Monday, 12 December 2011

Napoleon said...

Now the French always seem to me to be terribly blasé about their electrical wiring. Just look at the way it is strung between poles along the side of the street. Along country lanes I have seen the poles broken and bent with the electrical cable lying in a water-filled ditch. It is not unusual to see a single power point in a room with adaptors plugged into it and each other apparently at random with a maze of leads running round and across the room to power standard and table lights, television, radio, music centre and grandma's foot-warmer. The wiring in our house must have dated from a period even before blasé came into fashion. Cables from the main fuse board (we did at least have one of those, archaic though it was) were stuck to the walls with a substance remarkably similar to hair gel. These led to an occasional dodgy-looking power point and to fizzing light switches. Attention was required.

The owner of the restaurant in the village had given me the name and telephone number of the electrician he uses and I had arranged for Emmanuel to come and quote for the job of rewiring the house. Mrs S and I marked the walls where we wanted power points using a very gay pink-coloured masking tape.

Emmanuel arrived at exactly the time agreed and raced around the house in two and a half minutes flat. I explained that we had marked the walls where we wanted power points, to which Emmanuel replied that he had seen that.

"Would it be possible," I asked in what was probably execrable French, "to bury the wires in the walls?"

"Napoleon," he replied haughtily, "said that nothing is impossible."

"And if I accept your quote, when could you do the work? And how long would it take?"

"It would take four days, and I could possibly fit it in sometime around July."

Bear in mind this was in February. It had been October when we exchanged contracts to buy our French dream house. Even allowing for a three-month delay before completion of the purchase, we decided there would be plenty of time to undertake the fairly minimal restoration work needed – well, minimal compared with what we had seen in other houses – before we could start recouping what we had laid out by letting the house as a holiday home during the summer. We had placed advertisements and our first guests were due to arrive in mid-June. If the rewiring could not be done before then we had a problem on our hands. But Napoleon had said nothing is impossible!

I managed to stop myself quoting Napoleon back to Emmanuel but explained the predicament.

"OK," he said, smiling broadly. "17th April. I'll be here at nine o' clock."

I was so relieved that I agreed the date and time without even thinking. It was only later that I had reservations. So much later, that I was just getting into bed the following day when I realised we had apparently accepted a quotation we had not yet received. I lay awake worrying about the budget. Mrs S never seems to be bothered very much by minor matters like budgets and slept seraphically while I tossed and turned.

Although not exactly unconcerned about Emmanuel's quote, I had become resigned to the situation by the time we were back in England. It was a considerable relief a day or two later to see that his quote was nowhere near as high as I had thought it might be. That meant I could give my full attention to another matter.


Stephen Hayes said...

Well, you can certainly breath a sigh of relief over that one. I've never heard of an electrician's bid being lower than expected.

#1Nana said...

I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop...

Suldog said...

Well, of course, Napoleon was not renowned for handling winter weather particularly well, so you should be glad it won't happen until things warm up.