“Diggin’ Holes in France” – by Porter Scott

porter        Welcome our guest writer, Porter Scott!   It was as a student of painting and photography that Porter Scott first began his love affair with Paris. Determined to continue the romance, Porter tried several careers before finding his true niche – renovating and managing furnished rental properties. Now, with over 30 renovations to his credit and an impressive portfolio of rental properties right in the heart of Paris, it should come as no surprise that Porter has developed some clever tactics for dealing with the quirks, foibles and bureaucracy an American will encounter when living in France.

Dig right into his story and write a comment below.  He will understand if you only say: “Hi ya’ll”

Alabama white dogwood in the front yard of Les Lanceroux

Southern U.S. white dogwood in the front yard in France.  Click to see inside this beautiful home lovingly restored by my parents.

While other kids from the East and West Coasts were studying calculus in grade school, I was learning the finer points of how to handle a pick and shovel in the outback of Alabama (not to say that I did not get a good education, nevertheless). I took great pride in my ability to wield a pick as well as any man out there, letting the pick do the work while my back simply gave the necessary thrust and guidance.

Post-hole Digging: Learning the Basics

Another one of the outdoor handyman skills I learned as a boy was how to use a post-hole digger in order to build fences and string barbed wire. When you had a lot of holes to dig, you rented a special, heavy-duty machine, with a huge augur bit, that took two people to handle and hold while it screwed into the ground and dug a nice clean, deep hole. Once dug, all that was left to do was to insert your post and give it a few wallops with a mallet to secure.

Good ol' "Copperhead" post-hole digger

Good ol’ “Copperhead” post-hole digger

Getting hold of the right tool for the job …

On a lesser scale, when you only have a few post holes to dig here and there, you use a manual post-hole digger, which only needs one person to get the job done. For the life of me, I have not been able to find one of these manual contraptions in France in the 30 plus years I have been living here. Finally, a few years back, I decided to ask my mother’s new husband at the time, who was then 81 years old (but spry as could be), to bring me a post- hole digger in his luggage the next time he came over to France. Being an engineer, I knew that he would rise to the challenge.

 So how does one go about getting a post-hole digger into an airplane these days?

Well, first of all, I decided that I did not need the long wooden handles. Those can be found, or made, here in France. That left the metal base mechanism which consists of two narrow, curved shovel-like elements facing one another with a hinge joining them. It may set off the metal detectors in the airplane, but I did not foresee my father-in-law being taken into custody as the first post-hole digger terrorist. In fact, my stepfather not only rose to the challenge, he managed to bring the post-hole digger in its entirety…handles and all!

Me and my post-hole digger - Alabama born and bred!

Me and my post-hole digger – Alabama born, bred and raised!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The days when someone like my own father (back in the 1980’s) could carry in his luggage all kinds of garden tools and other familiar items (including some sapling trees) are probably long gone. To this day, I have a well-worn double-edged swing blade for cutting grass that is probably the only one in the entire country of France.

Beautiful!  Alabama pink dogwood thriving in French soil, thanks to the post-hole diggers

Beautiful! Southern U.S. pink dogwood thriving in French soil, thanks to the post-hole diggers

Every time we get it out to cut weeds and such, the country neighbors start gawking at those crazy Americans…flailing there arms about us just doin’ things differently. We are also probably among the few people in France who have two dogwood trees (native to the southern United States) thriving in our yard, thanks to my father’s desire to put down American roots in France.

Missing the bare necessities…

There are numerous familiar items that Americans have a hard time finding or cannot find when they move to France, or any other country for that matter. For instance, every time I go back to the USA, I stock up on men’s mid-calf dark socks  because I cannot find the quality that I like in France, not to mention the outrageous prices that the French charge for what they think are quality men’s socks. Good quality permanent press shirts are also hard to come by in France. For some reason, the French feel that 100% cotton shirts are the only shirts that are worth buying, so there are almost no comparable permanent press alternatives.  I just wonder who does the ironing for these guys… My wife marvels at the space taken up by all of the socks (winter, summer, and heavy sports socks separated into three categories) that I have in my dresser, or rather, she complains about not having enough space for her clothing. I have still to show her the ten-year-stock of dental floss that I have accumulated (but fortunately, it doesn’t take up much space).

This little lot should take me well into my eighties

This little lot should take me well into my eighties…hopefully I’ll still have some teeth left for flossing at that stage.

Yes, having the best of both worlds, as an American living in France, is an impossible dream; but with foresight, you can at least maintain a stock of imported familiar items that make you feel a little closer to home. Unfortunately, you cannot import many of the less tangible things that you cherish as an American: fundamental values, flexible thinking, entrepreneurial concepts, a different understanding of freedom…

Thankfully, a little American dental floss can go a long way in comforting you. No matter where you are in the world, with just a bit of thin, wax-coated string, you can maintain at least one American standard that you are accustomed to:  good dental hygiene.

