Monthly Archives: July 2013

Fayssac snapshots

Here are a selection of snapshots I took over our first week in the house with no name.
We begin with the road up to our village Fayssac.


Marion and Ian surveying our land.


Figs freshly picked from one of the many fig trees in our garden.


This is the entrance to the old cattle shed, i love the fanned out tiles.


Uncovering an amazing beam in one of the bedrooms, it had been covered with plywood hiding its beauty.



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Week 1 in the Big Fayssac House

K: On Wednesday morning, we stirred about 11.30am, still groggy and travel-weary. I had left a note for our land-lady the night before saying not to worry about breakfast as we didn’t know what time we would wake, but the lovely Madame Pinon had breakfast waiting for us on the terrace when we staggered downstairs about midday. I can’t recommend her little guest house enough: Les Combettes, Gaillac.


We spent the afternoon wandering around the town in blazing sunshine, visiting our soon-to-be second home – the DIY store, Brico Depot. At 4pm we met up with Laurette at the house, and were joined by our new, extremely efficient neighbour, Claude (AKA Monsieur le Mayor), and several other members of his family. We were there to make sure that the house was still in the same order we’d seen it previously, and to read the meters. They kindly allowed us to offload the fridge and freezer from the van, so they would be nice and cold for us the next morning when we started work. During conversation, I asked the mayor how to pronounce the word for people from Gaillac – Gaillacois. Was it a hard “C” or a soft “C”? He told me – hard “C”, then he asked – where are you from? I said Scotland, and he replied… no – where are you from now? Then he told me: you are now Fayssacois, with a hard “C”. My biggest thrill of the visit was realising that fields in the valley beyond our house – our view – were for sunflowers. The whole area is a mixture of vines and sunflowers!



We had an hour’s drive to our notaire’s office, where we met up once more with all the selling brothers and sisters, and once more we trawled through the contract of sale, but this was a more informal episode than the signing of the compromis de vente. Then suddenly it was over, and we were presented with the keys, and hugs and handshakes all round. Claude had said something to me earlier about having his family for drinks the following day at midday, but I didn’t catch whether or not it included us. I set Laurette on the case to ensure our first social encounter was not a disaster – were we expected to turn up or not?? It turned out the gathering was purely for our benefit.

After a quick beer with Laurette and a fancy celebratory meal in Gaillac (where the crisis of the previous evening was quickly resolved), we had an early night to try and prepare ourselves for the following 3 days of hard hot slog. Breakfast and sad farewells to Mme Pinon (she had been with us through every step of this buying process) by 8am on Thursday, a quick visit to the supermarket (we restricted ourselves to 30 mins, and managed to be out in 40 – impressive!), and we were pulling into our very own French driveway at 10am. Claude turned up immediately with recycling information, a quick guide to the water in the house, and where the water “key” for the village was stored. We were timely enough to be introduced to both the bread lady, and the postman, who altered his hand-drawn map of the village to show where we now lived. An hour of unpacking followed, then quick showers to make ourselves presentable for our first “Apero” with Claude and Maryse next door, and their daughter and grand-children. I wasn’t sure of the etiquette, so we took along a nice bottle of Champagne, but before he would accept it, Claude made me promise it was the one and only time I would turn up with a bottle. I nipped off at 1pm to meet Laurette (having been sent off with 2 bottles of Claude’s favourite local reds) to organise water, electricity and telephone, then cracked on unloading the van until about 7pm. The day turned out to be the hottest day of the year in France so far. Readers of this blog will hopefully start to see a pattern emerging. We decided to put everything from the van straight into the stables – it made most sense. Big double doors, with access to the main house, and most importantly on the ground floor – the floor structure between the stable and the roof would help prevent any unseen holes in the roof from causing water damage. Roast chicken salad, and a couple of bottles of wine in the garden – our garden, with its beautiful view! – befriend a stray cat (who had only just given birth to a tiny baby kitten in one of the garden sheds), then off to bed at 11.

Friday pretty much consisted of the same. We had completely unpacked the van into the stable, and now we began to move essential bits into the relevant rooms. We had constructed the beds the day before in the new part of the house, but moved them into the old part so that we could start to spray woodworm killer on the floorboards. Phill dressed up in his CSI suit and mask and got cracking.


It was another blazingly hot day, so I was quite happy to jump in the air conditioned Blodwyn and head off to the airport, 50 miles away, to organise my car parking – Phill needed it for Sunday so that he could fly home. It was an annoying but unavoidable 4 hours out of my day. What made it worse was that I had to return the next day to pick up the entry card! We managed to make a start on constructing the kitchen in the new part of the house which we are going to use whilst we renovate the main house. We had brought it with us from London because it was slightly cheaper, and to save time. No oven installed yet, so supermarket chicken and salad again, accompanied by a couple of bottles of wine.


