A New Era Begins

August 25th will now be the anniversary date of when Mom moved into her own little corner of the Possum Kingdom.

Yesterday, for the first time in 10 months, JM, Shmoo and I were alone in our house, while Mom was cozily ensconced in her new digs 3 doors away.  It has been a long haul and I think that all of us often had doubts as to whether it would happen or not.

But, Friday we had two strong young helpers who managed to move all the boxes (over 50 of those) and the furniture, including the piano, from a garage around the corner where they were stored, and into a space that looked far too small to contain all of it.

As the items were coming in, JM and I were frantically unboxing, unwrapping and putting away as much as we could. When it came time to move the piano, we had to lend a hand, because that thing has to weigh close to 600 pounds! Somehow, we managed though. By the end of the day, we had unpacked everything but the flat pack cartons that held paintings and mirrors.  Standing upright was a chore at that point. I happened to have an appointment at our doctor’s office to talk about my neck and back problems and pretty much everyplace he touched was a mass of pain!

Still, as we explained to Mom, who was worried about us: if we didn’t do it, it wouldn’t get done, so we just had to push on.

Saturday, we went over bright and early and unpacked the paintings, then put more stuff away. By Sunday, we had found spots where most of the art should go, and friends David and Jane came and helped us to put some of it up. We had a small hiccup, when suddenly one of the wall fixtures went out. We were convinced that we had hammered a nail into an electrical wire. After thinking about it, I realized that was probably not possible with the length of nails that we were using. And, indeed, it turned out to be a loose wire in the lamp socket. Another friend came over and sorted that, and also started to re-wire two table lamps that we had brought along.

Monday, it was time. Our super plumber, Christian, came over to finish the last bits of plumbing and our dear friend Bernie came to help us move Mom and her possessions into the new place. By lunch, she was installed.

We still have things to do, like setting up the internet and satellite connections, and I think she’ll be sorting through papers and clothing for quite a few days to come. But the biggest part is done, her first night was a good one and I think this is going to work out great for everyone.

Ciao for now.

Randy

Conforama, Kafka and Me

I think that yesterday was one of those days when one really can understand Kafka.

We’ve been having the kitchen in Mom’s apartment installed. We bought the elements at Conforama, which is similar to buying things at an Ikea. Everything is modular and needs to be ordered separately. It all comes flatpacked and then has to be assembled.

The problem is, that because things are named oddly, you don’t necessarily know what you have until you start putting them together. In this case, Vincent, who is doing the actual assembly, started to notice that not everything was as it should be about halfway through the process.

Part of the problem was that the salesmen hand entered some numbers into the computer that were off by one digit, and we wound up with the wrong items. Then, when the stock department put the order together on the pallets, there were some things that were not in stock, so we didn’t get all that we needed, other things that we got more of than we needed, etc.

It took us over an hour to go through what we had to figure out what was extra and what was missing, then we had to drive 35 miles to Pamiers to sort it out with Conforama. In their favor, they are very nice and helpful. The problem was that it was complicated. We needed to give back extra items at the returns department, then go into the store itself to re-order the items we needed instead. To accomplish this, we were issued a credit.

All was going well. We re-ordered, went to the cashier had the price of the new items deducted from the credit, then had the remaining credit put on our credit card and then went back to get our boxes.

That’s when things started to fall apart. We sat waiting for a very, very long time before the person who had been helping us in returns showed up. He brought with him the head of the department. We discovered that the replacement items we needed weren’t actually IN stock and wouldn’t be available for another month! Also, their computer showed some things that we were missing as having been delivered, but they weren’t. No other nearby store had the items we needed, so we had to go back into the store, cancel the order that we had placed 45 minutes earlier and re-order the items we had returned as they were better than nothing.

Somehow in this process, the computer system wound up showing that we owed Conforama money! This just didn’t seem possible. The process proceeded to fall apart from there. I finally figured out that the cashier had made a math error and had refunded us too much money. But, no matter how much I explained this, first in French, then in English to JM, no one else seemed to be able to understand what I was telling them!

