Well, where to start? I s’pose at the very beginning? That’s a very good place to start…..
Many of you reading this will be aware of the shitty time we’ve had of late with one thing and another? It’s mainly been the lack of internet and phones that’s completely had us at an all-time low, well, it has me at any rate. Obviously, with family back in the UK, I’d like to be able to log on, or to pick up the ‘phone once in a while and chat to them, get their new and pass on ours. You’d think that in a country that’s in the forefront of space exploration, avionics and medical advances, they’d be quite ‘sussed’ in maintaining a decent communications infrastructure, wouldn’t you? Well, that’s not an entirely fair accusation as it wasn’t really the infrastructure that was at fault, just one certain company’s lack of interest in their customer relations!
How it all started was way back in the summer of last year I’d noticed the wifi connection dropping out at certain times in the evening. I could only put this down to the fact that we’re on the end of a fairly long line of users, and at certain times, we’d all be settling down to a bit of surfing, or skype’ing with loved ones across the ditch. But, it gradually worsened over the autumn, and in deep midwinter, our connection failed altogether. Our provider, AliceADSL weren’t much use to be honest, but did manage to send out another box, which did work again.
But, in the intervening period of internet inactivity, I’d decided enough was enough, and lured by the promise of NO breakdowns, NO loss of service, a FREE USB 3G clé, should anything go wrong, and countless other gems, I signed up for SFR. You’ll know by now that all of those claims were a bit ambitious at best, and outright lies at worst! See my rant here…
It degenerated into the realms of a French Farce with me as Jacques Tati, effectively reduced to miming with no internet and no phones for over two months! In the meantime, we had a couple of visits from technicians who stood around scratching various body parts before announcing that they had no idea what was wrong, but they’d contact someone else. And so it went on!
The French ‘idea’ of after sales service is virtually non-existant. They either keep you hanging on the ‘phone long enough for ideas of suicide to set in, or they’re just so ignorant of your needs it’s actually quite laughable. They. Just. Don’t. Care! If you find a local SFR store, and try asking a real live person to help, all you’re told is to call their helpline number! And so it goes on.
It’s all well and good visiting France on holiday, soaking in the laid back lifestyle it can offer (though we’ve yet to find it), but the stark realities of life in amongst the apathetic entreprises is just plain worrying. On a more local level, there’s nothing majorly wrong, evidenced by the fact that when we called our local France Telecom (Orange) office in Saumur out of desperation to re-install our account, and internet with them, it was all plain sailing. The guy who my daughter spoke to was charming, helpful and very accommodating, and ‘touche bois’, we’ve had no problems since!
No, the problem appears to be with those new garçons on the block, the Alice’s, the SFR’s, the Free’s of this world. They have no real idea of how to cope with the demands of an increasingly internet-aware French public. They don’t have the people in place to respond to the myriad problems associated with leasing France Telecom’s antiquated systems (although these same systems work perfectly well when operated by France Telecom!). I think the best piece of advice I could give holds true not just here in France, but anywhere. Stick with the people who are the originals. The France Telecoms, the British Gas’s, the YEB! THEY really DO know best!
Anyhow, we’re almost back to normal as far as the internet and phones go, though I was really pissed off to discover that I’d had missed calls from people potentially wanting to book holidays here at Le Chant. There was a period of takeover where we weren’t being ‘serviced’ by SFR, because FT had once again taken over the line. So, when I first connected to Orange, there was a list of missed calls since FT/Orange had resumed service, but before it had been passed on to me! France (thankfully, it has to be said) doesn’t have the litigation culture that sprang from the US, and has now infected the UK, though I’d be seriously tempted to take SFR to task over loss of earnings!
The icing on the cake, which did actually make me laugh out loud was when I followed the online link to my particular ‘incident ticket’ and it said, quite proudly, that my incident was now resolved! How? By me booting SFR so far into touch, they’re orbiting Mercury faster than the US probe has managed? Oh, I bet their problem solving departments high-fiving in Paris at yet another incident ‘solved’ by pissing off the poor bloody customer so much that he’s on the verge of high-fiving the SFR shop window in Saumur with a brick! Twats!
