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We recently decided to go for it and invest in solar energy. The return on our money should be eight percent greater than the interest we were earning on the money in the bank, and apart from that we like to be environmentally friendly.

It’s been an interesting exercise, made slightly more complicated by the fact that we live in an isolated location in southern France. Although we’ve lived here for seven years we still have difficulties with the language, especially on the telephone. We knew no French at all when we moved here seven years ago and it’s been a hard learning curve. Delivery people can never find our house and always phone for directions and all the deliveries of PV panels and equipment followed that trend.

However, eventually everything had arrived, and the day came to start the installation process. The first thing I noticed was the complete lack of any form of health and safety. The four guys doing the job went up the ladders and over the roof like monkeys. Not a rope, a net, a harness or a piece of scaffold to be seen. And much to my dismay my husband decided he was going to join them. I pondered on checking the life insurance.

There was a thirty-foot drop on the two sides of the roof where the panels were going and they worked right to the edge. I found it very hard to watch them.

They removed the heavy red tiles from the areas where the panels were to be placed and stacked them in the garden, then they fitted a waterproof membrane where the panels were to sit.

Next they carried the panels up, reminding me of leaf-cutter ants as they went up the ladder and across the roof.

Once again, while standing across on the hill at the back of the house taking photos, I shuddered at how they worked within inches of the gutter. I said to them later how I thought they needed a lot of courage to work so close to that sort of a drop-off. They laughed and said ‘habituer’ – in other words ‘You get used to it!’

It appeared there was only one thing that one of them was scared of and that was wasps! One type of wasp here likes to build its nest under the red tiles, and at the sight of wasp one of the guys would make off across the roof with much arm-waving. His comrades, who seemed to enjoy learning a bit of English, immediately dubbed him ‘chicken boy’.

The two days that it took to complete the job were scorchingly hot. I kept the guys supplied with plenty of ice-cold water and espresso coffee, and even made them some cakes which they seemed to appreciate.

We now await an inspection and then we’ll be ‘switched-on’ and able to create lots of environmentally friendly energy.

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