Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Mill enhancement

Mick Watson, from Portchester, just up the road from Fareham where I used to live, owns a water mill in the village.  He has been renovating it for years, and it now is in a state where the mill wheel can grind flour, and the bread oven can bake bread.  It's becoming an excellent tourist attraction.  More than 2,000 people came to visit it during the village fête on the 15 August.

He's building up some water defences using rocks alongside the river, and he is short of rocks.  It just so happens that I have a dry stone wall and hedge I want to get rid of.  I was planning on doing so this Winter, but I figured I can solve two problems at once.

So Mick asks his co-owner and engineering help, Jean-Claude, to come along to my place with his digger.  The wall and hedge are both dealt with in a single day.  I have to tidy the area and replant some grass, plus there's a fair bit of shredding to do.  But a big job has just disappeared.  Result!





Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Happy mower


Here you see and hear a happy, working mower.  I fixed it.  There were several problems, some of them were of my own making.

The first problem, that was the root cause of all the hassle, was that I incorrecty fitted an air filter.  This caused grass cuttings and other rubbish to get into the carburetor and clog it, but also, a part of the rubber seal broke off from the filter and wedged itself in the carb's main venturi.

The second problem was that the starter motor was shot, or rather its brushes were.  This meant that the mower was hard to start at the best of times, and it was a while before I twigged that the problem was not down to lack of battery power.  I bought and fitted a new starter motor.

The third problem was that after removing and cleaning the carb, I tried to ensure that it was full of petrol by connecting a funnel to the fuel pipe, and pouring petrol down it.  Mistake.  The petrol then flowed out of the carb and into the moulded plastic air duct that sits between the air filter and the carb..  I admit I forced it a bit.  The engine ran rich.  Not surprising really; the incoming air was probably bubbling through petrol.  I was lucky the whole lot didn't catch fire.  Or explode.

I learnt something else too. I got a quote for a new carb from an official (perhaps the official) importer of the parts into France.  Just over €290.  For a carb.  Here is a link to an eBay seller in the USA selling what is either identical or equivalent for less than $35 US.  Just... wow.

It took me a couple of days' work to fix the mower, stretched over about 4 weeks.  Fortunately the grass wasn't growing much since it was the height of Summer, so not a problem.   I learned a bit, and saved a lot of money.


Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Eulogy

When I was a kid, I always looked forward to Christmas, as most kids do.  It was carefully explained to me how Father Christmas kept a list of naughty and nice children, and rewarded accordingly.  This list was carefully compiled throughout the year.  Now, I was an intelligent and pragmatic kid, and I reasoned thusly:  It is now two weeks before Christmas, and Father Christmas has been working on this list since January.  Conclusion: I'm sunk.  Corollary: There's no point in changing my behaviour for this last two weeks since 2/52 doesn't count for much.

In a similar vein, I don't hold with commending souls to God.  If He exists and is anything like I and many other people imagine, He knows the spirit He has just received, and will act according to His judgement, based on an intimacy that no man can know.   That being said, I see no harm, and some benefit, in acknowledging and being thankful for the spirit that was among us and that is now departed.

And so to our cat.  He came to us 13 years ago, with others, one night while our new French house was a building site.  We soon saw him climbing a ladder onto a two-storey roof and narrowly escaping death when one of the planks slipped.   We called him Minuit (midnight in French) since he was completely black and he arrived in the night.

When Anita picked him up it was clear that being held by a human was where he wanted to be.  He would relax, start to purr, and settle.  It seemed like he always wanted to be part of the household, part of the family.  Which objective he achieved.

He came along with a smaller female friend who we called Matin (because she arrived the morning after).  She was less adventurous, and would often stay indoors when Minuit was out exploring.  He would come in the cat flap, announce his presence with a yowl, and she would get up to greet him.  Matin was killed on the road within a year.  Minuit remained with us, and became our sole cat when our old English one died.

He grew on a diet of organic, wild brown mice, good cat food and cuddles, into a large house cat.  He had long legs and tail, and if he sat on my outstretched legs, his front paws would touch my toes while his tail ended at my breastbone.  Sitting on people was one of his favourite passtimes; if he was asleep on the sofa, and you sat on the chair across the room, after a few minutes he would get up, walk across and sit on your lap.

