September 1, 2017
In other words, the deal is done, there's no going back by any party and we move house on Monday.
Thank goodness for that.
Now to spend a happy weekend finishing the packing and getting ready for the removers who, mercifully, are still able to move us at such short notice.
We will begin this afternoon by tying up the loose ends of paperwork; cancelling gas and electricity supplies, ordering mail redirection, rescheduling our channel crossing to Friday and informing the cattery that we will pick up Daisy one day later than planned. She will not be amused.
We'll have almost three days in our new home, time to sort out a few boxes, get the plumber in to organise a new boiler and radiators (the existing one is ancient, although it allegedly works), plumb in the washing machine and start planning our new kitchen.
Then we'll arrive chez nous in time to do some shopping and hoover up for the arrival of our guests. They will not be the only ones needing a good rest.
Bon weekend !!
This is the reality of being ready to move, but still waiting.
Our solicitor (or rather, her secretary) assured us yesterday morning that we should exchange contracts yesterday and move (complete) on Monday but she would let us know later in the day. By 4pm we had heard nothing, so I phoned back. I was told that our buyer's solicitor needed to check with our buyer that Monday was good for her and although messages and emails had been left there had been no reply. I contacted our agent who also left messages but there was no response.
Why would this be? If I was imminently buying a house I would be glued to my phone and if I'd left it at home my mother/father (who she lives with) would be checking hourly. In fact there would be no way I would forget my phone!
Let's hope today brings positive news. One (we) can only stand living like this for a short time before we go mad, especially as we don't have to. If our buyer is changing her mind we can take a mortgage and buy the house we want anyway, removing the boxes to their new home and putting the house back on the market, empty. In some ways that would be easier, although it would cost us a few thousand in the long run, money that could be better spent on something useful, like a new kitchen.
Surrounded by the pile of boxes, as we move into another month, autumn, and the last third of the year, all kinds of scenarios are going through my mind. But I have never once regretted putting the house up for sale, I just want to get the job done and move on. Literally.
August 31, 2017
We had a plan. The plan was for us to drive back to the UK on Monday 28th August, having put Daisy in the cattery, and spend a week packing the house in a calm, orderly and organised fashion. Then we had planned to drive back to France on 6th September in good time to get the bedrooms ready, house cleaned up and fridge stocked in time for my brother Colin and his daughter Jo to arrive for a holiday on the 9th. Then we would be free and ready to actually move towards the end of September. Good plan.
A week last Monday (21st August) we received an email from our solicitor to say could we complete and move on the Friday (25th). This was nonsense as we had not yet exchanged contracts and our buyer's surveyor had not yet done the survey on the house. Our contact at our estate agent is brilliant and she got to the bottom of it and established that our buyer was ready, apart from the survey, and keen to move asap. The surveyor collected a key that day and it appeared that there was indeed the chance that we could move quickly, not last Friday but soon after. Nick phoned our removers who said they could move us Friday 25th at a push but other than that they could only do Weds 30th as they were booked up until 7th September. (Which was not very convenient as our guests would be arriving two days later.)
So Nick dashed back to the UK on the earliest flight he could get (Thursday24th) to start packing, while I remained in France cat sitting...........because the cattery was fully booked until 28th and the idea of taking Daisy with us and keeping her indoors and out of the way while we packed and moved house seemed just too problematic. I would follow on 28th as planned.
It was stop, go, all week until 4.30pm last Friday, 25th, bearing in mind it was a bank holiday weekend, when an email arrived from our solicitor to say that our buyer would not exchange contracts until we had had the boiler serviced and had a certificate to prove it!
Nick then spent a frantic hour ringing round every Corgi registered plumber on the Trusted Trader website and finally found one who wasn't booked up for a month who promised to come and service the boiler straight after the bank holiday.
The tunnel crossing we had on 28th was very late in the evening and I didn't relish making the twelve hour drive all by myself when I might be very tired, so I moved it to a more sensible time the next day. That gave me extra time to organise the bedrooms for our visitors, clean up and so on, which was handy. Then, during the very hot weather, the car developed a fault. An orange light was showing in
the display suggesting an engine fault. Just what I didn't need! The fault light seemed intermittent and
the car was running perfectly well so we decided that I would risk the journey but move it again to the next day when the
weather was forecast to be much cooler. That was yesterday.
