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.

Friday, 14 September 2012

In and Out the Plastic Windows

Hello there, Victor! A glass of  Zizi's demi sec?

That would go down well! How did you get your hands on that...the old bugger rations it!

Ah, well....I cut him in on that Rivesaltes that Jean Yves gets through the old railway comrades. There's some of them can't afford to take their share these days so I took it off his hands.....and Zizi has never been able to get in on the syndicate.

 I don't get it. He makes a wonderful demi sec...why does he want to buy Rivesaltes?

Because he can sell his demi sec for more than the Rivesaltes costs and that way he's always got a wine for the ladies.

What ladies?

Any ladies. He's not called Zizi for nothing....

Yes, if you's been quite a day.
I've had my nephew know, Herbert, Agnes' boy.

Yes...she married Robert's son, Didier, from Ste. Connasse....runs the garage there...

That's right. Well, Herbert's been working in Paris, met a girl there, they've got a little boy and they wanted to come back to the country so the kid would have a good start and Herbert could help his dad with the garage.

Sounds a good idea to what's the problem?

The flaming church...that's what!

What's the matter...the priest there hasn't refused to marry them has he...he's a nice old boy, Pere Jean Aymard, but a bit overworked with five parishes these days.

No...they married in's not The's the church!
The church in Ste. Conasse!

What do you mean...what about the church in Ste.Conasse?

Well, Didier looked round and found a nice house....old, a bit to do, you know....with a little garden for the kid right in the centre, near the church, handy for the garage.
They came down, took a look and agreed to buy it.
We all said we'd give a hand to modernise it and all and that was that.
They moved in, Herbert started at the garage and we got down to doing what needed doing.

So what's the problem?

Well it all started out all right....we ran  the toilets into the drain that goes to the river....

What about the SPANC? They couldn't have bought the house without an inspection of the drains...

Oh, Didier sorted that with the inspector....he passed it as A1 for the sale and Didier fixed his suspension.
Anyway, everyone on that side of the village is on that drain and SPANC isn't going to say a word...if over 15% of the houses aren't up to scratch with their drains then they'll have to install a sewage works and no one wants to start finding the money for that.
No, no problem there.

So where does the church come in?

I'm getting to that.
We did up the inside.....Herbert's good with wallpaper by the way......did the ceilings without a crease or a join showing...all the poppies matched up perfectly....and as for the doors!
Lucky he put on bright brass doorknobs or you'd never know where to get out. Lovely job!

But what about the church....?

Well we didn't know about that...
Didier fitted up nice new plastic windows with roller shutters - just the way the insurers wanted - and put some of that nice plastic grille - you know, the stuff they sell in rolls - on the top of the front garden wall to keep the kid safe.
All nice as you like....a real picture. Pity the others in the village don't do looks really tatty except for the place the English have as a holiday home on the corner.
Mark you they spent a fortune...wooden windows - I ask you! Bought old tiles for the roof instead of something modern....more money than sense.

So where does the church come in?

It was on Thursday. Didier had nipped in for an apero after trying for a few partridges. He was a bit fed up because with this drought and whatever there weren't any to be seen.

No, I saw in the paper some bright spark in the Vienne shot a horse and said he thought it was a partridge...

Well, Didier came close! As he went out he saw this man lurking about -  a foreigner - and asked him what he wanted. After all, what would a foreigner want in Ste. Conasse? Had to be up to no good.

Did he understand French then, this foreigner?

Of course he did...he was French, wasn't he, Didier could tell by his shoes...but not from round here.
Anyway he asked if Didier was the owner of the house and Didier asked him what business it was of his if he was.

Because, said the foreigner, if he was he was going to serve him with a proces verbal.

What the hell for?

Because the foreigner was from the STAP.....blasted Architectes des Batiments de France......wasn't he, and someone had denounced them for putting in plastic windows!
They were within 500 metres of the church wouldn't believe it....that gloomy old hole is an historic monument! Something to do with the porch...
Anyway, they were supposed to have any works passed by the STAP and they hadn't.

Surely they'd applied for permission? They weren't that daft!

Well, of course they's not like the drains where nobody can see.
The maire passed it through on the nod on his own responsibility, the way he always does. Nothing wrong with that and, anyway, what would bring those chair bound bobos out of their comfy offices to see anyway?

Something did.

Yes, they were denounced.....and Didier found out later that this foreigner has an aunt in St. Supplice and he must have used this as an excuse to put the petrol on expenses to visit her.
He probably came back via Ste. Conasse after the aperos with her...his car was parked by the church.