He was companionable.  If we were working in the garden, he would often come around, sit himself down nearby, and watch (especially as dinner time approached!).  If we organised a snack or dinner on the outside table, he would come and join us after a few minutes. If we were at our desks he would sit in an in-tray if he couldn't sit on a lap, or lie just in front of the keyboard. If we turned the TV on and sat down to watch, he would come up (or in) to sit down, alternating between my lap and Anita's before spending the rest of the evening on his towel that was laid out between us.   He would run away if anything on the TV was too noisy or had scary images of, say, a truck coming to run him over.

He was very talkative.  He would reply if you spoke to him, and if you hadn't noticed him he would announce his presence by meowing.  He also spoke to himself, and would make a chirrup sound when stretching, changing position, getting up, or settling and  often when you walked by if he was sleeping.   If he came in via the cat flap he would always meow to let us know he was back.

One day we decided to walk to down the river with some friends.  Minuit followed us at a distance.  We reached the river, at a point where it is crossed by stepping stones.  We crossed, leaving the cat behind, expecting that he would go back home.  Not a bit of it.  He sat on the bank and howled, and I had to go back and get him.  I couldn't persuade him to use the stepping stones by himself, so I carried him across the water, and put him down.  He then proceeded to follow us the rest of the way, mostly behind us but sometimes scampering ahead, until we reached familiar territory again.

He always enjoyed climbing ladders.  If I was working on the roof or at a similar height, he would wait until I was out of sight before climbing the ladder, and then sit at the top, looking at me with a "so come and get me" expression.

He climbed other things too.  Our house is old, and it has a strange feature of a narrow (once external, but now an internal) glassless window above the TV.  It leads from the mezzanine into a bedroom.  We noticed paw prints on the telly one evening, from the cat having scrambled up it to jump through the window.  There was nothing equivalent to the TV on the other side of the wall that he could climb up to get back out, so he was stuck.  We let him out when we heard the yowls of course, but it was much later that we noticed the claw-marks in the wallpaper made by paws sliding down the steep access to the Velux windows.  We also, on a separate occasion, found paw prints on the bath by a first floor Velux window that had been left open in the gîte. And of course the exposed beams of the mezzanine were an attractive climbing frame too.

He got into scrapes.  He cut his tail badly as a young cat, perhaps on some barbed wire in the surrounding fields.   He survived two viper bites, the first clearly not being enough to each him not to play with snakes.  He had some kind of accident with his tail last year too that resulted in a good fraction of it having to be amputated.  We sometimes called him Mr Stumpy after that.  He probably got into other mischief that we didn't find out about; certainly he fought with any other cats that ventured too near the house.

If we spent time away from the house, he would greet us on our return.  If it was nighttime, he would meet us outside, during the day  or if it was raining he would normally be indoors, so he would greet us in the hallway.

Life with him had a routine.  He was often outside first thing in the morning, but would come in as soon as he heard anyone moving about (or saw a light go on, or heard the toilet flush).  We'd hear the clack of the cat flap, followed by his loud meow to tell us that he was here, and that it's time for his breakfast.  Anita would usually go down and make herself a cup of tea, feed the cat, check that he had eaten the dry food during the night, and then they would both come upstairs where Minuit would stretch out on Anita while she read, and then he would spend the rest of the morning on the bed.  He came down about mid-day for lunch, and would occupy himself for the afternoon.  In the evening he would join us watching telly, and end the day sleeping in his designated area on a towel on the sofa.

The end was swift.  He did not fade away in old age and we did not have to make that dreadful decision.  We noticed that he wasn't himself for a few days; lacking in energy and eating poorly.  He spent an entire day not two yards from his cat flap, resting in the Asters in the flower bed.  Anita took him to the vet on Saturday morning for a check-up.  Extensive blood tests revealed nothing wrong, just a very slight anaemia.  The vet gave him some antibiotics, a worming treatment just in case and some high-energy cat food to perk him up, (he scoffed it down that evening, which reassured us) and she said she'd call us later next week to see how he was getting on.  36 hours later he was dead.  He just got weaker on Sunday.  Sunday afternoon we decided to take him back to the vet's first thing Monday, but early Sunday morning he woke us with a loud yowling.  He was too weak to stand.  The vet answered the emergency number, but our beloved Minuit left us on the way to the appointment.

He is buried in the garden behind the gîte.  I planted a fuschia there on Tuesday morning.  We drank a small toast, with thanks for the life of this special cat.

Monday, 2 September 2019

Departed companion

Our talkative and affectionate cat Minuit died early this morning, after 13 years of companionship. He hadn't been himself for a few days, lacking somewhat in energy. A checkup at the vet's on Saturday morning revealed nothing too far out of the ordinary, he was just very slightly anaemic. Last night he deteriorated rapidly and died on the way to the vet's for an emergency consultation.



