Last Few UK Months

The Final Move

Px So the final moving day arrived after what has seemed to be the longest moving period in history. We packed the remains of our belongings stacked them into priority piles in the living room of our rented house, the plants have been sorted and corralled on the decking awaiting their journey south.




Barnaby Pickles was very bewildered he knew something was going on and I’m sure was worried that we would be leaving him behind, so lots of reassuring scuggles were given. Then at 12pm we set off for our new home in France and our very own French adventure.
We made excellent time down to Folkestone so early that we were able to get a much earlier train and at no extra cost…. Euro tunnel must have been feeling generous. We arrived in Calais to more beautiful blue skies and the strong waft of the sea. The journey south towards Paris sped by and entering Paris gave us magical view of the whole city, the Eiffel Tower stood majestically in the distance, we made great time around the city peripheral, so good that we decided not to stop but to carry on towards home only another 7 hour drive…. Easy… Hmmm.
All our worries about how BP would cope were just worries, he coped in the best possible way; by sleeping.

So at 2am we pulled into our driveway under a jam packed beautiful starry sky, deep breaths, big sighs and back to reality, we quickly gave Pickle a tour of the garden and headed for bed in a few hours we will be the starting our new French life.

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Moving date confirmed…

K: I thought it was about time we sent out a small update about our progress.

We’ve had a busy time since out last post. Towards the end of our week securing the garden, we discovered that in the fosse septique (septic tank) battle, with our Agent “Oh, there’s bound to be a fosse there somewhere” Laurette in one corner, and our neighbour Mayor “Oh, I don’t think there is a fosse on the property” Claude in the other, Claude has unfortunately won. One evening, to our utter horror, we heard “water” pouring out a pipe on one of the steep banks in our garden, immediately after Phill had flushed the toilet. That discovery really changes the way you view the toilet pan each time you enter the bathroom!

Back home in the UK, I managed to secure an early appointment with the government agency which deals with these matters. Humorously called SPANC. I’ve also managed to contact 2 fosse installers who will be on site the same day to terrify me with a quote. I have to fly out for the day for all this on the 16th Sept. Apparently, we’ve had a delivery of the internet equipment, so I’ll use the same time to connect us up to the web.

When we returned home, we dealt with the very moving occasion of Phill’s dad’s funeral. Horace had died, aged 81, after a short battle with pneumonia, two weeks earlier. Phill’s mum had insisted that we still go France to put up the fence. The day itself was actually perfect, and one of which I am sure Horace would have greatly approved. Far from being sad (albeit of course with many wet eyes), it was a beautiful celebration of his life.

I found out this week that my application to have the whole of October off has been granted, so once my possible rostered duties have been completed at the end of September I will have 4 lovely weeks to settle us into our new home. Because of this, we sat down this afternoon and looked at possible moving dates. I know that, to many people (including myself), this whole process has been dragged out beyond belief! ANOTHER moving date! But this is the big one. This is the emigration date. The date we will no longer be UK residents. And it represents the final plunge – a plunge that I have been putting off and putting off. This is the final paragraph in a chapter which began with bobbing in the Med and deciding our 2 year moving plan, to my mini depression in winter 2011/12 which made me realise we could (and probably should) leave London after all, to endless internet house searches which lead to the perfect find.

So, Monday 23rd September it is. Then the hard work really begins. I’m sure we’ll look back on the fencing project and laugh about how easy it was in comparison!

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Moving the last of our plants

So you know that we are living in temporary accommodation before making out final move south to France in September. But our plants have been on holidays at various neighbours in Trenholme road, and now the time is right to move them in readiness for their long journey to France.
I managed to get all the small plants into the Hyundai but three of our shrubs were just too big so the only solution was Kevs new convertible.




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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…

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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….


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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………


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All quiet on the Trenholme front.

Hi everyone and a happy lazy Sunday to you all, i say lazy as isn’t that what Sundays are supposed to be all about? Hot coffee, chilled music, papers and relaxing. Thats my day ahead apart from walking the dog and packing up the office oh and making some muffins, mmmm not that lazy and restful after all but all good things.

As I’m typing this post I’m listening to one of my favourite chilled singers Melody Gardot, her voice is like liquid chocolate and not any old cheapy chocolate I’m talking Lindt chocolate mmmm. Anyway here is a little something from her to help you chill out.

As the title of this post says it is “all quiet on the Trenholme front” we haven’t been posting lately as there really isn’t that much to tell you. Our London house sale is all ticking along nicely, we have exchanged and have a completion date at the beginning of July.

The house is full of boxes all neatly numbered, if you ever move you need to get yourself a Kevin, he’s the brains behind the packing; no last minute panicky packing for us, oh no its all done via an i phone app created using Google docs. Pick a box, pick a number, pack it and tap on the app and fill in a few quick questions, which room, where to send the box, storage, temporary house, whats in it and there you have it done in a few short minutes. This weekend my packing task is the office, sounds easy but my oh my I’ve collected so much toot along the way. But its quite liberating looking at it all and deciding what to keep and what to bin.

As our temporary accommodation wont be ready for us to move into until the end of July we are moving back to Wales for a few weeks, mind you I’m probably not going to be there that much as i have quite a few work commitments in London so its going to be tooing and frowing for me. It will be lovely to spend some time with my Parents and family and hopefully with my friends who i haven’t really seen for ages.

Kev has been busy sorting out our new French life, opening bank accounts which require so many signatures what do they do with them all? Liaising with our Notaire and trying to decipher the myriad of paperwork that is sent to him. Looking for a car which either is registered in France or at least has the right head lamps, they need to point in a different direction as they drive on the right.

We will hopefully be going down to sign for the house and get the keys the last week of July fingers crossed and if the huge mound of paperwork gets sorted. Then we intend to spend one week a month in the new house to get it ready to live in, just a few little things needed, hot water, heating, making the grounds safe for the Pickle to be able to roam around in.

So actually after listing all of the above it hasn’t really been that quite at all…….

Enjoy your Sunday everyone chat again soon.

Phill x

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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:


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