A trifle uncool

Today’s (delayed) MLM is brought to you by the 80s electronica of Martha and her Muffins with Echo Beach…

Sorry, Toyah, but this is far superior to yours. I know you were way cool long before Madonna had ever even thought of life in NYC, and before Cyndi Lauper ever brought kooky redheads to the pop scene, but Martha was just better at this kind of mid-20s malaise.

This post is much delayed on account of yesterday being about the worst day for things breaking. If it could break, it broke. If it could go wrong, it did. I should really just have gone back to bed. Call it the 13th and blame it on that. Gas leaks, water in electric sockets, raining all day, no dog walks, 5 students to teach, a backlog of ModPo poetry to get through. Then my car started making noises and smoke was coming from my tyre. Oh; and to top it all off, I lost my hairbrush.

Needless to say, I obviously spent a bad night in bed, as this morning my teeth hurt. I’d been grinding them in my sleep. I’ve not done that for a good five or six years. It used to be be really bad – so bad that I had to get a gumshield. I was always grinding them. Anyway, with a headache and other ailments, it seemed like today would be as bad. As soon as I opened the bedroom door, I could hear the rain on the laundry room. It even gave me a couple of claps of thunder just for good measure.

I had managed to dry off the socket and had a hot shower. Then I phoned the local garage. We have a garage in our village, but he mainly does autoelectric repairs, air con and body work. He’s a really nice guy, but I didn’t know if he was up for some major mechanic work. The garage down the road is like one of those old places you don’t see anywhere else in modern G8 countries any more. It’s not clean and orderly, bright or shiny. He has no computer equipment or diagnostic machinery. I would have taken it to Honda in Angoulême as they would have at least given me a hire car for the duration, but I seriously doubted the car would get that far. Could have called the truck, I guess, to come and pick me up.

I gave him a ring at 9.15. Many places aren’t open in rural France on a Monday. The bar is shut. The tabac is shut. The bakery is open, but the general store is shut. In the local town, the post office is open, and a handful of other shops, but by and large, Monday is still part of the weekend. So ringing any business is a bit suspect on a Monday.

I asked him if he was open today.

“Ca depend…” he said. That depends. I don’t know what it depended on. Okay. Time for damsel in distress. These old French guys love a bit of that.

“It’s my car – it’s broken – it’s making a funny noise and steam is coming out of it. It has a knocking sound from the back passenger side… Oh, Monsieur, if you could help me!”

“Bring it at 2pm.” he said.

I got there at 2pm. I’m so English. I was exactly on time. The door was shut, but there were keys in the lock and a radio on. I pulled at the door. Didn’t move. I knocked. No reply. Then a van beeped. A man stuck his head out and muttered something about the boss being on his way. So I waited.

At 2.20, a little man appeared – typical rural French, short and stocky. He had a cigar clenched between his teeth, like a peasant Del Boy. He shone a torch at the back end of my car.

“I’ll have to dismantle it,” he said.

Of course.

“Leave it with me.”

So I set off walking the two kilometres or so back to my house. I don’t mind walking. I would have called someone for a lift if I needed one. But it was very hot, as I had prepared for the torrential rain and storms that were overhead a scant fifteen minutes before. I’d even put my long johns on. So I was a little warm.

But as soon as the second car pulled alongside, a lady stuck her head out. A friendly mum from the village, whose husband had brought me 20kg of apples last year.

“Do you need a lift?” she said.

And that was that.

She ferried me back to my house, deposited me outside, gave me a stern instruction to call her if I needed anything and then departed.

By five, I was getting a little worried. I hadn’t heard from the mechanic and he hadn’t even called to ask me where the locking wheel nut was. I thought he was either having a siesta, or had stripped the car down and sold the component parts to a dodgy guy who was busily removing the VIN with acid.

But no. Ten minutes later, a phonecall.

“It’s ready,” he said.

“You’ve fixed it?”

“Of course!”

And I said I’d set off. He must have realised my walkerly intentions (that’ll be my mother, who never puts anyone to any inconvenience…) and he said, “Don’t worry, I’ll send it up to you.”

Thus my car was delivered to my house a bare three hours after leaving, replete with the parts it needed. Not only that, but since I didn’t have quite enough cash and I don’t have a chequebook (vital to French life, believe it or not) he said I could just drop the remaining 30€ in when I was passing. He left me the old bit of my car, didn’t tut-tut over it or look judgey, and, cigar still clamped in mouth, disappeared off into the sunset.

Now that’s what I call old-fashioned service. It might be more akin to Arkwright than it is to any kind of showy, “customer-orientated”, clean and modern franchise garage, but within three hours, he’s got a new part (for a non-French marque), replaced it and brought it back to me.

(if you are an overseas reader and haven’t seen Open All Hours, it’s an English classic set in Yorkshire. It’s not much different here in rural France to be honest.

That’s what made my Much Love Monday turn out to be such a sunshine of a day. And the sun did come out to smile on us all. Much Love, then, to ancient old garages and to local, local businesses, to back-yard mechanics, to friendly neighbours, to dads who replace gas bottles, to friends who offer to help out even if they live overseas.

Now if only I could get Tilly to stop rolling in pig muck.


6 thoughts on “A trifle uncool

  1. Rural enterprises are the most reliable here, too. I still take my car to the village garage even though we left the village 7 years ago – the equivalent garage here in town is busy trying to sell, sell, sell and they’re snooty with it! Since I only drive an elderly Twingo, they don’t take me seriously – suggested once I scrap the car because the windscreen wipers didn’t work; took my own garage chappie a couple of hours to sort out…. The village mechanic was also willing to find me my 7 year old second hand car, knowing full well he’d keep me as a customer 😉 He was so chuffed and waves wildly every time I drive through, with a huge grin on his face because he found exactly what I wanted!

  2. Oh yes, and I was a Toyah fan back in the day, but before she had chart hits… I listened to the Blue Meaning and Ieya every which way and drove my dad, a rock’n’roller, crazy!! (We’re talking about 1979 here… :O)

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