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Life in Rural France

Living the French Dream….The Good, The Bad, and The Hilarious

Getting Your Chimney Swept in Rural France

Living in rural France continues to be a journey full of surprises. But in my eyes that’s what makes this whole thing such an adventure. And this week was another one of those rather unexpected surprises.

Here in my part of the world October is the month of the chimney. Or to be more precise, the month you get a visit from your chimney sweep.

It’s time for “ramonage” which literally translates to “sweeping”.

Our main source of heating is from woodburners rather than central heating. So we were all booked in with our local French chimney sweep for a yearly visit.

Now I should probably back up a bit here and give you the history behind this visit.

Why you need to get your chimney swept yearly in France

Before moving to France I’d never owned one log burner let alone three. I really didn’t know much about their upkeep. And in all honesty it was pretty low down on my priority list.

I mean let’s face it, there are far more interesting things to do when living in France than worrying about the state of your wood burner. Unless of course it doesn’t work, which is a different story.

Anyway, it turns out that it should have been quite a bit higher up on my priority list. And that’s putting it mildly.

Because unless you have your chimney swept yearly your house insurance is null and void in the event it was to catch fire.

Unsurprisingly, getting my chimneys swept suddenly shot to the top of my priority list.

And I have to admit a mild wave of panic started to run through me. We’d not had ours swept since we moved in a couple of years ago.

Can I sweep my own chimney in France?

Unfortunately, sweeping your own chimney in France is not an option. Your yearly sweep needs to be carried out by  a licensed chimney sweep. He’ll then inssue you with a certificat de ramonage on completion of the work. This ensures you’re insured and complyling with local laws.

So I dutifully got to work and started to set about booking someone in to help. But like most things in rural France it was never going to be that easy. Or go according to plan.

I started by contacting the only English chimney sweep we’d heard of. He was the one listed in Living Magazine, and I’d heard him mentioned by others.

Big mistake, huge! Sorry couldn’t resist a quick Pretty Woman moment there.

He took one look at our first log burner and told us it wouldn’t pass the test. AND it would cost at least 3K to do what was required.

I won’t tell you what he said about the second one. And luckily the third one was newly installed.

So now we had a problem. Without our certificate of conformity for each wood burner we weren’t insured.

Don’t get me started on why they don’t issue these digitally. If my house was on fire my first thought wouldn’t be to run off to find my insurance certificate. It would be to get the hell out of there quickly. Then try and figure out how to call the fire brigade in France, and probably bang on my next door neighbour’s backdoor.

Anyway….back to the story.

Enlist some help booking a chimney sweep if you don't speak French

Over a glass of rose one evening I was telling my tale of woodburner woe to Anne. She’s my lovely French friend down the road who is my guide in all things French. She suggested that we get together and book a chimney sweep in a group.

Genius. Why didn’t I think of that? It was the perfect solution.

Naturally Anne speaks French, and she also speaks pretty good English too. This meant she could do the hard part of actually communicating with a French chimney sweep.

And before you roll your eyes about the fact I can’t speak French…yes I see you.

I’d ask you to remember that what you learnt at school in no way prepares you for rural French life.

Book your chimney sweep a year in advance to avoid disappointment

I should just say that most people book their sweep a year in advance. This is a smart thing to do as an English person with limited French. Most sweeps get booked solid advance planning in necessary. And unless you have a friend like Anne who knows everyone it can be a bit of an issue.

Anne did what she promised and booked in the local chimney sweep for October 18th. It was all arranged. He’d go to her first, then our neighbour Alan, and then us.

Now to say my hubby was worried would be an understatement. You see, like is so often the case in a marriage, one person is the worrier and one person is the risk taker. I think you can guess which way around it is in our house.

So the 18th rolls around and our chimney sweep dutifully rocks up on time. Hubby greets him in French and I’m really impressed at how he coped. “Chimney man” didn’t speak a word of English.

Worry was etched all over hubby’s face as he showed “chimney man” the offending woodburners. There was a sufficient amount of head shaking and grunting. Even I started to panic ever so slightly.

This was my cue to slink away upstairs to my office. My excuse? A pile of writing that needed completing and social media posts that needed attending to.

But from my office I could see the comings and goings of “chimney man”. He went backwards and forwards to his van pulling out various tools, a huge industrial looking vacuum, and lots and lots of cardboard.

I soon lost interest and buried myself in my writing. Suddenly hubby, who must have run up the stairs as he was breathless, appeared in the doorway grinning from ear to ear.

It turns out that “chimney man” hadn’t condemned either of our woodburners or chimney. He’d actually given us a certificate for all of them.

It did come with a warning though. Our first woodburner, the one we were told needed 2K Euros worth of repair, would need replacing. If not next year then certainly the following year. But for this year we were good to go. We could breathe a sigh of relief.

So all’s well that ends well in chimney sweep land. Hubby could sleep without chimney nightmares and worrying about the insurance.

You see, not all surprises in France are bad. This one ended so well that “chimney man” even had a beer with us at the end of the day.

A beer after all is universal in any language.

À bientôt et merci beaucoup!

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