Posts Tagged With: Buying in France

Hello Spring

Hi Everyone

Sorry we haven’t been in contact for a while, it’s been a busy time here at Maison Mûrier. Winter is fading away and spring is taking hold of the land, blossoms are ready to burst and bulbs are popping up to say ‘hi, it’s been a while’. The first to show their colours are the daffodils but the tulips & hyacinths  are hard on their heals.

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So why have we been so busy we hear you ask?

Well we have continued with our house renovations, the loft area above Marion and Ian’s house has been transformed into an office and spare bedroom.

Take a look…

To the left you can see the new full height entrance we have created, we had to break through the 1/2 metre thick stone wall.

To the right you will see the shape of the old door which was cute but very low and dangerous, as we kept banging our heads every time we entered through it. We used some of the stone from the new door to fill up the space.

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One end of the room is our office/workroom

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We sandblasted the beams, what a messy job that was! But worth it.

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We kept all the original stone walls and re pointed them using traditional lime mortar, a long and messy job but quite satisfying as well.

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The other end of the room has been made into a spare bedroom; the ceiling is low, but it’s ok for sleeping. The bed frame was going to be thrown out by  friends of ours, so we nabbed it and painted it using chalk paint [amazing eco paint that needs no prep work done before painting your furniture: YES] and the headboard was made out of  old wood that came off our roof. We love a bit of recycling.

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We are now in the middle of installing an en suite bathroom into the old closet of the recently renovated Library bedroom – I’ll keep you posted on that.

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Now that spring is arriving the garden is demanding attention too, mainly clearing up after winter but I’ve also just started creating a hot garden [plants with lots of reds, oranges and yellows] on the back of the old stone wall of Marion and Ian’s kitchen garden. The earth is not so good, lots of clay so ill have to dig in loads of compost and manure, hard work ahead…

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And lastly we have developed a new website for the house, using a fab web creation company called Wix, really easy to use as it’s all visual.

Heres a link www.maisonmurier.com 

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The leaf in our new house name logo was hand drawn from one of our murier [mulberry] leaves by my talented cousin Tamar, thanks Tam, wish I could draw like that.

The website also has a blog which we will use going forward to post about whats happening here at Maison Mûrier

If you would like to be kept up to date with our news visit the new blog page and sign up for our newsletters. www.maisonmurier.com/blog-1

Whilst all of this has been going on

Barnaby Pickles has mostly been surveying his kingdom…

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While Miel Miaow has been mostly snoozing in the sun.

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Time for a cup of coffee in one of my favourite relaxing spots, under our acacia tree [yet to bud but still beautiful]

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Bon weekend à tous.

Happy weekend everyone.

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Introducing the Garden Room Ensuite Bathroom

So last week we introduced you to one of our new bedrooms “The Garden Room” named as it over looks the garden, very unoriginal I know but after much deliberation and lots of name changes we felt it was best to keep thing simple. Tohis is the en suite bathroom attached to it.

The sink unit was bought for a bargain price at our local second hand warehouse, and Kev put a new sink and tap on it.

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We have been hunting for antique tiles for ages but couldn’t find any at a good price, then Kev came across a website that sells some really lovely tiles and has a range of imitation old tiles, they look very realistic as they are all slightly different and have different blemishes etc

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Kev did all the plumbing and tiling, I cleaned the beams up and Marion helped with the painting. Oh and I renovated all the old doors.

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Oh yes and I pointed the stone wall.

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Kev made the shelf from a piece of old wood found in one of the barns.

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So thats one bedroom and bathroom done only another 3 to go. I’ll keep you posted on our progress.

Have a lovely weekend everyone….

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Time to Come Indoors

A little over 18 months ago, on April 1st 2014, I posted a blog explaining how I had spent a couple of days installing our pool and terrace. The more astute among you will have noticed that it was an April Fool’s, and that the tiny photo was badly doctored:

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In the passing 18 months, we’ve been toiling hard to build the pool and the surrounding terrace, and today – our last day working out in the garden before we transfer back to working indoors – we finished the last couple of tasks to complete it. After 1.3km of decking planks and 7000 screws, here is the final result:

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I’m sure Phill, Marion & Ian would like to join me in thanking everyone who gave some of their time and effort, and helped us along the way. Claude, our neighbour, for hours digging channels and test holes with his mini digger; Lionel, our friend in the village, who turned up on endless days to help, and who taught us an invaluable French phrase: Jamais Plus – Never Again; John, who dug out the initial hole for the pool, and persuaded Phill to spend an extortionate amount on “200 year-old Parisian” (yeah, right) iron railings to go around the terrace (but which were so worth it); Michel our electrician, and general pool advisor; Luke, our friend from London, who spent a couple of hours on his hands and knees, screwing; Boris, Ian’s brother-in-law, whose relaxing stay in the south of France meant wheeling barrow loads of concrete around the garden; Dave, Phill’s brother-in-law, who can turn his hand to anything! And to everyone else who supplied us with cups of tea, and meals, and bottles of beer at the end of the day.

