Willkommen Bienvenue Welcome

Welcome, gentle readers.

This is an everyday tale of regular folk, who moved from Sheffield to the deepest Corrèze in France Profonde and thence to the rather more cosmopolitan Lot in search of something… different. We certainly found it.

The Lot is an area of outstanding natural beauty. Reputedly, a famous TV globetrotter was asked where, of all the places in the world he had visited, he might return to. He answered, ‘The Lot’.

Fans of Channel 4’s Grand Designs will know that we built a somewhat quirky straw bale house-with-a-view here in the Lot, not far from the celebrated Dordogne river. You can read all about it in my book,
Bloody Murder On The Dog's Meadow, or watch the re-runs of the programme on More 4, or view it on You Tube.

After a break in the proceedings to write a book or two, this blog now takes the form of an everyday journal. Sometimes things happen, sometimes they don't (but the art school dance goes on forever). I hope it will give you an entertaining insight into what it's like to live in a foreign country; what it's like in the slow lane as an ex-pat Brit in deepest France.

I shall undertake to update this once or twice a week, unless absent on leave. Comments always welcomed, by the way, but I do tend to forget what buttons to click in order to answer them.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Summa Cum Laude

Of all the stupid things to do – and Lord knows, I’ve done more than my fair share – dropping my mobile phone down the loo must be a serious contender for the Golden Biscuit. 

And how, Mr. Sampson, did you possibly manage to do that?

Well, your Honour, it was like this. On Friday morning, my daughter had to go in early with her mother in order to pick up the results of her baccalaureate. A whole nation, it seemed, was holding its breath. Articles had appeared in newspapers; speculation was rife. Children – or young adults, I should say, your Honour – were worrying whether they would get that new Renault they had been promised, or be beaten soundly and sent to bed.  

My daughter had promised to text me as soon as she knew, so I was wandering around the house like ‘Nervous’ O’Toole, clutching my old beaten-up Sagem (which was handed down by my wife first to my daughter and then to me), because I’d been told that you shouldn’t carry them around in your pocket or you might get testicular cancer, and I needed to faire pipi you see, and… well, it’s kind of difficult to do two things at once and…

Yes! Thank you. That’s quite enough. We’re all capable of using our imagination, I believe. So your telephone fell into the… loo, as you refer to it. And then presumably you retrieved it?

I did your Honour. I fished it out pronto. But I had that awful feeling that the game was up. It’s not, you understand, that I’m conjoined to my mobile phone. I’ve only really started using it, fairly reluctantly, in the last year or so, but I’ve grown rather fond of that unlovely Sagem and I take a pride in its lack of features. So I did whatever I could to save it: drying it with a towel, blow-drying the insides with my daughter’s hairdryer, cradling it in my hands, laying it out in the sun. At one point, it gave an awful lowing sound, like the death-throe of some bovine animal, and an unnatural blue light lit up the keypad, and after that everything went lifeless. I’ve tried countless times to revive it, because I’ve heard from friends that mobile phones can start working again several days after a trauma, rising Lazarus-like from the dead one might say, but increasingly I came to feel that my Sagem was an ex-phone.

I see. So we’ve established, I think, that mobile phones – even of a certain age – are unlikely to survive a dunk in the lavatory. In that case, how, pray, did you find out about your daughter’s results?

Well, I had to phone my wife. But she was, it appeared, in the middle of a session with a client. So I had to leave a message and wait. And wait. So I couldn’t possibly get on with anything, could I?  

That’s a matter of opinion. Please confine yourself to answering the question.  
I am. I’m just getting there. Believe me, I honestly couldn’t get on with any work. So I was left to pace around the house until the phone rang. Back and forth, back and forth, occasionally stopping to tug the dog’s rope or sweep up some of his fur-balls. And then the phone rang – or peeped I should say, because there’s a problem with the cheap phone that I bought from Lidl. 

We are not here to praise or ‘diss’ (I think they say now) your supermarket of choice, Mr. Sampson. Kindly keep to the point.

I’m sorry, your Honour. I was just trying to build up a little tension. Anyway, I recognised the phone’s dysfunctional peep, and I fumbled with the receiver in my efforts to pick it up before the messagerie clicks in, because there’s barely enough time to say ‘Jack Robinson’ before it does so, and I still haven’t worked out how to give us more time to get to the phone…

Yes, yes, yes. That’s all quite irrelevant. Who was on the other end of the phone? Was it your wife or was it your daughter? 

I can’t remember. They both phoned within minutes of each other. The upshot of the matter is that the kid got her bac. She got a mention bien, which I think equates roughly to an A overall. But it’s all very complicated and confusing. Her final average mark was 15.52 out of 20, so she was 0.48 points away from a mention très bien. I think. It’s all got something to do with multiplication by coefficients. She scored a full house for her art, and because the coefficient is 2, she scored either 20 points or 40 points, since you multiply the coefficient by either 10 or 20. I’m not sure. However, she incinerated her philosophy and scored only 8 out of 20. Because the French are a philosophical race and because it therefore carries a coefficient of 7, you multiply the marks below the pass mark of 10 to obtain a score of minus 14 – which put a spanner in the works and caused her to slip under the threshold of A plus-itude. Which would have been, I suppose, the equivalent of the American ‘summa cum laude’.  

Mr. Sampson, what are you talking about? It all sounds quite ludicrous. I’m more concerned to know whether she was pleased.

Oh yes. Pleased and relieved. At one point, she’d even worried about failure. But I’d been prepared to bet what’s left of our life savings on her getting the result she obtained. But I didn’t, which is a shame, or we’d be quids-in (assuming that we could have found a PMU in France, prepared to offer attractive odds on such an outcome). So, yes, she was chuffed. But just a teensy bit disappointed, because she sets herself such high standards.

And you? The proud parent? You’ll be buying her that Renault, I shouldn’t wonder.

No. I never promised her a rose garden, so to speak. I couldn’t afford one anyway. My daughter has no great ambition to drive currently. And I don’t believe in bribing our children to achieve. School’s quite hard enough. 

Laudable, I’m sure. And what of the mobile phone?

Well, it seems to be resolutely dead. But kind friends of mine have given me their old phones, now that they’ve both got iPhones.

So, all’s well that ends well?

Hmm. The trouble is, they’re Orange phones. So they won’t take my SIM card. So I have to beg Orange to be charitable and unlock whichever phone I choose, so I can use it.

I see. So what are you in that case, Mr. Sampson?

A nit-wit, your Honour. A big old imbecilic Hector. I should be taken away from here to a place of punishment and soundly thrashed.

You said it, not I.

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