Thursday, 8 November 2007

Unwanted building work

There is a glaring omission from the "Current Projects" sidebar that has kept me occupied for the last several days. It's something I could have done without - and something that has already proved indispensable.

It's called: Building a Dossier.

As you may or may not know (if this doesn't cover you, let me know how), the French love paperwork. Many people (most of them French) see it as backward, tedious and unnecessary. Coming from a world of voice recognition and computerised call centres, I see it as refreshing, charming and very forward looking.

For example: a few weeks ago, I wanted to know when our planning permission had been submitted. I went into the Mairie and asked the woman on reception. She reached for a book, flipped a few pages and - voila! - I had my answer. It was quick. Easy. And to use a French word, "exact". (As far as sustainability goes, I'll put money on that book outlasting every hard drive in existence today).

In contrast, a couple of weeks ago, there was a fire in nearby hotel. The electricity for the whole block was out. (It was that nearby.) Our accountant, who has an office next door, was on the street. Lost. Unable to work. (For a man who routinely arrives at work before seven, either because he's very good or very bad at his job, this must have been mortifying.)

But I haven't been building a dossier for fun.

I've been doing it because, many weeks ago, a friend handed me a piece of paper. A few weeks after that, I called the number on that piece of paper and spoke to someone also called Alex. And she asked me to bring a dossier to the meeting we had yesterday.

Which is why I spent too much time in front of this screen in the last week, typing and re-typing, copying and pasting images like this:

and this:

And phoning, and driving around, getting costs for industrial A+ rated washing machines, fridges, integrated solar panels and more, until I had something vaguely impressive.

The meeting went well. I think she was vaguely impressed.

Then today, I found myself getting costs for business insurance. They were asking me all kinds of questions about prices and values, and I was trying to think...

And then I said: "Hang on. I've got a dossier."

"Ah," said they, as I whipped out my pen drive. "A dossier. That's alright, then." They liked it so much, they asked for a copy.

And I went back to the land and helped Clare with some dry stone walling. Which was much more fun.

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