One of the more worrying aspects of our communications problems has been that Sheila’s not been well either. Again, those of you who follow my missives on the Facebook page will know she’s been in hospital recently. She’s had one or two things that needed ‘looking at’. The first was her shoulder. Somehow, the daft old bat had managed to dislocate it. She, nor we have any idea how. She doesn’t fall over half as regularly as she used to, mainly due to not being so good (not that she ever was anyway) on her pins these days. So it isn’t that, or at least she says not. It just started hurting, but she couldn’t put her finger on exactly where, thinking it was her breast area. Being a breast cancer survivor, she (and we) thought it may be that. So, appointments were made for a mammogram and we duly trotted off after several visits from our medécin, Mme. Petit. Docteur Petit, and her locum had examined Sheila as carefully as they could and recommended an x-ray. We were all stunned to find out what the problem was. None more so than the poor young locum, who was truly upset that she’d tried to manipulate Sheila’s arm, with all the distress that it caused.
That, painful for Sheila though it was, wasn’t the worst of her problems. She was also suffering a little with her ‘plumbing’, and the doctor was more concerned about this, leading as it does to dehydration, vomiting and allsorts of other unpleasant stuff. An appointment was made to go along to the hospital in Saumur for treatment as an out-patient, but the doctor there decided that a drip was necessary, and that they’d have to keep Sheila in for a while. You may be able to imagine what this meant for a soon-to-be 80 year old lady, with severe disabilities as well as a dislocated shoulder, and no real command of the French language? She was in bits. Scared to death in fact.
That first night was a tad stressful. Syb stayed with Sheila and Hannah provided much support in the translation dept. for Syb. I couldn’t really stay, what with the nature of the problem, and the potential care that was required. A bed was found for Syb and placed right next to her mum in a room with one other occupant, another elderly lady. A nightdress (very fetching) was given to Syb, as well as instructions on where to find the toilet, and the shower if she wanted one! The staff were so kind and efficient to both patient and patient’s daughter, we can’t praise them highly enough. One nurse, learning that Syb hadn’t had anything to eat since lunch (it was now 10pm) scurried off in search of something, anything for Syb to eat. She returned with a full-scale meal, in small pots heated up in a microwave! Now that’s caring!
After a stay of 5 nights, Sheila was allowed back home and I duly picked her up in the car. Now, with the problem she has with her shoulder, and with her disability worsening over the winter, our car’s become a tad impractical for her. The doors just don’t open wide enough for her and we can’t manoeuvre her into the right position to be able to ‘fall’ into the seat. So, we may have to think about replacing the Mégane. What with though? Dedicated vehicles for disabled passengers here are at a premium, and the expense is something we just can’t afford. In the UK, it’d be acase of relying on Motability, but here in France that’s out of the question. Much of my time on the internet is spent trying to find information on things that may help not just Sheila, but other guests with f=disabilities that arrive from time to time to spend holidays here.
Our local pharmacie, and their staff have been a revelation too! After the doctor prescribed a certain bed, with eletronic controls, and a memory-foam mattress for Sheila, we trotted off to the pharmacie. Mme. Péhu, the owner was a star, even to the point of leading the delivery driver from Vernantes, to our house for the delivery. Then she explained how the thing worked, and assured me that any problems we may have, we only had to ask. Now, that’s above and beyond. A stark contrast to our after-sales service experience with both AliceADSL and Neuf/SFR! That’s what I mean about the local, and national levels, and how France works or doesn’t, depending upon which level you’re on.
As I type, Sheila’s doing ok. She’s strapped into a sling that can’t come off for another two weeks yet, but says that the shoulder’s feeling much better. We have an appointment to go back to the hospital for more x-rays, and a general check-up. The arm that’s in dock is her ‘good’ arm too, such as it is! So walking’s not an option as she can’t hold onto her walker for stability, so the wheelchair’s been pressed into service. Eating’s a bit of a job too, as are so many other things that most of us take for granted, but she’s doing ok, and the prognosis for her arm, and a return to similar levels of activity as before, is good. She’ll be happy to tell you all about her experiences of the French healthcare system in the spring/summer, when she’s sat out on her favourite bench in the sunshine. You’re more than welcome to join her, one remarkable and brave old lady.
Until the next time, Au revoir.
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