As I mentioned, our attention now turns inside. It will be a busy winter converting the loft into 3 bedrooms. Next spring will see us return to finish off some of the walls near the pool, and build a summer kitchen.

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Rush Hour in Fayssac…

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Mon Retour Au Jardin

I returned from a grey and cold London on Wednesday to glorious sunshine, kev said that the last week had been amazing and i must say the weather in London  and Wales the previous week was lovely, sunny and warm, but the Monday and Tuesday before i came home were grey and the wind was icy. I love my week in London but i have to say on Friday I’m always glad to touch down in Toulouse and make my 50 minute journey back to my lovely French house, all the London stresses and madness melt away on my  journey home to Fayssac, and the final pleasure  is a bounding Barnaby Pickles covering me with licks and big hugs. Even Miel popped her head around the door on my return. And of course its always lovely to come home to my Kevy and knowing we have a few days to work on our home is an extra treat, not forgetting all the wine…….. IMG_0172 As i mentioned in my last blog spring has most definitely sprung, not only are the trees bursting with blossoms but the fields are now carotid with beautiful wild flowers. IMG_0202   I haven’t a clue what they are and keep saying I’m going to google wild flowers of South West France, but have to admit readers that i haven’t got around to it yet, so if anyone does know what they are please let this ignorant blogger know. Now i know some people think we should leave mother natures gifts where they are and enjoy them in their natural surroundings, but i have to admit to borrowing a few to brighten up a room or to in the house, well come on mother nature you have so many flowers you won’t miss a few… will you? IMG_0195 So i did borrow a few and whilst i was picking them and arranging them into a perfectly formed bunch… well i an a visual merchandiser! Anyway whilst i was arranging them i noticed a stunning little butterfly had decided to make a temporary home in my bunch, and here she is, it is a she its to beautiful to be a he, sorry guys. IMG_0198   We have soooo much to do on the house but whilst the weather is so lovely we have to spend time in the garden and what luck  as its March its officially time to “return to the garden” “Mon detour au jardin” as all the billboards were telling me on my journey into Gaillac the other day, so it would be rude not to listen to them and do as the locals do. Its true March is the time to dust off your hoes and get your potager ready for plants, El leclerc and Gamm Vert our local garden centre have big promotions on and aisles packed with plants and gardening accessories. The other sure fire way to know spring has sprung is that the red wine aisles have be reduced and a rose explosion has happened. So we quickly realised we needed to create our potager so bought a rotavator to help us, kev delighted in putting it together and there were no spare bits left over. IMG_0175   Mmmm now how to use this beast of a machine…..   IMG_0177   Is it working??? Like all gadgets that claim to do amazing things, they don’t perform on command they need to be coaxed and cajoled and the instructions do help.   IMG_0176   We have decided to have our potager at the front of the house as it faces south and there is plenty of space, being visual i didn’t want just one big clump of mud no no no i decided upon meter wide strips all neatly and evenly laid out to precise measurements, now all we need to do is strip all the grass of them and dig them, EASY i pronounced ha ha ha. One down five to go… IMG_0185 Three back breaking days later they are done and a i have the blisters to prove it. IMG_0204   Now all i have to do is buy the pants and plant them….. IMG_0187   mmm now what to plant?

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First walkies with the daddies

After our 12 hour journey and a good sleep Barnaby Pickles  was  was eager to survey his land, so it was off for a long walkies for him and us. He was such a patient boy sitting waiting for us for us to get ourselves ready.

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After a while he got a little impatient and took himself off for a little scout and sniff around.

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Finally the daddies were ready and off we went.

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Can you spot BP’s tail?

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The little woods at the bottom of our field is amazing, its full of tree houses and wigwams, a perfect place for children to play…ahem and for us.

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After a lovely run Pickle decided to take himself off home.

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It didn’t take him long to find his way around.

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He’s already had loads more amazing walkies.

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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.

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Marion and Ian surveying our land.

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

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

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!)

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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.

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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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