We decided to treat ourselves to Saturday night dinner at our local cafe, Cafe Jaubert. Phill booked a table for 7.30, and with that in mind (and the chance to eat something other than chicken and salad), we were spurred on with renewed impetus to finish the essential wood worm spraying and kitchen fitting. We turned up promptly, just as the skies were getting heavy and grey, and were welcomed at the front door and led into the garden. The waiters were extremely friendly, and happy to find out we’d just moved in. One of them explained how and where the old Madame Barthez had died in our house – information I had been trying to avoid! Phill and I popped into the bar to choose a rose and as we came back out to the garden, a simultaneous dagger of lightening and blast of thunder appeared from nowhere. It made everyone jump and I yelped. It was right above us and we were sitting at metal tables! No thank-you. We removed ourselves into cafe interior, just as the heavens opened and the rest of the crowd followed. I have only ever seen rain that heavy and sudden in Bangkok, when unfortunately I was caught in the middle of it. This time, though, I was dryly inside, watching the spectacular lightening show outside. Upon asking for a menu, our friendly (of the literal and Dorothy variety) waiter explained that on evenings such as that one when there was a live band playing, the cafe got very busy, and so the offering was a set menu – tonight it was chicken, and salad, and some rice. Mmm… rice. I’d missed it.

We got stupidly excited by the offer of a wifi connection! Bernard, the owner (and grandson of the original owner who ran it, and shut it finally in 1950), came and said to me: Ah, so you are the new Fayssacois? Then he gave me a piece of paper with a ridiculous 30 character access code. We all greedily sat and entered it on our various devices. Our first attempt took 5 minutes because someone kept losing their way. Grrrr…. I want internet. Feed me! Our second attempt actually got completed, but the devices failed to connect. What is going on?!? I want information…. now! Perhaps, the spaces on the page were to allow dumb humans to follow the letters. Let’s take a deep breath, and try again, this time without spaces. 1, 2, 3, 4… character 30. CONNECT. Woo-hoo! Success. We’re on……. Then all the lights and music went out. And the internet router with them! The whole village was to be without electricity for the rest of the evening.

We were happily resigned to spending a fourth day without internet, and left the cafe earlier than we would probably have done – all the bookings for the garden tables were turning up and they were running out of space inside. The rain eased off and we decided to wander home a different way. We passed some beautiful houses, and at the end of a dead end road, bumped into Christine. She is a transplanted New Yorker, who might live between Fayssac and Florida, but who certainly has not lost any of her Manhattan qualities! We were dragged into the garden, and within minutes we had a glass of wine thrust in our hands. The rain had stopped, so we sat outside – we couldn’t see inside because there was still no lights. 40 minutes of excitable and pleasant chatter passed, the sky started to dim again, and the lightening increased. We decided it was time to head home, with promises of more interesting evenings to follow.

It was completely dark when we stepped in the front door, about 10.15pm. We had to be awake at 4 the next morning to begin our mammoth, slow plod back to England. Our electricity was similarly missing, so we hunted for candles and candle holders. Still in the stables….. splash! About 6 inches of water had flooded in through the outflow, and seeped up boxes and work surfaces and furniture. I’d never tried to clear a large room with a slightly inebriated, panicking, tired foursome, and I was quite impressed that we had rescued the essential items in about 30 minutes. We had been so obsessed with water coming in the roof that we completely forgot about rising flood water.

I’m midway through a 12 hour drive north, writing this, and I’ve just found out that the storm has made the front page of the FT! Paris ahead, Calais, ferry, Reading (to meet up with Phill, who’s just been given a nice seat on his 75 minute flight home) then bed in Wales. I don’t think we could have received a warmer welcome anywhere. There are so many exciting aspects of this move which are only just revealing themselves. I can’t wait to explore some more. Roll on 3 weeks till we’re back!

Categories: Living in France | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

What’s 60 kilos between friends?

K: To anyone thinking of visiting the Penge or Crystal Palace area of London, please please resist the temptation of reserving a room at the local Traveloven, otherwise known as the Travelodge. It’s a converted 1970s office block with tiny windows and no air conditioning. On the hottest night of the year, I resorted to doing something I’ve never done before. Because of the limited number of towels, we used a hand towel as a bathroom floor mat. In the middle of the night, drenched in sweat, I got up, took it off the floor, soaked it in water, and draped it across my face in an attempt to stay cool and get at least one hour’s sleep. I’m not proud.

What Phill failed to mention last night was our panic about the weight of the van. It has a legal maximum load of 7500kg (7.5 tons), and mum and Ian had filled it a third full and used up 2 tons of the possible 3.5 ton cargo weight allowance. We jiggled a few bits about, took out a few small heavy items (have you ever picked up a sewing machine??), but eventually Ian resigned himself to the fact that we would be overweight.