Sunday, 1 September 2019

An evening and a morning

Archimède is a rock/pop chanson duo that celebrated its tenth anniversary last evening, with a concert in the grounds of the château at Ste Suzanne.  They started out in Laval, a short drive from us.  I have enjoyed their music since being introduced to it by our French teacher, who played one of their songs for us to discuss.  That song is entitled "Fear Facteur" and comments on the disquiet one can feel when unpleasant news arrives in the post.  She had to explain what a "lettre de corbeau" is, but we all knew what a "rappel des impots" is about.


Sorry about the crap photo.

This morning I'm tending the veg patch.  The cherry tomatoes are a bit of a problem; there's so many of them.  Louis up the road tells me that he plants one stem of cherry toms to feed him and his wife (and occasionally visiting grandchildren) for the Summer.  Not being the beneficiary of his advice until later in the year, I planted 5 such plants.  A bit of a deluge.

But they make up for the poor performance of the more conventional tomato plants.  I planted some of the same variety that I planted last year, when they gave an enormous crop.  This year their fruits are small and not plentiful.   I also tried a cour de boeuf variety, and that seems to be quite fragile, with various forms of rot (flower end rot in particular) ruining many fruits.

I harvested some seed from African Marigold plants that I grew last year, and this year I put some in the veg patch.  I believe it's supposed to keep green fly at bay (seems to have worked) and besides, they look pretty.  I didn't take any pains to nurture them: I had so many seeds that I just put hundreds of them in little rows, and covered them with soil.  They have flourished.  Except for the ones I accidentally hoed up.  I will harvest seed again this year, for next year's planting.

Here they are alongside the Aubergine plants.


I also planted a few Zinnias.  I've not had much success with Zinnias in the past, so I had low expectations.  I believe they don't like their roots to be disturbed, or something, so transplanting can be fraught.  However quite a few of these have been successful.

Given that they are quite expensive, it seems a shame to make a sauce out of cherry tomatoes.  But I have more than I can eat, and it's a shame to waste them.


Anita got the skins and pips out by careful use of a sieve.  I'd have just used a liquidiser, but I'm impatient.  The sauce will freeze nicely.





Sunday, 25 August 2019

Roller skates

Sunday is car boot sale day, and if the weather's good we go out to have a look-see.  There were two in our area today; we had only intended to go to one (at Montsurs) but it was small, so we drove on to the pretty little village of Asnières-sur-Vègre where the event was much bigger.

I always browse the CDs, even though I have a Spotify sub.  I occasionally buy one or two, sometimes more.  I came away with three this time.  These roller skates caught my eye, though I had no interest in buying them.  When I were a lad I had a pair very like these, and used them from time to time for fun.  When I got bored with that, I nailed one to a plank and used it as a skateboard.  Happy days.


The village is pretty, with a river running through, so it makes for a pleasant Sunday morning stroll.  We finished up with a sausage inna bun at the CMOT buvette, then trundled home.




Saturday, 24 August 2019

The woodpile

We live out in the sticks, where wood is a popular winter fuel.  It grows on trees, after all, and there are plenty of those around.  However, it needs to spend some time under the sun in order to dry out, so we maintain a wood pile to store and dry the wood.

Woodpiles are strange things; their entropy level is similar to that of a swiss watch.  You start out with a nice tidy pile, but once you start perturbing it by taking logs off it, it quickly collapses into a disorganised heap.  So we are spending some time re-arranging our heap, to prepare for the coming Winter.

The first step is to consolidate the old heap into a smart new woodstack.  Give that the ground tends to be damp, it's a good idea to make sure the wood is insulated from it.   I had some tin roofing sheet from the roof of the old shed, and I laid it out to form the base of the new stack.  (The old stack was built on wooden pallets that have all but rotted away.)   It will stop moisture rising from the soil, and water will run off it.  Then it was just a case of moving wood from the old stacks to the new one.


We ordered a new tarpaulin to go over the top, from Amazon.  It should be here before we get any rain. 

Meanwhile, there is another heap of oak that I collected with Leo a couple of years ago.  This has been resting on the ground, so the wood at the bottom will be damp, although the wood that is off the ground will be dry.   We took the dry wood and made a small supplimentary stack to burn this Winter, and the damp stuff we added to the new woodstack so it can dry.