Yesterday (30th August) the boiler man came and Nick whisked the certificate round to the solicitor who said it was still possible to exchange that day and move Friday or Monday. I left the house in France at 5am for the twelve hour drive back to the UK. While I was on the road Nick found another removal company to come and give us an estimate and offer us more dates, which was a relief.
My journey back was awful. No problem at all on the French side but, as always, chaos on the UK side. Within thirty minutes of being on UK tarmac I was at a standstill on the M20 for an hour due to a crash. The journey from Folkestone to Derbyshire took seven hours whereas it usually takes four at the most. This was due to crashes, road works, foul weather and heavy spray causing bad visibilty and last but not least, sheer volume of traffic. How I loathe driving in the UK. I arrived home an exhausted, nervous wreck. To find that contracts had not geen exchanged because.............the solicitor for the people whose house we are buying is on holiday.
So here we are, surrounded by boxes, just waiting. Daisy is deposited in the cattery in France wearing her best "we are not amused" expression and we're hoping that some time today our sellers will find someone else in their solicitor's office who will get their arse into gear and do something about the contract. FFS they are not even buying another house, no searches or surveys to be done, all they had to do was get the contract drawn up and collect the money. And what was their agent doing for her money, she should have been making sure it was all teed up.
And you may wonder why moving house in the UK is so stressful.
August 27, 2017
It’s time I rounded off my St Emilion series of posts. After all, it was nearly three months ago that we were there. I’ll finish up by doing one post that should really be three – the food, the wine and the surrounding area.
On our way to St Emilion we passed through a village called Montagne and spotted this restaurant, which was open on Mondays. By Monday morning, having been in St Emilion for just 36 hours, we had come to the conclusion that restaurants in the town were charging tourist prices. The meal we had on that first night cost about 50% more than a similar meal would have cost in any number of restaurants near us in Touraine. It was very average and over priced. There were plenty of other restaurants where the menu looked excellent, but priced at the level of a treat rather than just dinner.
So on the Monday lunchtime we went out of town and back to the village of Montagne to try lunch in the Priory restaurant there instead. We were not disappointed.
For less than we had paid for the mediocre meal in town, we had an excellent lunch. We also treated ourselves to a half bottle of the local wine.
We enjoyed it so much that after lunch we went in search of the vineyard, which was just up the road. We like to do this – taste the wine in a restaurant and go find where they get it from. It’s fun.
In fact, we visited several wineries that afternoon and bought some wine.
The most expensive one we tasted and bought was this one, paying rather more than we usually pay for a bottle of wine, but we’re sure it is worth it. We have seen the exact same wine for sale in the shops in St Emilion for nearly three times what we paid for it at the vineyard. This particular wine is made from grapes grown in a small vineyard which is surrounded by other very famous vineyards such as Petrus.
We declined the wine that was said to be good if kept for twenty years. We told the lady in the tasting room that at our age putting wine aside for twenty, or even ten years, could be a waste of good wine – who knows whether we will be in a condition to enjoy it as much in our eighties as we do now? She was highly amused.
So, having been rather disappointed with the food in St Emilion and the price of the wine, how did we find the surrounding area? Well, on several days we went for a ride out to explore and returned each time feeling very sad. High on the hill above the Dordogne you have the pretty tourist town of St Emilion, where the food and wine is pricey and the well heeled tourists are fleeced good and proper. Not very far away we came across several towns where the streets are full of decaying and deserted buildings, closed shops and businesses and all the signs of decline. It looked like nobody much was making a good living in these towns nowadays, although they were surrounded by obviously thriving vineyards.
In Sainte-Foy la Grande, the evidence was there that this had once been a bustling, thriving town with a quayside along the bank of the Dordogne where goods would be loaded for transport on the river, and tourists would be unloaded for a stay in its fancy hotels and guest houses. There was nothing very grand about the place now.
