DIY…demain

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As I’ve written here before, life in France is pretty idyllic, although it has its drawbacks.

I don’t mean to gripe, and I imagine that nowhere’s perfect, but when it comes to DIY stores then France certainly isn’t…

Commonly known as ‘bricos’, most DIY stores here – just as in the UK – exist as part of large national chains.

There’s Mr Brocolage, Bricoman, Bricodepot, Bricopro and Bricomarche, as well as Castorama and many others.

I reckon that we must have visited every brico within a 40km radius – and that’s a fuck of a lot of bricos – looking for everything from timber quadrant to tiles.

Shopping around doesn’t begin to describe this lengthy process and you have to if you want to find what you want at a reasonable price.

DIY supplies are pretty expensive compared to the UK and they also vary quite wildly in price and quality.

But there’s also another problem – availability.

Basically, if you see something you want, and it seems to be at a reasonable price, then grab the fucker!

Our local brico – Bricomarche in Renaze – has ‘supply problems’.

For example, I went in for some lasure – a type of varnish for floors. There were only two tins on the shelf, which I bought. I went in a week later and again there were only two tins on the shelf, which I also bought. This week I went in and there were none.

Strimmer line…I went in for a drum of it – the cheapest way of buying it and they had none. A week later they’d had a delivery – 3 drums, one of each of the common sizes: that’s all. Those three drums are still there two weeks later but there’d be only two gathering dust on the shelf if I hadn’t gone elsewhere in the end.

I went in today to buy finishing plaster for some plasterboarding and they had two bags left, so I snapped those babies up, I can tell you.

Light switches – two weeks ago they had about a dozen; today, two, which I snaffled.

Nobody seems too bothered, either…

But, you know what, I sort of like that.

In the grand scheme of things, if I have to go without a light switch or some strimmer line for a few extra days, it’s not really that serious, is it?

It’s just another reminder that life here is just that little bit more relaxed and, if the brico store manager gives me a Gallic shrug when I say that I need some 2.4mm strimmer line, then I can give one to Mrs Shark when I get a gentle reminder that the weeds in the corner of the garden are getting a bit out of control…

Time is an illusion…

…lunchtime doubly so.

 

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Perhaps Douglas Adams had France in mind when he wrote these words, because the 2 hour lunch break is something we’re still trying to get to grips with after over a year here.

Basically, if you want to buy something here from midday to 2PM, apart from lunch that is, then basically you can forget it.

Sure, many supermarkets now have all day opening, but that’s about it.

Even in the large out of town shopping districts – the zones commerciales – finding something like a brico (think B&Q, and of which more in a later blog post) that’s open is a task akin to seeking the Holy Grail and marginally less fruitful.

Want a tin of peas or a lump of cheese?

No problem.

Want a tin of paint or some wall plugs.

Fat fucking chance.

Organising a comprehensive shopping trip has to be done with some care if you don’t want to hit lunchtime and a potential 2 hour wait until the shop you want is open. So, it’s either leave home early so you get there with plenty of time before noon, or set off during lunchtime so you get there for 2.

Then there’s the traffic…

When we were looking for houses early last year, we were told that houses situated some distance from main centres of work weren’t popular as a long lunchtime commute cut into the lunch break too much.

Consequently, properties lying over 20 minutes or so from employment areas are less desirable – although potentially slightly cheaper and less sought after, which may offer a small advantage to potential buyers.

However, those people living close to their work then behave like lunatics on the road as they drive as if their heads were on fire to get home as quickly as possible – and the same disregard is shown going back to work, of course.

But why a 2 hour lunch break in the first place?

Well, it may be due to the working week in France being very short – a statutory 35 hours – but this has been modified since it was introduced and is really just a reference point for calculating overtime. Besides, the 35 hour maximum doesn’t go right across the board:

The 35-hour rule applies to all employees except those with special working conditions, such as sales representatives, executives, limited liability company managers, caretakers in residential buildings and domestic staff. There are many other exceptions, so the main beneficiaries are blue-collar workers and those in large organisations.

I can understand a 2 hour siesta type break as in Spain, because of the heat, but France doesn’t enjoy such good weather – especially in the north.

I’d hate a 2 hour lunch break.

When I became self-employed in about 1990, I used to prefer to work without a lunch break. So, if I was doing a 6 hour day and paid per hour, I’d work straight through from 8.30 or 9 and then try and leave as soon as possible. My philosophy was that I wasn’t getting paid for lunch breaks so I’d rather have any down time at the end of my work. Sometimes having to take a lunch break was unavoidable, however, if the person I was supposed to be seeing was at lunch.

Anyway, there’s no point in resenting the two hour lunchtime here as it’s just something we have to adjust to, but when it gets to 11.45 in the morning and you’ve just run out of paint and you have over two hours to wait to get it, it can be irritating, to say the least!