Our 0415 departure went smoothly, with Phill following in Blodwyn, and we arrived at the port about an hour before departure. However, we still had the one final possible hurdle which might stop us getting on that boat – the weighbridge. We rolled up, pushed the button, and burst into laughter – 7560 kgs! The extra 60kgs was probably me in the passenger seat (well, maybe when I was 11), so relief all round.

The ferry was very quiet, so we quickly scoffed our full English, and found a sofa to stretch out on. Then we were in France. We agreed to drive to the first services, so that I could swap with Ian driving the van. We pulled up, and waited, then got a call from mum to say she’d panicked, made Ian turn off too quickly after the sign for the services, ended up in a village, then rejoined the motorway having bypassed the services altogether. We set off to catch them up. It’s very difficult to drive as slow as the van (which is limited to 55mph), and soon we found ourselves ahead, approaching another service stop. I quickly texted mum to arrange to meet there. We stopped, paid a visit to the nasty toilets, and waited. And waited. Then a call came through – they think they passed the turning, worried that they were going to make the same mistake! Will we ever get there??

The highlight of our gentle saunter through France was a random stop and search by French customs officers – we had visions of us offloading the entire contents of the lorry. Fortunately, they were very polite and merely had a quick glimpse inside. Otherwise, the journey has been relatively dull. The weather tried to have its wicked way with us only around Rouen (a straggling tempest of the sort which has been battering Britain today), but elsewhere, it’s been generally overcast, keeping the temperature down, and avoiding the need for air conditioning. That, and our restricted 55mph has done wonders for our fuel consumption in Blodwyn.

16 hours after we drove off the ferry in Calais, and 21 hours after we drove away from the Penge Traveloven, we pulled into the drive of our soon to be house. This has been a mammoth, exhausting journey. I really don’t want to do it again at 55mph. Lucky Phill is flying home on Sunday (because we’re leaving Blodwyn here), but the remaining 3 of us have to squeeze into the uncomfortable small cab for the journey back. But, a more immediate crisis looms: I’ve been in France for over 16 hours now, and I’ve not yet had a glass of rosé…

Categories: Last Few UK Months | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Loaded up and on our way

Last night we managed to get all loaded up by 10.30pm which was good going, huge thanks to the amazing Paul for all his help.


So that’s our life in a van, onwards and tally ho….


Categories: Last Few UK Months | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Journeying South

Two years ago Kev and I had a dream: to buy a house in France and build a life and business there. So here we are two years on and tomorrow we start our journey south to begin that dream. The journey is going to be long, hot and no doubt spattered with frustration, anxiety and excitement.
Today, Monday 22nd July, we are packing our lives into a very big van (trust us to choose one of the hottest days of the year) but I seem to remember when we moved into our tiny flat in Nice many years ago we chose another of the hottest days of the year – this time in France – and that worked out ok, so I’m hoping this is a good omen for the future. Plus with all this heat we are hoping to lose some weight along the way. What a fab diet! Hey we could start a new dieting trend and call it “The moving diet” with a strap line of “box up your flab and drop a dress size” I’m sure it would take off…. no…. oh well just an idea. Kev’s mum and her partner Ian have hired the van and are packing their belongings in it and then heading down to us later today. We have enlisted the kind help of another of our good friends to watch guard over our things whilst we ferry them from our storage units which are on the second floor. Hmmm keep thinking of the weight loss I keep telling myself.
Kev has gone to a Swedish mega store to buy a few parts for the new French kitchen [and partake of a hot dog no doubt] some things are cheaper here and some are cheaper in France so we are taking advantage of the price difference to save a few pounds.
As we are officially homeless I’m sat in our good and very kind friends’ office [as they have let us stay and use their home as our own for a few days] typing the last blog post before we sign for our new home.
Our journey begins at 4am, heading to dover to get the 7.30am ferry to Calais and then letting our sat nav lead us the way south and hopefully if we have planned the route correctly avoiding all the mad traffic in Paris and other cities. The sat nav has told us that the journey door to door is approximately 13 hours, so that will get us into Fayssac at around 10pm French time. We then have most of Wednesday to ourselves to rest and acclimatise before meeting our agent to read the meters etc at our new house, then its off to the notaire’s office for the signing ceremony and then it’s champers time back at the house.
Thursday the work begins to get the house habitable.
But thats another story……

Our new home awaits us…..