Tip:  When making any kind of feature in your garden that is surrounded by grass, make sure that your mower can get to all the grass.  The old stack was too near the stone wall, so the grass was impossible to manage.

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Simple watering

We have had some hot, dry weather recently, so the garden needed some watering.  I do this in the evening, when the water evaporates less quickly, and has a better chance of soaking into the soil.   I like to use a timer, because it saves me going out again at the end of the day to turn everything off.

I have an electronic timer, it does everything.  You can program watering periods for every day of the week, once or twice per day, or every other day, or just weekends.  I went out to do the watering and looked at this thing.  I put the batteries in, saw all the little pictograms on the screen, and decided that it wasn't worth the effort to work out again (I had forgotten since last year) how to programme the thing.   I just wanted to water the garden, so I just connected up the hose to the tap and turned it on.  I went out again later to turn it off.

Which is why this device caught my eye in our local garden centre.  It's a clockwork watering timer.  You connect it onto the tap, plug the hose in, turn the knob to indicate the desired duration for watering, and off it goes.  At the end of the programmed time, it turns off the hose.  Perfect.  I hope it's reliable.




Sunday, 18 August 2019

Camping

Our first and only camping holiday as a couple was a bit of a disaster, since when Anita has refused to camp.  I am just back from a week's flute course in the Lot, on a little ex-farm called Cubertou.  I camped.   I worked out that if I didn't stay in the farm accommodation, I could use the money I'd save to buy all the camping gear I would need, and have a fair amount left over.  So I did.

The tent is described as being "two seconds".  It took me longer than that.  It is pretty nifty though, and packs down (it takes a couple of minutes, after a bit of practice) into a thick disc.  I should have bought a warmer sleeping bag, though.  Expecting hot days and warm nights, I bought a bag designed for 20°C nights.  They were 10°C.  Extra clothing was needed.

The inflatable mattress came with an integral foot pump, and worked a treat.



The flute course was great, it's always a pleasure to spend time with fellow enthusiasts.   It's difficult to share the experience via a blog since it's all about the people involved; it's a personal thing.  The course tutor, Philippa Davies is a world-class flutist, an excellent and inspiring teacher.  The highlight of the course for me, was the concert she gave, with her husband at the piano, in the little church at Thézac, a short drive from Cubertou.


Monday, 5 August 2019

Stroll around the village

As part of the Summer tourist attractions, our petite cité de caractère has an exhibition of artworks dotted around the village, in the centre and surroundings.   They don't announce themselves with great fanfare, you have to just spot them.  I took a stroll around the village the other day, just to have a look.

The man reading a book is one of a series of the same guy in different poses reading different books.  The kids likewise, off for their swim have adults in similar style relaxing in the village.


The tower is one of a faintly disturbing set displayed on various buildings that shows tiny human figures parading towards the top, sometimes falling, or abseiling down or being helped up.  The rather malevolent-looking cow is grazing on a hillside just outside of the main village.


There are other styles of artwork placed strategically around, and it takes a keen eye so spot them all.  Here's a couple of extra photos of the environment that caught my eye as I walked around.





Saturday, 3 August 2019

Hay there!

The field down the road was recently cropped into lots of little cylindrical bales of hay.   They had to be moved to a different field, and a guy came around with a tractor and flat loader to move them.  The standard way is steep, too steep for his machines, so he asked if he could transport them via my garden.  No problem.   He gave me four bales at the end.  I gave one to Leo, the others are for the Dahlias at the end of the year, and for the strawberries.


Wednesday, 31 July 2019

The great Les Hallais potato famine

My potatoes have not done well this year, and I'm not sure why.  The leaves of all the plants slowly went yellow, curled up and died, but there were no signs of mildew or any other kind of infestation, rot or infection.  It looked like the plants couldn't draw up water fast enough to cope with the intense heat waves we had in recent weeks.

Louis up the road had a good crop (he was proud to show me) of the Désirée variety of pink-skinned spuds, and he never waters his.  Ho hum.  I got about one or two potatoes per plant, 7 kilos in total, probably worth about what I paid for the seed potatoes in Spring.


P.S.  I think my potatoes might have black dot.  Anita said last year that there were some black dots on the skin of the potatoes, and that you had to take off a thicker layer of peel to get rid of them.  This year there were many more.  I'm going to have to stop putting potato peelings on the compost heap, and plant first early spuds next year.  I will also be rotating the plantings to try to minimise this problem.