For me it seemed tragic that right in the middle of a wine producing area where world famous wines are made and sold for very high prices, the little towns look like they are dying.
There were lovely old buildings, full of character and history, but now housing cheap cafés and cut price hairdressers.
In fact some of these places were so down at heel that I found them slightly unsettling, and I was glad to get back to St Emilion each evening, where there were crowds of cheerful, well dressed people, spending their money and having fun.
Of course, not all of the surrounding towns are depressing. We stumbled across this magnificent abbey at a town called La Sauve one teatime, just as it was closing, so went back the next day for a proper look.
It was a photographer’s paradise, full of pillars, angles and shadows and we had a very happy morning with it almost completely to ourselves.
It was well worth making the effort to go back. On our return to St Emilion for the evening we called at one of the bars for a drink and I ordered an apéritif that I had never heard of before, called Cadillac. It’s a slightly sweet strong wine which you drink in smallish glasses and comes from the nearby town of Cadillac.
And so the next day we headed off to Cadillac to find out more. Not only did we find the wine shop selling dozens of different bottles of the wine, but also discovered that there is a rather interesting château.
In several of its very grand rooms (seven of them I think), there were magnificently restored fireplaces, which reminded me of similar fireplaces at Bolsover Castle in Derbyshire.
It also had, in one of the halls, some rather fantastic beaded sculptures of mystical creatures, beautifully done and, if I dare say, very French.
At one point in its long and chequered history the château was used as a women’s prison and has prison doors on some of its rooms to prove it. There were displays of photos taken during its prison period showing that conditions were obviously very harsh, in sharp contrast to the former grandeur of the château itself.
So there we are, the end of my St Emilion series, a bit rushed and not before time. I could go on and on but other stuff has been happening and there’s a lot to catch up on. Soon…….
Would we go back to St Emilion? Probably not. I found it too busy, touristy and a bit false but it was nice to have stayed there just once. It was a beautiful town, and sometimes it’s fun to be immersed in the hustle and bustle of tourist life, just for a while. (If only to remind us how lucky we are to live in such a peaceful, quiet part of France.) We would however definitely go back and explore more of the general area, for the photo opportunities if nothing else. All in all we had a great time.
Time to move on………
July 23, 2017
Well, as I hinted in my last post, the UK system of house buying is fraught with difficulties and you can never be certain that you’ll be moving into your new house until you have the keys in your hand - and a lot can go wrong before that happens.
With the paperwork process in place and the chain as short as we could have hoped we returned to France to wait for that process to take its course.
We had a smooth journey to Dover with Daisy in the car. Towards the bottom end of the M1 we heard a traffic announcement on the radio that due to a crash the part of the M25 that we usually use was at a standstill and there was a two hour delay to get through the “bouchon”.
We had booked a late crossing and a room in a budget hotel in Calais. As we didn’t relish getting to our room at 3am instead of the midnight we expected we took a quick decision to go round the M25 the wrong way.
It worked! The traffic was flowing sensibly and the route took only fifteen minutes longer than going the right way round – much better than being stuck in a traffic jam for two hours – and in fact we arrived at the tunnel in time to get on a train a whole hour before the one we had booked. So far, so good.
Unfortunately Daisy was not impressed with the room. Previously we have stayed in more luxurious accommodation and she has been fine, settling down to sleep on top of one or other of us – although in changing places she would always make sure she jumped on one before landing on the other so that both of us would be awake.
At our chosen hotel this time she spent the whole night meowing and scratching at the door or window, trying to get out. It was one of those rooms that are about a foot bigger than the bed all round with a shower cubicle and toilet.
After an almost completely sleepless night we set off for the Loire in the morning. Daisy slept in the car to make up for her nocturnal activity and we took turns to drive or nod off as the temperature gradually rose. It was 25˚C as we left Calais and 39˚C as we drove through Tours. By the time we arrived home, exhausted, it had cooled to a mere 37˚.
Two hours after we arrived chez nous the agent phoned to say that our sale had fallen through. Our buyers had lost their buyers when a survey revealed some building problems and their buyers backed out of the deal.
