Monthly Archives: May 2013

The Perfect Summer Weekend

K: After my mini-drama last week, losing my ID, and being sent to Madras, my summer bank holiday weekend started perfectly with a couple of glasses of Champagne in a comfy Club seat en route back from India.

We landed in glorious sunshine, and I dashed off the aircraft first, desperate to get home and enjoy what was left of the weekend in south east London. We had bought tickets to see the inaugural cabaret show at our local pub, the Bridge House, with our friends Paul & Jamie. As it was a beautiful day, we started with a little bottle of rose in the garden of the pub before the cabaret, then another one at the start of the interval, and then decided it would be foolish not to take another one into the second act of the cabaret too. The show itself was amazing (though the chairs were very hard for a 2-hour sit) – four musical theatre friends taking turns to chat and sing. There was a mixture of theatre classics and unknown witty ditties too.

We decided to have dinner in the garden of the pub, and were treated to more musical delights, this time in the form of vocalist Natalie and her guitarist, Mickael. We had the prime spot in the garden – her idyllic tones, and his perfect fingerwork both contributed (along with the scorching sunshine, delicious meals, and a couple more bottles of pinot grigio blush) to the perfect summer’s Sunday.

Over dinner we discussed the next day’s street farewell drinks party in our garden. I don’t know if it was a natural progression, or the wine, but something which started as a handful of neighbours with some drinks turned into an event in its own right. I’m fairly certain it was purely down to Jamie’s rose’-fuelled enthusiasm, but by the end of that night we had booked Natalie & Mickael for our garden the next day!

At 5am on Monday morning, the very first thing which went through my head when I opened my eyes was: Oh God, we’ve booked a live singer for the garden. The next thing was: Ouch, my head. I managed to drift off again, but by 9 we hit the ground running. Walk the dog. Get to the supermarket. Cut the grass. Clean the house. Set the garden up. I am amazed, but we even managed a half-hour snooze before the first guests arrived.

Other than a slightly chilly Atlantic wind (which really only hit when the occasional cloud covered the sun), the afternoon was a great success. Natalie and Mickael went down a treat., and I would highly recommend them to anyone wanting to add more than just a touch of class to a party (  They ended up being a lovely farewell gift from Jamie and Paul, so a huge thank-you to them. Everyone mingled and chatted well… only the occasional offence being taken (no… he is Australian!), and only one glass broken!

Having taken a couple of days to reflect on it, I have suffered the odd pang of terror – will we ever be in a position to enjoy something like that again? Are we completely foolish to wrench up our very-well established roots and search for a more fulfilling life? Isn’t the love and company of more-than-a-few good friends enough? Will people honestly make the effort to travel 700 miles to visit us? The realisation that never again will we have an afternoon like that in that location really got me down. To the extent that I almost wish I hadn’t the party – that way I wouldn’t feel like I do now. I lay last night actually calculating how much it would cost us to withdraw from our sale/purchase.

Two days have passed now, and the terror has subsided slightly. To anyone involved in our sale/purchase, fear not. We are continuing with our new adventure. These feelings are only natural. I read this in a shop in Cape Town last year, and I took a photo and sent it Phill, at a time we were still on the fence about what to do:


Categories: Last Few UK Months | 3 Comments

Joshua Radin – Beautiful Day

Slouchy Sunday music care of Joshua Radin.

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K: After all the excitement of the past few weeks, everything feels like it’s just stopped. I know the agents are all doing their bit behind the scenes, and I’m hoping that we’re still on track for the beginning of July to receive the keys. We’ve pencilled in the last 10 days of July to make a start with the move – which is probably not the best time in the world… summer holidays and just before the whole of France shuts down for a month.

I’ve also been working on some practical stuff – bank accounts, cars and car insurance to be precise. When we move temporarily to Wales, then Bromley (so Phill can finish off his contracts in London), we’re going to need a second car for him to get about. So, it makes sense to buy a car which we can use when we move to France. Our investigations have highlighted that it is not easy or cheap to get a UK car registered in France, so our original idea  of taking our existing 4×4 over is not going to work.

