13 October 2011

Life Can Be Grim

We had a very windy night a few days ago and as usual, the next morning I ventured outside to see what damage had been done. I hadn’t heard any crashing of candle glasses on the terrace nor the sun loungers being thrown into the pool nor the sun umbrellas being ripped apart, but the new rear (plastic) window which I had fitted to my Alfa a few days previously had been blown in – obviously I hadn’t fixed it to the hood properly. It’s a very fiddly job and I was not looking forward to doing it again.

I started the Alfa to move it to a cooler spot (we’re still having unseasonably warm weather here) and there was a terrible clanking noise and the battery gave out. My immediate thought was that it sounded a very expensive noise. Could it be that the timing belt had finally given way and perished – if so, it was a 1200 euro repair or worse!

I put the battery on charge and went to lie down, or rather, check my bank balance.

Trying to access my online bank, it appeared that the internet connection was down. Could this be something to do with the new, all embracing package I’d just ordered from Orange (France Telecom)?
Just then the kids came in and as usual they were straight onto the internet, or so they thought.

‘It’s down”, I said. ‘I’ll call them tomorrow’.

After several minutes of moaning and groaning and a realization that even Tom’ll Fix It couldn’t fix it, they headed for the TV, switched it on and there was a clicking sound – no picture, just a clicking sound.

Now, kids can be a real pain sometimes but never more so than when there’s no entertainment in the house.

‘Go for a swim’, I said, but that was met with incredulous stares.

‘Read a book’, I suggested but that was met with even more incredulity.

‘We’ll just watch it in your bedroom’, was the reply and off they trooped to mess up my bed.

The next day I called Orange and spoke to a very nice lady called Florence who worked in Nantes (thankfully not Bangalore !). She ran a few tests and said it was serious. ‘Ah, I see you’ve just ordered one of our new packages’, she said. ‘They’re great value for money’ and then added, ‘when they work’ !  ‘I’ll get an engineer to call’, she said.

I was dreading the return of the ‘kids from hell’ from school so I decided to look at the TV which has had this fault intermittently for the last year or so but no matter that I tried all my previous tricks to get it working, it stayed resolutely blank – it just kept clicking.

No Alfa. No internet. No TV. It couldn’t get any worse, could it? Life was indeed grim.

The third day arrived. I was up at the crack of dawn. Technology wouldn’t beat me.

The first thing was the Alfa. It had now been on charge for two days. I disconnected the charger, put the key into the barrel, turned it and the car sprang into life, sounding just as sweet as she ever did. Result!

Next – the rear window. Now, I’ve taken the window of the Alfa out so often that I could probably do it in my sleep but it’s still an incredibly difficult job but today the screws came out easily, I didn’t cut myself on the metal edge of the window frame and the zip, which can be more difficult to undo than one of those on J’s evening dresses, undid easily.

Into the garage and 30 minutes later and some new extra strong staples bought the day previously which sank through the 4mm PVC like the proverbial hot knife through butter, and the new window looked stronger than ever.

It even went back in like a dream. One job done – two to go.

I called Orange again. Of course, there was no chance I would get Florence but got some guy in Paris called Claude. He did some more tests, confirmed it was serious but gave me the good news that my line had been ‘upgraded’ from a 700k download speed to 15mb. ‘That’s great’, I said, ‘but it’s no use without a connection’. I sensed a Gallic shrug at some nondescript warehouse in Paris. 

He then must have read his script and sympathized but not before I suggested re-installing the router. ‘That’s not the problem’, he countered, ‘it’s this new package you’ve bought – it just doesn’t work.’

I thought of my years in BT and how I would have dreaded a BT call centre operator (sorry, technical service assistant executive……) saying that to a customer. The French were honest if nothing else.

As soon as he got off the line, I reinstalled the router and hey presto, despite his advice, the connection burst into life with a 13mb download speed. Things were indeed looking up. Life was not so grim after all.

Next – the TV. Once again, I tried all the previous remedies – switching it off and on rapidly, switching it on with the remote, and finally, bashing it. Nothing worked. That’ll teach me for buying an ex-display model which had probably been on for eons without a break.

I decided to call the repair shop, despite the new super-duper faster Google telling me that it wasn’t usually economic to repair LCD TVs. No phone line – dead as a dodo! Great internet connection – no phone line – amazing!

Life is indeed grim !

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