Sunday, January 23, 2011

Our first car

We have managed to purchase a car, which in itself was a good accomplishment, however this transaction was done completely in French. I had narrowed down the make and model, so it was a question of finding a nice one at the lowest possible price. After exhaustive research on different British and French review websites, i settled on a 2000 to 2002 Peugeot 406 2.0 liter diesel sedan. My favorite research site over here is called "Leboncoin" it has every thing for sale, and in all price ranges. It is an excellent method of finding the value for anything, kind of like ebay over in the states, or a craigs list with photos, but without perverts. It was on Leboncoin that I found our particular car, from a dealer so it comes with a six month guarantee. So we phoned the garage and set an appointment for just after two, one never makes appointments between 12 and 2 as that is the national lunchtime. Then prior to heading over we mapquested the address and took a couple notes, a couple notes to few to be honest. After an hour and a half to drive a half hour away we arrive at the garage, the car in the add was washed, but not since then. We proceeded into the shop and waited fifteen minutes for someone to help us, and I mentioned that I was interested in looking at the Peugeot voiture pour avandre(car for sale) the nice lady smiled and pointed at the garage next door as we had been waiting in the Control Technique, which is the French vehicle inspection location. we proceed out of the shop and into the adjacent garage and after waiting fifteen minutes a man approaches us and asks what he can do for us. I again ask to look at the car, so he motions that he will be with us shortly. He takes care of a few things and then gathers the car keys and we take a walk out to the future workhorse. It is everything and less one could want for a first car in a foreign country, firstly there are thousands upon thousands of them so you don't stick out in traffic or more importantly in a parking lot. Then there is their bullet proof four cyclinder diesel, the main selling point in my mind, that is their equivilent of the chevy v8. The car does have a nice aesthetic in my eyes, so we took it for a test drive, it was a bit spongey but tight for the couple hundred thousand kilometers it had traveled. So we return the car to the lot and tell him that we are interested, Cindy negeotiates for a lower offer, the reply is that he is barely making any money on it as it is. We accept that and tell him that we would like to buy it. We go into the waiting area and he returns with a stack of papers, through the process of filling out the required papers, showing our year long residency visa, bank account,and a bill from a utility company, we discover that included in the cost he will get the car certified and make any repairs required. He has also told us that we will get four new tires, he will register the car and get new plates for it. If you think that buying a car in a foreign language is dodgy, try imagining going to the local dmv and registering it, hearing that bit of news had Cindy and I close to making out in front of the guy; we were so excited. We had shown up thinking that we would pay for the car and drive off with it, but we realised that we would be lucky to get the car next week. Above this entry the photograph is of a simular car, except that ours is a silver gray. We also asked him since it didn't have a trailer hitch on it would it be possible for him to buy one and install it, his reply was a typical "but that is my job." We paid a down payment and left, realising that we now were a lot more independant and able to get around with out the confines of a rented car, not exactly like a teenager with a first car, but close. Which brings to mind Caleigh asking to borrow the car shortly.

If there are any requests for me to write about something specific, something you might find interesting that I haven't thought of please write it in the comments area, and Yes I will write more about Caleigh as I have been very observant of her harried life lately, but wanting to give her privacy. Even though we have signed her up for appearances on the T.V. show as well as us. Hipocrite?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A day or two in the life.

Wednesday: I am tired; I guess the invigorating aspect hasn’t kicked in yet. I woke up and drove Caleigh to school this morning, returned to meet with an electrical contractor. The walk through went well as I described the rewire that would be required for a house that was last updated a week before Edison put forth his concept of electricity. Each room has one rather shaky looking plug, and all the switches are mounted on the wall with the wiring stapled to the wall. It really makes you think twice before getting up in the middle of the night and running your hand across the wall searching for the switch. I fear one morning Cindy will wake up and find me smoldering doing an altogether too real impersonation of Don King. But the good news is we got our house phone and Wi-Fi last night and both laptops are receiving a signal. Cindy then went to pick up Caleigh from school as Wednesday is half day for the students, she is then driving to Bergerac for an abbreviated shopping spree, bowls, another blanket, kitchen stuff, and I imagine some new clothes for the young one. I stayed around and tore down all the old telephone wiring, as the new service is located in the office, and the remote phones don’t need telephone jacks, or in this case Jacques? Then I tackled and finally finished a huge pile of old vines that were torn out and stacked as firewood. After getting the pile relocated into the nearest barn, I raked the area where the pile was earlier; my hands are starting to get blisters, which will hopefully soon turn to calluses. The work on the Kitchen and bathroom are waiting for another week as we are possibly going to be filmed by one of those renovation T.V. shows. Their interest was piqued when they discovered that there was an American teenage girl in the family. The main problem is that all my tools are floating 30 feet above the water on a freighter somewhere in the Pacific. It will be interesting to see if anything becomes of this, divorce springs to mind, as we have offered a chance to film our kitchen or only bathroom. Realizing of course that those rooms should be done as soon as possible to create a comfortable environment, if Mommy is not comfortable, where does that leave Dad? As I said, invigorating hasn’t kicked in yet.
Thursday: Cindy and I just returned from a day out hunting the health insurance office and required paperwork. We drove to Bergerac and found the correct office, took a number, waited, then met with a really nice woman. Long and short of it, we had most of the necessary stuff; however we were in the wrong county. It would be the equivalent of applying for a sears credit card at J.C.Penney’s. So we drove the 50 kilometers south to Marmande and went to one office, were then directed to another office about a ten minute walk away. Again we took a number and waited, then met with another helpful lady that redirected us back to the first office. Returning to the first office we took another number and finally met with another really helpful lady who gave us the required stack of forms to fill out. All in all it was exhausting, but we felt as though we were narrowing down healthcare. We left Marmande and drove to Caleigh’s school and picked her up and returned to the farmhouse. The annual sales are the next two weeks so we have started our list of priorities, washing machine, sandblasting attachment to the compressor, T.V. and other less glamorous items: socks, kitchen stuff.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

