Thursday, June 11, 2009

Time for a moan

Well it couldn't last could it? Have finally taken off my rose tinted spectacles and realised that shit happens, no matter where you live. Will try to keep moaning to a minimum but am feeling quite murderous at the moment.

It was to good to be true that the Parisian pest at Grand Duc would stay quiet for long....last weekend she flew at a couple who had just arrived to rent our apartment. They hadn't even entered the domaine to start their holiday yet she was screaming abuse at them and threatening them there would be hell to pay if she heard their baby cry.

She is mentally unhinged so I have lodged a formal complaint with the management company and her landlord. She is the most anti-social beast, she chats loudly on her mobile on the balcony at all times of the day and night and plays Barbra Streisand and - even worse - sings along to it, yet I have never said a word. Gloves are off. But the couple, understandably, were upset.

The next bit I don't understand. The woman client rang us late on Saturday night to say she was disgusted by the state of the apartment and they wanted to leave and have a refund. Er, doesn't quite work like that. Iain went over to placate them on Sunday and said the woman is a manic depressive with OCD, she said it was a health hazard for her baby to stay there any longer! She has taken pictures of our coffee pot, the corners of the room and the shower cubicle citing filth and dirt.

I would be laughing it it weren't for the fact that they have now buggered off with our keys, all our linen and travel cot to stay somewhere else, still demanding a refund or they will plaster the internet with pictures of our uninhabitable apartment. Just makes me even more determined to get that unspeakable cow next door out, even if I have to take a petition around. There's no way they would be doing this if she hadn't ruined their holiday within 30 seconds of arrival.

So, moving onto reasons for living (or not) in France. Shall we start with the bad news and move onto the good news?

Reasons NOT to live in France:

1. In a word, SFR. This mobile phone company (in fact, pretty much all mobile companies) treat you like a convicted felon. I waited a year before signing up for a French mobile and wish I hadn't bothered. The guy at the shop in Grasse sold me a BlackBerry Storm. It wasn't what I wanted but it was the only BlackBerry he had in stock. Should have heard the warning bells then. Three weeks down the line it stopped delivering emails. I went back to be told with an indifferent shrug that the software wasn't good, so did I want to go home and call the British helpline or download the new software with a print off from the shop in French? Well, not really but there was no other option so I did. Spent all afternoon trying the duff number (it didn't work) then in desperation, I somehow worked out the printed instructions and bingo, it started working again.

Fast forward two more weeks and texts suddenly stopped coming through. Back to Grasse encore une fois and my mate the friendly SFR bi-lingual shop assistant looked SO pleased to see me. Explained the situation, he looked very bored and kept saying I could always pay another 99 euros and take another model. Hello? Even in nightmare red tapesville UK, if your phone isn't working they at least try to sort it out without charging you for a new phone. He then said I should have brought it back in the first week if I wasn't happy. The fact that that was two weeks before it went wrong seemed to pass him by. By this point I was steaming, so he just walked off to serve someone else, leaving me with a more helpful but totally French speaking assistant who would have swapped it quite happily if he was on his own. Under much duress, happy pants finally got out a jiffy bag with a huge sigh and said he would send it to be fixed but it would have to go back to the manufacturers at least twice before they will replace it.

My friend has an iPhone and she said hers has come back from repair and now it won't charge. Have reached the conclusion that the French serveice industry doesn't really exist and as for the customer always being right, don't even go there.

Reasons for living in France:

1. Havent yet heard about bent, freeloading French politicians claiming extortionate expenses for moats, mortgages that have already been paid off (the French are a nation of renters not buyers) and porn movies from Blockbusters. The worst they seem to do is have the odd mistress but there is no law against that.

2. The train journey from Grasse to Monte-Carlo. When there are no wild cat strikes, it is scenic, fairly clean, on time (I've only taken a train four times since I arrived, all in the last two days, so I might moan about it sometime soon.) It was lovely ear-marking all the places I still want to visit - Cap d'Ail, Beaulieu, St Jean Cap Ferrat - when I get the time.

3. Arriving in Monaco, a twee toytown invented to make mass excess feel quite normal, where you are just as likely to see a Bentley, Ferrari or Lamborghini as a Mini Cooper (my personal fave, I still miss my cream and black one now lovingly cared for by Melanie.) What's not to like about a place where you can never ever feel under or over dressed? It's a bit like Geneva - quite clean and clinical - but with much better people watching and more kitsch factor.

4. The Monte-Carlo TV Festival, possibly the last place on earth where journalists are made to feel a bit special rather than like something the cat brought in. The free three course lunch every day with copious quantities of wine, Badoit, coffee etc obviously tipped the balance.

5. Meeting my second famous Brad of the last three weeks - that would be Brad Walsh rather than Brad Pitt, a lovely bloke who has never changed over the years and who entertained me with stories of all the famous A listers staying at his hotel. He has spent most of his stay here calling his mates at home in Watford to tell them who he is off to dinner with each night.

6. Being able to stop off en route to the train station at the Fairmont Plaza for a glass of pink Champagne on the roof terrace overlooking the Med. St Pancras' Champagne bar is lovely but it will never compete with that.

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