Chapter Nine: The Idyll Idles  

by Pool Builders on 09-19-2010 in Articles

Across the last few years that joie de vivre has not dissipated but grown in stature, as have my three fantastic kids and wonderful wife.

Libby (aka BamBam) now has to be told to speak English when she is at home, she thinks in French, laughs in French, dresses in French, eats in French.... ("Libby close your mouth when you eating") and is a proper little Mademoiselle.

She is now fifteen and studying for a BEP (a sort of A level) in commerce in Montauban, but says she wants to see the world and get someone else to pay for it so is looking at the opportunities provided by Air France as a career. We have explained to her the issues of the moniker "Trolley Dolly", but her view is she will get a decent set of qualifications first, and then take a gap year or several with someone else picking up the tab. It won't do her any harm, she thinks Scunthorpe is in India, you can ski in Belgium and swim in the sea in Luxembourg

Alex (our middle one, now 17 years of womanhood and still called Gertie) has passed her BEP and is also in Montauban studying for a Baccalaureate in marketing and commerce. She studies all week then parties all weekend and I mean all weekend, going to nightclubs at midnight and coming home with hot fresh baguettes and croissant straight from the bakers oven at six o clock in the morning. What a life, it makes me feel well.... ancient and a little bit jealous. As you can imagine we don't see her very often.

That said it's a tough life for both the girls, as the bus leaves Saint Antonin Noble Val at "crack of sparrows" as the English call it (6.30 in the morning) and they don't get home until "apro time" as the French call it (after 7 in the evening). Believe me, you don't want to be around here at 5.30 in the morning with two moody half awake pubescent females, silently battling for make up mirrors, hair dryers, curlers, straighteners, clothes and cornflakes, and when they crawl back home all they want to do is eat!!

I know I have already said how good the French education system is, but the girls show an incredible respect for their professors and the school supervisors. Discipline and politeness are the order of the day. They seem to have an ethic, which is work hard, play hard but unlike the UK and US enjoy yourself and have a laugh at the same time. On one day each academic week they have to dress up like grownups in suits and proper shoes to make speeches and presentations and that morning is definitely to be avoided.

As for Sebastian now, 19 years of bulk, he is a rugby playing, hard living student with a bijou apartment in the centre of Toulouse....and that's about all I can tell you, except he is huge. He has played rugby XV (union) for Saint Antonin, and XIII (league) for Cahors and Villefranche and is currently looking at his options in Toulouse. His friends all call him Beef, not I think because of his size, but from "Le Rosbif" as we Brits are called here. He is proud of the title and even has it on the back of his rugby shirts. I cannot imagine a French chap playing Rugby in the UK, (and there are a lot of them), having Frog proudly displayed on his back.

His flat (paid for by us) is a complete health hazard and on the odd occasions Elaine and I have borrowed it for a grown up evening in the" Ville Rose" or as a half way house to skiing or the med she takes clean bed linen and a pair of rubber gloves. We asked him once if he ever cleaned it and he said no I leave that to Celeste, she is incredibly house-proud. We then foolishly asked what she got in return and he smiled and with his south west France accent said "les plaisirs de nature"

As for us, our business "Saint Antonin Noble Val Owners Club" was growing with lots of villas, holiday homes and gites to rent out and maintain, fantastic holidaymakers, horrible holidaymakers, completely and utterly obnoxious holidaymakers and some really nice people who happened to be on holiday. We have dealt with heart attacks, poorly babies, film crews, Amanda Lamb from a "A Place In The Sun", goats and snakes in swimming pools, wild boar in gardens, explosive heating systems, arguments with neighbours, dog rescue, sun stroke, floods, two day power cuts, frozen pipes, tornados, tempests, and raining frogs.... frogs.

We have organised full sized weddings, stag nights, hen weekends, birthday and dinner parties, discos, a get you home service when you are tired and emotional (the local wine is very strong with a hidden "je ne sais quoi"), reservations in cheap restaurants, expensive restaurants and restaurants that only highly paid bankers and lawyers (see chapter two) can afford and every morning we wake up wondering what the day and our guests will bring... dull it isn't

It amazes me that people we have never met will post us the keys to their valuable holiday home so something can be cleaned, organised, arranged or not the in-laws, but rats, mice and some funny squirrel thing that gets into the roof.

At this point I could go into detail and perhaps call the blog "Holiday Villa Babylon", or "Confessions of an Immobliere" but our service is totally confidential and it would be "more than my jobs worth" as they say at Stansted Airport security.

Our French friends and artisans have been incredible. Alain is our digger man, who owns about every digging, pulling, pushing and chopping machine you would ever need, and if he hasn't got the exact piece needed, he knows a man who has.

Pascal is our extraordinary tree man who loves trees and bushes and knows what to cut, when to cut, and, how much to cut. His team swing like monkeys on the trees with their chain saws running on full power dangling from their belts, it looks like a form of aerial ballet, god bless health and safety.

Lyvian is a plumber who is also an electrician and Pierre is an electrician who is also a plumber, so if you ever get a burst pipe near the fuse box.... We know two men that can.
Frank is our roof man, who could become part of our aerial ballet troop as he is also like a monkey jumping around roofs some of which are three and four stories high without the aid of a safety net. His teeth need retiling and a little grout, but if you are a high powered lawyer or financier he will make sure you are not also roofless!!

And then there is Claude Linon our carpenter. He can make doors, gates, windows, kitchen units, wardrobes and coffins that are works of art, well perhaps not the kitchen units, but he works in gorgeous wood types, makes them with a loving touch and doesn't charge the earth (coffins excepted). Elaine is so impressed with his work within our family he is called Saint Claude of Linon.

Masons in this area are hard to find and even more difficult to work with. We have two companies we work with all the time, but from agreed estimate to start of work can be as long as eighteen months. Once they start there is no stopping them, no multiple cups of tea and biscuits, no having to go to another work site, no excuses, other than of course lunch!! They start at eight in the morning, stop at midday until two and work through till six or seven in the evening, in temperatures in the high thirties, in pouring rain, and in temperatures as low as minus fifteen degrees C. They tend to be perfectionists and believe their metier/guild is the reason for their existence.

There are several dodgy English/Romanian builders around but the Mairie, townspeople, customs and tax officers and the gendarmes take turns in making life and work difficult for them, they tend not to last too long working on "the black" here in Saint Antonin.

Thierry our gentle giant knows everything there is to know about building and repairing swimming pools including extracting goats and snakes. (See above)

We have gone back to England a couple of times to see our parents, but find three days about all we can take. The motorway system is in gridlock even at six o clock in the morning, its noisy, messy and hazardous and I am ta

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