first night

So tonight is to be our first night at the farm, we have been staying at a rental house (gite) for the last two weeks. We have heat at the farmhouse and running water, there is also a kitchen set up, and a fully functioning bathroom, although cold. We are awaiting a couple things prior to my demoing the kitchen and remodeling it completely, same with the bath. So we are in a minor holding pattern, but it has given us the chance to meet with a couple subcontractors, an electrician and a roofing sub. Both these trades will be required before we sink too much work into the place. I figure once the place is watertight and all the holes that need to be made have been made, we can then start in a forward fashion. Reminds me of “Tropic Thunder” where the newscaster is pointing out that they have been filming for two weeks but are now five months behind. Presently I am waiting for three different appointments scheduled for today, the first is the man from Orange, the French telephone Company, and we don’t have an internet signal inside our farmhouse, the second is a delivery from a department store with our mattress, thirdly is the subcontractor for the roof. It is not unlike playing a demented version of mystery date, but in the country French, which as it turns out is not even remotely the French language we’ve been learning. I’m guessing that the one we will see today is the roofing subcontractor, as he doesn’t have any of our money yet. I am starting to feel like Chevy Chase in “Funny farm” as while I’m waiting to start the tranquility is driving me batty, the farm to it’s credit is starting to reveal itself to us as we tidy up and clean the yard. I was trimming a bush around a doorway into one of the barns and decided to open the shutters to the window adjacent to the door, then walked inside this small room and tore down a rotted bedcover from over the window and was delighted to discover with the fading light of the day an incredible view. I got Caleigh to photograph it and we went back to the farmhouse. The photograph at the head of this post is that window. So slowly as the farm starts to accept us and we it, we are discovering that this might not be a bad partnership to either party involved. The window reaffirms that though we are temporarily on the earth we can see the light that was cast on the cornerstone of a window two hundred years ago in the present day.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

jetlag hangover to the rhythm of "love hangover"