We’re also going to try to spend at least one week a month in France between getting the keys and moving permanently (pencilled in for the second half of November), so it would also be quite handy to have a car in France that we can keep at the airport (one of my perks is heavily discounted airport parking at Toulouse airport) so we don’t have the cost of car hire for those week-long visits.

After initial internet searches suggested that it would be quite easy to get a left hand drive car, reality has started to hit.  As I mentioned, the process to re-register a car in France is very complicated. And I can only drive it in France on UK (or any other country) plates for 6 months. So, we thought we’d look for a French-registered car, and make sure it was taken out of the UK within 6 months (as the same rules apply here). BUT… we cannot get UK insurance for our French registered car, so cannot drive it here! The only solution is to get insurance in France, for the French car, currently based in UK, requiring a French bank account.

My learning curve for this bit was extremely steep – of course nothing is simple. After weeks of searching, the (practically) perfect car appeared last Thursday on eBay, which resulted in frantic calls to a French bank I’d been considering for a while, and scans of all the relevant documents whizzing across the channel by email. Fortunately, the nice people at Credit Agricole have realised about a sixth of the UK population actually lives in France and have set up an English speaking department and website! So, that made the frantic a little less so.

Factor into my stress levels this week my losing my work id, which prevented me from going to Johannesburg, and which necessitated a morning driving around Heathrow airport in an attempt to obtain a new one in the most ridiculously convoluted system, only for the id to turn up tucked inside a tissue box in my car a day later. I ended up flying off to Madras instead (which is where I write this), with the treat of a nice little return sector as a passenger (fingers crossed in Club!)

The packing begins in earnest on Tuesday, after our farewell drinks in the garden on Monday.

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Jack Savoretti & Siena Miller

Something for an easy saturday morning.

The amazing Jack Savoretti’s duet with Siena Miller.


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Our new home – Photo Gallery May 2013

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Signing the Compromis De Vent

P- After our blue sky living day on Monday and seeing our new home in the brilliant sunshine for the first time (and wow it looked and felt so amazing under a deep blue sky) we awoke to grey skies, rain washed streets and a fresh new day, an exciting day as we were off to sign the compromis de vent.

We have stayed twice now in a beautiful guest house in Gaillac called Combettes run by Madame Piñon, a waif in the mould of Edith Piaf, far more friendly but alas without song. On entering, it’s like you have been transported back in time, I’m sure nothing much has changed in this vast building apart from the introduction of electric and a few modern home comforts in the bathrooms. Now it sounds like I don’t like this place, but nothing could be further from the truth. It has an old style charm and the history oozes out of every antique in the place.
It’s in a superb location, a few moments walk from the Tarn river and across the road from the Abbey. It’s only 60 euros for a huge double room with breakfast. We would highly recommend staying here if you find yourself in or near Gaillac (before a certain group of luxury gites are available!)



Our signing wasn’t until 11am so we had plenty of time for an amble around the cobbled streets of Gaillac, not that this took long as it’s only a small town but with lots of charm and beautifully renovated public areas complete with many mood lighting features (viewed last night over a delicious dinner in the main square).

On we rambled commenting how well the shops were kept and the fact that many of the shopkeepers have exterior planting which softens the streetscape.


We finally found our destination – the notaires office – and very grand it looked, imposing wrought iron railings and gates, with lots of brass plaques displaying the names of all the notaries within.
We arrived 15 minutes early (I hate being late for anything) and waited, and wandered, and waited a bit more and tried to figure out how to gain entry to this place, and then my visual eye noticed a small out-of-place acrylic sign with horrible purple writing on it. After thinking to myself “why would someone put such an ugly sign on this lovely building?” I read the words on it and asked Kev if the word “Transferèe” mean “Transfer” ? To which he replied “yes” and “why” because I said “I think we are in the wrong place….” Oops, yes oops as it was now 10.55 and our appointment was at 11am. A frantic phone call to our agent Laurette did indeed confirm that we were in the wrong place and the correct office was a 5 minute drive away, which was fine. Other than our car was parked a 10 minute walk away. A small dust trail run later we were in the car speedily but safely (mmmm) driving to the correct address. Laurette greeted us in a vision of purple, arms waving from the side of the road, indicating where to park.
All was well as our notaire had only just turned up and the sellers’ notaire wasn’t ready anyway. So a big sigh of relief and a quick moment of calming down and we were ushered in to be greeted by the family Barthez, all 6 of them. It’s the last thing we were expecting, but bonjours abounded and broad smiles were fixed on our faces as we waited for the proceedings to begin.