Anyway, Didier said if that was the case, what about all the other places with plastic windows? They've all got them...except that English place.
And do you know what he said, this foreigner?
He said he wasn't bothered about them because they hadn't been denounced!

So what did Didier do...he must have been wild!

Well he had his gun....but no one would believe he mistook this foreigner for a partridge, not in the middle of the village, so he telephoned the gendarmerie.

Well they'd never come out....

No, it wasn't for that. It was to give old Claude the car number so he could get the patrol to breathalyse him on his way back.

Anyway, that must have got his back up because Herbert's been told to apply for permission and, in the meantime, take out all his windows...and take down that nice little grille too.

What about the maire? Old Alain won't like that, someone messing on his pitch...

No, he didn't, especially as he got a  warning for not contacting the STAP.
Didn't take it kindly.
He's applying to have the church removed from the list of historic monuments and if that doesn't work then the porch will have to have an 'accident'.

Yes, I think another drop of Zizi's demi sec....



  1. Brahms and Liszted buildings...

  2. Hello:
    Oh dear, the dreaded PVC seems to get everywhere. So white, so glaring, so.....plastic!!!! As for us, we are with the ill fitting sash windows let in every gust of wind brigade!!!English, you know!

    1. They are a curse!
      I rejoice to say that the interior windows of the house in San Jose...looking into the double height atrium...are sash windows!

  3. Replies
    1. I had one tell me I couldn't put up a glass roof as someone passing in a helicopter could see a town full of glass a town where his predecessor had authorised one on a museum....eeven nearer the chateau than my own project!

    2. Is that what they mean by moral relativism?

    3. Just where does morality come in with the Architectes des Batiments de France!

  4. vive la plastique ....euh... non. Just as well, horrible things PVC windows. We have nice draughty 19th cent ones :-)

    1. We replaced the rotten ones...with wood.. but cobbled together three as they still had some original glass...all wavy.
      Bit draughty, but what are shutters for!

  5. ROFL! This makes me so glad we went for wooden windows, even if they are double-glazed, Fly. I always wonder what the SPANC inspector made of some of the houses around us.

    1. As far as SPANC is concerned, wild surmise is the state of most people when considering their activities!

  6. "Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité et Dénouement"

    "Vive la France!"

    1. And the law recognises a difference of treatment between anonymous denunciations and signed could get paid out on the latter, but seeing the risks you run of finding that the cousin of the person you are denouncing is the person handling the might regard it as danger money!

  7. Oh, and I must dust off my bluebells

    1. Bit late for the hiring fair, I should have thought....but one never knows in Mayenne!
      They could have amalgamated it with the rentree for administrative convenience...

    2. You're wracking my memory now. There was a second verse too. Did it really originate as a game based on hiring fairs?

    3. When I was a kid in Scotland it was in and out the ...something which I have now
      Moving to England it was the dusty bluebells which made no sense to me at all, but someone (much later, can't remember who)said it was to do with the hiring fairs, though I can't see why they'd be tramping through bluebells.
      I have a wonderful book of children's rhymes and folklore which might help to check it...but it's in France and I can't remember the authors' names.
      Senility...that's what it my case anyway!

    4. Hmmm... I know it as dusty bluebells, and I was hoping you might be able to enlighten me as to what they had to do with hiring fairs.

      In and out the dusty bluebells (x3)
      I am your master.

      Pit-a pit-a pat upon your shoulder (x3)
      I am your master.

      The "I am your master" bit is clearly relevant, and perhaps tapping someone on the shoulder is how they got hired. But the dusty bluebells is a mystery. Some kind of window might make more sense.

    5. My grandfather told me that a touch on the arm or shoulder was part of the hiring ritual he remembered from a boy, though not with the Irish workers who came across in gangs for the harvest work.....seasonal workers, different culture.
      George Ewart Evans might have some light to throw on hiring fairs....again, my books are in France...

    6. Jeez...I haven't heard that old rhyme in years - about 50+! I remember playing it as a party game at primary school and Sunday school events.

      A great wee story btw.

    7. A long time back for me too! The trouble is I've now become thoroughly confused by the differing will haunt me!

  8. I have to confess that we have PVC windows (ducks)... the previous owner had replaced the rotten wooden ones and as we were more than doubling the size of the house it didn't seem sensible to rip out perfectly good windows when the budget was already tight. Realistically they are one of the easiest and cheapest things things to replace too - unlike the insulation and the heating system.
    And they may not be as pretty but after fifteen years of living in freezing, draughty French houses, they're bliss.
    I admit though that if we won the lottery I'd have them all replaced by really expensive craftsman made wooden wndows.

    1. But you're not living next to a historic monument!
      Quite agree, why tear out something and spend money when other things take priority...

