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Having just bought our house in a tiny hamlet in rural France, we spent the Christmas holidays there undertaking renovation work. While there, we arranged for a delivery of oil for the central heating system. A large tanker duly arrived on the morning of New Year’s Eve and the driver explained that it required careful handling, due to the fact that it contained some 25,000 litres of oil.
We left him to connect a large hose from the lorry to the oil tank in the outbuildings. Some 10 minutes later, he’d completed the job and left with a cheery “Au revoir!”.
Imagine our surprise when no more than a minute or two later, there was a loud hammering on the door. We opened it to find an ashen-faced driver, hands shaking, puffing away on a hastily lit cigarette. He led us round the side of the house where we saw, with incredulity, that the rear of the lorry had completely disappeared into a huge hole in our garden, leaving the front of the vehicle suspended high in the air. The driver paced back and forth, all the time sucking heavily on his cigarette, swearing profusely.
Our anxiety reached fever pitch when we realised that liquid was pouring into the hole, which we assumed was the 25,000 litres of fuel oil. Not only that, he continued puffing away on his cigarette apparently oblivious to the potential dangers.
In desperation, we ran to our next-door neighbours for help. Our neighbour dutifully followed us back, only to recoil in horror at the sight that met him and hot-footed it back towards his own house.
We thought we were on our own – how wrong we were. Five minutes later, our neighbour reappeared with half a dozen others from the hamlet. Within 10 minutes, they’d identified the liquid as being water from a burst pipe; turned the water supply off in the road; notified the oil company; arranged for the arrival of a back-up tanker; and got the agreement of the local farmer for a huge crane to be brought across his field to lift the sunken lorry out and onto solid land.
Four hours later, the job was done, leaving us with the problem of how to get our car over such an impassable hole. We needn’t have worried: a short while later, our neighbour came back with a digger, and within another hour, the hole had been filled with gravel.
It was, without doubt, one definite way to break the ice! Jonathan Sweet Luche-sur-Brioux, Poitou-Charentes