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A sad farewell - French car goes to the grave.
Barry Paton of the Salignac Foundation where you can learn to be a filmaker

My beloved little Citroen BX has finally given up.

Yesterday I was on the way to lunch with someone who Fiona has known about for many years in the dance world. He has recently moved to The Dordogne and had phoned us after seeing our Press Release in the local paper. Off we went one of the best and warmest days that we have had this year. A bottle of Rose and some information about ourselves and away we go.

I deliberately did not have any breakfast, apart from my usual coffee and bread, in order not to spoil my appetite for lunch. It was, after all, an important occasion for Fiona. I should have known!

The village in which we would meet Dotty, an elegant lady driving an old Dutch Volvo (these were our instructions) is some 80 miles away from us. Bowling along in fine form we passed various places that we new and recognised until we started to go into the hinterland and we began to get a bit lost. Not seriously, you understand, but we realised we were going to be about half an hour later than we intended. Stop and phone seemed the sensible thing. We didnít want Dotty waiting forever for us and we would get there shortly. I think at that point we were only about 10/15 miles away. Phone box was found and I stopped to let Fiona make apologies. "Sorry we got slightly - lost but we'll be there shortly" That sort of thing.

I started the car and we were quite happy we had done the proper thing by phoning and off we went for about 20 yards when I realised that something was wrong. It wasn't the smoke coming from under the back of the car, I didn't notice that 'till later. It was the noise from the back. I turned calmly to Fiona and said, "I think something has happened." and stopped the car. Jumping out and going to the back I saw that the (almost new exhaust) lying almost on the road with vast amounts of smoke coming from underneath. There was also liquid on the deck as well. Oops! My first thought that fuel had leaked, I had just filled up the tank a few miles back. Then I realised that there was a problem with the suspension pipes for which Citroen are renowned. Great when working, problem when not.

Now I don't want to go into the technical details, but the brief explanation is that if you lose the fluid then nothing works. No brakes, no steering, no suspension, no nothing even. Problem. However, we are beside a phone box. Bonus. We are beside some houses. Bonus. Hot Sunday lunchtime in France. Definitely not a bonus. The French take lunch very seriously, especially if it is warm. After a couple of attempts to see if I can solve the problem. I am of course wearing a white shirt and doing my best to keep Fiona calm. "No problem" I say knowing in my heart of hearts that I was a serious problem, I had known for about a year that my car was going to give up at some point but not this way. It was 16 years old and a bit tired.

The chap in the local house was extremely helpful in offering us a hammer and suggesting we phoned the Pompiers (fire brigade) and how he had never had a Citroen, always a Peugeot, because Citroens are always trouble. Despite all this we were resigned to doing something so Fiona phoned the Pompiers (afterwards we discovered it was the Gendarmes) with the effect that a breakdown wagon came about half an hour later and took us to a garage. The driver/mechanic had to stop off for the keys of this on the way. As with most mechanic or plumbers I could see in his face that it was really a bit of a lost cause. Of course, I am still confident that a matter of a small pipe to be repaired and the hiking up of the exhaust, should be no problem. I always was an optimist.

After damaging (my almost new) exhaust several times, the mechanic put my car up on the hoist, and had a good look at the damage. Well, Guess what? The Gallic shrug came into play. I had a look for myself and I must agree I was shocked at what I saw. Had I gone around a few more corners and had to hit the brakes. Well we would have been wrapped around a tree or worse. Logistics then came into play. If the car couldn't be fixed, how were we to get home? Fortunately there was a train to reasonably close to us, but only at 7pm. At this point it is 2.30. This was only 10 miles and 5 and half hours. Anyway it is beautiful scenery if you ever travel from Perigueux to Sarlat. I recommend it If you are not in a hurry.

The taxi cost me £20 to the station. The petrol that was left in the car was £25. The train fare was £17 and we had to phone a friend to take us the last 10 miles home. But and it is a big but, I am glad it happened there and then because the poor old car could have cost us our lives had we continued without knowing.

This weekend I am going on location to the South of France and was supposed to be taking with me over $20000 of film and video equipment. It so happens that I am working for The Learning Channel. I think that I have learned. I am taking a hire van! I am also now looking for a new? car.

The positive news? Well it saved me the effort of trying to fix the sun roof which jammed last week after not being used for 5 months!

© Barry C Paton June 2001
The Salignac Foundation in France are running the following courses over the next few months:-   11th to 15th JUNE. Video Production Techniques course.  
25th to 29th JUNE.  Screenwriting/directing course with writer/director Ian Craig.
9th to 13th July and 23rd to 27th JULY Video Production Techniques Course.    We are also running two courses in August and two in September. These courses are all 5 days in the South West of France. Space is limited, so book early. For prices and dates please contact us at Barry Paton BSc Video Training Courses The Salignac Foundation rue Fenelon Salignac Eyvigues 24590 FRANCE +33 (0)5 53 29 94 06 E-mail:

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