      We were lucky when we replaced windows in the last house...a local supplier sold off his 'misfits' every year and we managed to get just over half of them there at a much reduced price.

  9. Except for the fact that we don't have mayors in villages the picture seems very similar; unless, of course, you are a 'real' local, in which case you get away with practically everything.

    I do wish our gossip sessions could be accompanied by a bottle of some simple little sparkling!

    1. Reminds me of the dear dead days of the RDC before 'planning' really got going..Mrs. A could do what she liked with the Old Rectory but building an extension for an 'inside' loo for old Tom could give rise to sucking of teeth.

      It might be that I always lived in wine making areas while in France, but I can't remember many gossip sessions that didn't involve a glass or two. Perhaps that was what made them generally good humoured!

  10. I enjoy your posts. Thank you so much for sharing.

    1. I wonder about those lakeside houses, Linda...plastic or wood, do you think?

  11. Replies
    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Sorry, Gites de France...I noticed too late that I had left out the 'e'....

      You're very welcome to use the post in your publicity should you so wish....and Herbert's wondering about turning his house into a gite...

  12. Oh jings crivens and all that. Beautifully written Fly. I can appreciate a good well-told tale.
    Though the subject matter is a wee bit too close to home...
    This rambling house I call home is Grade A listed. In a World Heritage site to boot.
    Beautiful. Gorgeous. Of historical and social significance. But it's an expensive bugger to keep...
    The wooden sash windows - well, all 23 of them are rotting as I type. The smallest of breezes feels like a Force 10. They stick. The cords snap. The single panes crack every winter in the sub zero temps.
    And the's silting up the back yard. Begging for a stonemason to come kiss it better.
    And the cast iron down pipes and guttering... what can I say. Rusting. Leaking. Spluttering. Sagging.
    Yes, keeping this shed wind and water-tight is not fun - especially when the world has gone pvc crazy and builders won't go above the height of the heads without at least £10 million insurance coverage and a set of scaffolding and safety ladders and harnesses.
    One wee mistake 12 years ago cost us dear. The old boiler was condemned and we installed a new efficient combi boiler with a 3" long by 2" wide, tiny little pipe as part of the system.
    Ahhhh. We were 'denounced'. The Historic Scotland police and the New Lanark Conservation Trust (who are guilty of so many un-historic breaches I'd be here all day if I tried to describe them) were 'outraged' by our utter diregard for the historic integrity of our home. We pointed out the other anomalies and the minor quality of our own aberration (on the south facing wall, 40 feet up, nestled in an old air brick and barely visible without binoculars) - to no avail.
    As all good lawyers will, I played 'who blinks first'. And this spun the game out for 4 years. Until, at last, we had to blink...

    1. So just like get called on a tiny matter while those doing the calling get away with self authorised vandalism....the mess they have made of lovely little town centres doesn't bear thinking about.

      We had a neighbour with a chateau he was repairing (rotten roof and everything rotten below) and he was desperate to get the work done before the heritage industry had the place listed, forcing him to use their approved incompetent and expensive firms to do the work.

      The house in San Jose is on the list to be listed....luckily there are a lot more prestigious places than ours ahead of us, so we should get away with it.

      Not, to be fair, that the heritage body here is as mad as yours or their equivalent in France,but I want my plumbing and electrics how I want them to be before any bright spark tells me I can't!

    2. I understand your desire!
      It's a funny thing - we bought this place because it was big and we had lots of family to accommodate - and also because it is beautiful. But I have often felt so frustrated by a planning system that wants to ossify it - in a condition and in a previous 'time' that it never actually existed in and within. They have selected an appearance that has no reference to the actual historical reality of the buildings.
      So, (minor example) we must have white window frames and doors - but the houses never ever had white windows and doors during any part of their existence (for the most part the frames were bottle-green).
      And the irony of Robert Owen's visionary status quo challenging approach versus today's ossification or setting in aspic is not lost on me. You can't tell me that Owen wouldn't have wanted things like solar power - but we can have only smokey coal or hidden gas (both in this house).
      Ach well. There is no point in my whinging... I'd be appalled if my neighbours erected a dirty great pvc conservatory... so the 'rules' have some value...

    3. This is what happened in my area in France.
      One architect has a bee in his bonnet and can impose it on everyone (except local bigwigs and councils who can bite back).
      Thus a beautiful town saw every enovation application lumbered with a requirement to cover walls with crepi coloured 'ton pierre'...otherwise known as shit colour.
      Yes, there were some buildings using was a style brought in by Italian builders in the late nineteenth century....but most of the old town was a lot older than that.
      On the other hand you could paint your door and window frames in bright modern colours.....