Nos meilleurs délais

‘Nos meilleurs délais’ is one of those very French expressions I struggle with. In theory it means ‘at our earliest convenience’, ‘in a timely manner’ or simply as soon as possible. In practice, soon is not possible. I find that in France instead of ASAP, ‘delay’ is the operative word.

We are in the midst of a month of delays due to various strikes and it is surely only right and normal that things slow down. But there has been no mail in my box this week and yesterday the internet went down for the better part of the day. Without a word of warning, or explanation.

I tried to be zen. “Work on something that doesn’t require the internet,” my reasonable self told less patient me. Okay. I took a crack at writing the new business proposal I’d been thinking of sending out. But I wanted to check on a quote to include. Then on a company I was planning on contacting. So I tried again. With a different browser. Still no ignition.

I called Orange. That’s the recently rebranded name for the phone service, what most French people still think of as France Telecom. I did not get a human being, bien sûr. After pressing various numbers, including my full, 10-digit land line, I was directed to the right voice box. It informed me that, due to an ‘incident’ in my area, they were unable to help me further. However, if I so wished, I could punch in my mobile number and they would text me when it was resolved. In went my mobile number.

I hung up and promptly received an SMS on my clunky old French cell, the one I keep for essential messages with service providers who only want to send info to a mobile. My smart phone is for work, and that’s a Swiss number. Orange had kindly sent a link to a website where I could get further updates on the internet breakdown. Argh!

Unable to access the link from my (dumb, unconnected) French phone, it occurred to me I could use my iPhone. In fact, it occurred to me that I could connect my computer to my phone’s hotspot via my Swiss provider and get an internet connection. Ignition! It was too slow to be very convenient (as I’m on the edge of network coverage) but it was a start.

Unfortunately Orange wanted my log-in details, which didn’t have. After farting around with that for a while, I finally got a new password and accessed my account. When, after scrolling through various sections, I got to the part about internet service, it said: “We are experiencing a larger than normal request for support and will respond to your request as soon as possible.”

Nos meilleurs délais? I gave up.

Macron has committed to getting all of France wired for ultra-high-speed internet by 2022. But it seems that in order to meet this commitment in a timely manner  not everyone will get fibre but 4G. Fast, but not super fast. Still, our current so-called high speed service here in the boonies is so slow that I’ll take that with pleasure.

The main reason for all of the strikes at the moment is the reform of the ‘cheminots’ or national rail company employees. This has been in the works for some time and has to do with a European directive on opening up the train lines to competition. Although the current SNCF employees have been promised that they will keep all of their rights and salary, they are striking for the future. They want all new hires to also keep their status as public workers, with perks and premiums and the opportunity of a full pension at 52.

Clearly this is not going to happen. But for the unions, and a majority of French, it’s the thin end of the wedge. If the cheminots go down, it’s the end of life as we know it. Automated cashiers and driverless cars and soon we’ll all be force-fed ready meals from MacDo.

In the meantime, five hours later, the internet came back on. I googled to find out whether Orange had been on strike but there was no mention in the news. I have concluded that it was a stealth operation by disgruntled workers in a show of sympathy.

But everybody else and his uncle is on strike this spring: Air France (they want a 6% pay increase), garbage collectors, energy workers, university students. The latter are worrying as they are the ones credited for bringing the country to its knees in May 1968. More on that later.

Have you been affected by any strikes lately?


  1. francetaste · April 12, 2018

    We have a friend who was a cheminot–he’s retired. He admits the job is no longer the dirty, dangerous work that won it early retirement. But he thinks nothing should change, ever. And why should the cheminots be the ones to take a hit when other metiers have special rights? Notaries also get to retire very early–a job that was never dirty or dangerous or badly paid. WTF? And how about those legislators? They also can go on “les grand vacances” at a young age.
    All you have to do is see the age-dependency ratio, which has gone from 18 retirees per 100 workers in 1960 to 31 per 100 in 2016. That means workers have to pay almost double to support retirees, and it’s only going to get worse.

    • MELewis · April 12, 2018

      Gah! That kind of finger pointing, and refusal to see the big picture (ie, we are all going to pay one way or another for various ‘special privileges’) makes me crazy. The assumption is that the rich don’t pay their taxes anyway, so no point in taking anything away from the little guy. The whole premise of a system that relies upon a shifting demographic to finance the retirements of the elderly is nuts. You are right — it is only going to get worse. Oy vey!

      • francetaste · April 12, 2018

        Well, it’s kind of true that the rich don’t pay their taxes. Who is in the Panama Papers? Not poor people.

      • MELewis · April 12, 2018

        Sure. Just like the poor are uneducated and malnourished. 😉

  2. M. L. Kappa · April 12, 2018

    AAARRGGHHH. I know how you feel. Living part time in France, I follow all this to the letter. Here in Deauville, we have high-speed broadband because our mayor is shrewd and tireless and ready to fight for his area. In the last few days, however, it had not been working as well as usual (slower and keeps disconnecting…) So who knows. As for the strikes, my experience is that people never want a change, even if it is in their interest. They have to be dragged kicking and screaming into a new order. And something needs to change if France is to remain competitive in this world – the laws here are shocking. A lot of workers (I wouldn’t like to generalize) seem to be on constant holiday and, as soon as they are ‘contrariés’ in one way or another, have no problem in getting an ‘arrêt de travail’ from their doctor, for indefinite periods of time, renewable at will, and without a report or any restrictions. Meanwhile the employer has to keep their position open, cannot replace them, and still owes them their holidays for the period in which they have not worked. As for the amount of jobs paid for in cash… It’s not just the Greeks who cheat on their taxes… Most ‘lowly’ jobs, and not only, are already done by immigrants, and then they want to stop immigration… Meanwhile, C’est le contribuable qui paye. Sigh…’

    • MELewis · April 12, 2018

      So much does come down to local politics and personalities. Lucky you for having a smart cookie in your corner. And how did I miss that you live part time in Deauville?!? Great location — now I understand some of the inspiration for your lovely paintings!

