Monday, 8 December 2008

Tis the season to be merry and to cut wood

Christmas is just around the corner and life in France is full of anticipation because a fair proportion of the family are heading our way to share the festivities. So it won't be long before the house is all messed up with stuff strewn everywhere and the kids running riot.

This is what my wife calls 7th heaven and she just can't wait. I enjoy it as well but I still like my quite moments, so my escape from the mayhem is to get out into the garden sort out a few bits and pieces cut a few logs up and stick them on the woodpile.

Funny thing is though I know as soon as I do that, all the grandchildren will decide to join in, they all love to get involved and if last year is anything to go by, it won't take long before we have to get a work party organized with wood being loaded into the wheelbarrow and transported to the wood store, truth is I actually really enjoy that.

There will of course have to be some stern health and safety warnings given out as this year I have had to invest in a new chain saw which, is a bit of a beast, having finally killed off my little 14" McCulloch through overwork logging large trees and lots of them.

So here's the story, I'll try not to bore you with it too much, we decided it was time to get sorted out with a saw that was capable of supporting the amount of work it would need to do for Life in the France Lane. After much research and seeking of opinion we knew exactly which model we wanted and set about finding the cheapest supplier.

Well the internet was out because there was no guarantee of delivery before Christmas and with half the family arriving for the Yule Tide celebrations we couldn't all be sitting around in the cold with no firewood, the name Ebeneezer Scrooge springs to mind.

So we short listed 3 local suppliers and set off to check them out, we had a great start Saturday afternoon and the first shop we went to was shut, well it is France.

Off we went to the 2nd one (Melix)and they were having some sort of promotion, the place was full of people all drinking wine and eating snacks and what were they all examining, you guessed it chainsaws.

Just our luck, the 2 French speaking salesmen were fully engaged with their audience and the little Brits (me and the wife, or should I say my wife and I) at the back were not getting a look in. We did manage to ascertain however that the chainsaw we wanted was on display at twice the price we wanted to pay, something in the order of 700 euros, ouch!!!

At this point we decided to retreat and head off to our 3rd venue, the local Bricomarche, however in my wisdom I decided that we would be better going to a much larger Bricomarche on the outskirts of Carcassonne which was only a 30 minute drive away and would in my opinion be bound to cost less. So off we went only to find when we got there that they didn't actually sell chainsaws, oh good, this left us little option but to turn around and go back to out local shop.

The maths isn't hard about an hour after the decision to save a bit of money we were back on the outskirts of Castelnaudary with no chainsaw and to put you in the picture,from when we 'popped' out to pick up a chainsaw about 2 1/2 hours had passed and we hadn't actually achieved anything. On a positive note however we did spot some Christmas trees for sale at a very reasonable price in the local garden center next to the Canal du Midi (world heritage site you know)and managed to squeeze one big enough to keep the wife happy into the car.

So now I am driving into the middle of Castelnaudary with a Christmas tree sticking in my left ear and the wife, who has now had to move into the back of the car having given up her seat to the Christmas tree giving me the wisdom of her advice in my right ear.

We finally got to our local Bricomarche only to find that the saws there were actually more expensive than the saws in the 2nd venue (Melix). So guess where we were going next, I think the French call it deja vu.

We got back to Melix about 2 hours after our original visit and the mayhem there had calmed a little, for our part we had down scaled our expectations and selected a model which was a little closer to our target price, now all we had to do was attract the attention of a salesman.

With best French at the ready we entered into negotiations and immediately went for a 100 euro reduction on the price based on a voucher we had found in the chainsaw brochure for the model we wanted. It was at this point that the salesman pointed at a sign above my head which showed that the price they were asking already included the 100 euros off, which I understood, but before I could reply I heard 'un moment' and the salesman disappeared.

He quickly re-appeared with a very nice lady who spoke perfect English, who actually turned out to be his wife and was in fact English but had lived in France for 22 years so was fluent in both languages (I am so jealous of that).

Anyway I am dragging this out a bit, but with a few well pointed questions it was quickly established just how many and what size trees I needed to cut and how woefully inadequate my choice of machine was.

Isn't it really bad when what someone is telling you is making complete sense and you know he is right but you really don't want to spend that much money.

I tried one more futile attempt to get the cheaper machine and mentioned that the expensive one was a little more than I wanted to spend, didn't get me anywhere, I think the response I got was something along the lines of 'then perhaps I should have bought a property with less trees which were smaller' and then I could have managed with a smaller saw, I sort of got his drift and had to finally concede.

Before I knew it I had agreed to pay twice as much as I wanted to and the new saw appeared from the stock room ready to take to the check out, he did however give me a 100 euros off the asking price and we had really enjoyed our chat with his English speaking wife who could not have been more helpful plus we could at last go home. It had only been 4 hours ago that we had left the house in search of our best deal for the chainsaw, firm in our opinion we would not be swayed into paying more than we wanted to or buying a saw we weren't fully conversant with in terms of specification.

The good news is I used the new saw today and it started first time, it did not seize up and I cut a huge pile of wood as big as a house (alright I'm exaggerating) in about 1/2 and hour or so, I think I have to admit it was game set and match to our French salesman.

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