The Gite from Hell

Inevitably, with a six month old in the group, conversation at breakfast focussed on stages of development, in particular what can be expected at each milestone.  Here we had a little boy obviously very alert and taking everything in with a very intelligent expression.  When could he be expected to talk, to walk, etc., etc?  This gave Jackie the opportunity to recount Becky’s first words.  Becky had not said a word until, at 11 months, she had walked up to her astounded mother, stretched up her arms and said: ‘Pick me up please, Mummy’.  It was the formation of the sentence that had amazed Jackie, not the walking; that had first been demonstrated 2 months earlier, when this child, who had never crawled or furniture walked, got to her feet in the middle of the room, and walked across it.  This achievement took place before the very eyes of Jackie’s fiercest maternal rival.  Yeesss!!

I spent the morning and part of the afternoon digging, weeding, and pruning more of the shrubbery bed.  Chris and Frances arrived just before their grandson took his parents home, and Chris collected the boy’s great grandmother later on.

Over lunch Elizabeth spoke of a postcard she had received based on the pun of a leek in the bath.  Now, I cannot think of a leak in the bath without going back to the gite from hell.  Indirectly the gite from hell is the reason why I bought my house in Sigoules in the Dordogne from my friends Maggie and Michael Kindred.  I will, incidentally, be going there for 8 days in two days time and therefore be unable to continue regular daily postings.  I will keep notes and when possible use friends’ internet facilities.

In the summer of 2008 I had stayed at a gite in Les Landes with Michael, Heidi, Emily, Oliver, and Alice.  When the barbecue turned out to be a toasted sandwich maker and resin oozed out of the garden table onto my trousers we began vaguely to wonder whether  all was as it should be.  Michael and Heidi were expected to share a single duvet.  Heidi said they would just have to snuggle up.  It was when Michael went for a bath that serious alarm bells rang.  If these bells had been wired up to the domestic electricity supply, and needed activating after we had switched on more than a couple of appliances, they would have fused the system.  But that came later.  Back to the bath.  Michael, a builder, could see that a hole, near the plug hole, eaten away by rust had been plugged with some very soft substance, which he recognised, but the name of which currently escapes me.  When confronted with this the female proprietor denied that it existed.  When pressed, however, she allowed us to use a shower in an annex to her own house, saying that the plumber would come on Monday.

It being August, surprise, surprise, the plumber was on holiday.  Her husband, however, was a retired builder.  He was unable to work because only one quarter of his heart was working.  This after major surgery.  I checked this statement most thoroughly, fearing the truth may have been lost in translation.  Veracity was absent, but certainly not subject to any problem with the language.  Quite apart from the unlikelihood of the story, we knew that the gentleman concerned was building a house further up the hill.  However, out of the goodness of what was left of his heart he undertook to replace the bath.

After three more days we had a new bath.  It fell upon Heidi to sample this new fitting.  Having completed her ablutions she came into the living room with the circular plug adjuster in her hand.  When attempting to turn it to let the water out it had come apart in her hands.   A bath we couldn’t fill had been replaced by one we couldn’t empty.

The next day it was the electric iron that fell apart in Heidi’s hands, and a while later the whole electrical system fused.  Michael investigated the fuse box and established that there was insufficient supply to cater for the various appliances in the house.  The proprietor said that we should not have more than two appliances on at any one time because the utility company did not supply enough juice.

This is a significantly abbreviated version of a four page ghost story I wrote for the children based on the experience.

The rest of the week was spent in a three star hotel at the expense of Brittany Ferries, who also refunded the rental of the establishment and gave Michael a £200 voucher for a further trip.  This, however, put my Francophile son off arranging such a holiday again; my friends in Sigoules were struggling with a bridging loan; I had the cash; so I bought No. 6, rue Saint Jacques.

Elizabeth provided the evening meal of shepherd’s pie.  Hoegarten blanche, red and white wine, and orange juice were variously imbibed


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  2. Oh dear! I’m sure too many of us have memories of Gites from Hell!!
    It sounds as though Brittany Ferries had a whole heart, and were pretty honourable, Well Done, them!

    But children – how wonderful they are – those magical steps in their development.
    Just amazing!

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