Posted by: britgirl82 | August 9, 2010

8th January – The Big Shop

Friday!

But no excitement for the weekend for Brit Girl…..not really.

Just more tireless trips over the cobbles, along the narrow and cold corridor, only to be warmed by the trek up the stairs to the apartment.

Lets not forget this was early January – the coldest seen in Bordeaux for many years….and yes that was felt – fingers were aching and noses were cold.

Today was the day…would the sofa make it, in one piece upstairs?! Brit Girl’s mathematically wired Dad had an ingenious plan surrounding angles, ropes and pully contraptions to navigate the narrow staircase and winding corners with the sofa. But, in the end it resulted in brut force, sheer pushing, pulling, swearing and with Brit Girl at the bottom of the sofa being squashed against walls, bannisters and the sofa…..but it made up to the apartment and narrowly through the living room door. However, please note, the likelihood of said sofa making its way back DOWN the stairs in two years time is highly UNLIKELY! It may well have to stay put.

You’d think that would be the hardest task, unpacking the van…but lest we forget there was still more furniture to be bought….yes, something you may well be unaware of. En France when you rent a flat unfurnished, it is just that. Mais oui, NOTHING in the kitchen but a sink…nothing, not a sausage, no oven, washing machine, cupboard – RIEN, NOTHING, NADA, ZERO.

So even when it reached 4pm and the van was empty – boxes were stored in the apartment and the big pieces of furniture from home in the UK were safely re-housed en France, a bigger task loomed for Brit Girl……to buy a washing machine, oven, fridge, freezer, cupboards, chairs, work tops……..a whole new kitchen in fact. Not forgetting the need for a bed and mattress. And get this, it had to be done whilst the White Van Man was still en France……two days and counting.

So, Friday night, all squashed back into the white van a trip to the industrial estate was made. Now Brit Girl was most definitely not looking forward to this. The travel, the unpacking could all be done without really thinking about being in a foreign country…however, this exercise would most definitely highlight the fact that she didnt belong here, couldn’t speak the language and perhaps was drowning with the nerves. But as ever, pragmatic, Brit Girl held her head up and marched into the shop -well aware that there was only an hour before the shop shut.

It was likely Supermarket Sweep gone mad….some shop assistants saw our panic and credit cards and ran around with us, “Yes, you can take that away today”; “No, that will be weeks before delivery”; “Right, we will take the more expensive option if we can take it today”; “Bien sur”.

Others were some what more french, sitting in their chair, whilst we ran around getting descriptions and codes for them…..if you will this shop worked on the fairly “helpful” technique that only certain shop assistants could sell you certain goods, there was a “TV man”, a “White Goods Man”, a “Kitchen Man” and so on, yes they knew their stuff but it made the pace and ease of the whole experience in French less than simple.

At 7.15pm, fifteen minutes prior to closing Brit Girl stood with her credit card in hand ready to pay – close to tears after what felt like a lot of work in French, without truly understanding everything; had we really bought what we wanted/needed? Would we end up with the right boxes in the van? What happened if there was a problem? The list was endless but there was no time for that….BritGirl’s credit card was handed over, “All on this?” asked a bewildered and fairly rude cashier.

After time in this country, you realise it isnt rudeness, it is just their way, their approach to customer service. After a number of months it doesnt even register that how they speak to you or look at you may be rude…it just is the way. But at that moment, after the 72 hours which had passed and the nerves and fear which was building – without a release of tears, it just felt rude, unhelpful and pretty unecessary to BritGirl – “Oui, tous”.

The payment went through sans probleme….clearly the credit card would not know what hit it in this move…that was more money put on her credit card than Brit Girl had ever done before….it did not sit well at all, not one bit. So, next stop, the collection depot with the 8 pieces of paper(!) listing the purchases.

The shop was a little like Ikea, you order the vast quantities of furniture you need and the depot man brings them all out for you….except this time, it was a French men desperate to go home. After a fraught wait of worry and exhaustion (tears were close at this point), the little man wheeled out a number of trolleys and dumped them outside the White Van. We are talking a lots of boxes here….there was no way on earth these could all be checked to ensure that what had been paid for was there and even if there was a problem, there was no one to help. As soon as the last box was off the trolley, the doors were locked and shutters down – thats it, ferme – we were on our own.

But it was all done. The entire kitchen was now in the back of the White Van…..and you know what that means another day of unloading, unpacking and struggling up the stairs. Brit Girl should have felt pleased with herself, all the things that were needed had been bought and paid for in a short space of time in a foreign country and language, but right then, on that day, Brit Girl felt anything but pleased with herself . Out of her depth, shy, unconfident and scared would probably be the best way to describe it. Somedays, even now, months later, these feelings remain.

One sparse kitchen

But looking back now (months later), Brit Girl can say it wasn’t as bad as it felt and it was the start of many hard and personally challenging exercises. Those feelings still appear, the panic of talking to someone for fear of not understanding their response or asking for the wrong thing (a gros biere for example instead of a grand biere (fat or big)!). However, at that moment, on a cold and dark January evening, the move to France felt like the hardest task in the world and only highlighted the huge challenge which had hardly even started.

Thankfully, the next few days were to be easier….

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