Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Good timing for bad communications

August is an unusual month in France, because one has the impression that half the nation is on vacation. Paris, in particular, closes down to a large extent, or at least quietens down considerably (from a traffic viewpoint), and certain residents prefer to remain there in August to appreciate calmly various aspects of the capital. The rue Rambuteau, where we lived for ages, used to take on a village atmosphere in August. You could sit down at a sidewalk table at the corner café, without being swarmed by pedestrians, and read the newspaper. Obviously, what I've just said does not apply to touristic quarters of Paris such as the Champs-Elysées, the Eiffel Tower and the Latin Quarter.

So, you might say that my Internet connection chose the ideal time to break down... when most people are outside in the sunny weather, rather than seated in front of their computer screens. Incidentally, in McDonald places, I've got accustomed to choosing a table in a corner where the sunlight doesn't affect the readability of the MacBook screen. I've also realized that, to avoid dirtying my nice little machine, it's preferable to stick to stuff such as ice cream and Coke, rather than McDonald's greasy products. For health reasons, too, this was no doubt a wise decision.

It's not impossible that many of the technical employees at Free (my Internet service provider) were on vacation at the moment that my connection went down. In any case, over the last three weeks, no Free technician ever phoned me up (on my iPhone), let alone came here to see what might be broken. Fortunately, yesterday, Free accepted immediately my request to end my contract. In my letter, I didn't even have to get around to using nasty words to describe their faulty service. So, in a few days, I'll have a new telephone and Internet service, provided by the state-operated Orange company, along with a new email address (which I do not know yet). I'll even have a new phone number:

04 76 64 18 32 (inside France) or
33 4 76 64 18 32 (from another country)

As before, I'll be able to phone free to most countries in the world (including, of course, Australia).

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Here's a photo of my recently-acquired set of McDonald Coke glasses, to which I'm still adding new specimens:

This precious collection will be a personal souvenir of the events of August 2009. Meanwhile, I'll wait until my new Internet connection is operational before describing in detail the genealogical jackpot that hit me, when I was least expecting it, on the eve of my Internet collapse. In a nutshell, I've just discovered precisely that my 27-times-great-grandfather from France, named William, invaded England in 1066... exactly nine centuries before the birth of my French daughter. The connection (I'm talking of genealogy, not the Internet) has nothing to do with ancestors named Skyvington, but exists through my paternal grandmother, Kathleen Pickering, who grew up on a bush property in Australia. Her brother was a World War I hero who, through his sporting and military prowess, was nicknamed King. My father, born at the time "King" Pickering returned from the Western Front, then received his heroic uncle's nickname (to my mind, a silly choice) as his own official given name. My dear father could not know that, among his distant ancestors, there were no less than four genuine kings of England, including the monarch who signed the Magna Carta at Runnymede in 1215.


  1. So, you might say that my Internet connection chose the ideal time to break down [...] It's not impossible that many of the technical employees at Free (my Internet service provider) were on vacation at the moment that my connection went down.

    I'm afraid it wouldn't have been much better at some other period of the year. I have some friends who got problems with Free in winter, summer or spring... Good luck with Orange!

  2. King is an interesting first name. Some time ago the chairman of GEC Australia was known as KEG McGuinness - King Edward George!

  3. Corina: I'm starting to hear nasty tales about all the ISPs, including Orange. I guess that the Internet is big business, and surfers are surrounded by sharks, jellyfish (medusas), poisonous crabs, etc. My banker advises me to block formally all future payments to Free, because he says that often these firms simply "forget" to stop taking your money for months after the contract is canceled. He then went on to tell me a crazy personal story about having neither phone nor Internet for four months, in a neighboring village, because the Tele2 firm offered him their services without ever verifying that they had an authorization from French Telecom to operate in that particular village. It turned out that they never had such an authorization, but they didn't realize that this was the case. Meanwhile they gave their new "customer" five different electronic boxes, one after the other, since they imagined that some mysterious influence in the village was causing their boxes to break down. Finally, my banker was given an ideal system by the same woman at Romans, at Orange, who is handling my case at Choranche. So, I'm confident...

    Annie: The problem in my father's case was that his second given name (in fact his Kentish grandmother's surname) was Mepham. The combination "King Mepham" followed by "Skyvington" made my poor father sound like he was an ancient Saxon monarch from Wessex. He hated the words "King Mepham", and I think he never forgave his parents for giving him such names. Meanwhile, he asked everybody to call him Bill. In any case, the totally unexpected aspect of my "genealogical jackpot" is that, although I always imagined that we were descendants of English people who had arrived during the Conquest, I had never imagined for an instant that our direct Norman ancestor was the Conqueror William himself! I've already started to set down all the facts in a monograph that will be called They Sought the Last Land, where "they" refers to my recent paternal ancestors, and the "last land" is, of course, our Australia... as nicknamed by the great Australian poet A D Hope.