Our post-lady, Beatrice, knocked on our door to introduce herself and told us that here was no need for us to go to the post-office - instead, we should just place any letters that we wanted posting in our own letterbox plus money for the stamps, clip a peg to the flap on the outside to show her that there was something inside for collection and she would deal with it for us.
We could do the same with parcels too - just place some money in the box and if it turned out not to be enough she would still post the parcel and leave a little note in the box for us to find so we could leave the required balance out the next day. The same worked if we put in too much money - she just left the change with a note telling us how much the item actually cost. She added that if we would like her to collect prescriptions from the pharmacie or to draw out money from a post office account (if we had one) she would happily do that too !!! We were most impressed and surprised at this service.
Not only that, Beatrice organised the chimney sweep for us, giving him precise directions to our house as he didn't know of our small hamlet. She also frequently passed on surplus produce that her other "customers" had given to her such as eggs and potatoes.
One day not that long after we'd arrived we were trying to set up an internet and e-mail account. We'd picked up a disc for tiscali but couldn't understand everything we were supposed to do, so when Beatrice called in we asked her if she could help. She shook her head regretfully and we shrugged a "never mind". Ten minutes later, Monsieur C, our car club president and neighbour knocked on the door. Beatrice had been round to him and told him of our problem and here he was to help! He followed us up to our bedroom (where our computer lives) and we were examining the details on the screen when there was a knock at the door. I popped downstairs to find a middle-aged woman and a young man on the door-step. The woman explained that she was the wife of Monsieur C and they needed to talk to him, so I held the door open and ushered them both upstairs assuming that the young man with her was their son.
As they walked into the bedroom Monsieur C held his hand up in the universal "stop" position, indicating that they should keep quiet for a moment as he was busy concentrating, so our new visitors amused themselves silently, first by peering over Monsieur C's shoulder pretending to be interested in the screen, then more obviously, studying our bedroom with bemused smiles on their faces.
When the concentration bit was completed, we were then properly introduced and found out that the young man was in fact the relief postman who took over when Beatrice was on holiday and not their son after all. Coincidentally he was also a member of the car club and had happened to call round on Monsieur C to discuss car business and finding him absent, accompanied Mme C to our house not realising there'd be a case of mistaken identity. They all thought this episode was hugely funny. This young man later became a good friend of ours, helping us a lot with our French language skills.
Joining Monsieur C's classic car club was the start of our rapid integration into French life. In the March of our first year we were invited to the AGM together with our friend, D, (who was still staying and working with us) as he had an MG back in the UK and hoped to come over in it enough times to warrant joining the club.
Having been introduced and then kissed or hand-shaken by 40-odd French members, we sat down to dinner at a restaurant in the pretty little town of Sainte Feyre and the meeting followed. I have to admit that we were somewhat pushed to follow the rapid-fire French that shot back and forth across the room but the smiles were welcoming.