairs telly-viewing area!
Jumped the gun a bit there. While I was at Ussel, after visiting the telly showroom, I dropped into the VW garage to see if I could make an appointment for a mechanic to check out my malfunctioning digital dashboard. All very tricky to explain, especially as I hardly speak a word of French. Luckily they understood. Booked me in for Friday (last week) at 2pm.
Being the pessimist that I undoubtedly am, I reckon the digital dashboard is beyond repair. I'd done a bit of reasearch and discovered that replacement ones are no longer available from VW. However, very, very occasionally they come up second-hand on eBay. Luckily, just before my Friday appointment at the VW garage, I spotted a mk.2 Golf GTi 'Match' digital dashboard unit being auctioned on French eBay. Put in a winning bid seconds before the auction ended and sent off a 104 euro cheque (when new units were available, they were priced at around a grand!). Now, if the mechanic confirmed my suspicions that the unit was dead as a dodo, I could at least tell him I'd tracked down a possible replacement. How do you say hens' teeth in French? (If I spouted 'dents de poulet' to him, he'd think I was bonkeurs. Still, I'm used to it.)
Drove up there last Friday at around luchtime. Beautiful sunny day. Spotted some steam rising in a forest by the roadside. Shafts of sunlight drying out the forest floor. Looked rather impressive so I doubled back and took some snaps. Why do I do this? Seems daft.
Ah well. Arrived at the garage at 2pm, dropped the car off and was told to wait in reception while the mechanic did his stuff. After an hour, the cheery mechanic woke me up by waving the dashboard in my face. Said he'd checked the electrical connections and they were all fine. Now he had to take it apart and have a look at the circuitry. Told me to come back after four. Killed the time by wandering around Ussel. It's a town that's old at the centre and modern on the outside - a bit like the rings on a tree stump. Did the tourist bit and took a few snaps of historical buildings. But the one that really interested me was an old butcher's shop in the middle of town. Looked like it had been shut for years. Yet another casualty of the new supermarkets at the edge of town. There are more and more boarded-up shops like this appearing throughout France. And the UK too. Great shame. Still, I guess that's progress.
Returned to the garage, armed with a fresh baguette, and reported at reception. Mechanic spotted me through the window of the workshop and waved me in. He'd taken the unit apart and spread the innards out over a table. Pointed to the printed circuit board and said a couple of bits had 'blown'. He might be able to fix 'em or maybe not. Either way, I had to leave the car there or risk being stopped by the police (happens a lot in France) who'd inevitably spot the absence of a dashboard and thus issue me with a death warrant. Told him I'd tracked down another unit on eBay but it probably won't arrive 'til next week. If the dismantled one was totally kaput, he could replace it with the eBay one. He apologised for the inconvenience of keeping the car there but then reminded me that he'd warned me of this eventuality (indeed he had but I'd hoped for a simple fix - optimist? moi?). Returned to reception, burst into tears and wailed "woe eez moi, I'm a long way from home, bereft of wheels and I'm going to die and then there'll be nobody to feed my dogs." Luckily, the matron of the establishment took pity and rang up the local bus (pronounced 'booze') station. "Booze leaves for Felletin at 5pm in forty minutes. It's down there opposite the (spit) Ford garage, next to the train station. Bon courage." Thanked the charming lady for her much appreciated assistance and wandered off into the sunset clutching a slightly bent baguette.
Arrived at the station about ten minutes later and made the mistake of asking a street cleaner where I could catch the Felletin booze. I say 'mistake' because he then wanted to know who I was, where I lived, what I was doing in Ussel, and indeed, what I was doing in France when I could be far better off living in Angleterre (clearly he had a rosy view of England and a thorny opinion of France). Answered all his questions as best I could and then sought sanctuary in a nearby caff. Coffee done, and sitting outside the caff puffing on a rollie, I then spotted the street cleaner's wife waving at me in the distance (at least I assumed she's his wife because they were sharing a Thermos and rowing - a sure giveaway of marital bliss). Wandered over to her and she introduced me to the Felletin booze driver. Asked him for a ticket to Felletin. Told me I had to get one from the next door railway station. Joined a long queue of spotty youths, eventually purchased a ticket and hopped on booze with seconds to spare. Very pleased there weren't many passengers so chose the best seat and looked forward to a quiet trip through hills and forests bathed in the rich pink of evening sunlight.
Five minutes later, after we'd stopped outside some school, I was up to my neck in 'orrible, screaming kids. Stayed that way for most of the trip. Luckily, a whole bunch of the noisy little blighters jumped off at La Courtine, by which time the sun had set. With peace and quiet almost reigning, I nodded off on the final twenty kilometre downhill stretch to Felletin. Woke up when the booze shuddered to an abrupt halt. It was 6.15pm and dark. And I was still a long way (7 kms.) from home. Popped into my fave caff and asked the proprietor (a charming chap) if he could book me a cab. One turned up half an hour later. Home just before seven with a very bent baguette. Quick dogwalk and one large scotch later, I was back to normal.
This is normal?!
A Winters's Harvest
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