We’ve been suffering one of the great irritations of modern life for the last few days – no telephone and therefore no internet.  Orange did tell us that they send us an email to let us know when the phone was back on and sounded surprised when my OH pointed out we needed that you need the phone for the internet.  It didn’t seem to have occurred to them that Blackberry and iPhone saturation has not yet reached 100% in France, especially not in rural sud-Gironde.

In fact we couldn’t get too hot under the collar about the phone even if it did take Orange five days to send a man with a van to look at the line.  Last Thursday morning I was walking the dogs when I saw clouds of pitch black smoke coming up from the road side of our neighbour’s chai.  Initial uncharitable and furious reaction was that he was burning tyres.  Then I heard things exploding repeatedly and sirens  and I realised this was a genuine fire – right underneath the telephone lines.

It was at that moment that my husband was talking to the fisc in Toulouse about a demand for Taxe d’Habitation that they’d sent to our daughter in Italy that she’d never received and didn’t owe anyway but were still threatening to freeze her bank account until she paid it that the fire fried the telephone line.  My OH was not pleased…

Loads of fire engines went past, road blocks were set up which resulted in a certain amount of discussion with the gendarmes manning the road block when I returned from buying bread, ‘Yes we did live down the road,’ ‘no we didn’t have another entrance,’ ‘no you couldn’t see our house from the road because it’s in the vines,’ ‘yes, we were turning off before the fire…’

Of course once things had quietened down a bit I wandered up to see what had been going on – annoyingly enough the back of the chai had blocked our view.  There was a burnt out bus in the middle of the road – so my initial thought about tyres hadn’t been so far off after all – so completely destroyed that it could have come out of a war zone.  What had happened – a man from the bus company told me – was that party of 6 – 8 year olds were on the way to a holiday camp when the bus driver realised there was something wrong.  He saw smoke, stopped the bus without waiting to find a really convenient spot, it was opposite a building and just around a bend and told the animateurs to evacuate the bus immediately.  Twenty seconds after the last of the 44 children got off the bus he saw the first flames…

The man from the bus company said some of the parents had demanded a convocation for that evening to discuss compensation for the loss of their children’s dou-dous.

Now of course the parents want to know why the bus went up in flames, it was a new one too, but compensations for teddies and the sort of things that are taken on a day trip?  In any case if it had been my children on that bus the last thing I’d be thinking about only hours after someone’s quick reactions had saved them from being possibly burnt alive is money.  I’d be too busy hugging my kids and kissing the bus driver and the animateurs in gratitude for the fact that I still had my children.

I do hope some of the parents did.