Ruadhri’s teachers haven’t been that keen on actually spending time doing their jobs this week and twice he’s had his first few lessons of the morning cancelled. Rather than inflict the pain on all of us involved in getting him to the school bus for 7.30am, when he’d only be sat twiddling his thumbs for a couple of hours after getting to college, we took him in at a sensible later hour and combined the trip with various errands to justify it. (Do keep reading as this theme of being economical with fossil fuels becomes relevant again later in this post!)

One of these jobs was to reintroduce Caitlin to fresh air. She’s rather inclined to curl up with her computer when she’s home on her hols, although to be fair the weather hasn’t been conducive to enjoying the great outdoors. So Chris and I took her for a pleasant stroll/route march (depending on if you’re for or against recreational walking) along the disused railway line in Boussac.

boussac rly

This stretches a long way. It begins in the middle of the town and for the first few kms it’s been kept clear of weeds, undergrowth etc. Sadly the people who live alongside it seem to think it’s OK to chuck their grass cuttings and tree prunings over their walls to form unsightly heaps all along the walk. They wouldn’t chuck that kind of stuff on the pavement at the front so what makes it OK to do so along a public footpath? Also, clearly all the dogs in Boussac are brought here to poop and it’s not cleaned up so what could be a fabulous walk is in danger of being ruined very soon. Sadly there was more dumping going on further along the line where clearly see-how-far-you-can-roll-your-household-appliance-down-the-embankment competitions are a frequent event.

boussac rly dumping

The point changing mechanisms are still in place,

boussac rly points

And there’s a fabulous, quite ornate viaduct.

boussac rly viaduct

The further you go from the town, the more overgrown the line becomes unfortunately, but there are passable trails at the side to follow. When we’re daughterless again, Chris and I will set off and see just how far we can actually get.


Trees grow along this stretch of the line

Trees grow along this stretch of the line

We did a quick shop on the way home and got in, hungry and tired. And the phone rang. It was Antargaz wanting to know the reading on our citerne (gas tank). I tried to fob the caller off but she was insistent. So I sent poor Chris out in the rain and without having even had a sip of his much needed coffee. He came back reporting that the dial read 70%. I relayed this to Mme Antargaz.

“But according to our estimations it should be at 50%!” she exclaimed in indignation.

How do you answer that? I tried.

“No, it definitely says 70%,” I repeated cheerfully.

“But how come?”

Oh boy.

“Well, I guess we just haven’t used as much gas as you have estimated we would.”

Like duh.

“But why not?”

I was blank for a moment as to how to account for this shameful turn of events.

“It hasn’t been as cold a winter as last year?” I proffered.

I could have gone into a lot of reasons such as our greenness, budgetary considerations, our ability to put on extra pullovers when it gets cold as an alternative to instantly turning on the central heating … but they were beyond my French in my caffeine deprived state.

“Do you have another means of heating?” she demanded, not out of any concern for us I imagine but rather in the hope of finding ways to sabotage our continued low consumption of gas.

I explained our wood burning stove was our main method of heating.

She accepted this grudgingly whilst probably planning to send someone round to set fire to it in the woodshed before we could do the same to it in our stove and I was finally able to end the call and have dinner!

This has to rank right up there as one of the strangest phone calls I’ve had in France. Quite a lot come into the strange category, an inevitable result of being an expat. I don’t suppose it will be that long before I have another one to share with you…