About eight months ago a very heavy envelope was posted through our letterbox. It contained an enamelled metal plaque with the number 140 on it and a letter informing us that from now on we were living at 140 Chemin des Granges and that our postal address would be officially 140 Chemin des Granges 07410 Arlebosc France … et vlan!
We had noticed that gradually the villages around Arlebosc had put up signs next to signs informing us that, for example, the hamlet of Trafourine was now on the Chemin de Trafourine which means that if you want to go to Trafourine (which is unlikely) you simply have to follow the Chemin de Trafourine to get to Trafourine.
At the beginning of 2016 the Maire of Arlebosc succumbed to pressure from on high and in April members of the Conseil Municipal were to be found drilling holes with Hervé’s vine planting machine and decorating the countryside with street signs.
So what’s the system? The names are chosen by using the last house or hamlet on that particular road. As for the numbers, they correspond to the distance in metres to the crossroads. We are thus 140 metres from the D578, and the further into the middle of nowhere you are, the more impressive your number.
In the bad old days if you wanted to come to see us for the first time, there were (and indeed still are) several methods available. You could have used a Michelin map and looked for Les Sarziers, or asked a local in the village or simply googled Walksweeks – the first thing that comes up is a Google map of our surroundings and precise location.
With the arrival of Satnav you would probably have used the car’s GPS and it would have guided you along the D578 to the “Rue de Sarzier”, told you to turn into said “rue” and we are the first house on the right. This system has the considerable disadvantage that the rue de Sarzier does not exist and that there is another hamlet in Arlebosc called Sarzier without an s at the end, which is also not on the rue de Sarzier- a fact that has caused regular entertainment for confused van drivers.
So why all these new signs? The mass production of metal plaques and the ensuing littering of signs in the open countryside is apparently designed to make it easier for the emergency services to find your hovel. According to the Mairie it is a requirement of Articles L2212-1, L2212-2 et L2121-29 du code général des collectivités territoriales (I hope you’re impressed).
Hurrumph! Rumours soon began to circulate. It is to stimulate the French metal industry (there might be somebody in the steel industry whose cousin is the uncle of the brother in law of the minister of transport’s wife’s dog) or the French government is selling the new street names to Google and will make millions and millions of Euros (sweet revenge for all those taxes they’ve avoided paying) …
Whatever the reason, we are now left with a lot of street signs that were never necessary in the first place.
Of course in Arlebosc we all try to ignore the new addresses. Everybody here including the post lady, the firemen, the electricity technician, the artisans, the builders and the rest of the village knows where Les Sarziers is, but nobody would be able to tell you the location of the Chemin de Granges – especially as granges means barns, and there more barns in Arlebosc than kangaroos in Australia.
We feel especially sorry for the local Count, Monsieur de Chazotte, whose family has been living in the Château de Chazotte for several hundred years. The de Chazottes survived the Revolution and his Château is still the pride of Arlebosc. But finally in 2016 the revolutionary call for Egalité has been implemented. His address will be from now on 320 Chemin de Chazotte. Très banal. I suppose Louis XIV would now live at 560 Chemin du Parking, Versailles.
Back to plebeian Les Sarziers. Thinking that we should make a gesture towards the State and at least inform the Tax Office that our official address is now 140 Chemin des Granges we went on line. When we attempted to type in our impressive new address we were informed that the Chemin des Granges does not exist, but that they do have on record some people with our names who live at Les Sarziers. So please don’t bother to update your address books!
I just hope that the French Government will make tons of money by selling the names to Google maps and then we can take the signs down again and make better use of them! Vive la République.