Did January seem long to you? It did to us. Partly because of Covid restraining our usual activities (although the SF did resume socially distanced rehearsals of his male voice choir); partly because it was a cold month. It didn’t rain much, but it was foggy or grey at times – typical winter high pressure weather down here – and well below zero overnight. But the signs of winter loosening its grip are there. Things are moving on the internet front, too.
Our hazel tree is covered with tassels of yellow catkins that seem to grow longer by the day. They are one of the first things the bees make, well, a beeline for on emerging from hibernation, and I look forward to hearing their busy buzzing among the branches.
Early February means flowering snowdrops. We have a couple of small clumps in our garden, which refuse to spread any further, but they are now out. By contrast, the banks of the River Seye by the Abbaye de Beaulieu and of the River Bonnette are carpeted with snowy-white flowers.
The birds’ activity is increasing, too. We have two small windows, a bit like arrow-slits, in our bedroom, cut through the metre-thick walls. Glazed, I hasten to add. The sparrows like to sit and bicker inside the openings, where they are protected from the weather (and the cat). The bickering and fluttering has increased over the past week, and they will soon be seeking nesting sites in the holes in our house walls. The woodpeckers are making their manic call, too.
Unfortunately, the pine processionary caterpillars are on the move, I hear. Touching them brings out a painful skin irritation and can even be fatal to animals. Unfortunately, I have spied a cocoon on our own tree. The last time we saw one, the SF climbed the tree, clad in protective clothing, and cut down the branch, which we burned, but it’s too high up to deal with this time.
High-speed internet creeps closer
The past week here was marked not by momentous events but by a few quiet triumphs. Principal among them was a glimmer of light on the horizon of high-speed internet connection.
When we first moved here, the internet was in its infancy. Connection was by very slow modem. Because we were too far from the exchange, we couldn’t get a faster connection, so we moved to one by satellite dish. This was very expensive, both to install and to use, and we incurred exorbitant extra charges by exceeding the inadequate monthly download quota.
Finally, Orange installed a booster a few km away, so we ditched the satellite dish and moved onto a Livebox. This was adequate but still slow compared to the speeds others were getting.
Websites have become vastly more sophisticated with all sorts of bells and whistles that take ages to load via our connection. And to upload photos to this blog, I first have to compress them, so they take up less space, thus losing clarity and definition.
Meanwhile, the government’s plan to connect every household in France to a high-speed connection has been in motion. We watched as almost every other road around us sported flimsy-looking T-bars on top of the existing telegraph poles, on which fibre-optic cable was hung. The ideal would have been to bury the cables, but this would have been technically difficult, prohibitively expensive and too slow.
Every time I consulted the internet map of our area, our house, along with our neighbours’, was still greyed out, signifying ineligible. We started to wonder if we might become a permanent non-fibre-optic enclave.
Imagine my joy, then, when we saw technicians installing the T-bars along our lane on Friday! I almost rushed out and embraced them, but Covid and decorum restrained me. The cable has yet to follow, but they were fitting it yesterday 1 km away.
The champagne isn’t on ice just yet. The new cables still have to be connected to our own installation, and we will have to enter into a contract with a provider. However, this is “one giant leap” as far as we’re concerned. Rather appropriate at La Lune.
Negotiating everyday obstacles
Triumph number 2 was the SF exercising his engineering skills to mend the hinges on one of the doors of our range cooker, bought more than 15 years ago. Happily, the parts remained the same (which they don’t usually), but as ever the job itself was difficult. It was a point of honour to the SF to do it, especially as I had assured the man in the shop that “Mon mari est ingénieur“.
The final triumph was getting the consigne (deposit) back on a gas bottle that formerly powered a now defunct (and always useless) gas heater. We bought it in 2005 and haven’t used it since 2006. “Vous êtes conservateur !” (you hang onto things), the lady at the till said as I handed over the paperwork we had retained (fortunately not quite old enough to be in francs).
These are the things that exercise our days at the moment: aspects of everyday life in our adopted country. Although we have lived here for nearly 25 years, dealing with them usually involves getting to grips with new vocabulary or working through complicated and unfamiliar processes.
Even small successes seem like major triumphs.
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Loved your “beeline”! The catkins seem to have out very early, probably a bit of confusion with a blazing December sunshine after a snowy, wet, chill November. Poor nature … it must be so confused! Another enjoyable post from you!
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I think this is the normal period for catkins, but I agree the weather varied a lot between the awful November and the good first half of December. Then the rain set in again. Last year was so damp, the house never really dried out.
Ps I lied! I’ve just found the first celandine flowers in my wild garden and the first yellow crocus at the bottom of the orchard.. 😊
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Our internet was always slow with the livebox. There was some improvement when it was replaced by an engineer, called in because of a fault, who told us it was a refurbished box and they were later discovered to be inefficient! Having watched the fibre optic cables being laid along the main road it seemed ages before it was our turn. A RV was made and we moved and cleaned behind various bits of furniture as we decided the best place for the cable to reach.
We needn’t have bothered. The engineers arrived, picked a spot in the front wall, told us some story about it needing to be near the TV socket (we don’t have Orange TV) and commenced drilling while we worked out where the livebox plus phone could now sit. (On a shelf under the TV). They tested the line and cleared up beautifully after themselves. That was a year ago and so far so good and speedy! I have just about got used to finding the phone in a different part of the room. I hope yours arrives sooner rather than later. Btw we’ve had snowdrops for ages but the lesser celandine still hasn’t bloomed in our garden which is really late.
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Hopefully, we’ll get the cables along the lane this week, since they appear to be moving in this direction. However, I don’t want the phone near the TV, since it’s the opposite end of a 30-ft-long room! We’ve always had it on our desk at the other end. Forewarned is forearmed, I guess.
The snowdrops always bloom here in early Feb. Perhaps we are higher up than you (320 m)? No celandines here. They will be out soon, though, once this gloomy weather gives way to some sun.
Thank you always like reading your blog.
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Thank you, Marcel. I’m pleased to know that.