You will never be short of a calendar in France. From November onwards people knock at your door holding calendars of various qualities. It is illegal to ask for, or to give, a ‘Christmas box’ to tradesmen, so they turn up with a calendar, for which you give a donation. It was our first year in France, and one evening I was alone in the house.  I heard a knock on the door. When I answered it, there were three men standing there who just said, ‘Poubelles’! I could not understand why they wanted my dustbins at that time of night. They repeated it, another couple of times before disappearing down the road. I was completely mystified. As I mulled it over, I vaguely remembered a passage from the book ‘Living and Working in France’. I got it out and started hunting through it. Eventually, I found the passage where the author explained about tradesmen and Christmas boxes. He wrote, ‘If you do not want your rubbish spread out in the street for the next year, give a donation and get a calendar’. I was very worried until the next bin collection, but my rubbish was taken away as usual and I realized the author was writing tongue in cheek! Not only the dustbin men, but the postman and the firemen, will call holding calendars and expecting at least 5€. I wonder if they would like a pot of homemade marmalade instead?

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