K – The stress levels created by our mistaken address (and the fact that Laurette had tried to explain precisely the day before where the office was before I’d dismissed her: I have the internet. Surely, I can’t go wrong with THE INTERNET. No. I didn’t shout at her), meeting our notaire for the first time, and being faced with a bunch of French inheritors, whom I was convinced regarded us as money-grabbing English charlatans (we’re not English!) soon dissipated (the stress-levels: I know it’s a long sentence). I will be honest, our experience buying in Nice in 2005 helped enormously here. However, whereas in 2005 I had two notaires basically bickering for 2 hours, today could be regarded as light-hearted and fun. Maitre Mons was charming, and Maitre Fassino-Simon (our notaire) was demure and petite, but, both Phill and I agreed, shrewd. And not averse to using her petite-ness and demure-ness to her advantage. Thank-goodness she’s on our side.

Where we place quite a lot of trust in our British conveyancers to spot potential problems and send us a quick email, French notaires have to sit and read through (in summary, thank-goodness) the entire sales contract to all parties of the transaction. I can imagine that some who like the sound of their own voice could waffle on forever. Thankfully, Maitre Mons was leading the meeting and was concise. Maitre Fassino-Simon meekly (or so she would have us think!) translated the really important parts, and trusty Laurette was there in the background guarding our corner.

This is what is being sold. This is how much you’re paying. This is how much the notaire, government, and estate agent are getting. This is how the money is being split. There’s a bit of asbestos. There’s a bit of lead. There are no termites. The electrics and the septic tank are useless. But you’re buying as you find it. One of the sisters enquired about whether we wanted the kitchen wood-burning stove. Trigger images: antique iron valuable. STOP! That’s what we told Maitre Fassino-Simon as she tried to negotiate its staying. If they want it, take it. Major favour to us. Picture: half the size of a Smart car. White metal sheeting. Weighs the same as 3 cows.

Once the official bits were done, and Maitres Mons and Fassino-Simon went off to “speak to their respective assistants to duplicate and fill in some forms” (was it wrong of me to notice how they lingered over their initial cheek-kisses, how she was just leaning a little bit more towards him during the meeting, how they laughed more at each other’s jokes than any of the other French speakers. We all had a bit of time to relax and get to know each other. One of these sibling inheritors is going to be our next door neighbour. One told us how he used to make wine for a local co-operative. One told us she knew a neighbour close by to us who was English and commuted to London to work (I did double-check he/she wasn’t a pilot before I finally signed). Then there were signatures, lunch, a drive to the airport, then home. My God…. have we done all that today?????????

My one major screw-up is that we intended to take Laurette for lunch, but in the excitement, we forgot to ask her. We were all the way into the centre of Gaillac before we realised. And I feel majorly guilty. Hopefully we will get the chance to rectify our faux pas.

P- So, now that we’ve signed for our house on the hill, we have to wait. I’m never sure why we wait so long; what happens while we wait? It’s an unknown – I would love to follow the whole process closely to see what actually happen. My guess is nothing much, but I may be wrong. We are anticipating completion and getting the keys early July, with luck and a strong wind.

Anyway keep an eye on our posts, you’ll be the first to know.

A song popped itself onto Radio Two recently and maybe one day we will be known as these people…..

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Our last viewing

By the time you’re reading this we will be on our way to the notarie’s office to sign the agreement to buy our new home in Fayssac.

Yesterday we flew into Toulouse and were greeted by a stunning blue sky and warm breeze, bliss.

