We Have An Electric Kettle

This was the mill that was offered us, many moons ago, though considerably less moons than the period in which this photograph was taken.

By the time we saw it, the upper stories had been converted into a large and elegant house with a suntrap courtyard and enough garden beyond to keep us happy. Ideal.

It was on the edge of a small town with all amenities, set back from the busy road that ran over the bridge and looked out over a horseshoe weir on the river where swans ruled the roost, with woods beyond, but the main attraction lay in the basement of the old building…….turbines. Turbines still working and producing electricity.

There was a drawback….EDF, the state monopoly power supplier, refused to accept the electricity thus generated, but a friend with experience of such set ups said he could find a solution which would obviate the need for all the windows to be open in winter and all the lights to be left on all night.

We had had enough of EDF and its continual power cuts – usually at hours when using the oven. On first moving to France we wondered why the big seller in the DIY shops was a hob with two gas rings and two electric ones. Thanks to EDF we soon found out why. Thus the attraction of the turbines.

The owner’s husband had recently died and she wanted to move to the south of France to be nearer family…she also wanted to sell a house in the medieval centre of a town not far away which was next door to the house we were restoring there, so had made contact for the latter purpose – no chance, we knew the state of that place – and then introduced the idea of the mill.

We arranged to view, but as it fell out I could not go and Leo went alone, being warned to sound his horn on arrival so that her daughter could shut up the ferocious Beauceron guard dog.

It was a boiling hot day and when Leo arrived in the parking area above the house he forgot to make the warning honk. He saw no sign of the ferocious Beauceron either until he walked down to the courtyard garden and an enormous dark shape rose slowly from the shadows and lumbered over to inspect him. Leo kept walking and the Beauceron turned to walk alongside him, all very peaceful until Leo entered the garden to find the daughter sprawled naked on a sunbed.

She let out a screech, the Beauceron leapt forward and bit her arm, and mother emerged at the gallop to collar the dog and shout at the daughter to make herself decent. Daughter fled to the house, mother let go of the dog and Leo stood very still, watching the dog make a bee line for the sunbed and crash himself down on it, panting happily.

Drama over, the tour proceeded, the Beauceron in close attendance throughout, and Leo agreed a date to see the notaire.

Then the second drawback raised its head….the owner had already agreed to sell the mill to people from Tours…except that they had had trouble raising the readies. The owner wanted to collar their deposit as the cooling off period had long expired. She had stayed her hand while no other buyers were on the scene but as we had appeared over the horizon she wanted a solution. Rapidly.

The notaire was not so sure. Well yes, in principle, legally…but would it be wise?

At this pronouncement we were sure that the buyers from Tours were well connected…people the notaire would not like to offend by looking after his client’s interests, and we were right. A friend, ex deputy mayor of Tours, confirmed our suspicions.

So we did not get the mill…but we did get the Beauceron.

Months later, the owner turned up at our place with a car boot full of tinned dog food – and the car itself full of Beauceron.

She had, she explained, no way to take him with her. He had been her husband’s dog and – with his reputation – her family would not accept him. He had obviously taken to Leo so she had brought him to us. The alternative was to have him put down and she could not bring herself to do that. No, I thought, you’d have to pay for that and then what would you do with the dog food?

Now the cheek of the French bourgeoisie is unequalled on this earth…but looking at the poor old boy, ears back and miserable in the car, the idiocy of the British with animals is likewise unequalled. We took him.

Our first visitor christened him Jaws, and to Jaws he answered…..he was a very old boy for a Beauceron and spent his days sleeping in the sun if it was available and by a radiator if it was not. He would accept visitors in daytime, but at night he came on duty. One flap of the hand and he had you.

He slept outside our bedroom, which meant that visitors wishing to visit the loo on that floor would either have to climb the stairs to the top floor or go down the main staircase, through the kitchen and up the back stairs to the loo in the library to avoid Cerberus….. a great pity we had not bought a collection of chamber pots when visiting the vide greniers – the ’empty your attic’ sales held in most villages over the summer months. We had looked at them but the eye in the bottom had put us off, nomatter how delicate the form. We had even seen a Bourdeloue….

an item named after a famous preacher of the 17th century whose sermons were so long that ladies were in need of a pit stop, and designed to fit under voluminous garments. One has visions of maids coming and going in the aisles with these chamber pots while the preacher boomed on, oblivious….

Needless to say, the Bourdeloue was not an option in Presbyterian Scotland…..you got through the three hour sermon on mint imperials handed out by grannie…one mint imperial per hour.

Visitors were not too bothered by the detours on the way to the loo…..despite warnings, someone always left their bedroom window open and bats entered the house at dusk to circulate in the staircase area…so those worried by encounters of the batty kind soon learned to go to the loo before retiring.

What has brought all this to mind after all these years?

Because we have bought an electric kettle.

These items have been banned by Higher Authority ever since I have known him….they waste electricity is the reason, as people always put in too much water for the task they have in mind.

