Tuesday, December 17, 2002

The Case of the Dirigiste State

Pair Retire to 16 Years of French Candlelight:

PARIS (Reuters) - A British couple who moved to a cottage in the south of France 16 years ago have been reading by candlelight and cooking with firewood ever since, all because their home is a few paces out of reach of electricity.

A pylon stands nearby their hideaway, nestled in the Cevennes hills, but it would cost the retired couple 15,000 euros to install a transformer to connect the cottage, French media reported on Monday.

"Without television, I have never read so much. After five years you start forgetting books so you can re-read them. It's quite practical," said Adrian Talbot, who has lost hope that Electricite de France will ever offer to connect them.

Opticians have reassured the Talbots their children's eyes will not have been damaged by 16 years of doing homework by candlelight. "The opticians told us there was no problem. On the contrary, it's a less aggressive form of light," Talbot said.

The former art teacher and his wife fell in love with the cottage during a holiday to the region in the south-central area of France but never imagined they would spend their retirement collecting firewood to heat the place.

The couple, who would have had the cost of installing electricity subsidized if they had chosen a house in a village a few yards down the road, recently invested in a generator which enables them to run a washing-machine for two hours a day.


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