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.

Monday, 20 September 2010

The Ghastliness of Google

A vendreImage by airehaineo via Flickr
Some of us never learn.

After complaining about Blogger recently( here), nemesis overtook me in the form of the abolition of the automatic updating of this blog on other peoples' sites.
Needless to say, thanks to my numptiness, normal service has only partially been resumed and my apologies to those still affected.

Undaunted, or foolhardy, more like, I am now going to moan about Google, which will probably result in this being the last post ever seen on this blog as it is swallowed up in some black hole in the blogosphere in an act of  virtual vengeance.

I have my house up for sale and things are decidedly slow....apart from a stream of e mails from Nigerian government officials, bank directors and provincial governors who all wish to buy the house without first visiting it and give further proof of their trusting nature by offering to send me vast sums of money from which I am to subtract the price of the house and return the rest.

Now, given the strength of the Front National (1)  in this area, I would like nothing better than to sell the house to a Nigerian official, to whom I would offer a reduction in price on condition that when he goes to introduce himself to the maire he takes his wife or wives with him, all parties in national costume.
And that he has someone photograph the ensuing collapse of stout party.

Unfortunately, mention of a notaire, whose intervention is as undesired by myself as by the Nigerian gentlemen, brings an end to all these negotiations...and the house is still on the market.

For the notaire is not the only obstacle. There is something much worse to deter likely buyers.

Google Earth.

There is a farm across the road which raises the beef cattle who dot the surrounding fields when released from their hi-tech sheds at the back of the farm complex.
From my windows my view of the farm is the front part...the house and old barns grouped round the garden - and the tractor parked outside the front door at coffee time.
The new part...massive cattle hidden behind, except for one roof which appears behind the tiled roof of the old barns.
As farms go, it is not so bad.
It doesn't smell, it is generally not noisy and since European Norms have forced him  - under threat of losing his grants - to store his grain securely and remove his dung heap, its resemblance to Hamelin in the time of the Pied Piper is a thing of the distant past.

But to anyone checking out the house on Google Earth, the farm looks like an airfield capable of despatching squadrons of B52s to napalm the Loire Valley!
It looks abominable!

I know that I lost a well known american actor that way because he upbraided the realtor who had shown him the house on the web....and refused even to look at the pictures taken from the house itself showing the actual how many others have been put off likewise?

They must think that if a monstrosity like that is covered by the phrase 'the farm over the road', then what else will I have omitted to mention in the particulars?

Most of the property websites have a sort of 'tick the box' for features of the house and its area, typically including things like

'How long is the drive to the nearest beach?'
To which the  answer could be one hour and a half on a good day, three on a bad one and impossible if the lorry drivers/farmers/fishermen are blockading it.

Or are there tennis courts in the area?
Well, there are, both indoor and outdoor.....but where do items like this rank as against what there should be boxes in

'Is there an unhealthy number of expats in the locality?'
'How often does the fish and chip van come round?´

Answer to the first...yes, but smart work with chair and whip will beat them off.

Answer to the doesn't as the bar in the village is run by an adherent of the Front National who probably thinks that the deep fryer is just a high tech way of burning Joan of Arc all over again, so is not interested in hosting its' visits.
Let no one say that the Front National doesn't stick to its' principles.
The man is losing a potential fortune in sales of booze to the Brits who flock around the van like seagulls following the cross channel ferry.

What about
'Is the house situated in a wine producing area?', which would help the wine buffs
'Are there Michelin or Gault et Millau rated restaurants nearby?' to assist the foodies.

But the important factor is never mentioned...
'How far away are the gendarmerie stations?'

The house has a unique selling point only appreciated by those who live in rural France.
It is situated on the join in the map between two different gendarmerie areas, each reporting to a different boss.
Thus neither bunch venture out down here and you stand a fair chance of returning from wine tasting and dining out unscathed by the breathalyser.
Route map of small lanes and vineyard tracks avoiding the gendarmerie's known haunts goes with the house.

It is a lovely house in a beautiful setting and I shall be sorry to leave it, but it is far too big for us since we have  become decrepit and as we were refused planning permission for a smaller house in  the grounds...we're not farmers, you understand...common sense says we have to up sticks while we still have time to make a new life elsewhere.

But thanks to the ghastliness of Google, it could be a long time before it finds a new owner.

(1) Front National. Right wing party who believe that France is for the French. So do all the other political parties, but they tend to conceal this part of their programme.
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  1. "gendarmerie free" - now that has got to be a selling point big enough to overturn even Google Earth's machinations against you...?!

  2. You won't believe this, but when I first tried to open this page with Google Chrome, up came a message saying the page could not be found!

    Wishing you luck with the house sale.

  3. Maybe you should add a note to the advert : YOU CANNOT SEEM THEM FROM THE HOUSE. Anyone having been on Google Earth would know what you were talking about, and for the rest, you'd just plead ignorance and an idiot agent.

    I really think you should promote the booze trail. That's a major selling point!

  4. Steve, I am going to have to set up a,Ayak!...and advertise this house in a totally different way...starting with 'gendarmerie free'!

