Guest blog by Fruitcake @barjan
The day after our exciting day of finally purchasing our beloved ruin we had to make preparations to return to the UK, tidying, shopping, filling up the fuel tank etc. Called into the young couple, as invited, for an apertif at lunchtime, coming away with lettuces and cherries, then in the evening our neighbour up the lane brought us more cherries to take home and while Mr. F. cooked dinner I went walk about with a video camera we’d borrowed to record everything we find so beautiful.
The next day we had to make our way home YUK! We packed things and covered things, planted the last of the plants we’d brought and gave them a really good drink, hoping they wouldn’t die during the summer months, locked the door and said a very sad goodbye to our dream home.
We called in to say goodbye to Marcel & Alice, he picked me a lovely bunch of Sweet Williams, we admired their garden, the rabbits and the chickens and kissed them goodbye, he promising me some seeds from his Sweet Williams. We arrived home at 8pm.
After two weeks back in the UK we just could not settle, we just did not want to be there, we wanted to be in our cottage, be it camping or whatever, we didn’t mind. We heard on a news item that house prices were likely to drop even more. I did yet more calculations and thought we should be able to pay taxes, EDF & water for cottage out of Mr. F’s small private pension (food and other items would have to be extra!) Mr. F. had said he thought, now that we had uncovered the 3 walls of the ruin, that he could re-build it. We had such an overpowering longing to be there that I said “If you think you can re-build that end and we turn it into a gite we could get income from that – let’s go!”
We had another estate agent out and put the house on the market, with the philosophy that it could take a year or more (but secretly hoping it wouldn’t!) I also got surrender values for endowments for after the house was sold and mortgage paid and applied for an evening shelf filling job in Tesco’s to swell the FF. (Mr. F. not too happy about that, but needs must and I may not even get it!)
The quotations for the endowments meant that we should have enough from them for the roof and septic tank. I rang Roger apologising for the delay in transferring money, explaining that we just couldn’t afford it, as we were a few hundred francs short, he agreed to cancel current cheque and I’d send one for what we could afford and pay the rest when we next went over.
Wasn’t impressed with the house details from the agent so got those amended!
The following weeks were spent planning, talking, painting ready for sale, potting up cuttings, researching information about applying for a carte de sejour, veterinary care (ordered a book on home veterinary care) and all to do with living in France, even if one can be cremated!
Had to ring the French Consulate to confirm that the adoption certificate plus the short form birth certificate was sufficient for Mr F. Sent all certificates (birth, marriage etc) to French Chambre de Commerce to get sworn official translations done (required for the Titre de sejour). Got a quote for them – £146 including VAT (don’t come cheap these things!)
When the book shop rang to say book I’d ordered was in stock wasn’t sure if I could afford it as was still sorting the finances from June!
By the end of August I had gleaned much information about life and living (& dying!) in France, we’d swelled the FF by working all the hours we could, including Sundays and evenings and were able to buy some materials on special offers to take over next time. We were both getting tired and just anxious to be back in our cottage.
By mid September we had amassed more materials to take (some Mr. F. had scrounged as he worked on different jobs!) and booked a crossing for the end of October.
At the end of September the radiator started playing up on the van! I was made redundant! Not due any redundancy money! No interest in house – thought agents had overpriced it. So at the beginning of October I changed agents and dropped the price a bit.
We bought a 2nd hand camping cooker with an oven and got our copy of the Acte de vente – cottage really felt like ours then!
In mid October things improved a little financially, the mortgage dropped a little and we sold Mr. F’s boat, plus we had the 1st viewers. Had a long discussion about generators and decided that the money we’d need to spend to get one man enough for all the equipment Mr. F. would use (cement mixer, power tools etc) would be better spent getting the electricity connected.
Two more viewers – no offers but one seriously thinking about it.
By the 25th October the van was once again loaded to the hilt, both inside and on the roof rack, with all manner of materials, timber and cuttings. No news from the viewer but agent thought all was not lost!
On October 26th at 3.15am we left for our next visit to our cottage – needed to stop several times to check roof rack as it was straining a bit under the weight!!
We were so thrilled to arrive at the cottage once more and pleased that all was as we’d left it, the plants I’d planted were still alive AND had flowered! The walnut tree that Marcel had helped Mr. F. cut down had sprouted, lots of weeds had grown again but the brambles and ivy we’d removed from the gable end of the ruin had died off!
The green slimy walls were drying out, though the bed smelled a bit damp, but we were so shattered by the time we’d unloaded the van (apart from the roof rack) had a meal and a couple of drinks that we just made it up anyway, fell into it and went out like a light!
Our days were full, long and hard. We bought a strimmer and it got lots of use. A lot of digging was done, me for forming the boundary gardens, Mr. F. for footings for the buttress and for fence posts.. Materials were ordered for the buttress, but delivery day meant time would be a bit tight. Fence posts were put in, and netting fixed (optimistically thinking, if a quick sale & move, we’d be all prepared to keep the four dogs safe!)
Lots of rubbish cleared and burnt, including miles of Russian vine meandering all through the ruin. Boundary plants in, footings done for buttress. The next day Mr. F. took all day to make shuttering, mix by hand all the concrete for and formed the buttress. In between made a couple of quick visits, usually just before closing time, to supermarket to stock up with food.
Of course usual chores were fitted in, emptying the chemical toilet, pulling water up from the well (with me hanging onto Mr, F’s trousers as he teetered on the edge of the wobbly stone, lifting the rope with the bucket hand over hand, lest he fall the 30ft down to the water!) washing etc done and logs cut.
Wasn’t all work, we took one day out to go and see friends in the Mayenne, took them the chairs they’d asked us to bring from UK and brought back a sofa and a rug they’d given us, which we arranged in front of the fire. Our farmer neighbours (Louis & Gisele we now know) invited us for an aperitif. We collected loads of walnuts from our trees to add to the big bag full that Louis had collected from them and saved for us, bless him, and picked 2 boxes of apples, which the apple pickers had left on the trees.
In the evenings we would sit by the fire, frightened to move because we ached so much, with our knees all toasty and our necks frozen, as we had to have the door open to avoid being smoked out! We decided that we can live without sanitation, water and electricity but a wood burning fire is essential!!
Our lovely neighbours gave us grapes, pears and more apples to take home and on 5th November we loaded the van once more, packed everything away in the cottage, wrapping plates etc in bags to prevent any unwanted guests entering them, stood the mattress up on end, tying it to a beam, closed up the cottage and waved yet another sad goodbye to our little home, full of aches and pains but with a great sense of achievement.