23 January 2012

Orange - A One Man band

So I’m doing some remedial work on a villa that I, sorry, J, looks after (see blog post ‘The Anal Banker’ (http://tomsfrenchblog.blogspot.com/2011/07/anal-banker-and-i-said-banker.html). I go round at 7.45am as Orange (France Telecom to you and me) have said they’ll be there between 8am and 1pm to fix the faulty telephone line.

Nobody there so I start clearing up after a flood a few weeks ago  - a bit of painting, scrubbing and washing and then I notice a guy wandering around outside. ‘France Telecom ?’, I ask him.

‘No’ was the answer, so I left him to it but I did notice that he was paying particular attention to the telephone pole straight across from the front door. I went back to my scrubbing.

A few minutes later there was a knock at the door. ‘I am here to fix your telephone’, he said and with that he jumped back in his van and I didn’t see him again for 20 minutes.

I was intrigued but it turned out that Orange must sub-contract faults to another company and here he was – Orange by any other name!

Once he came back, he asked me how many ‘prises’ (telephone sockets) there were in the house. ‘No idea’, I said. ‘I’m only the handyman.’ He looked around then went back outside, moved his truck into position and got himself on one of these little hoist platforms, moved up the pole, had a good look around and then, not to my surprise, said, ‘no faults out here.’

Back into the house he asked if ‘we’ had a loft space. ‘No idea, I’m only the handyman’, I said once again, but looking around I spotted a panel in the ceiling at the end of the hall.

‘Have you got any ladders’, he asked.

As it happened I had picked up some ladders from the garage earlier to paint the ceiling, so I showed them to him.

‘No use’, he said.

I thought that was it but he went outside and came back in with a set of really high-tech ladders and asked me to open the loft, which I did only to be covered by multiple rat droppings and a rat-poison block!

I looked at him and he looked at me. I got the distinct impression there was something wrong. ‘What’s the problem’, I asked him.

‘I can’t climb the ladders unless you hold them’, he said.

So, as I was thinking why they send single people out (note: not sexist) to fix things which are generally high up when they are not allowed to climb ladders but then remembering we’re in France, he convinced me to hold the ladders whilst he climbed up into the loft space.

There then followed what I assumed to be a string of profanities before he climbed back down the ladders. ‘Not good’, he said.

He took his ladders outside, put them up against the guttering (with me holding them) and wandered around the roof before exclaiming, ‘I’ve found it’.

He was almost beside himself with self-satisfaction. I could see from the ground that the telephone wire had chaffed itself against the chimney and that was the problem.

Back down the ladder, into his van and a 50 metre length of cable appeared.

After a long Franglais conversation, I worked out that he now wanted me to go into the loft space and wait whilst he threaded the new cable through the roof tiles. I felt like I should say that he needed to hold the ladders for me but as he was now bounding up his own set outside I let it pass and climbed into the loft.

He had instructed me where to go but with no visible floor (it was under 6 inches of insulation), I was a bit tentative in case I ended up going through the ceiling (floor – whatever) but I could hear him shouting at me so I scurried across, throwing up clouds of fibres which started me off sneezing and scratching.

Eventually, we got the new cable to the correct place and he carried on with his work whilst I went back down to ground level.

Rather than come back down from the loft he proceeded to ask me something in (technical ) French which later transpired to be, ‘could you take my test meter and see if there is a current on the two wires which are for the phone.’

Now, my French might be ok in a bistro but this was a bit much for me so he had to lower himself down from the loft and do his own test.

It worked! He even phoned the house number to prove it and such was the look of self satisfaction on his little face that I felt compelled to congratulate him.

Then it was the paperwork.

J had already warned me that if the fault was deemed to be the house owners, there would be a hefty bill so I tentatively asked whose fault it was.

‘50/50’ was the response.

‘Ah, OK – here’s a bottle of Chablis for you’, I said, using the old trick of seducing a Frenchman with a decent bottle of plonk.

‘Ah, that’s very good of you’, he said, ‘but I am not allowed to accept gifts but thinking about it, it’s not your fault at all – the bill will be zero.’

Result! I put the Chablis back in my bag, said goodbye and went and had a shower (I was still scratching like mad), but not before he said, ‘you have a three week (three weeks !!!!) guarantee on my work – call  this number if there’s a problem.’

The moral of the story – say you’re afraid of heights, allergic to loft insulation and always offer bottle of wine to a tradesman! 

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