Yesterday we went to Bergerac to see EDF.
EDF are our electricity company. We have two electricity meters: one in the house and one in the derelict cottage. When we moved in, we didn't know we had two meters. And we didn't realise that EDF had started sending us estimated statements for the meter in the cottage, where the dial probably hasn't changed for years.
Trying to explain to an EDF telephone help line in broken French that there is something wrong with the EDF statement is a particular form of exquisite torture, not least because the person at the other end of the phone knows, with total certainty, that their computer is right and that the mad English woman on the phone is wrong. "Perhaps she has read the wrong meter? She has a water meter perhaps, and has read that? "
We made calls to the previous owners and copies of previous statements were sent. A year on, we discovered our other meter, hidden behind the broken front door of the cottage and we began to unravel the mystery. A visit by a senior meter reader was arranged. Copies of bank statements, direct debit arrangements and photos of the two meters were shown. The senior meter reader said he understood and left. And still the statements from EDF were wrong.
Then finally a breakthrough - we reached for help from French Liaison in Eymet and we were told about the well-kept secret of the EDF office at Bergerac where you can actually get to talk to someone face to face.
It's taken two visits, but we are quietly optimistic that EDF now understand.
And there are worse places to go on a bright autumn afternoon: open road, no traffic, hood of the batmobile down, driving between rust and gold coloured vineyards, with the occasional chateau in the distance.
By the River Dordogne