With the container packed and picked up we proceed to get the house in order and ready to be vacated. I finish out Monday through Wednesday at work and start finalizing the garage close out. The garage has always been my Achilles tendon, as I do hoard construction materials. On Thursday Cindy and I attack the last of the house clearing, we sort the remaining items into three piles, that which we will keep in the garage until the house sells and we ship it separately, that which will be up for sale in a garage sale then donated if not sold, and that to be thrown out. Throughout the day Thursday we make quite a dent in the house, on Friday we continue finishing the clearing of the house, then we take a quick trip to Orange County to Cindy’s mom’s house to drop off our bed set for her brother to store. We stay the night, and then we return the following day. Cindy and I manage to finish the house clearing and cleaning, lock up the place and bid goodbye to the house that has been our home for the last ten years. We leave Topanga, reflecting on our time there as we wend our way down the canyon to the Pacific and head south to Cindy’s mom’s house. Gary and Susan have a feast awaiting us; fresh Catalina lobster, they were huge and I wouldn’t have wanted to be the one fighting them to get them out of the trap. We then drove to her dad’s home and shared the traditional Christmas eve with his family. The next morning we awoke and greeted Christmas with Susan’s traditional breakfast casserole. I’m not generally a breakfast person, but I always have two rather indulgent servings of this casserole. We share Christmas afternoon with Susan and Gary’s family, and prepare for the followings days flight.
We depart Los Angeles on Dec 26th, the 3:05 afternoon flight to Paris, and we left the two cars with Cindy’s folks. We loaded the three animals into their cages and checked in, then took the animals outside for an hour on the L.A.X. concrete walkway. When it was time for us to get to the gate we walked the dogs to their cages and carried in Ziggy our cat already in his carrier. Caleigh and Cindy both slept thru the flight, I as usual stayed awake to ensure that the plane didn’t fall from the sky.
The flight goes smoothly, if you can refer to a 10 and a half hour flight as smooth. We arrive at Paris CDG and disembark, walk the two miles to our particular luggage turnstile and await our luggage, Cindy notices a sign saying oversized and pick up baggage and meanders over to investigate. When she returns ten minutes later, it is decided that I will await there for our pets. Cindy and Caleigh will gather our luggage and meet me at the pet pick up area. So I wander over to the special unloading space, all the time fearing that our cat will be delivered imploded and frozen due to a faulty pressurization system in their cargo hold. I reach the area and spy one of our carriers. “Fuck” I murmur its Holly’s carrier, just my luck that she would be the only survivor. Holly is my wife’s dog. Both our dogs were abandoned dogs, Skye, Caleigh’s dog; is incredible, Holly not so much. But the sight is funny, here’s Holly in her cage seeing me and dancing in place inside her carrier, her tail wagging faster than a humming birds wing, the fact that the cage is not hovering is incredible. As I get there and pet the little Corgi-wannabe, I see Ziggy’s cage come out of the luggage conveyor, so I pick his cage up gingerly, looking inside I see him hunched in the back of his container, ears flattened back against his head with a glare that was daring me to stick my hand in side and comfort him, knowing full well I would be retracting a shredded hand. Finally Skye’s cage is delivered, Skye’s inside looking as if to say, “Hey that was fun, can I do it again”? I load the three pets on a luggage carrier and we make our way to the Car rental area. After my 20 minutes in line, and while Cindy is walking the circus, I approach the counter. Long story short, they didn’t have our car, so they upgraded us from a goofy Citroen Picasso to a VW Passat wagon. We load up the car with everything except the two dog carriers; there is no way that those were fitting into the car. So I walk them a couple hundred feet over to one of the rental kiosks and offer them to one of the men on duty, he shrugs and nods. Well we get settled in the car and drive off, as we pass the guy with the two dog carriers I notice that three other guys are milling around the soon to be auctioned off gifts.
We make it about five hours south of Paris, with Cindy and I taking turns driving, when thankfully everyone agrees it would be best to pull over and stay at a hotel for the night, and after our second stop we find a place that will accept our animals as guests. After ferrying all creatures great and not so great into our adjoining rooms. Cindy and Caleigh stay in one room, with the dogs, and I stay in the other with the cat, who leaves me within the hour to join the cool room. Some hints are clearer than others.
“Hank, get up…….Hank we gotta go.” It’s my Cindy waking me up from a bizarre nightmare, to continue to the new farm and our new life together. I guess with all the stress we have been putting ourselves through, it manifested itself in a vivid dream that I remembered clearly, ever so clearly. I won’t go into the parts that were really disturbing, like when the doctor wished he had examined me six months age so that he could have told me I only had six months to live. I’ve always thought of my inner psyche as a slightly warped roulette wheel, but realized that it was now complete and that the missing item that had been making it wobble was present. The slight case of OCD, and minor sprinkling of dyslexia, and need for sarcastic input was balanced with the addition of nocturnal hypochondria manifestations. But it was a nice nightmare to awaken from, and so I got up and went to the bathroom and started brushing my teeth. I thought it would be a neat chapter for the blog, and how to structure it.
I finally feel as though I am emerging from the cloudy mists of jet lag, my senses are clearing, my thoughts are more succinct and I am finally seeing light, either that or I’m driving on the wrong side of the road again. It is Thursday, we left last Sunday Los Angeles time, and today we start again on our farmhouse. Cindy and I had flown over for a week last September, and had completed a week of clearing and cleaning once the property was finally ours. I am looking forward to acid washing the remaining 95% of the Kitchen floor, kind of gives me a blank canvas from which to work, well a blank threadbare, rotted framed canvas, but a blank one just the same, but worse.
Yesterday, Cindy and I along with Caleigh and her friend Skye drove the rented VW Passat wagon to Bergerac; you know the city where Cyrano DeBergerac wasn’t really from. We went to the mall, to look at prices of different appliances, and stopped by Orange, one of Frances telecom companies. We were going there to compare prices for plans for Telephone, Internet and T.V. but as we waded into all the information we set up an account, it would have been a nightmare but we had our own 14 year old fluent French speaking friend of Caleigh’s there. I am well aware of child labor laws, but no one was looking and it would have wound up costing 400 euro’s a month for a plan we would have signed up for, we left with a 50 euro a month plan for House phone, 3 cell phones, T.V. and internet / Wi-Fi. (This is pronounced Wee-Fee over here.)