We were to meet our agent and a builder at the house at 6pm so had some time to burn. We headed to an amazing DIY store called Leroy Merlin – think B and Q on steroids. Two hours later we left, spent of energy but feeling elated, just think of all the glorious hours that we will spend in that store yesssss.

Off we sped to Fayssac to see what the house would look like in the sunshine and boy oh boy we weren’t disappointed. The drive through the countryside and vineyards was stunning, the undulating hills, roads with plane trees all standing to attention filled our hearts with a warm feeling and the sense that we belong here. We stopped on the opposite side of the hill near vineyards to see what our village will look like from the other side.

As we reached the house we realised someone was there cutting the meadow that was calling itself our garden.

We stopped and peaked through the fence and sighed, so near yet so far away


Off we sped to take a look at the surrounding villages and we weren’t disappointed. Our nearest big-ish village is called Cahuzac sur Vere. It was next on our path our nearest village with amenities, small but with all that we need, bank, post office, village shop and a few bars, oh yes and two hunky police men stopping every other car for spot checks, mmm except ours hmmmmm.

Then off to Cordes sur ciel, the village in the clouds, absolutely stunning and a very steep climb to the heart of the village, but well worth it, we will be back to explore.

Then back to Fayssac for our meeting with our agent and the builder.
I let Kev walk the builder around and busied myself with taking photos of our house and land.
Here are a few


The view from the back of the house


This area gets the last rays of the day and will have a large table under the tree for dinners and for working in the shade.


By now we have signed our life away and have seven days to pull out, but will we…. What do you think?

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Surveys in…..

The survey’s in…

P –

Deep breath and hold… and open the email from the surveyor…..

Do we dare look? We have to, obviously. We scan, read and breath, and sigh, and whoooo it’s ok. Well sort of, and its only a top line heads up summary report.

It doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t know just by walking around the house, prodding and poking beams and floor boards.

Then wait, wait , wait and argh deep breath again and hold… and open the actual report from the surveyor….

This time its the whole report – all 50 pages…. all colour coded red, amber and greens. Arghh mostly reds and ambers….. no wait theres a green oh and another one, wow we have greens on our report yehhhh.

So what are all the reds, I hear you screaming at your computer –  mostly basic things like you need a new kitchen and you need to replace the bidet.

But there are a few big fat juicy tomato coloured reds, the main one is the roof which we sort of knew would need work, the good news is that the roof over the main house is fine, s few slipped tiles here and there which is easy to fix. but he’s recommending that the whole roof over the old barns should be stripped and have a protective liner put on then the tiles put back but also with new under tiles to give extra protection. Oh and two corners of the house need tying together as they have slipped . Hmmm what next oh yes and theres beetles eh in the beams, lots of beetles in the beams some dead yehh and some alive buggers.

Now by this time we were both knackered from elation and depression and up and down and shaken all about.

His last words were its a good house in a lovely place, so that’s positive, isn’t it?

Argh what to do, we love this house, its the right one we know it is, arghh what to do, ok keep calm. Let’s phone the surveyor and have a proper chat to him as we know that surveyors always err on the side of caution and cover themselves.

Kev made the call and had a good chat to the surveyor, ill let him explain

K- Why is every aspect of this process stressful and rushed? There is never enough time!! The report was promised to us on Tuesday, and on that basis we agreed to meet to sign the compromis the following Tuesday. Of course, it wasn’t that easy. The report finally turned up Friday lunchtime, threw up the issues it did, without any suggested costs. Fortunately, a quick service station stop on our way up to Manchester (we were visiting friends for the weekend) provided the opportunity for a phone chat with the surveyor in France. He put my mind at ease regarding the very common furniture beetles (these can be dealt with ourselves), and the cost of the new roof – it’s basically going to take up most of the contingency we’d put aside to start the gites (a bit dependant on exchange rates), but we can incorporate the installation of velux windows into the roof refurbishment, which will save us money down the line.

Just to be sure, we’re having a quick meeting on Monday night at the house with a builder – again leaving the important decisions till the very last minute.

All of this made me remember a film from the 80’s


P – I’m not Shelly Long, my hairs not curly enough…….


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