All of us who are of a certain age in the UK will recall a daily television programme that took us all on a journey from the starting point of a shaped window. Not always square, but always a window that started off blurred and opaque which then cleared to reveal the intended story.
One of the joys of living in the French countryside is the isolation from the hustle and bustle of daily city life. Rewind the clock in the UK to the 1950’s or early 1960’s, before the M2 or M25 had been built and you’ll get an idea of where I am. The Estate Agent’s paperwork for this place said it was 5 minutes from the main Cité de Richelieu and although that might well be the case if you drive at the speed limit, or are brave enough to use the grass verge as if it were a normal part of the road like French people do with scant regard for anything lurking furtively in the waist high grass, in reality, as you waft along the 5km of single track road, gazing across the fields to distant water towers and villages, it takes you three times that to reach your destination. Be in no doubt, this is a good thing. You don’t need to drive fast when you’re out here and, quite frankly, it’s best if you don’t. The wildlife of deer and hares tend to leap out to say “hello” to you as they find you as much of a novelty in their environment as we do to see them in ours. In fact, let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, the countryside is what’s left of their environment after we’ve shunted them into ever smaller pockets while our urbanisation of their habitat has grown exponentially.
But I digress. Today’s story concerns rural life in France and in particular, connectivity through WiFi. There are many people in online forums wailing and bemoaning the inability to connect or have decent signal, even though the availability of it is something that all purchasers should acquaint themselves with as part of their house buying process. The areas between habitation are often vast. Not on the scale of say Australia, where driving three hours for an evening out is relatively usual, but certainly larger distances than in the United Kingdom where isolation is reserved for places like Wales or Scotland!
WiFi signal, or particularly the lack of it, consumes the unwary, unknowing or less than cautious in French France. Which is why when we bought a home here, we didn’t give it a second thought! No, on viewing the property we were clearly aware of the satellite dishes and aerials that sprouted from the roof and side walls. What we were less than aware of was the owner’s desire to strip everything, including all the light fittings, just leaving bare wires protruding from the ceilings, for us to arrive on that dark November evening in 2018. It is very dark in the middle of nowhere. Navigation by stars dark. Being more fascinated with the lack of any fittings internally, we were left with the delight of the missing satellite dishes and aerials the following day. Apparently, this is something that is common here and nothing like England where fixtures and fittings are all detailed at great length when buying property.
Not that it really bothered us too much. My electrical knowledge and wiring prowess which has been well documented within earlier blogs was put to good use for emergency lighting and we had candles too. The luxury of running water and working toilets was a bonus. This was hardly the pull up a caravan and camp out until habitable type dwelling. They had left the huge log burner. Possibly due to its size making it rather impractical for easy shifting.
A few weeks after moving here in December last year, I became the proud recipient of a 4G box from SFR. A simple plug and play item that I plugged into an electrical socket in the library and it automatically fired up. This indeed gave me connectivity with the wider world although the signal, like the forums suggested, was less than perfect and would drop out without warning making Zoom calls problematic.
As I don’t have a television here, the missing satellite dishes have waited until now for me to do something about them. With the WMG hounding me over the poor WiFi signal to “sort it before I arrive”, I thought it prudent to spend a few moments (when reception allowed) searching the interweb for reasons as to why the signal is poor and how best to remedy it. Within a few moments it became apparent that by moving the 4G box to a window ledge rather than its present location on the bottom plinth of a lamp stand, might improve its ability to receive the incoming transmissions, as the signal wasn’t then having to pass through reinforced concrete blocks almost a metre thick.
As the row of lights on the front of the display showed, within seconds, the reception was dramatically improved, so much so that I have been able to hold telephone conversations, video conversations and use my iPad, all with gay abandon!
Simply by moving the box to the little ledge of the landing window, any need for a booster aerial has been removed. Joy is unconfined (they’ve let her out again!) and my connectivity with the wider world, you will undoubtedly be delighted to hear, has been strengthened. Nothing blurry, intermittent or even the buffering circle of doom, to see here! Now I am receiving, transmitting and broadcasting clearly to you all from the countryside of French France…Through the Square Window!
Carry on regardless!