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la Colle scetch 


 
 

Discovering La Colle en Provence - Euro Style

 
   

 

 

 
 

 

 To see our holiday and long term lets. 

'This page is consecrated to what happens when you discover that; you in fact do not have any real electricity or water, how to temporarily survive and how your life or death relies totally on an anarchic system called 'Maries'  '

You have heard of 'A year in Provence' but have you heard of

'Oh Dear ......... Provence'.

 OK the base has been built, everything has been connected and the main roofs have been replaced, and you are just beginning to think that you could enjoy a little rest. Every bodies been paid all that lovely money you promised and lets just lie back and enjoy some of that calm Provence that you have been looking foreword to.

Well the sequence isn't quite exactly in that order but very nearly was; as while all of those things were going on we realised that the water system was in fact a great deal of a problem. We had been told that the house water came from an underground source and was captured into a storage tank and that when the electricity was put back on could then be pumped directly into the house.

Well that is all true, but what they had not told us was that; come sometime in June the underground source would dry up and wouldn't come back until November.

We had also been told that to power everything up and get it running again all we had to do was remake certain connections and then EDF would happily come and put in a new mains power connection. We therefore followed to the letter all their instructions and requirements including trenches with special depths for the mains cable.

The trenches involved heavy equipment which had to be hired and we also had to pay EDF to do their work so the final bill was quite considerable.

Well the day finally came when we were reconnected. Wow we had electricity .. or did we?

What we had not been told was; that once we had done all this work and paid all this money that in fact we would get such a feeble supply that we couldn't do much with it. I mean what were we going to do with all those new wall plugs. The total power supply to the whole Hamlet of four properties nearly all with families was 3 kilowatts, and most of the time the voltage was in fact 168 volts.

Since I didn't know very much about this, I had to have a quick education. 3 kilowatts is the amount of power needed to start a washing machine or a dishwasher. It doesn't need it all the time but just to start it! So it would take the entire facility of all the power in the hamlet just to start one washing machine but also because the power arriving was only 168 volts when the whole of Europe works on 210 Voltage (A reduction of 20% over the norm) Also meant that the washing machine needed to work longer and harder to do the same job. In addition some equipment wouldn't function very well at all!

So how could this be in 1995 and especially as France was at the time (and still is) the most advanced nuclear energy country in the world and actually exported the stuff.?

The answer was in fact very intriguing, and defiantly an 'Oh Dear ...Provence' It turned out to be that when the electrical line was put in the 1930's all they needed was light and the line that bought the electricity came from Montlaux about 4.8 kilometres away and could not be used to bring up more power then the 3 kilowatts we got.

Answer change the line Mr. EDF you have 4 clients here that need it. Well actually not, we don't own the line says Mr EDF and we would if we could but in fact it is owned by a syndicate of Maries. (group of town councils) Well Mr Maries (non of then where female) Change your lines EDF will help, Well no actually the ground the lines run across is very unstable we can't use that route anymore.

This is a polite way of saying well actually we do not want to pay for it and anyway aren't you just a bunch of hippies up there that do not need anything more than a bit of light or anyway we think we remember that from the 60's we certainly haven't been there since then. .....Well actually no there are two families with young children both normal and working and in fact one of the men actually works for EDF. Then there is a young couple and the other neighbour who has been here since the 60's. Well you could call him a hippy I would call him a deadbeat personally, from his looks actions and manners, but you know he did inherit a vineyard in Champaign country. So we can call him a rich deadbeat actually.

 

 Deep summer on the plateaux    Life blooms with water a constant necessity, but when you are without then and only then do you realise how important it is.

Without the electricity we couldn't solve the water problem and without the water we could not stay. What do you do? We changed the new roof planning to collect water from the large surface and created two large storage tanks which could also be filled up by a water delivery. Then we went on a draconian water usage policy ie: one small bath for everybody and reuse the leftover for the flowers. Reuse hand wash water for rinse water, never run taps. After a while you can get very good at it.

Put the washing machine on a timer and set that for when every bodies in bed. The rest just try your best judgment and use lots of batteries and recharge them at night. When you can't read under a 100 watt light .. well just go to sleep.

Of course we realised that we could not stay like this and therefore we all banded together to pressurise the Maries and EDF. Surprising what you can find out when you are motivated. It tuned out that EDF had signed a contract with the government of France stating that they would supply the whole of France 210 volts by the year 2000.

Armed with this information we not only talk to EDF but also the minister of interior as they represented France and got them to push down from above.  This was due to the fact that the Maries were not interested in talking or doing ANYTHING FOR US. They certainly hadn't responded to any legal letters and completely stone-wall us.

Next came a cosies cosier get to know you policy with the Maries so that they could see that 'we are just ordinary folk and not those hippy types you thought we were'.

  Futuristic scenes can be seen at dawn. The immense view is crafted with light to astound us. You need though to get up early to see and capture them.

The Plateax 

It took 3 1/2 years to finally get everybody to agree and trace a new route for an electrical line. We had to buy permission to place electrical pylons on private land (that's after we found out who's it was). We had to negotiate continuously with three different Maries who all hated each other and were from different political parties.

We had to all agree the budget which was over 800,000 francs or about 118,000 euros. Luckily EDF agreed to pick up the lions share (remember their little contract)  The Maries another big chunk and the rest well that was for us.

When they finally put the line in it took no time at all and we were connected up quickly. The only problem was that when it came down to paying our part as agreed by all. Our little hippy neighbour, refused to pay his part. He had somehow discovered that once he had been connected no one could disconnect him again. Leaving the other three owners the full bill to pay.

However I was so happy that I immediately programmed in a drilling team so that we could forage for water. The beginning of the following year then came and within 24hrs of starting we had drilled into the water table at 140 meters deep. All the systems went in to back this up and then I could plan for the building of the swimming pool.

 

 

   Rod     

         Life is about working together and this adventure proves the true worth of  sayings like 'United we stand' .

 

Yes the water and electricity problem was a a major one to solve. No one had thought that it would be such a difficult and long winded affair.

I suppose that the person the most surprised by the situation was our neighbour who worked for EDF. He had never even thought that there could be a problem like that in France. For all of us though it taught us that we could succeed if we worked together and were persistent.

There were however many times that we thought that it would never end and we were not going to succeed. But by pushing on and using our brains we won through.

As for the neighbour who decided to dump on everyone, well this is just one of the totally irresponsible things he has done. He has only succeeded in cutting himself off from any aid from either one of the other three of us and will live out his life in total isolation.

 

Living out here on a top of a small mountain is a bit like living on a boat.

You have to consider everything and have backup plans and reserves.

If not nature tends to show you that it's considerably more powerful.

 

Rod Cook

Nov 2016

   

 

 

Discovering La Colle en Provence - What's next?

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Copyright: Rod Cook 2016