I quickly figured out that to get the item we needed, we had to refund 25€ of credit and pay a difference of 11€ for the item, or a total of 36€. No one listened to me.

We wound up with 3 department heads redoing all the invoices in the computer. An hour and a half later, they came up with the figure of 36€!

JM and I had left the house at 11 am and wound up back home at 6 pm with the same box of parts we had left with.

Ciao for now.

Randy

Catching up!

Life has been busy here in the Possum Kingdom!

Work on Mom’s new apartment has been blazing away, and, in fact, is almost done! We have the son our our plumber helping us to put together the kitchen cabinets and bedroom closet. Over the weekend we put together the kitchen table and a chest of drawers. Is it even possible these days to find furniture that does NOT come unassembled?

At any rate, once those things are done, he’ll connect the final water and that’s it, the place will be finished! Right now our plan is to try to find some able bodies to help us move the furniture and boxes from Mme. Anna’s garage this weekend so that the official “moving in” process can begin. None of us are under any illusions that Mom will be able to live there for at least several days after that, as there are a lot of boxes to be unpacked and sorted, but at least it will be “liveable” at that point.

The good news is that we seem to have sorted out the cause of the terrible pain that she had been suffering for the last few months. It appears that she started to develop a reaction to the statin that she was taking for her cholesterol levels. This seems to be a problem that is relatively frequent and does not always show up until one has been taking them for some time. I had been having an email correspondence with a friend and learned that this had happened to her husband, and it caused the penny to drop. After consultation with our doctor and pharmacist, she stopped the drug last week and is now feeling better than she has for quite some time.

On the other hand, I had a rather bad reaction to Bonviva (Boniva in the U.S.), which I was starting for osteoporosis. Apparently a very small group of people can develop severe pain after the first injection, and I was one of them. It was not fun for a few days, and now, a week later, although I am much, much better, I am still not 100% over the effects. I guess I won’t be taking that again!

Elsewhere, summer and tourist season are in full bloom. Everyone has mentioned that there are far more “strangers” around than in previous summers, and there is a real festive air around the village. Yesterday was our second Vide Grenier of the summer, and the place was packed. I don’t know how well anyone did, and we didn’t participate this time since we’d sold most of what we had to sell last month, and whatever we’re going to sell from Mom’s boxes hasn’t been unpacked as of yet. I understand that we’re set for a third Vide Grenier in September, so perhaps we’ll be ready then.

That’s all the news that’s fit to print at the moment.

Ciao for now.

Randy

Downturn in Economy, Upturn in Tourists?

Everyone was worried that there would be very few tourists this year. Boy, were we wrong!

The Possum Kingdom is truly buzzing! I don’t think I’ve seen this many summer visitors since we’ve been here.

According to an article in the Depeche, UK visitors on their way to Spain have often decided that the region was so pretty, and that gas was so expensive that they would simply stop driving and hang around here instead. I have no idea if that’s true or not, but clearly something is up.

Our campground, which is often mostly deserted, even in high summer, has been full of campers. It’s a shame that the lovely little restaurant/snack bar next to it is closed though. Michele, who ran it for several years, was victim of a couple of years of bad summer weather and few campers. It cost him too much to keep it open when there weren’t any visitors. I bet it would be packed now though.

In fact, both of our cafés, which now serve food, and the terrace of the Hotel de France seem to always be busy with people eating, drinking and hanging out. The shops have a lot more customers than usual, although I understand from Didier Antonio, our butcher, that people are not buying high ticken items, but rather sticking with small quantities of things like patés, etc.

Yesterday I went to Limoux for a small errand after lunch. It was like being in a major metropolis with the quantity of cars and people everywhere. I stopped to get gas at LeClerc and had to leave without because there were queues of people at all the pumps! High gas prices? No one seems bothered.

Because of Mom being with us, I wasn’t able to take my usual post at the library while Noëlle goes on holiday, so it was simply closed for 2 weeks. She reopened on Tuesday and told me that she was packed with people coming in to use the computers.

So, all signs point to this being a great summer season. We’re now in the biggest vacation month, so it will be fascinating to see if the crowds hold out.

Ciao for now.

Randy