Paying it Backwards…

(Look! It’s Camille’s house!)

About 28 years ago we visited France with our two-year old daughter. We took the ferry from Cork to Roscoff and drove our car due south. We stayed in small hotels all along the Loire and loved every minute of it. One afternoon as we were driving in the middle of the countryside steam started coming out from under the bonnet. We were overheating. Fortunately, we had about half a dozen small bottles of water with us, we emptied them into the radiator and carried on down the road. Within a few miles we were steaming again. This time we came to a stop right beside a farmhouse. The farmer saw our problem, brought us into his house and explained to his wife. She cooked us a meal and because the garage was closed until the next morning, she moved her children out of their bedroom and made up their beds for us! Next morning she gave us breakfast, the farmer contacted the garage, she gave us lunch and when the car was fixed all the children lined up for kisses and we kissed everyone and drove off.

(Old tower in the pretty town)

Yesterday we had an opportunity to return some kindness but we only remembered afterwards. We had arrived in a very pretty town with a lovely modern aire complete with payment collection by machine and a personal code for the electricity. As usual now we don’t need the electricity so we just paid for the parking, €7. We went off for a walk at lunchtime and had a very nice “plât du jour” sitting outside on a flower-filled terrace. When we returned to the aire, Denis went to work and I started writing. It’s very unusual for anyone to approach the van so when a man approached we assumed he was another motorhome person. He wasn’t. He had broken down on the edge of town and he wondered if we could help him to charge his battery by plugging in his charger. Of course we said yes so off he went to collect his car. By the way he had great English, he’d been to Ireland and he was often mistaken for Irish because of his hair – he has red hair.

(Church in the pretty town)

He arrived back in 30 minutes with the car and proceeded to take the battery out. He explained to Denis that he was coming from a funeral in Paris (300 Km away) and his battery had died on the way and the garage he found didn’t have a replacement battery but sold him a battery charger and charged his battery. That was an hour ago, he still had another 300km to travel and the car had started spluttering just outside this pretty town. On his way into town he had noticed the aire and thought that’s a good place to plug-in the battery charger. That’s why he was approaching us.

(The charging arrangement)

While the aire had electricity, the only way to avail of the electricity is with a motorhome. He could plug-in his charger to our sockets inside the van but… we only had solar power and it was not up to the power requirement of his battery charger. On top of that because we hadn’t chosen electricity at the modern pay by credit card entrance there was no way for us to get the high power electricity now. Not a problem… he would temporarily become a motorhome and pay the parking and electricity at the entrance, then plug-in the electricity he had paid for into our van and then plug-in his charger to our socket in the van. Are you keeping up? No problems so far… until Denis explained what a trickle charger was… it’s a cute name for slow charger. It’s very slow. We had run out of conversation within an hour and the meter barely registered a charge. When three hours had passed it was dark and no one was talking. I made a cup of tea. That’s when we realised his English wasn’t as good as we had thought. Or maybe we don’t understand English as well as we had thought…

(A terrace built around the tree, Auxere)

It would take at least four more hours to charge the battery, he was staying… overnight. Oh. Ok. Long story short, he slept in his car we slept beside him in our motorhome with the door locked and the electrical cord of the charger squeezed underneath and in the morning the battery was charged. He was a lovely man and very grateful to us. There was no kissing, though. When he was gone we both remembered the farmer and his family in the Loire. How amazing were they to take us into their home and share everything with us, even their kisses.

You just have to love the French! Mairead.

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