renovation, restoration, bureaucratic frustration…..Summer 2012
It is a truth universally acknowledged ( As a famous lady author stated in a somewhat different context) that just when you are are congratulating yourself on how swimmingly things are pootling along, at last, on your double renovation project, a crisis is sure to rear it’s ugly head. I made a solemn promise to you all to tell it how it really is on this blog- so here is the sorry saga.
We were dwelling in smugsville as we had made significant progress in two areas this year-
Firstly, we had learned by trial and error that there are a number of dos and don’t for letting out a property as holiday accommodation which you won’t find on “holiday home hints” websites. so here are a few new “handy hints” from me:-
1) Make sure everything is washable-even the rugs, as some of your guest may feel the need to have “let’s chuck red wine and cooking oil about” parties.
2) Don’t thoughtfully hang your curtains on “easy open tracks” with pull cords as some of your guests will ignore that and yank at them till they rip open anyway and break all the little plastic hooks.
3) Assume that at least once each season, a guest will leave a non- metal spatula on a gas ring and go out, leaving it to smoulder enough to set off the fire alarm.
4) Don’t buy matching sets of anything with a pattern on as at least one of these lovingly co-ordinated items will mysteriously disappear ( rendering the rest of your carefully chosen colour co-ordinated set redundant) or will be used by someone to clean their black shoes.
5) Do not buy anything with tassles, be that cushion, lampshade or throw, as some guests may feel irresistably compelled to pull these off, even though the sun is shining and the beach is beautiful and there are all manner of wonderful things to do on your doorstep which are more fun, surely?
Secondly, we had learned that good French registered second hand cars are expensive in France . We found the perfect French registered car here in UK , on my favourite internet auction site, and travelled down to the English Riviera to purchase same.
We were happily driving it down through France in August 2012, happy to have a full season of guests booked into the Argeles-sur-Mer apartment. The phone rang , it was the current holiday maker Monsieur X, calling to tell us that an official looking man had just turned their gas supply off and threatened them with dire consequences if they turned it back on again!………….whaat??!!
We were still several hours away, so I assured my guests that I would sort it, fast.
I rang our changeover lady and she offered to shoot over to apartment and find out what was occurring. Ten minutes later she called me back. Apparently there was an official “urgence” red stamped letter hanging out of our postbox in the foyer (very recently dated!) stating that the latest gas supplier were coming to cut off the supply to the apartment today, as we had ignored their warning letter re an unpaid bill. As all our utility suppliers had been given our UK address & email for contact and had been advised that both the village house and the apartment were not occupied year round, we were mystified. The original warning letter, which allowed us precious little time to comply was squashed under the final demand. Both appeared to have been hand delivered and must have been obvious that no one was picking them up!
To cut a long and stressful and expensive tale short, we EVENTUALLY discovered our apartment address had been duplicated when the gas supply had passed to not one but two other companies and although both were recorded as supplying the apartment, in fact only one was actually supplying us with gas and they had not collected on the existing direct debit. I telephoned the company for a reconnection date and was basically advised that we were now considered to be serial defaulters and that we must pay a vast sum that they said we owed and then they might re connect us next month.
With bookings to be honoured, and having of course had to refund the current guest in full, we were frantic, I was prepared to pay anything and argue the odds later.
As there was money in the bank to be collected and we had not caused the confusion, I had the bright idea of going to see our manager at Banque Populaire and ask them if they could reason with the gas supplier on our behalf and guarantee immediate payment. In the end it took most of our lovely lady manager’s working day (and sacrosanct lunch break!) to sort the matter. She could not have been more helpful, even postponing other appointments to make sure that all was now in order, personally guaranteeing and transferring the monies deemed due and I am not sure what she said to the company, but the gas was back on the following day! ……phew……!
She even set up the new direct debit herself. Vive La Banque Populaire !!
So here is my last Handy Hints of the Day-
*Check every French bill and bank statement with a fine tooth comb.
*Make sure you have someone check your post regularly.
*It doesn’t matter if you supply a UK home address, if any correspondance regarding your property in France is issued, it will almost always be issued to the French address.
*Our experiences with our bank have always been positive.