Thursday, 25 July 2019

The plumbing

The DIY plumbing project to fix the leaks in the heating pipes has achieved its primary objective:  the pipes no longer leak.   It took (much) longer than I thought it would, because every time I fixed one problem, a new one would appear.

The pipes carrying the hot water are of the type multicouche, or multi-layer in English.   I don't know if the particular pipes I used are manufactured by these guys, but you get the general idea.   The problem I experienced was that every time I turned off the central heating at the end of Winter, one or more of the joints would spring a leak.  This year's leak was behind the plasterboard in the kitchen so I had to cut out a hole and work in the ceiling space.

I have used compression fiittings in the past, and push-fit ones (described in French as "automatic"), and both kinds have leaked.  So I decided to go with the third type of fittings that are clamped on using big, powerful pincers.  These pincers need a lot of force, and I was seriously concerned about getting the leverage in the narrow ceiling space to close them, but I managed.


I had been avoiding using pincer fittings because the pincers are expensive, but both of the other types I have known to fail.  If this type fails again I'm taking the whole lot out and replacing it with polythene pipes.

Every time I replaced a joint, the one or ones next to it, farther along the pipe, would be disturbed and also start to leak.  So in the end, by stages, I replaced the lot.   I also took the opportunity to put some copper pipes in next to the radiators.  On the way, I  learned the technique of soldering brass fittings to copper, since the first ones I did also leaked.   (You have to heat the brass fitting, and let the heat travel to the copper.  Only then can you be sure that the whole joint is hot enough: if you heat the copper or the copper/brass border, the brass fitting might not be hot enough to melt the solder to the full depth of the join)






Monday, 22 July 2019

A night at the opera

For the last three years, at the Chateau Linières, about a 15 minute drive away, they have put on an opera.   There is an orchestra of professional musicians, the performers are professionals, and they all do it for free.  It costs €10 to get in, and you sit on the grass to watch.  You can pay extra to sit on benches or chairs, but they are at the back, so you get a better view (and sound; there is no amplification) from the cheap seats.  It really is excellent.

This year it was Il Trovatore, a particularly nasty tale that ends with a guy killing his long-lost brother in a misguided act of revenge.   The opera is staged in the open air, and gets postponed or cancelled if it rains.  This year, the Thursday performance was moved to Friday as the only rain to fall in a 3-week drought and heat wave, decided to arrive that night.





Sunday, 14 July 2019

More DIY

I have a few DIY projects to attack during this period when the gîte is not very busy.  One of them is to fix a leak in the central heating.

When installing the heating, I chose a form of tubing that the French call multicouche, to circulate the hot water to the radiators. The decision was made on the basis that multicouche was for sale in the DIY shop, and is supposed to work.  The connectors, although relatively expensive at about 4 or 5 euro each, can be bought in a push-fit version, which makes connecting up the pipes a piece of cake ("simple comme bonjour").  In the sure and certain hope that these push-fit connectors would be watertight I made some joints in the ceiling, that ended up behind some plasterboard.  This turned out to be a mistake, since in my case, one leaked.

This morning I cut out some plasterboard to take a look, and disconnected the leaking pipe.  I don't want to replace all the piping, so I will replace the joints with different connectors that are clamped in place with a big pair of pincers.  I am hoping that I have cut a big enough hole in the plasterboard to properly wield the pincers, that are quite big.


The mower, since you ask, is still not working.  I thought that I had a flat battery, but no amount of recharging or jump leads could get the starter motor to turn the engine over anything like fast enough.   The starter motor is knackered; the brushes are shot.  I was hoping to get a replacement set together with the mounting plate (shown here, price should be about €30), but they don't seem to supply them separately, despite what it says in the Kohler engine manual.   So it looks like I'm in for a new starter motor (about €120).




Monday, 8 July 2019

Water, water everywhere

With the increasing tendency to suffer drought in Summer, I have installed a system of semi-automatic watering in the veg patch.  It comprises ordinary garden hose (the most expensive part of the project) to distribute the water, into which are screwed at intervals, little nozzles that spray the water out.  It seems to be very effective.

The initial design had hoses placed along the middle of the raised beds, with red nozzles that spray water through 360°.   This system has the disavantage that, with the hose loosely stapled in place, it's difficult to hoe underneath it, so I ended up with a line of weeds down the middle of the bed.  I am experimenting this year with (green) nozzles that spray out through 180°, and mounting the hose on the wooden sides of the beds.


