At the End of the Day

There is something about builders which, once they’ve arrived, results in the early departure of the householder from the premises. The opening gambit is to switch off as much electricity as possible, followed by the destruction of all walls and toilets. The final straw is the plumber’s decision to cut off the water supply before dismantling the central heating system….and of course – purely for safety reasons – all the gas. Then it’s a question of either you leave, or you become a Lancet feature special by dying from dehydration and hypothermia at one and the same time.

Luckily, I took delivery of my motor home yesterday. On taking delivery of anything in France, you are immediately exposed to repetitive strain injury resulting from all the forms that must be signed. This is especially true of adopting a motor vehicle.

My motor home is (before the politics of envy kick in on the comment threads) the replacement for the house I used to occupy in Devon, which was a four-bedroom detached barn worth fifteen times as much. Trust me, four-berth motor homes are much smaller – although they do have wheels, which is a distinct advantage. The one I’ve bought is twelve years old but in terrific nick. I’ve never driven an HGV before in my life, and so taking it out onto the open road was something of a challenge. But nothing to the challenge of working out all the bits, bobs and baffling bric-a-brac that go to make up a motor home.

Before being allowed to leave the supplier’s offices, I attended a two-hour briefing from Anton the Engineer. He taught me the vagaries of drinking water, grey water, lavatory caskets, satellite dish orientation, gas cylinders, solar panels, automatic swivelling things, and the manual lowering of beds that live in the attic. None of this, I hasten to add, saved me from having to buy lots of extras: drinking water treatment chemicals, turd destruction sachets, grey water delivery pipes, and the means by which one gratefully hooks up to other people’s domestic electricity. The last of these proved unable to marry up to anything in my house, as a result of which the motor home’s batteries are currently being topped up by solar power….thanks to the truly beautiful spell of unseasonably warm weather we’re having at the moment.

My triumphant arrival with said motor home chez Slog was interesting. Although the sun was shining as I bowled up at the house, we’d had five days of monsoon here, and so things were a little slippery on the mudlark formerly known as my entrance path. The general state of the ground hadn’t been helped by the decision two days ago of local moto-cross enthusiasts to have a jamboree along the chemin rural that leads up to Slogger’s Roost. Nor was it assisted by my complete miscalculation as to the relationship between where the vehicle’s wheels are, and its total width.

I set a course several degrees to the south of wisdom, but was quickly alerted to my mistake by the rear of the motor home sliding down the slope that sits to the right of the mudlark. Now motor homes of this ilk are quite high, so sliding down slopes can be conducive to toppling over onto one’s side. The situation called for nerves of steel, but as luck would have it, my response was closer to wild panic. The monster swerved backwards, and by some miracle landed me back on the chemin.

Out came the measuring tape, along with several words unknown to Victorian ladies. Bits of chevron-placed wood were placed before the motor home, after which she behaved impeccably. Flushed with the success of getting it up, so to speak, I began the process of transferring all those contents of the last bedroom left to me by the builders into the vehicle. Later after a rest, I took most of the kitchen and bathroom requisites from the house across to their new four-wheeled home. During the afternoon, other bits were hauled around the house to give the artisans all the space they need to swing blunt instruments at every object in their way. Then at last, I flopped exhausted into the last bed I’d have on terra firma inhouse for some time; because at 8.30 the next morning, that too would be taken from me, and the room that had housed it transformed into yet more open plan chaos.

There was still a bathroom available to me, and so when I awoke at 6.45 am I headed straight for it to have one last hot shower. It was only on exiting the shower, wrapped in a towel, that I remembered I’d enthusiastically transferred all my teeshirts, socks and underwear to the motor home. At 6.45 am here in March it is very cold. In a motor home left unheated during the night under such conditions, it is beyond cold: its interior is in a place called the dark side of the fourth Moon of Neptune, only without the spectacular view.

This kind of thing brings the colour back to one’s cheeks, that colour being arctic blue. Tomorrow I shall be revisiting the motor home suppliers to explain that the electric hook-up to the house doesn’t fit anything bearing any resemblance to wires, plugs and sockets in that house. Later still I shall be explaining to the electrician why there is not much advantage in having a motor home to sleep in when the house supplying the electric warmth is without electricity. Later still, I shall be heading south to Cahors, where two chums have a house without builders in it.