Many of you in the UK braced yourselves for snowfall this week, some of you experienced just a light dusting reminiscent of icing sugar on the top of a mouthwatering Victoria sponge cake and some of you received six to eight inches of deep, satisfying snow carpeting your immediate surroundings, causing temporary hysteria and hampering daily activities.
Some of you may have been aware that a large amount of France was blanketed in a jolly good dose of snow a couple of weeks back, so welcome to the club, glad you could finally join us!
Any of you that have recently experienced snowfall, will fully understand that my comment in my recent blog about the huge advancements we have made in technology and space exploration is all well and good but we still have made no advancements whatsoever in coping with the problems we face each year, when just a few centimeters of snow grace our homelands.
In many European countries, we are still absolutely crap at dealing with it despite that several other countries experience snow for a considerable amount of the year and cope perfectly well on a daily basis.
Paris was recently utterly gridlocked, even more so than normal, after a full day of snowfall.
A few weeks back my husband collected his new company vehicle. It was a Thursday and he collected it from the Citröen dealer in Limoges, however, due to the fact that his previous car was a Peugeot he could not simply drop off his old car and collect his new one, nothing could be that straightforward (and yes, his choice of company car must be from the Peugeot, Citröen or Renault ranges. You could never accuse the French of being unpatriotic!).
So, the next day he dutifully made the three and a half hour drive to return his previous company car back to his office HQ near Paris followed by a tedious five-hour train journey with no less than three connections. For this reason alone, he had deliberated about possibly delaying returning his previous car until such a time that he had additional reasons to visit headquarters, since he was not overly enamored with spending a day on trains, especially given his previous experiences of them, they seem to always be delayed or often even cancelled with no warning at all but with the Friday free in which to achieve it, he decided to bite the bullet and get it over and done with.
The following Monday he had an appointment with a client in Clermont Ferrand and was then to continue onward to Orange in Provence.
Unfortunately, on this particular Monday morning, it decided to snow …….. a lot!
He started his journey to Clermont, before being re-routed by Waze off of the motorway and onto some rather dodgy mountain back road. He assumed that perhaps the snow had caused chaos on the motorway, maybe a pile-up which was best avoided so against his instincts to remain on a well-beaten path, he followed the suggestion of Waze.
The back road was covered in lots of crisp, white, beautiful virgin snow, setting the thick forest around it in a scene reminiscent of a Christmas card. It was pretty as a picture. The scenery, however, was not really his foremost concern. At this point, he wished he hadn’t been quite so prompt at returning his old car to HQ since it had been fitted with winter tyres, whereas his new car, fresh off the production line was not and it was handling diabolically!
Thankfully, he seemed to be the only vehicle using this insane backwater road as he slowly and very gingerly steered his enormous barge, a Citröen C4 Grand Picasso around the winding mountain road.
The only person, that was, until his car slid around a corner on the wrong side of the road and he discovered just at that very moment that indeed there was another car using this otherwise deserted road and his car was now aimed directly at it with no brakes or steering to be employed.
BANG! The two cars kissed and danced and finally slid to a stop about twenty metres apart, both mercifully and quite incredibly managing to avoid leaving the road via the steep drop to one side which would have seen them plunging into the white forest beneath.
Remarkably, due to their cautious speeds and the fact that they bounced off each other with the snow propelling them in opposite directions, there was minimal damage to both vehicles. In fact, the other car seemed to have sustained no damage at all, whilst my husband’s brand new car (on its first outing since he collected it) had suffered a broken wing mirror and a slight scuff to the rear quarter. A completely unavoidable accident but fortunately just a minor clip which, given the circumstances, could have been a lot worse if either of them had been going any faster.
After various insurance forms were completed in French, diagrams were drawn and pleasantries exchanged with the other driver, my husband did eventually make it safely to Clermont, though several hours later than planned and now decidedly pissed off. Having finished his first appointment he unenthusiastically started his onward journey to Provence but the weather was worsening, there were orange alerts on the motorways with suggestions of using snow chains or turning back and he was forced to abandon the trip and return home.
Bizarrely, Waze again suggested he leave the motorway in favour of using mountain roads. The motorway was pretty bad by now but at least passable if you took it carefully, due to the volume of slow moving traffic and the fact that the snow ploughs were out in force. His experience of earlier that day made him believe that perhaps, in this instance, Waze was being a bit of a twat and was to be duly ignored. He finally made it back home just after eight o’clock that night.
