The wonder and bewilderment of our first night in Belvès was compounded, and nearly confounded, by two pieces of technology, the wifi and the washing machine.
As any modern Senior couple does on arriving in a new place, as soon as food, sleep and showers have been sorted, they turn to wifi to get connected. In Spain last year, it was constantly called “wiffy” and henceforth it shall be called thus.
We could see the network on our phones and computers, but it wanted the key to be entered. The owner has provided a fabulous “House Book” in plastic covers which holds all the information one needs to live here. In it are the instructions for using the television, microwave, hair drier (now that was helpful), slow cooker, heaters, hot water service and mail. It contained lots of information about the garbage services, doctor services, tourism services and church services. There were lessons about cooking foie gras, hints on purchasing duck and geese, (dead ones for eating), recipes for (dead) duck, a delicious looking onion tart and potatoes fried in goose fat. All absolutely essential, but no wiffy key.
After an hour or so of frustrated struggling, we rang Australia and got the owner out of bed. It was morning. Being an IT Executive, it is not a given that he knew how to use technology, but in this case he did. Step by step, he guided each of our devices onto the internet by the simple expedient of placing the piece of equipment within reach of the router, and pressing the button on the back off and on again. So easy. (I will not say “simples” any longer!) No key! I still don’t know what the key is but I know I get really great strong wiffy every day, and unlimited free calls to Australia on the house phone. I just want to add that the wiffy here is far superior to our ADSL2 at home, and most everywhere else we go, Orange has us covered on our phones.
Now it was time to conquer another piece of French machinery – the washing machine. Two weeks’ worth of smalls had accumulated, requiring our immediate attention. While you’d think washing machines are reasonably intuitive, we didn’t want to break this front-loader either, because most machines I’ve used in Australia are top loaders. I have only recently had experience with a technically competent, extremely proficient and completely precious Miele washing machine in my friend’s home where we stayed before departure, so I faced this one with some fear. After all, her Miss Miele would refuse to wash, pout its lips, give a flick of its hair and deny me access if I so much as pushed one button in the wrong sequence.
As you do, we loaded all the clothes in first, then started looking for the cavity, pouch, pocket or tray where the washing powder is loaded. Having identified three possibilities for placement, the next question became not where, but “which one is the washing powder?” Our Owners had provided not just a selection of boxed powders, bottled powders, hand rinses, fabric softeners and wool washes, but a veritable collection of same. Manufacturers would carol with joy if they saw the vast range of products on offer.
When perplexed, what do any modern Seniors do? Revert to Google of course. A happy 20 minutes was spent typing the names of all the products into the Translate app and learning their meanings. In the end, there was just one plain and ordinary washing liquid so we chose that one, and learned via the “House Book” that it went into the left-most tray. The directions on the bottle told us to pour in 50 ml, so we poured 25 ml. We are green that way.
Excellent progress had been made. It had only taken an hour so far. We had clothes in, door closed, liquid in, and now just had to press a button. Simples? I mean Prelavage is easy, non? It means pre-wash. We were confident our undies didn’t need that one. Were they Chemises? Not quite, because we also had socks and thermal underwear which are less delicate than that implied by chemise. Laine I could work out was wool, because we are a great sheep-producing country and understand “lanolin”. We are not stupid Seniors and all was good so far.
This process of elimination left us, however, with four incomprehensible buttons and bellies that ached from laughing. Google told us that Traitement intensif jeunesse meant “I did CIF antenna processing at the beauty parlour”. When asked, Q’est ce que “soie”?, the answer was “mouse”. I hoped our dirty underwear hadn’t gone that far. Bottes de cresson yielded “watercress boots”. I’m sure we had none in our possession, nor were we ever likely to. Finally Rajout de linge allowed us to part-way through the cycle add our lingerie. Or was that linen?
When the laughter subsided, and I promise it was so much that we may have needed to launder our current underwear, (except we are both very fit if you take my meaning), we realised we had typed into Google old searches or mistyped others. It was time for the fat fingers to stop tapping and point the camera at the machine instead.
This gave us Essorage which means “spinning”, Vidange which means “emptying” and Rincage which you can probably guess means “rinsing”. Armed with a wholly new washing machine vocabulary, whereby Essorage Delicat was now a snap, we confidently pushed the one button I’d been taught by Miss Miele, Machine à Melbourne.
As I pressed it, I was confident my mouse (mistyped as souries not soie), my watercress boots, my newly processed antenna, my linen, lingerie and laine were all going to be cleansed.
… I pushed “Express”.
Chapter 11: I Fall in Love on Valentine’s Day