All the stuff you never knew you needed to know about life in rural France.....and all the stuff the books and magazines won't tell you.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Peek a boo, I can't see you, everything's looking grand....Book a pee, you can't see me...

Namaqualand OstrichImage by Martin_Heigan via Flickr
Apart from my Skype 'phone, firmly plugged into the computer, I have only a normal 'phone, firmly fixed by wires into the wall in the kitchen.
I do not have one of those cordless things.
I do not have a mobile 'phone.
Thanks to having a house in the Bermuda Triangle of France I do not have what is colourfully entitled TNT, the telephone, television and mobile 'phone triumvirate, the name of which alone would make me very wary of touching anything to do with it even if it was available, which it isn't.

In my view, if someone wants to contact me, their need to contact is usually greater than my need to be contacted so they can take a chance on my being within earshot when they ring.
If it's important, they can ring again.
If it's double glazing, central heating or an unbeatable offer to install a wind farm in the garden, I can bet my boots that they will ring again.
And again......until informed that they can stick their wind farm where the monkey stuck its' nuts, propeller end first.
Switched on.
I detest wind farms. Aesthetic pollution of the landscape and a financial con to boot.
I'm not too keen to hear about double glazing or central heating, either.

I have been reproached for being difficult to get hold of, which, having a somewhat literal mind, conjures up visions of Menelaos wrestling with the ever changing shapes of the Old Man of the Sea, rather than an irritated woman listening to the telephone ringing  in an empty kitchen while her prey is out weeding the garden, but I did not retire to the country in order to be subjected to a bombardment of sales pitches, gossip and organ recitals.

I grew up in a period when telephones were scarce. If you wanted to use one, there were kiosks with coin operated 'phones where you first pressed Button B to see if any coins fell out before parting with your own four pennies and pressing Button A....but who did you want to call? Nobody had a 'phone.

Later a telephone was installed at home, but only because father grew tired of telegrammes summoning him to his mother's death bed which inevitably meant that, having packed an overnight bag and taken the train north he would discover that she had made a miraculous recovery and was upbraiding him for the waste of money in buying the ticket.
Not that he rang the family home, as he would only land on the originator of the telegramme and be told to come at once.
He rang her doctor, who was always happy to provide his own less dramatic version of events, which saved my father a great deal of time, expense and worry.

Telegramme version.....agony.... stomach pains...not expected to last...
Doctor's version....cramming her wame with roast pork and crackling again...

The telephone had been installed in most of my friends' houses by then too....but they certainly weren't meant for our use.
There was a cry common to all our parents...
'You see each other all day at school, you can say what you want to then...the telephone is not a toy!'

Goodness knows what those parents would make of today's world, where the opening bars of the William Tell Overture burst from every handbag, heralding the urgent need of someone, somewhere, to talk to someone else.

Now it appears that the Commission nationale informatique et liberte...the Cnil...has worries that using mobile 'phones may lay people open to surveillance, since the companies operating them can see by some sort of satellite reference where the phone is when it is used....or even when not switched off.

I can't see why this should worry anyone...after all what is the first thing the user of a mobile 'phone does when the person they are ringing answers?

They tell you where they are.

'I'm on the train'
'I'm in the bar.'
'I'm in the ladies' loo at the office.'

They tell you what they're doing.

'I'm ringing you.'
'I'm still waiting for Arthur.'
'I'm checking the cubicles in case anyone else is in here...'

Why should the national security services be deprived of such scintillating nuggets of information?
And, after all, with or without such access to the comings and goings of your mobile 'phone, what is going to stop the said national security services from fitting you up if they feel like it?
Certainly not the Cnil.

The other worry seems to be that private agencies could use this information to track erring spouses.
Now, in a country where the 'cinq a sept'...the hours between five and seven in the recognised as the time when every French man of a certain status is busy visiting his mistress...what can a mobile 'phone add to the sum of knowledge on the whereabouts of these Lotharios?