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Moving out & Moving on

After 10 long days of packing up the house and moving all our worldly possessions into our local storage depot the day had finally come to move to and move on to our next adventure, Kev was badgering me to get a move on and questioning why i was cleaning the house when the new owners were sending a cleaning company in first thing in the morning, but if you’re like me I had to do it, it’s my way of saying goodbye to the house and cutting the strings that bind me to it. Finally I was happy with all my OCD cleaning and Kev had put the welcoming gifts in place; a bottle of rosé champagne, two Anthropology mugs with the new owners initials on them [i love those mugs we have the whole alphabet, and such a good price, even better if you buy them in the states, heres a link to buy them on the Anthro website], biscuits a new home card and a mound of paper work for them to sift through.

We took a slow drive up our road: Kev in his new French car and me in our UK car. I let out a big sigh and and didn’t look back. We were off to spend the night with our friends in Camberwell and stopped off on the way to treat ourselves to some expensive wine to ease the pain. While queuing at the very trendy jazz-playing Oddbins in Dulwich Kev admitted to shedding a few tears. Our time in Crystal Palace had been so specials, making amazing friends and neighbours and enjoying fabulous days and nights in such a great part of London which will fill our memory banks for year to come.

So now we are officially homeless and heading back to stay with our parents for a few weeks. Saturday Kev sped off to Heathrow for foreign pastures and I took a very long and boring drive down the M4 [due to a rather nasty pile up, I hope no one was hurt] to sunny Wales; and it WAS sunny for once, and the sun has kept shining. Which is amazing and has helped to make the last week such a nice one. No time to think of the past: way to much to do and a quick business trip to Jersey mid week has helped the week fly by which brings us to Saturday again and time to go and pick up my new French car. Way hey! Well I say new its actually out of the ark but as mentioned in previous posts we need a sensible car that we can use for the many messy things and this is that car. So after filling out forms in quadruplatrete as is the French way I welcomed “Blodwyn” to the Stark Hill clan and i have to say she drives like a dream, holds the road well and surprisingly doesn’t  guzzle too much petrol.

The big moving van and ferry are booked. Our route to Fayssac is planned and now its time to enjoy the sunshine for a week before we set sail for the next installment of our French adventure, signing for our new home……..

To celebrate our mini heatwave i give you this little ditty

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Buying our new cars

As well as all the other numerous things we have to do to relocate our lives to South West France we have to buy new cars for both of us. So the hunt began to look for suitable left hand drive cars in the UK, “argh” i hear you think “why aren’t they buying in en France? “ Well its simple – the second hand car market in France is not good, not cheap and non existent as they tend to run their cars into the ground and only change them when they literally fall apart (so we hear… no offence intended if we got our facts wrong!) We did think we could take our existing car with us and just reregister it once there, but you have to jump through so many hoops to get a UK car ready for reregistration in France it’s not worth the time or money, so that put pay to that idea.

So Kev began the hunt for Les Voitures, he looked on Gumtree, Ebay, Auto trader etc etc etc, he got quite excited a few times seeing cars he loved only to find out that even though it stated they were “LEFT HAND DRIVE” in fact they were actually right hand drive, just pretending to be left hand drive to fool us. What fab senses of humour sellers have, HA BLOODY HA – I smiled through gritted teeth on many an occasion.

Then he came across a second hand drive garage on his working door step at Heathrow, well actually it was in Uxbridge but it’s called “The Heathrow Left Hand Drive Center” so naturally moi assumed it was in Heathrow, HA BLOODY HA again.

Anyhoo he spotted something he liked, can you guess what type of car it is? Remember that he is using it to get back and forth to the airport in Toulouse with suitcases and presents for me from his trips so it needs to have space and be practical.


So here it is the amazing space efficient practical Voiture for Kevvy.

Mmm did i hear you all think something, “Space saving? Practical?”

No joking aside he has always wanted another convertible ever since i made him sell his Audi A4 to buy the practical Land-rover to put the dog in.

And as for me, well i like something a bit more STURDY and ROBUST, stop it, i know what your all thinking, I’m not talking men hear, I’m talking cars.

Here is my new baby, she’s going to be called Blodwyn after my Welsh nan.


She’s a rose champagne coloured Honda CRV and she’s not refined like Audrey Hepburn she’s more of a Fatama Whitbread , solid and sturdy with strong calves.

Kevs is Left hand drive manual with french lights already fitted and can be easily re registered in France, Mine is already registered in France and an automatic [the only way to drive in my opinion, especially after the shock of having to drive a manual moving van yesterday, but that’s another story, to come in a later post]  and is right hand drive, which Pickle will be pleased about as he sleeps in the seat-well on the left and has been very confused getting into Kev’s new car.

So that’s another thing ticked off our never-ending France list.

On to the next………


Categories: Last Few UK Months | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Wheres our new home?

Hi Everyone

Quite a few people have been asking “where exactly is your new house in France?”

Click the link below to be taken to a google map showing where our village “Fayssac” is.


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