      • M. L. Kappa · April 12, 2018

        I might not have said _ it’s sort of crept upon us…

  3. midihideaways · April 12, 2018

    I have very mixed feelings about this – on the one hand I admire the French for striking and for standing up for their rights. The right to strike was hard-won, and whilst that right exists in many countries, it doesn’t appear to be exercised all that much outside of France any more. That’s not to say that I agree with what they are striking for, and I do despair at the disruption the strikes are causing to the everyday lives of so many people.

    • MELewis · April 12, 2018

      Totally agree and like the fact that French people are willing to get out there and support what they believe in. But the right to strike should be reserved to situations where negotiations break down, not used as method to get attention and hit where it hurts most.

  4. davidprosser · April 12, 2018

    I can only marvel at the fact that I know of no strikes over here yet and yet we were the striking capital of the World for a long time.Had I lost the internet for that amount of time you would have heard my cries echo down the valleys.I wept buckets at losing my blog for two days thanks to WordPress deciding I should be suspended. Still, maybe it was the Blog Police that complained. At least they did say sorry.I hope you remain connected now.
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

    • MELewis · April 12, 2018

      So glad that you got your blog back, David! What were WP thinking? So far so good today. They blog gods must have known I publish on Thursdays! 😉 A hug and half to you! x

  5. acflory · April 12, 2018

    Goodluck on the fast internet, I hope it’s nothing like ours. One federal government began an initiative that would have brought fibre optic internet access to all of Australia, including those living in rural areas. Then another government came in and decided to save money by not bringing the fibre to the house. ‘Just as good but much cheaper’. The result is an absolute mess that’s often slower than what we had before. 😦

    • MELewis · April 12, 2018

      Ugh, how very discouraging! Some decisions of public interest should transcend politics; otherwise it’s wasteful and users pay the price. We live in a funny kind of no man’s land with very spotty coverage by various networks. It’s a crap shoot picking your mobile provider. I got burned recently when I changed for a cheaper deal and discovered the new network barely works around here. Makes me so mad I could spit. There, I just did! 😉

      • acflory · April 13, 2018

        Ugh, indeed. 😦 Can you change back again? Alternately, what about getting a satellite dish? We don’t have great reception here and my neighbour has one coz he’s a network engineer and works from home a lot.

  6. Dale · April 12, 2018

    I swear… you sure you’re not talking about Quebec? I mean strike-wise, not Internet or telephone… Ugh.
    I think I would seriously go nuts in your situation…

    • MELewis · April 13, 2018

      Strikes in Quebec? Could it be a shared gene pool? 😛 I have and probably will continue to lose it from time to time, in between which I strive for a level of zen. Thanks for the support!

      • Dale · April 13, 2018

        Oh man… yeah. Must be the French thing 😜.
        Namaste 😂

  7. Suzanne et Pierre · April 12, 2018

    It does seem to be a particularly active strike season. I certainly hope you all survive it…reforms are needed but they are always difficult to implement; not only in France but everywhere but maybe with special hardship for France…Good luck with everything. (Suzanne)

    • MELewis · April 13, 2018

      I agree, Suzanne. People everywhere resist change, but it does seem the French are particularly good at it! 😀 I’m sure we’ll survive but it will probably be a long season before everyone leaves on vacation. Thanks for your wishes!

  8. · April 12, 2018

    Actually, over here in Germany we are THRILLED that there is one of the hundreds of strikes every year- this time it is the airport at Frankfurt, and we actually got a full eight hour night of sleep yesterday, without planes that sound like they are taking off from the bedroom at two, three, four, and seventeen at five a.m. As to the planned tram strike this weekend, not so much. this is the season where there are so many cars in town you can’t park anywhere, and now a tram strike. And since the town streets are totally torn up at the moment, and the street workers are now threatening a strike… looks like we will have to get out our tandem until things calm down in the fall.

    • MELewis · April 13, 2018

      Living on the flight path to Frankfurt airport must be a nightmare! We are close to Geneva but the volume (both in terms of the number of planes and the distance from our house) is manageable. The first planes only start around 6 a.m., which I actually like as it reminds me it’s time to get up! That tandem sounds like a good interim solution, but won’t things calm down when people go away on holiday in the summer?

  9. George lewis · April 13, 2018

    What a fantastic argument for private enterprise and competition

    • MELewis · April 14, 2018

      Yes but beyond that a change in culture is needed. People need to believe that hard work will be rewarded. Sarkozy tried to introduce that but it fell flat.

  10. poshbirdy · April 17, 2018

    The strikes most likely to affect us in the UK are the ones made on Syria. Who knows what will escalate from those…

    • MELewis · April 18, 2018

      Any activity on the war front frightens me. In this case it is hard to say whether it was truly in defense of the Syrian people or to some other political end. Hard to tell truth from fake news these days… *Sigh*

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