Eau yes! well maybe

As the planning application process has proved so slow for our project we have set ourselves a number of small, yet vital, targets. The aim is to “hit the ground running” when we do, eventually, secure the hallowed permis de construire and can actually contemplate beginning work. One of these targets is to get mains water laid on to the site. A small yet vital component.

As I've noted earlier we did observe that we do have a tap in the stone house. And when the tap is turned on water flows from it. Sadly this is not enough for us going forward. We need an authorised water supply and a water meter. Surprisingly we knew enough about water supply from our short time in France to guess that this was a question we should raise with our local Mairie. Indeed we had by chance already had a meeting with Monsieur Boulbès, the deputy Maire and co-incidentally “Water Man” (I'm guessing at his official title here) and he had charmingly told us to just come into the Mairie when we were ready to request a water supply. So, Jeff and I hot-footed it to the Mairie a few weeks ago to request the supply.

We were greeted, as usual, by the Secretary, Janette. And I have to say from my acquaintance with only 2 Mairie secretaries, they are an interesting breed... On seeing us Janette dexterously pushed her chewing gum from one side of her mouth to the other, positioned herself on the corner of her desk, grinned broadly and after the usual exchange of pleasantries asked us what we wanted now. I timidly told her in my broken French that we would like a water supply, whereupon she rolled her eyes heavenwards, clutching the back of her hand to her forehead in a gesture which communicated more than words ever could, the outrageous demanding nature of requests from incomers like ourselves. A quick sideways glance at my dismayed expression reduced her to hysterical laugher followed by, I have to say, generous spirited helpfulness.

I'll phone Monsieur Boulbès”, she told me, “If you complete this form he will arrange for a devis to be sent to you. I'll phone you when it has been sent”.

Wow, this is truly amazing we thought. When we had not heard from Janette almost 3 weeks later or received the promised devis we thought we'd pop in to the Mairie to check on progress.

You should take her some flowers or chocolates”, Lizzie had suggested.

Is that appropriate?”, oh-so-British Jeff had enquired, “What happens if it is misconstrued as a bribe...”

I decided to run the risk and duly purchased a flashy New Guinea Impatiens wrapped in rather dubious cellophane from my local supermarket with the intention of giving this to Janette. And I have to say it felt very strange. I do not recall ever contemplating giving a UK civil servant a gift of any kind, yet this felt so right. My last encounter with British local government was when I visited Fareham Borough Council's offices to enquire about buildings regulations for a garage conversion. Upon entering the building the harassed receptionist had pointed at a visitors book for me to sign in while she took several phone calls. She then presented me with a badge which I was required to display at all times, which if I recall correctly said Visitor. Or maybe it was Client. Or maybe it read Undesirable Alien Stopping me from working – train machine gun fire here. Sadly I do not recall the exact wording. I do however recall the instruction I was given. Proceed to the lift lobby. Take a lift to the umpteenth floor in the sky, enter through the door marked “Officious soon-to-be-axed government department – Planning”. Tell the receptionist there what you want. Take a seat and wait. And wait. Eventually a young spotty man who will not be able to answer your question but has clearly been studying Tory politician spin will talk to you for a maximum of 5 minutes and then tell you to fill out a form and take your chances like everyone else. No, I was never tempted to go armed with a pot plant. It just does not work like that in Britain.

Janette, however, was a different matter. She nearly swallowed her chewing gum on spotting us and immediately reached for the phone to ask Monsieur Boulbès about the delay.

They are rather busy with leaks at Lac de Montbel at the moment” she told us, “But he will get someone up to take a look at Mireval as soon as he can”.

Suppressing the somewhat alarming thought of a 550 hectare leaking lake I thanked her and thrust the red Bizzy Lizzy across the counter to her muttering about how helpful she had been and how grateful we were.

Oh!”, gasped Janette, “there was no need. But thanks”

Jeff was scanning the room to see if the French equivalent of the Spanish Inquisition were about to appear through concealed wall panels or drop from the ceiling but, phew, Janette merely positioned the plant on her desk and kept on chatting.

On writing this I have to report there has not actually been much progress but we did observe this at Mireval today.

3 blue circles... is it a mirage or could it really mean water? We think they circle the nearest water supply point to our property, indicate to the Conseil Général where they should be looking (hence CG and an arrow) and mark the big man hole thingy that they'll probably need. We could be totally wrong of course. Could this mean we're closer to getting official eau? Maybe a dozen long-stemmed roses will secure the result we want. I'll keep you posted.