Oh Dear Stella, you do know how to get us going (against our better judgements!), so here goes.
The day after we moved in to our new home I decided to have a go at lighting the boiler in our chaudiere. When we looked round the house on inspection I was rather terrified by it, it was a huge, floor-to-ceiling monstrosity with thick iron pipes sprouting at odd angles, angry looking dials, unbudgeable iron taps and a strong smell of fuel-oil, like the engine room a superannuated German U-boat.
When I pushed the ignition button it ground away in a menacing way, then with a loud bang and much irritable rattling of flaps in the chimney, its innards caught fire, coughed a couple of times, and died.
Later that day a man came from the local heating enterprise and took the thing to bits. It needed a new burner he said, Euro 700 plus labour (he gave me a detailed devis). We agreed (it was mid-October and the old stone house was freezing cold), and within an hour he was back on his knees in front of the horror installing the shiny new burner.
Now the bloomer. As he grovelled around with spanners and hammers at his work, I thought he might be thirsty and offered him a coffee. I had no idea what the coffee ritual involved then. “Si vous voulez”, he replied, still on his knees in front of the dismantled boiler. So I made him a cup of instant Nescafe in a mug, and put it on a stool in the chaudiere where he could sip it between hammer-blows and spanner turns.
When the work was finished he came into our kitchen washed his hands and produced the mug of cold coffee, setting it carefully on the kitchen table. Now we can drink our coffee, he said pleasantly, and smiled at me as if to say, “Where’s yours?”. It turned out he was the owner of the enterprise and that his father is the Maire.
I felt a right twerp. But I’ve learned some manners since!