Sometimes we have to ignore the ‘big picture’ (global catastrophes and so on) and worry about the little problems instead. For example, how is it possible that every week I need to change lightbulbs when each one comes with a ‘two year guarantee’ and cost many times what an ‘old-fashioned’ lightbulb cost?
Certainly electrical and plumbing items in France seem very prone to falling to bits as soon as you actually start using them, and it’s not just lightbulbs that are the problem.
For example, just this week I replaced two more light switches in our house, having already replaced at least ten over the course of the last few years – and the whole place was completely rewired only about seven years ago. Who ever heard of designing light switches so they fall apart if you use them too often?
Just as annoying are the plumbing problems that occur with startling frequency. I’ve complained about our many leaks before (see our video about them here) – they started when the water board decided to drive bulldozers all over our existing pipes.
Every year since we’ve had leaks in the same place, which we usually find out about when the neighbours point out that the ditches outside our house are overflowing.
Sometimes they are more exciting, like last years leak shown in the photo. We were thinking how pretty it looked until we remembered we were paying for the water.
The good news is we now have insurance against the significant cost of keeping the local river topped up with fresh water.
The bad news is that the insurance company decide how much compensation to pay by looking at the previous years bill – so if you have major leaks every year the insurance is pretty much pointless. Still, we are quite used to paying pointless bills so mustn’t complain.
Another example is the lovely toilets we had fitted at great expense when renovating the property. When they started leaking a couple of years later it was only a washer that needed to be replaced – but meanwhile the manufacturers had stopped making them and the washers no longer existed. We had to throw out two perfectly good toilets and buy new ones just because the washers were no longer available!
Or perhaps I should mention the fitted shower that we bought. It looked very nice in the shop, but forgot to mention that it was ‘self-assembly’. The challenge was that the shower had to be screwed together from behind – that is, completely made before being installed. Not so much of a challenge you might think – until you remember that a shower tray needs to be fitted to the drainage pipes below. So the shower tray needs to be in the right place to start with, you can’t just plonk it in place afterwards.
The only possible conclusion is that they had made a shower that looked attractive in the shop, where it wasn’t connected to the water supply, but nobody had ever actually thought about installing it in a real bathroom to see how it would all work together.
I won’t even start on the problems we had when the water board decided that increasing the water pressure for a couple of days was a good idea – and every house in the street had their boilers, valves and hot water tanks give way under the strain.
I know that English plumbers and electricians in France often ‘import’ their parts from the UK, for the simple reason that they cost much less and last much longer. But meanwhile, if anyone knows where in France I can buy lightbulbs that actually do last two years or taps with washers that aren’t made of soluble rubber I’d love to hear about it!