After Emmanuel and Philippe had finished it was time to start decorating in earnest. I had two, or, at the most, three visits to hang fifty-three (or was it fifty-four?) rolls of wallpaper and to paint the house from top to bottom. My days in France now started with the alarm clock ringing at six, a quick shower and breakfast, and be working by a quarter to seven. I did stop briefly for lunch and for coffee breaks mid-morning and mid-afternoon, but otherwise worked solidly until six thirty in the evening, when I would shower, change and go out for a meal. Back in the house again by ten, I would sometimes work again until one or two in the morning. By the time I had reached the forty-third roll of wallpaper I could gauge pretty much to the millimetre where I needed to cut a length without bothering to use a rule.
One morning I went into the kitchen to put the kettle on only to find there was no electricity. Neither the lights nor the power points worked. I checked the trip switches, which were all in order. I looked to see if the street lights were on, but of course they weren't as it was the middle of the morning. I checked the dictionary and composed a couple of sentences before going next door to ask if they had electricity or if there was a power cut. Both the onion-growing man and his wife came to the door, the old lady hiding behind her husband and peeping out from under his arm. The old boy is not tall but his wife is even shorter and her stoop makes her not much taller than three feet six. I asked if they had electricity.
"Yes, yes," they replied in unison, and for a moment I thought they would offer to lend me a cupful. Instead, they offered to ring the electricity board on my behalf. I assured them that would not be necessary and returned to ring Emmanuel, who arrived after less than half an hour. It must have taken him all of fifteen seconds to fix the problem. All I had to do was to press the reset button on the fuse board. Feeling distinctly foolish, I went into the bedroom for my wallet, only to have my offer of payment declined very graciously.