The wife is probably going to be more upset if he isn't visiting his mistress, because then she won't be free to receive her own 'friend' in peace....and, moreover, mistressless, he will lose status in the eyes of his peers which means that she will lose status would be worse than not having attended the Ecole Nationale d'Administration.

The above, of course, does not apply in the countryside, where immorality has its' own rhythms...but who needs a check on someone's mobile 'phone when they have neighbours?

Nothing passes unobserved in the French countryside and the rural observer has plenty of leisure time in which to put together the results of his or her own observations, add to them those gleaned from other observers and build a whole picture of the life of the person observed.

If the British incomer who is playing away from home in his mistress's unoccupied holiday cottage thinks that the co incidence of his car being parked in the courtyard on Day 1 and her washing line being full of sheets and pillowcases on Day 2 is going to escape the notice of everyone within a five kilometre radius, he is living not in rural France but in cloud cuckoo land.

So perhaps the Cnil is getting worked up over something and nothing.

More worrying for the proud possessors of TNT is the current government proposal to raise value added tax on a greater proportion of the bill for TNT services...currently at 5.5 per cent on 50 per cent of the bill, the Finance Ministry proposes to reduce the level of exoneration to 40 or even 30 per cent of the bill...and is blaming this on the European Union.
A small pebble on a beach of problems, but it can be the small pebbles which irritate the most.

France is not in a good mood, this 'rentree', and people who find that the closing of fiscal loopholes principally affects the less well off are not going to be too pleased at yet another nibble at their dwindling resources.

Just don't let them ring me up to tell me about it.

I'm in the garden and, when it comes to 'phone calls, like Flanders and Swann's ostrich, celebrated in the title to this post,
'I just bury me 'ead.'

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  1. I remember going down the road (we lived at the top of a hill) to the red telephone kiosk and inserting my pennies to phone a boyfriend at the other end of the country, then pressing A or B, whichever applied at the time, having a conversation or not, and then making my way back up the hill to home.
    Also, not having a telephone when I was first married and if I wanted to speak to my Mum and Dad or sister, I walked a few miles to see them.
    Now, out here, I have all sorts of communication devices and can easily speak to anyone anywhere!
    I love technology and wish it had been about when I was a youngster.
    I do get 'cold' calls and when I say that I am English and request to speak to someone who speaks English they then hang up - result!!

  2. Trisha, it's not so much the cold calls...annoying though they are as they inevitably arrive when I'm cooking something I can't leave...but the people who,when they have finally rung off, you ask yourself whatever they were calling about!
    I love having internet and Skype...would be lost without, but a mobile phone defeats you know!

  3. And I thought I was the only person on the planet without a mobile phone! Well, I must be the only person in Belgium without one. I get weird looks when asked for my mobile number and reply that I don't have one (poor old bag, totally out of the loop). My children have the most state of the art phones which can do everything apart from cleaning their rooms or putting dirty laundry in the basket, but if I ring them it's either a) no credit b)no battery c) lost it or d)switched off.
    Why have one?

  4. dragondays, oh yes, I recognise that look!
    Even my mother, 95, has one, but I've never wanted to be far as telephones go, I like to be in the tent out, and don't appreciate those outside the tent in!
    Skype on the computer and a 'phone in the kitchen are fine....being accessible to people twenty four hours a day is my idea of a nightmare....especially those of whom you curse yourself as soon as you have delivered yourself of the phrase
    'How are you?'
    Because they're going to tell you.

  5. ha! I got rid of my mobile phone a couple of months ago and I have not regretted it once. I dislike them. We don't need to be always available. What did we do before we had them?

  6. I always learn so much when I come here.

    The cell phone is the only phone I have, but I don't feel I have to answer it at all times.


  7. You know I admire your stance... particularly as my job often requires me to be available 24/7 and the mobile phone is ubiquitous to this end. I love nothing better than escaping to Wales, crossing the border and watch the signal reception drop lower and lower until all I am holding in my hand is a useless brick of plastic...