After a second sleepless night, due to the heat and our tossing and turning as we mulled over our options, it was decided that one of us would return to the UK asap to get the ball rolling again.
So, while Nick is in France keeping the cat company, I am back in the UK to make the house presentable for viewings and show potential buyers around. I showed the house to six couples yesterday, one of which came back for a second look this morning and seems very keen, and I have two more viewings booked for tomorrow. Come what may, I am handing the keys and the responsibility for viewings over to the agents on Wednesday and returning to France on Thursday while we still have some summer left.
Doors and windows, they have always fascinated me. It suddenly occurs to me that the pictures I have chosen from the dozens that I took seem mainly to be of rather dilapidated ones. There must be something significant in that.
Let me in – or let me out – no it must be in as the views are all of the outside. All fingers are crossed again that this time we will find a buyer that stays the course with no nasty surprises along the way. But as I said before a lot of water has to go under the door before it’s all over.
July 7, 2017
Whilst my blog posts have been sporadic things have been happening fast in the UK. I am interrupting my St Emilion series to bring an update. We are on the move again !!
When we downsized to this house in 2014 we were thrilled with it. We thought it would be perfect for spending the odd week or two back in the UK, that we could use it almost as a gite for holidays and short stays. It’s a 1930’s house with a brand new interior, having been renovated shortly before we bought it. It was a beautiful “move straight in”.
For one reason or another we have never really settled and as we have ended up spending much more time here than we planned we have decided to move on.
Apart from its cuteness and newness, the thing that sold this house to us was the view across the fields at the back.
Only six months after we moved in, we found out that the farmer that owns the fields had applied for planning permission to sell the land for building. There was a planning application for five hundred houses along the length of the road, meaning that our lovely view could easily disappear.
Then there’s the plight of poor little Daisy. Because she spends most of her time in our barn in France and is not used to traffic (other than the occasional passing tractor) I am convinced that if we let her out of the house she would either get run over on the road, or get frightened and run away. Either way we might never see her again.
So she stays indoors when we bring her back to the UK, or we let her out on a long lead. She spends her time snoozing in a shady spot or watching the birds in next door’s garden longingly as they tease her mercilessly, hopping within a few yards of her, having learned that she can’t catch them.
So, we set to and spruced the place up ready for the estate agent to call. Once the pictures were taken my resolve weakened and I had some doubts – with the house looking so good, how could we bear to leave? But we had made our decision so we put it up for sale.
It was sold after just four days on the market. (It took just two days longer than the last time we sold a house.) The new owners come from not far away and already knew about the planning application for building in the fields.
They also have a thumping great big camper van which they intend to park in the drive.
This is the house we’re hoping to buy instead. It’s nowhere near as sexy, an old folks’ bungalow. As my dad says when any bungalow comes up for sale – “there’s another one fallen off its perch”. And indeed it’s very much that kind of house.
It’s not far from where we used to live. We were very comfortable there, so going back there feels like putting on an old pair of comfy slippers. All the rooms are bigger than we have now and we will gain an extra room downstairs, a garage and privacy, as it’s detached with a good amount of space on either side. It’s in a small, L-shaped cul-de-sac where the road is very quiet.
There are woods at the back so our view is of the trees rather than open fields, but at least it’s unlikely that there will ever be a planning application to build on there. And of course it’s a much safer place to let Daisy have her freedom.
It is however, a house to do up. It’s perfectly habitable but it’s decorated in the style of an old person who last did anything to it at least twenty years ago and has done no decorating or maintenance since.
Except for the kitchen, which, believe me, is not as good as it looks! The estate agent did a great job of making it look great.
So there we are. I never thought I would be thrilled to be buying an old folks’ bungalow but it’s amazing how one’s ideas can change!
Those experienced in buying and selling a house in the UK will know that there is a lot of water to go under the bridge before we get the keys to our new house. There is a short chain of only four houses with the empty house at the top and a first time buyer at the bottom so it’s about as promising as it can be, but you never know, it could still all go wrong. We live on tenterhooks for now!
Bon weekend !!