His sister bemoaned the absence of such a device when on holiday years ago, and, to his great displeasure, bought one. It rapidly appeared at the next vide grenier and nothing replaced it.

What has changed his mind?

Costa Rica’s equivalent of EDF….ICE, that’s what.

When we were first here, power cuts were frequent and long, then matters improved for a number of years only to decline again over the last two years. If Leo has to get up in the night, it is a very risky procedure without light, so it is a joint effort to get him safely into his wheelchair and then to light him to the loo and back.

They also seem to time their power cuts when I am using the oven or the microwave….and it always crashes the internet when in the midst of something.

We had already abandoned ICE’s internet service…..every time it rained it went down while the speeds would have disgraced an arthritic tortoise….and the increasing number of power cuts made it tempting to abandon their power service too.

Thus a good offer on the installation of solar panels came at the right moment. It was not viable economically, given our low usage of electricity, but well worth it to have independence.

So, finally, we have an electric kettle!


34 thoughts on “We Have An Electric Kettle”

  1. Connections are still everything. I got my house easily because everyone knew the family was desperate to sell and tired of the French couple who hauled their architect and the realtor back six times without making an offer. The hassle only stopped when I signed the promesse de vente.

    EDF is threatening blackouts again. Mind you, half the nuclear power plants are “down for maintenance,” apparently indefinitely, and the speed and noise of the new windmills has been allowed to increase precipitously, with no public comment allowed. If I had a five-figure sum laying around,or could get financing, I’d probably get solar panels, too.

    1. I would have liked that mill….the little town had good shopping and services….but others had better connections!
      EDF’s nuclear power plants have been a disaster for years….we had a friend in Ifremer whose job was effectively compensating oyster producers for being prohibited to sell their produce because of contamination from coastal nuclear plants…..and the levels of leucemia round the Chinon plant were out of all norms….
      The solar panels weren’t cheap and the installer was honest in saying we would not recoup the cost, given our electricity usage, but the freedom from power cuts feels wonderful!

  2. So, it’s a trip to France, a dangerous dog, a naked young lassie, a mill with a turbine and another buyer from Tours, and EDF’s efficiency lack all to persuade him indoors to obtain an electric kettle?
    If the solar panels had not shown up that old black kettle grannie gave you might still be in use?
    Actually electric kettles are quite cheap cost wise. OK, some fill them each time, but careful use means they work well. Mine is on constantly as I am using a pile of Sainsburys ‘red Label’ tea bags to keep me warm.
    I love the way she dumped the dog onto you!

    1. Yes, dumping poor old Jaws was quite a stunt!
      Well, the odds were stacked against electric kettles when his sister said he ought to have one. That was some obstacle to clear to start with….but it took ICE to really decide him when there was a power cut when his lunch was in the oven.

    1. Alas, never!
      And living in splendid isolation as we do we could not even affront people by shouting ‘gardyloo’ and hurling the contents over the neighbours.
      We did have one….a shallow variety not adorned with an eye in the bottom…..which we used to keep walnuts in until Leo’s mother knocked it off its stand and expressed satisfaction that it was broken…whatever were we doing to have a chamber pot on display!

  3. Just this week I read there is a backlog with the local power conglomerate as to processing applications to ties solar power to their grid. This during a time when rate hikes have come multiple times in the past few months and electricity and natural gas rates have skyrocketed. They manage to do everything they can to minimize a slow in their profits, don’t there. Wherever they are in the world. Greedy bastards are as troublesome as dog owners willing to unceremoniously dump their dogs on the kind hearted. The chutzpah is astounding.

    1. ICe ran a scheme to tie solar power to the grid…then stopped it, realising, I suppose, that it would hit their monopoly. So much for Costa Rica’s claims to be eco friendly!
      Nothing like the French bourgeoisie for chutzpah……and poor old Jaws deserved better.

      1. It’s maddening that these power companies put up stupid roadblock toward cutting the impact of gas and oil dependence. It’s not like they’d lose power customers and I’m sure there’s some bean counter trying to figure out a way to extract the same amount of money from wind and solar users. Their greed is staggering.

        1. Costa
          Rica could cut dependence massively by using geo thermal energy…but the blasted Greens are against it as the installations would be within national parks….

    1. I hadn’t thought about that mill for years…..and then buying the electric kettle brought it all back…including Jaws! Poor old boy….lost his boss and then dumped. I have fond memories of him – an amazing turn of speed for his age if someone flapped a hand….

  4. A secure power supply is wonderful, even one as retro as our natural gas powered generator to supply electricity to our business and our house during the many times our degenerating power transformers actually went down.

  5. All the time I lived in the U.K. there was never a power cut.. ..our power stations never let us down. Moving to France was one hell of a shock! It was a good training ground for moving to Costa Rica….and we had hopes that ICE had improved but in the last two years the service has been unreliable so, despite the cost, we have gone to solar.