  8. The only reason to have a mobile is to use it when one is away from the home and stranded or in need of help or to check on children.

    What I can't abide is the constant texting that people do. It's a bit like being on an electronic leash or being at the mercy of someone who should be paying attention to other tasks such as driving.

  9. Clippy Mat, I just couldn't see the point of having one. If I'm stranded, there is always a phonecard.

    Pearl, I agree..the 'phone exists but I refuse to answer it during mealtimes or any other time i'm doing something else that i don't want to have interupted. there is a point to Wales, after all.....
    Horrible that a job description can even think to demand 24 hour availability. Sooner the novel succeeds the better.

    e...texting is quite beyond me. I take your point about emergency use, though. Pity people don-t stick to that.

  10. I live in a TNT black hole too, surrounded by happy folk who blow their brains up constantly watching it.

    When I got rid of the shivering wreck that had been my old tele and was confidently told that my shiny new one had TNT my boys were delighted. Their disappointment was huge when we found ourselves to be in a black hole. I didn't really care, I don't watch much tele, and when I do, I mostly watch Sky.

    I do use my mobile phone though. Not a lot, and only to make calls and text a little, and it's always in my bag so I usually miss any incoming calls as I can't hear it ring :) (selective hearing...?) I'm not a great fan of the intrusive phone.

    My mother said exactly the same thing as yours, Fly. My teenage efforts to hog the phone in the evening were constantly thwarted by my mother ordering me off it in case someone was trying to get through (they weren't, usually, natch).

    In fact, that was a feature of growing up before - being constantly thwarted. It's somewhat a thing of the past now although I do my best with my own little darlings :)

  11. Brilliant post...and brings back memories of phone boxes and the first phone we had at home being a party line.

    I would cheerfully give up my mobile phone. I hardly ever use it, even thought it's always with me. I have a brilliant deal with skype...for 3.99 pounds a month I can ring any landline in the UK anytime day or night without further's by far the cheapest way of ringing family and friends.

    I'm amazed at how many people in this village have mobile phones. The little old ladies in their shalwar and headscarves..sitting on the dolmuş shouting into their handsets...makes me giggle!

  12. 'twas ever thus. Those who can best afford to pay taxes avoid them and the burden falls on those who are least able.

    BTW, ever since you wrote "Bugger Blogger" your blog refuses to update on my blogroll. No idea why.

  13. This rang so true to me :)

    I have a mobile phone and oil the coiffers of the mobile phone companies as I pay my abonnement each month but rarely use my minutes. I do use my phone for internet though.

    I have to have it for work but I rarely ever answer it, I don't know where it is. If people want to contact me they can leave a message or ring back. If it's an emergency then they can call my husband, home number or work number.

    I think that all the wireless connexions etc are worrying, I would like to banish them from my home.

  14. Sarah, I don't think I miss much with French TV..and the U.K.version, while great for horse racing and rugby, doesn't thrill me either.

    How right you are about being thwarted almost as an art form by our parents...

    Ayak,thank you! I love Skype too and I have found that when I have one caller in particular, keen to give me an inch by inch rundown of her health organ recital as it is known in this household...I can disrupt the call by moving from page to page on Windows! It makes a loud rustling noise.

    Jon, thus the idea of redistribution of income following New Testament him that hath shall be given and from him that hath not the little he hath shall be taken away...

    Thanks for telling me about the all went down a while ago and i thought I had solved it with feedburner...clearly not.

    PigletinFrance, I can see the day coming when those of us who refuse to have mobile phones will be regarded as security risks and sent to Guantanamo Bay....after all, if we won't have a mobile it must be because we have something to hide...

  15. I dropped in from Benvenue to say hi and glad someone else doesn't feel the need to be always available.

  16.'s a super blog, isn't it!
    Not being available is bliss....