REPORT – Xmas 2002  

 

Overview

Well, that was a year, that was!

When at work I was sometimes characterised by the trendier disciples of Modern Management as “resistant to change” – when my attitude really was “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”. Well, in our case, several things were broke; the house we lived in was too big for us and we were becoming increasingly disenchanted by the overcrowded South East of England, the appalling traffic, the breakdown in law and order, the pitifully under-funded health service and the rise of the ridiculous rules of Political Correctness. So we decided to do something about it, effectively throwing our lives in the air and trying to catch the possessions we wanted as they fell and letting the others drop. Our “baby” Peter had suddenly become a young man and would reach his majority in 2002, so we felt able to branch out.

There were two principal contenders for our new life – Australia and France. Australia had a lot going for it, not the least being our familiarity with the country, but it’s a very long way away, there would have been visa problems, and maybe there was an element of “been there, done that”!

France is a country we’ve grown to love from our holidays there, most areas have the same relaxed, friendly atmosphere as Oz, the scenery is marvellous, the weather is generally better than Blighty and it has a rich cultural and culinary heritage. The people tend to be reserved as we are but have always been universally friendly to us and pleased by our attempts to use their language. Maybe it’s also an easy option, the change can be gradual, easily reversed if necessary and low-cost flights make commuting between countries a practical proposition.

So, as forewarned last year, we put the house on the market …..

 

Sale of 13 Holt Drive

 

We were fortunate to have neighbours who had long wanted the extra space and larger garden that our house could offer, so in February they agreed to buy our place at the asking price. We then spent several months of trips to the tip and car-boot sales trying to get rid of the rubbish we had accumulated, but these were the only real problems. We had decided to sell the house and move into the caravan, avoiding bridging loans and giving us the bargaining advantage of cash buyers, but introducing some storage problems. We completed the sale in mid-August and moved into Colchester Caravan Park.

 

Buying the « Pied à Terre »

 

Part of The Grand Plan was to buy a small, low maintenance house within reach of Colchester; this would give us a UK Base and give Peter somewhere to live while attending Colchester Institute. By early September we had found a small two-bed roomed end-terrace house in Wivenhoe, near Colchester, set the wheels in motion and roared off to France in mid-September to seek the dream cottage.

 

The Dreamers’ Tour

 

We were fortunate to have corresponded with a lovely group of people in an Internet group called “Dreamers of South West France”, comprising those people who are dreaming of moving and those people who have moved. We wandered from person to person and from place to place, having a lovely time but gaining experience and viewing properties as we did so.

We’d been told that when we saw “the” place that we’d know it, and so it was. It’s located 8 km South West of the pleasant town of Villeneuve-sur-Lot in the Lot & Garonne (about half-way between Bordeaux and Toulouse). The 100-year old cottage has a covered verandah and exposed stonework; it’s set in about 1-½ acres of split-level parkland with a 350 m2 barn/garage and a pleasant outdoor terrace. Set on the edge of a limestone escarpment, there’s the obligatory “view to die for”, although there is some chain-saw work to be done on some trees at the edge of the escarpment.

With the “Promesse de Vente” under our belts and the deposit paid we headed back to the UK and Colchester Caravan Park.

 

Moving in to UK Base

 

After a couple of weeks we “Completed” the purchase of the Wivenhoe house on November 1st and moved in a week later, the delay being to allow for the purchase of a double bed and the need to hack away the Leylandii hedge bordering the drive to allow the caravan to be parked in the drive. Our furniture was removed from storage and some used to furnish UK Base, with the rest disappearing to storage in France.

The house proved to be snug and comfortable with its double-glazing and central heating. A rather dark kitchen was lightened up with a lick of paint, a new floor and the bright white washer drier, fridge and cooker.

 

The Move to France

 

The Move to France didn’t happen – the Acte de Vente was scheduled for the 20th December; unfortunately the bank decided to consign some of the funds to banker’s limbo and we had to postpone our trip, Peter’s flight out for Christmas, and cancel our Christmas in France.

But the trip has been rescheduled, catching the ferry to take the caravan across the channel on New Year’s Eve – so we will be starting the New Year with a significant step!

 

Meanwhile, Back in The Real World…

 

….we carried on with our traditional activities; notably our usual skiing, caravan rallying including a trip to Ireland.

The skiing this year was to Megève, a pleasant but (fortunately) uneventful trip which afforded some wonderful views of Mont Blanc and the Aiguille du Midi. Peter came along with us as part of his 18th birthday present.

Notable caravan rallies were to Herefordshire, Crawley for the Commercial Vehicle Run and Masham in the Yorkshire Dales for the Queen’s Jubilee weekend. A return trip to Ireland was based at Killarney; the weather was indifferent but cleared for our tour of the Dingle Peninsula.

 

Footnote

 

Since I’m writing this on a laptop with limited facilities and time, it’s been necessarily abbreviated. However I’ve got copious notes and ideas for further details of a write-up on “Buying a House in France”, but it will have to wait for me to get “A Round Tuit”!

 

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