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‘Mairie to rescue when no engineers found for my dodgy French boiler’

Writer Samantha David left with problem when her regular repair man was off sick

The postman suggest ringing the mairie for a list of heating engineers Pic: shocky / kmsh / Shutterstock

I have to confess to having a dodgy boiler in my barn.

It came with the house: a monstrous, oily hulk sulking behind the wheelbarrows all summer as it waits to be persuaded into action with the arrival of the first frosts.

Every year, it is the same performance. The engineer comes and maintains the chimney, changes filters and jets, cleans bits and bobs, and starts it.

Every year, by the next morning, it has gone out and will not start.

Back comes the engineer and fiddles about a bit.

“You need to change this for a heat pump,” he tells me. 

“Good idea,” I say. “Can you give a quote?”

He cannot, because he is the maintenance engineer, not the installation specialist, who is very busy.

In the meantime, however, he can improvise with a piece of wire and get the monster burning.

I nod gratefully, he gets the machine working and nothing more happens until we repeat the whole process a year later.

Read more: Can I get financial help towards replacing boiler at my French home?

My dodgy boiler defeats most heating engineers

Except this year the maintenance engineer was off sick and I had to find someone else, which was no easy feat.

I rang everyone in the Pages Jaunes, only to be told I lived too far away, or my boiler was too old, or they were not taking on new clients.

I turned to Facebook and got a variety of recommendations for plumbers, builders and handymen, but my dodgy boiler defeats all but the most experienced heating engineers.

I rang another specialist, who said he had a waiting list of two months.

I was stumped.

Marie website lists businesses in the commune

Then the postman (what would I do without him?) suggested ringing the mairie. 

Unfortunately, the secretary is a very scary person. You would not want to ring her unless you had absolutely no choice. 

So I looked at the mairie website instead and, bingo, a list of all the businesses in the commune, including those not listed in the Pages Jaunes.

Sadly, no heating engineers. 

Read more: 12 things you can do at your mairie in France apart from get married

‘I don’t know you, but I know your boiler’

However, still inspired, I investigated all the websites of the neighbouring mairies and, sure enough, I found a heating engineer only three villages away, who agreed to look at the orange monster in the barn.

“Ah oui,” he said, unscrewing the front of the control box, “I know this one.”

It did not take long for him to get the whole thing cleaned up and working, and he even gave me a discount for cash. I was very pleased.

“I only found you because you’re on the mairie’s website,” I said. “You would probably get more customers if you were in the Pages Jaunes.”

“But I don’t need them,” he said. “Everyone round here knows me. I have enough work. I don’t need to bother with strangers.”

He had a point.

“But you don’t know me, and you came out,” I challenged.

“Ah, but I know that boiler,” he said. “I used to service that one 20 years ago. My brother installed it before he divorced his first wife. Must be 40 years ago now.”

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