  6. Ahhh! You are finally beginning to catch up with we off-grid mountain folk – next task is to excavate a trench for a water pipe to the nearest spring, and then . .
    ps we don’t have enough power for an electric kettle so the old iron pan has to do – saves on a trip to the bushes on a cold night, too!

    1. Water from the spring…we already havethat! It avoids the chlorinated rubbish the water board send out…not that they will send it here…it stops at the bridge which is clearly, in their view, a bridge too far.

  7. I dislike and distrust “energy” companies with an intensity that rivals a politician’s relationship with the basic truth. This stems from an occasion when I was working in The Elsewhere and had a house lying empty of humans but full of my cold chattels. EDF sent me a quarterly bill (which dates the encounter) for far, far more electrickery than I could possibly have used. Simple arithmetic; every socket drawing more than every fuse or even wiring itself could have handled, constantly for three months, while I wasn’t even in residence… Simple laws of physics proved that what they were billing me for was an impossibility. They won the case, [Greek & Roman] gods alone know how (I have my suspicions), and I had to pay and pay+ … and when I am called upon by the masses to take my throne as Lord High He-Who (Must Be Obeyed), it is _they_ who will pay. With their heads.

    I love my solar panels. Best invention since similarly-sized parallel-storage pre-cut individual servings of crusty sourdough products.

    1. EDF were a pain in the proverbial when we were in France. We were putting wiring into an old house so needed them to sign it off…..months passed and then our postlady appeared with the letter of approval, which had been sent to someone with a different name at the other end of the department. Only thanks to the LaPoste grapevine did it reach us at all.
      I think that, were we to combine our lists for an appointment for the chippy chippy chop on the old black block there might be complaints of overwork from the executioner.

  8. How nice to find you blogging again – it seems ages since I read one of your posts. As for the electric kettle – not sure it’s any less efficient than a hob one is it? Why so?
    By the way, my new book is just out (no this isn’t a plug) a retrospective of Views From The Bikesked with some new material too – I was so delighted my publisher wanted to do it and give blogging some of the respect it deserves (sometimes!). Best M

    1. I did see the book announcement on your blog, but some glitch or other prevented me from commenting to offer congratulations. Yes indeed, blogging deserves respect – just think of the benefit to the blogger – lowered blood pressure and keeping one off the gin.
      The installation of an electric kettle was a King Charles’ head to Leo, convinced that people would overfill it and waste electricity. Now we areno longer paying on consumption the former pariah has found its place in the kitchen.
      I don’t blog often these days, Leo’s health has deteriorated so he needs more attention than formerly and when one is busy the idea for a blog post tends to descend as quickly as it rose in the mind. I had wondered about putting my France blog into some shape, but finding the time and the energy means that wondering is as far as it went!
      Lovely to hear from you again!

  9. I find it strangely comforting to know that the idiots in government (particularly utilities, as we refer to gas, electric and water companies) aren’t limited to the USA. I don’t know why, as it would be nice to think I could move to a country where things were run well, but it is a comfort. And I’m SO glad you took in poor Jaws. I’m sure his life improved dramatically!

    1. I have come to believe that only idiots are allowed into government…someone with a bit of sense might overturn the profitable applecart.

      We have a president here who is trying to rule in the interests of the people, not the oligarchs…every institution including the courts is against him…we’ll see at the next election if people will support him or if they will have been ground down by endless propaganda.

      Jaws was not an outgoing dog…after all he was old, had lost his boss and been dumped…but he shadowed Leo and was very protective of him. You had to watch your moment to give him a pat or a stroke, through.

  10. Wonderful tale!

    Years ago, on Antiques Roadshow when Arthur Negus was still there, a lady brought in a rather lovely vessel to see if it was worth anything. Arthur turned it around, and held it up, and discussed the pattern and the shape and the craftsmanship, and the lady beamed with pride.

    ‘And how did you come by it?’ he asked.

    She had inherited it from her mother.

    Did she know what it was for?

    Yes, it’s a gravy boat, she said. Pride of place on the table every Sunday lunchtime.

    What it is, actually, he explained, is a bourdaloue.

    She smiled with satisfaction, knowing she owned something with such an exotic sounding name.

    The smile slowly faded and turned into an expression of dismay and then horror, as he began, in his inimitable way, to talk of long church sermons, and ladies in long skirts, and how her gravy boat had started its life as a piss pot. 🙂

  11. It was cruelly funny.

    A bit off track, but there was another occasion when a man had brought in an oil painting he had inherited and believed to have considerable value. I don’t remember which expert it was, but they went into a long monologue regarding the artist, the technique, bla bla, bla and it’s value being in the tens of thousands of pounds.

    The owner was trembling with excitement.

    ‘Of course,’ said the sadistic presenter, ‘that would apply if it was original’. Long pause. Meaningful look.

    ‘But that is not the case here. This is a mass produced copy, and the texture is simply the application of a few brush strokes using clear varnish. I’m afraid it isn’t worth anything.’

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