In other gripping news,  the tomatoes are growing strongly, they are now covered in flowers, but I might have planted them a bit too close together: it could be difficult to harvest the tomatoes that grow in the middle of this thicket.   The squash plants are also doing very well, with one immature fruit setting already.

I did shallots again this year and they're looking good, but my red onion sets I think I might have  planted too early because they are all running to seed.  I guess I'll harvest it and grow from seed next year.

I tried florence fennel for the first time, just a short row of it, and that is looking good.   And the Zinnas for no other reason than that I like the flowers.



Friday, 5 July 2019

Lawn unto itself

My ride-on mower has been playing up.  It's my fault.   An air filter broke, and let all sorts of dried grass bits into the air intake, along with the broken bit of rubber off the air filter.  The mower would run for anything from 30 seconds to an hour or so, then stop.

The symptoms were very like the engine running too rich:  the motor starts to sound rough, then starts emitting smoke, then coughs and dies.   The spark plugs were sooty.   So I took a good look at the air intake and carburettor, and fished out the piece of rubber I found inside it.  Put the whole lot back together again, and hey presto!  Nothing.  For good measure I replaced the fuel pump, but to no avail.


So I took it all apart again, took the carb off and cleaned it.  Some of the little channels were blocked with powdered grass, so I cleaned them as best I could, not having an air jet.    I couldn't get the float chamber screws off but I tested it by blowing in the fuel intake (yes, air goes in) and then turning it upside-down (yes, air stops going in)  Possibly not very healthy, but it worked, and it also confirmed that the main jet isn't blocked.  Put it all back together again.  Still no va.


I was surprised to see the spark generating mechanism: a magnet mounted on the flywheel passes two coils (one per spark plug) so the timing is fixed, and the spark doesn't depend on the state of the battery.  There is a spark in both plugs, so that's not the problem.

Fuel is getting into the cylinders because I made sure the float chamber is full by putting a funnel on the fuel line, and also because I can smell it when the engine turns over.  I'm a bit stumped now, and the situation is not helped by a feeble battery that only just turns the engine over, and then only for a short time.  I've been jumping it from the car, but that doesn't work for long either.

Might have to call in a pro.  Rats.  Meanwhile I'm cutting the grass with the trusty walk-behind mower.  It takes a while, but at least it works.  Seems a bit heavy on the back, for some reason.




Friday, 21 June 2019

Design flaw

They have replaced the old metal shopping carts at our favourite supermarket with ones made largely of plastic.  These new ones are lighter and easier to maneuver, but they have a flaw:  when you hang off the back and scoot them along, they tip up.  When they're full of shopping, the weight keeps them horizontal, so you can scoot them out of the shop, but not in.  Big problem.


Thursday, 20 June 2019

Competition

We have Nespresso machines for coffee.  We were getting fed up with spreading ground coffee everywhere whenever we made a cup, and decided that this new-fangled system would solve the problem.  So we have a machine for the house and a "pro" machine (takes a different shape of capsule so people don't nick them from work for their home machines) for the gîte, and have had these machines for a few years.

I'm getting the impression that Nespresso are suffering a bit from competition in this market.  I've noticed a few brands of compatible capsules on the market, and Nespresso have launched a new different-shaped capsule, incompatible with the old machines, and for which there is no competition at present.  We buy our capsules as needed, a system that works fine.  But now, Nespresso are encouraging us to pay a fixed amout each month to build up a credit that we can call down at will.  Er, no thanks.

We have had occasional problems with the pro machine, and have always called out a fixer to fix it.  Doesn't cost too much and the machine is reliable enough, generally speaking.  But now we have been obliged to take out a service contract.   This entitles us to one call-out per year I think, but it's not something we would have done without duress.

All signs of increasing competition.

So what do you do if you want to break in to this market, established by Nespresso?  Well, compatible capsules is one possibility, or you could try marketing your own brand of proprietory capsules and corresponding machines.  (You might try both, of course)   Here's a picture of a new proprietory system and introductory offer that I noticed in our gîte food supplier recently.



Basically, you buy 150 of their coffee capsules and you get a free machine.  Since that means that your coffee costs you €0.286 (+VAT) per capsule it comes out cheaper than Nespresso, and you don't have to fork out anything for a new machine.  If you don't like the coffee, you can just ditch the machine; all you have to do is drink 150 cups of it.  And how bad can it be?  And how do you combat that as a tactic for someone who wants to break into your market?

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