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Cat ornament, optional

I was on my way back from the supermarket when the car began to beep wildly and one of those warning notices came up on the dashboard ‘STOP!  FRD défaillant’.  The last time I got a warning I decided that it was probably safe to drive the two kilometres back to the house and got a terrific bollocking from my husband, anyway anything that flashes ‘STOP’ at you seems a bit urgent so I drew into a lay by.  For once I’d remembered to bring my mobile with me so I rang him up to say there was a slightly alarming flashing message and what did it mean.

Had I looked in the instruction manual?  Of course I had.  (Rifles quickly through manual, just as I thought no handy list of what flashing acronyms might mean.)  Right, he’ll ring the garage and ask them.  Five minutes later he rings back to say the garage don’t know either but have said I’d better bring it in and they’ll look at it.  So off I set, very cautiously, just in case the signs meant something like ‘The brakes are going to fail as you’re going down a steep hill’ and greatly annoying the boy racer roaring up behind me who didn’t appreciate being kept at a steady 40 km.

One of the things I like about living here is that they still have village garages where you aren’t made to feel stupid for pulling in to have a minor point checked, especially if you’re a woman.  The mechanics, rather than tutting and shaking their heads on seeing your car, and saying, ‘This one’s only fit for the scrap heap, gov,’ seem to look on keeping a venerable old vehicle (aka wreck) on the road as an exciting challenge.  It’s even better if they get the chance to cannibalise some other old wreck and they can proudly say they’ve repaired it for next to nothing.  As the Citroen Pluriel, of the flashing warning signs, is the only new car we’ve ever bought, we’ve had plenty of experience of old bangers held together by string (and parcel tape on one occasion) so really appreciate the French make do and mend attitude.

I arrive at the garage and the two mechanics wander out.  One is short, fat and young, the other, tall, thin and elderly.  I explain the problem and SFY goes to have a look, ‘Your back brake light has gone,’ he says promptly.  Obvious when you know, the Stop light – Feu Arriere Droite – has failed.  I really, really like the way French mechanics don’t make you feel stupid.

Short, fat and young says he’ll get a new one put in straight away.  After a couple of minutes he still can’t get the cover off because a screw is burred so tall, thin and elderly comes over saying he knows what to do.  After a couple more minutes he goes and fetches his special tool kit, the one with the right angled screwdriver.  That doesn’t get the screw out either.  So the owner of the garage comes out of the office and has a go too.  He straightens up and says, ‘How many mechanics does it take to change a bulb?’

And how long does it take to change a bulb?  Twenty four hours.  We had to leave the car there.