It all started back in the autumn last year. Here in England we received a letter inviting us to a meeting in the village hall in La Prévière - two days later. I translated the letter as saying that the meeting would be about cleaning the street. This didn't seem to me to be of any great moment as far as I was concerned and it goes without saying that we didn't attend. I later discovered that I had made a mistake in my translation but I still don't know if the meeting was about rubbish collection of the extension of the sewer...
It was about the same time that somebody left a very nicely printed note at the cottage telling us that he (or she) had called in connection with the wheelie bin which was to be issued to us. he (or she) would, we were assured, call again or we could visit the office on a Saturday morning. (Saturday is usually the day we arrive late in the evening and depart first thing in the morning so that was out.) Naturally, both calls were made while we were in England. On the second occasion a similar notice was left, but on the third attempt - we were back in England again - a different notice invited me to call a telephone number. On our next visit I duly switched on the mobile first thing on Monday morning. Could I visit the office on Saturday, I was asked? No, I explained, as we would be leaving for England. The very nice lady promised to have a wheelie bin delivered on Friday.
Friday came and went without a wheelie bin in sight.
Somewhere along the line we had been warned that there would be a change in the arrangements for rubbish collection effective from the beginning of January. Before then we had just left a black sack outside our gate on a Monday evening and it was gone long before we surfaced on the Tuesday. Starting from January, the dustmen would not touch a black sack left on the pavement and would only take rubbish from wheelie bins. (Typical French bureaucracy.) I pretended to be an ostrich/adopted a French approach and ignored this change. As it happened, we had not put out any rubbish for about a year - which leads me to another branch of this seemingly interminable yarn.
Up until January last year it had been our practice to stop off at the local tip and leave our rubbish on the way home, having already recycled as much as possible. But the local tip was closed for redevelopment from January to June last year. During the second half of the year our homeward journeys rarely coincided with mornings that the tip was open so we usually just brought the rubbish back to England.
When the tip was redeveloped, barriers were installed at the entrance and exit but it was not until quite late in the year that I discovered why.
The reason for all this, I am told, is to stop residents of other areas using "our" tip and costing us money. I presume the same system is being or has been introduced throughout France - but at what cost? And how many new jobs have been created to monitor the number of visits people make? What happens if I try to make a 19th visit this year?
But back to the wheelie bin. The instructions that came with this access card gave a telephone number, a telephone number which I recognised as being the same as the one I had rung about the wheelie bin. But there was also an address, which I had not been given before. So on a visit earlier this year, I made my way to the office, fully prepared to do a bit of desk thumping should it prove necessary. I wasn't sure that my French would be quite up to the discussion I felt sure would take place, but I would have a go.
As it turned out, my French was perfectly adequate and the young man I saw did try to speak a little English as well. It transpired that wheelie bins are specific to an address and have to be singed for, this being the reason why it was not possible just to drop one off when nobody was about. He promised that my wheelie bin would be delivered that lunch time. And it was.
All in all, I feel I have done quite well to disentangle the French red tape involved.
Here we have part of the Brighton skyline as seen from the Roman Camp.