Diggin' under my Opp, Alabama dogwood

Diggin’ under my Opp, Alabama dogwood

Debbie’s comments: Thanks to Porter for sharing some of the differences between the U.S. and France, from the ground up to those white, pearly teeth born and raised in Alabama.  No worries.  We will continue sharing the U.S. dental floss with Porter if he needs any.  Uh, I don’t mean actually sharing our used dental floss.  We will sell it to him, or lend it. Or, would we need an international trade agreement? I can see already that we may need to have a meeting in Switzerland on neutral grounds; do the Swiss use dental floss?  Now, how can I get myself out of this fiasco? Anybody know where I can find a good post-hole digger, so I can dig a hole big enough for me to crawl inside and hide?

Just so you will know, I won’t see you here at A French Opportunity next week.  I’m taking a few days off.  Be safe and enjoy!  Thanks for comin’ around to visit us.  Take a look here for the holes that Jim dug in Florida coral rock with chips flyin’ … Kindle has a great sale going on, starting at $5.99.  Grab it while you can.

9 thoughts on ““Diggin’ Holes in France” – by Porter Scott

  1. I can’t believe the post-hole diggers were allowed through airport security! Your stepfather must have been very persuasive.

  2. Well, the truth is, even in today’s world of security paranoia, you can still pack a lot of unusual things in your luggage as long as they are not carry-on. My stepfather would most likely not have gotten through security otherwise!

    • Ha! I should write something on how hard it is to get stuff out here in the islands of Panama! Post holes diggers are the least of our issues. At least you are in a first-world country!

      • Hello Lee,
        I’ve never been to Panama, although, we have thought about it a few times. We lived in Coconut Grove, Florida many years and had friends from Panama, plus a couple who are still living there. They encouraged us to come on over. Maybe they had plans for our suitcase contents for delivery of their needs. Of course, we couldn’t deliver reliable electricity, water, internet connection and such. I’m sure you have some tall tales to tell! Nice to hear from you. Maybe we should hear your version of diggin’ holes.

      • One of the things I miss the most living in France is good beef! Despite their reputation for gastronomy, the French have a long way to go in producing a good steak. Beef tends to be very tough here and often lacking flavour. My father tells me that the beef is not aged properly – Dad had his own butchering business in Ireland for many years so he has a keen sense of these things!

        Thankfully, my parents still manage to smuggle in a few steaks in their hand luggage every time they come to visit! We don’t know if this is illegal activity but they have gotten away with it so far! Usually, Mum will freeze the meat in advance so that by the time they get here, all that’s left to do is chop up a few onions and heat up the skillet!

        So does Porter win the prize for most unusual smuggled item on an airplane or is the Irish steak a contender????

        Warm wishes to you Debbie,
        Louise

        • Hi Louise,
          We totally agree about the tough steak situation. We bought excellent steak and other meat from the butcher in Brehemont, but the small business is no longer there. We have been fortunate in finding good meat in the Dordogne in a small store in Cenac. Now, the free-range chicken is entirely different since they are delicious!! I could become a vegetarian in France since we find such abundant choices. I could not get over the seafood choices in the markets in small towns! I’ll stop salivating now and eat my sandwich. You are a contender for the unusual packing for the airplane. Maybe we can make it to Ireland sometime and enjoy the steak without taking any in our luggage. Now, I will introduce another contender. Jim always packs his knife sharpener when we travel to a rental house. No offense to the lovely home in Brehemont, but most rental homes have dull, dull knives. Jim gets them in good shape so he can cook. He must prepare a meal for you when we visit. Just let us know what else to include in our luggage, except dental floss. I know you have that covered. Take care!

  3. Enjoyed this so much. I had the pleasure of spending a few weeks with Kitty and another friend at this beautiful house before starting our tour of France and Germany. So many wonderful memories.
    The Scott family is so precious to me.

    • Hello Ruby,
      You were very fortunate to spend time with Kitty in the beautiful home in Brehemont. Anyone who begins their tour of France here, or returns to dip into France again is rewarded abundantly. I felt like I had always known Porter when we met. My husband and I sat in front of the fireplace and talked and laughed like old friends. I’m thankful. Thank you for taking the time to write a note here on A French Opportunity. I hope you come around again. For anyone who reads the comments, I would like to mention that I have more pictures on my Debbie.Ambrous Facebook page.

  4. Very happy to let y’all know you can also catch more of Debbie’s recent French travel tales at I Love Paris Life

    Debbie, it has been fun to collaborate like this. Just as with travel, it is always wonderful to discover and learn a new and fresh take on things from your neighbor.

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