With his Tuesday appointment now cancelled, that morning he got straight on to the support staff at his company and arranged for winter tyres to be fitted, so as to avoid a repeat of the previous day. Unfortunately, so it would seem, everyone else had awoken with the very same idea and the first appointment available anywhere in the Limoges area was the for the coming Friday.
With the snow worsening across France, companies and schools were closing, public transport was cancelled until further notice, lorries were being taken off the roads and there was nothing to do except sit and wait for the weather to clear in other parts of France so that his visits could resume.
Being effectively snowed-in for a day or two does have its merits of course. With three whole evenings dedicated to the cause, we managed to binge watch the entire first season of ‘Altered Carbon’ on Netflix, which despite some really poor reviews that almost had us not bother with it at all, it was actually quite brilliant. If you have Netflix, it’s definitely worthy of a watch, especially if you have previously enjoyed any of the following films; ’Demolition Man’, ‘Bladerunner’, ‘Strange Days’, ‘The Matrix’.
For me this first season was excellent, it was well balanced and very enjoyable. There was no midway slump like their tends to be in a lot of TV shows and each episode was like a blockbuster film with abundant action sequences, very high-quality visual effects and plenty of surprises throughout. There are some rather unsavory scenes of violence and torture but I wouldn’t watch anything that is too gratuitous so I feel that these were kept to the minimum, just sufficient enough to depict the storyline and reveal the true horrors of a world where the very rich and powerful can essentially live forever and in their infinite boredom and desire for ever new experiences, their morals become almost non-existent.
I have never read any of the Takeshi Kovacs novels written by Richard K.Morgan upon which the series is based, so I can’t speak for how true they are to the written word (normally of utmost importance to avid fans) but having seen this season, I would now certainly be very interested to read them. I’ve been looking for something to fill the abyss left by Michael Crichton’s very sad and premature departure from our world.
What an utter loss that was to the literary world. The man was a genius!
Friday morning came and with more snow forecast for the weekend, my husband travelled down to Limoges in a light snowfall for his appointment to have his winter tyres fitted.
Upon showing the employee in the tyre centre his email confirmation of his order for four winter tyres and an appointment for that particular day at 11am, he was met with that very common and typically French, confused look.
They checked the computer twice and each time my husband was met with a definitive “Non! Nous n’avons pas votre commande!”
No apology, no explanation, no suggestion of a future alternative appointment, just “Non” ultimately accompanied by that infamous Gallic shrug which can be translated in many different ways, for example “I don’t know”, “there is nothing I can do” or “I simply don’t give a shit”
In the end, there was nothing to be done but turn around and drive back home again, in the now worsening snow.
The snow that he assumed he would be returning in with WINTER TYRES fitted!
When referring to our fairly typical experiences of French customer service, or often lack thereof, we frequently start sentences with phrases like “I can’t believe……” or “Surely, you would think that……..” but of course by now, we realise what an entire waste of breath and frustration it is.
Realistically, having lived here as long as we have, we should be more than capable of anticipating the fact that EVERYTHING is exceedingly complicated, to the point that if anything EVER is actually achieved the first time, it is in fact cause for some considerable celebration and we are unexpectedly beside ourselves with both joy and surprise.
No doubt, my husband will eventually get an email or a phone call sometime in June to say that the tyres he requested are now in stock.
I imagine his response will be something like this…….
For now though, thankfully, the snows have cleared again here, the sun is shining, the sky is clear and blue and it’s a balmy 14 degrees C out there which is a considerable change from the -8C that it was last night! One wonders how there can be such a huge shift in temperature in the space of just a few hours! Winter tyres are hopefully far off the agenda and depending on whether your preference for determining the seasons is meteorological or astronomical (I checked this several times believing that the word I should be using is ‘astrological’ but apparently not!), we’ve either just enjoyed the first day of Spring or it’s only 17 more days until the first official day of Spring!
Either way, warmer weather is beckoning which is a truly wonderful thought and on that cheerful note, I wish to you all a truly glorious weekend and hope that your signs of Spring are not too far away.
The Virtual Recluse
P.S. For any of you who might be wondering why Waze had twice tried to direct my husband from using well-lit motorways during heavy snow, well all I can report is that it is essential to check ALL of the apps travel preference settings before EVERY journey and make sure that the ‘avoid toll roads’ selection is not activated!
How this happened we don’t know, perhaps an app update reactivated some default settings but suffice to say, lesson duly learnt!