27 June 2023



I seem to have been to a lot of picnics lately.  Last Monday the weekly walk was to have started and finished at the picnic place in Chaumussay, finishing with a picnic lunch (bring your own sandwiches) at the very convenient picnic shelter down by the old station.  Unfortunately the weather forecast was for heavy showers so the walk was cancelled but instead walkers were invited to take the picnic lunch to enjoy in the shelter of some friends' barn.  A very convivial picnic it turned out to be as the rain poured down outside.  We definitely needed the rain!

Nick was back in the UK last week, which was "fête de la musique" week in France.  Numerous events were taking place all over the place.  On Saturday there was a musical picnic back at the same picnic place at Chaumussay.  As Nick was battling his way back to the south coast of England on the UK's hectic motorway network I was enjoying music provided by a string quartet in the company of friends who contributed to the picnic and in glorious sunshine.

I thought I had died and gone to heaven (if heaven is like this I really want to go there) (when the time comes) while poor old Nick was on what Chris Rea called the "road to hell" - the M25.  Except of course that at the end of the "road to hell" was a ferry to bring him back to our own little heaven on earth - chez nous.

As always, we had paid nothing to park the car, no entry fee to the event, nothing for the entertainment and the food was lovely.  This part of life in France I love most.

However, life in France is not always one long and lazy picnic.

Soon after we got the Peugeot in April it started intermittently displaying an "engine repair needed" icon along with an accompanying and very annoying noise.  The display (and noise) were random and brief but we took it back to the dealer as it has a twelve month guarantee.

A technician came toute suite to look at it, plugged in his computer and declared a faulty sensor that was not serious (which is what we thought).  He fiddled with it and said if that didn't fix it, phone to book the car in to have it changed.  The fault soon recurred.

Our French is improving but we both find telephone conversations difficult so we went there in person to make the arrangement.  We understand what is being said much better when face to face.  We explained the problem in our best French to the receptionist who then consulted with the attending technician and an appointment was made for two weeks later.  This was subsequently cancelled due to the relevant part not having arrived.

Things went downhill thereafter and each visit to the dealership has been an increasingly unhappy experience.  

In the meantime, we have been looking for a second secondhand French car.  We are looking in a price range where suitable cars are more scarce than either old bangers or decent ones like the Peugeot.  While Nick was away I test drove another Peugeot only to find that it would barely go up hills and rejected it.  Good job I took it up a hill as it was fine on the flat!  

Then yesterday afternoon, safely back in France, Nick spotted online a Renault for sale at a small garage in Châtellerault that looked like it would do us fine so we dashed down there, arriving thirty minutes before the garage was due to close.  A lovely, friendly man who is the garage owner gave us the keys and sent us off for a test drive.  I'm happy to report that it went uphill like stink and we decided to buy it.  

He was a very nice man and it's highly likely that we will use his garage for servicing and repairs when the time comes.


  1. You’re always very critical of uk roads, they’re bound to be busy, it’s a far smaller country than france and more population, (and they’re not always horrendous, only peak times)….at least we don’t have police stopping and shooting drivers willy nilly, look at the riots all over france today.

    1. Anonymous - are you the same anonymous who left a similar comment back in March?
      Without a doubt population density is a big factor in how choked our roads are. It's impossible to get from the north of England to the south coast without hitting busy traffic at some stage, unless you travel through the night. The 220 miles took six and a half hours in daytime last Saturday because of volume of traffic and accidents, a journey that was hard work, stressful and fraught with incidents. The 250 miles on the French side took two hours less and was, as usual, easy and incident free.
      The UK police record, particularly towards ethnic groups, is not squeaky clean either. Whilst the UK government is taking steps to make any kind of protest illegal the French public do it differently. It's not good but doesn't affect us here out in the sticks.

  2. Hope the new 2nd hand Renault remains good, We have had two since being here. Having said that we are collecting a new Merc on Tuesday from Bordeaux so it will be good bye to the second Renault which has done us well. Nigel's French is quite good, but when they talk fast on the phone it is not easy!!
    Hope all is well, Diane

    1. Diane, we have had Renaults in the past and they have been great cars so we're looking forward to getting it.
      Most English speakers I know who manage well enough with life in France say they struggle on the phone.