    Pueblo girl, oh yes, I believe it! Thanks for the good wishes.

    Sarah, as I said to Steve, I'll have to construct an alternative sales website....and the booze trail will feature too!

  5. We'll be going the house for sale route ourselves soon - the Google Earth thing sounds like a real liability (ie there's a funeral parlor and plumber just across the road...though those could be seen as assets by some folks). Heard a news story yesterday that Google is allowing Germans to opt out of their homes/apartment buildings appearing on Google Street and 100's of thousands are doing so - but no controlling the view across the road... Good luck with the house!

  6. Amy, good luck when you put the house up for sale...the plumber could be an could the presence of the funeral parlour when you have cardiac arrest at his bill and the SAMU don't get to you in time.

    The new buildings are a real eyesore seen from the road from the village...luckily not a view I share...and it is yet another example of farmers being permitted to blight the landscape willy nilly.

  7. Don't talk to me about Google - it was a good idea in the beginning - go ogle - I think... but then that is my theory. Like many others it has grown and developed into something not so nice....
    I look on Go-ogle maps for my little piece of the world and what do I see, a poor representation of what I have and love... and as for Go-ogle chrome - nuff-said!!!!

  8. Trisha, it does seem omnipresent, doesn't it....

  9. Best of luck with the house sale. You may have said and I don't recall, but where will you go???

    As for google, it has become ubiquitous and is here to stay...

    I am researching accessible housing for wheelchair users because I too may have to move...

  10. e...just me miserygutting about the way the farm looks on Google Earth.....
    We are looking at life on one floor for the future....four flights of stairs...and that's just indoors...are getting too much...and while we're at it we'll be looking to a house that can be adapted for the future...grabs, rails and hoists included.
    But, without Google, it's true, your search would be much more difficult.

  11. I don't like Google's a bit like big brother watching isn't it?

    I do hope there is a buyer out there who is sensible enough to ignore Google Earth and look at the real picture.

  12. Oh, that's really bad luck, Fly. Personally I have much to thank Google for, but in your case I can see that they are really working against you. Is there not a way of removing the Google Earth link from the details so that it can't be seen? It's difficult enough to sell in France at the moment, you certainly don't need any added obstacles.

  13. nodamnblog, I've removed it where it is down to me..getting agents to change anything is another!

  14. I'm amazed you can even see your place on google earth. Here in peasant land they don't seem to bother taking close ups of our houses and ours appears to be taken with some sort of soft focus - what a shame yours doesn't benefit from the same type of photography!!
    Good luck with your sale x

  15. If the agents won't remove it, then perhaps the agents need removing. ;)

  16. Roz, until recently all you could see was a green blur...of course, once I put the place up for sale Google decides to improve its' services!

    nodamnblog, they say, they're changing it....but getting an agent in the sticks is hard going for a house a bit out of the ordinary.
    There are some firms I'd like to deal with and one in particular, but their local Brit agent is such a prat that there's no dealing with him....and the one 'next door' as it were is one of those I wouldn't have across the sill of the door without counting the spoons before and after.
    I've lived here too long!

  17. "France and Spain again topped the quality of life index, as workers there have more paid holidays, earlier retirement, lower prices, longer life expectancy and more sunshine."

    Just thought I would quote that, Fly, from a recent (today) article in The Telegraph. Apparently the UK is the worst place in the world to live!

    If more people read that in the paper...the barns will seem a minor inconvenience!

  18. Hadriana, thanks for the morale boost!
    Much needed at the moment and having made the decision, all we want to do it to sell up and be off.

  19. nodamnblog...thanks to you checked the agent again...the spoon man no longer works for I'll give his successor a go!

  20. Sorry to be late here - you know what it's like atm. Now this Google Earth thing is quite new to me. When I was searching for our rental house I found the bargain of the year and got so over-excited; it ticked all the boxes and then some and I sent the link to Mr FF with lots of urgent tags attached. Once he checked it out on your nemesis it turned out that the Eurostar trains practically passed through the garden.

    Perhaps that was another mistake and this super bargain of the year will just stay un-let. Not like your gorgeous house of course -that must sell, surely?

    I also saw the article to which Hadriana referred - yes, it doesn't apply to Brittany though. I had to laugh as I was reading all these superlatives about life in La Belle France. I think it is much more 'belle' where you are, my lovely friend. Well - Brittany is beautiful but just a bit dull. Mr FF doesn't agree though and he is suffering from home sickness far more than me.

  21. French Fancy, well, he wasn't living there 24/ were!

    Obviously, the farm was there when we bought the place and had it been dreadful we wouldn't have bought, nomatter how lovely the house and its setting, but the house and the original barns are fine.

    I wasn't happy about the new can put up what they want, unlike the rest of us...and no one consulted us as they would have been obliged to do in the U.K. but - from the house - they're pretty well camouflaged, thank goodness.
    It's just that on the overhead view on Google Earth, the place looks like a military complex!

    These articles about la belle France make me either smile or spit...depending on the mood!