Thursday, 15 September 2016

Home Sweet FRANCE?

Keys and an appropriately named champagne to celebrate.
If you've been following along in other social media, you'll know by now that we bought a house in France.  Sept-Forges, a tiny little village (286 people) in Basse Normandie (that's Lower Normandy to you). From offer to us taking possession took about 10 months. It's not meant to be that way, but there were some issues with French inheritance law. You see, two of the heirs of the seller (Madame Martell) were in state care and required judges to make the call for them. Unfortunately one of the judges sat on the papers, and then sat on them some more, before sitting on them again and finally approving the sale. Sigh!

6 months of garden neglect
So after making an offer in October last year, settlement happened on 18 August and we came to France on 8 September to collect the keys and take possession. Finally the marathon was run, time to start another - getting the house to the state we want it in!

A few days of maintenance later
At Charles De Gaulle Airport we rented a Citroen Jumpy 9 seater. As soon as we got to the house two rows of seats came out and went into the garage. Much better, as we now had what looked like ACRES OF SPACE, possibly even hectares, to put stuff in as, apart from a couple of dodgy built-ins, the house came with no furniture. Our first few nights were spent at a bed and breakfast in nearby Lassay Le Chateau, while we ran around during the day and got stuff, lots of stuff! Until finally we could move in on Monday, although it took until Wednesday for the water to be turned back on. And miracle of miracles, after Orange telling us the internet would take 2 weeks, it ended up being two days!

Fortunately for us, our arrival coincided with a big sale day at the Emmaus charitable mission in nearby Alencon. This meant we got an extendable dining table with 6 chairs, two small dressers, crockery (nice french porcelain), enamel cooking ware, and so on for around 200 euro. We went back again and got an armoire and the worlds heaviest coffee table. I was intrigued by the granite top, which I assumed was "wafer thin" sheets, nope, they must have used blocks!!! At least the coffee demitasses (or wine glasses) won't suffer when anyone walks into it. I'm guessing it'd be a close run thing between budging the coffee table and breaking a leg.

Katrina testing out the worlds heaviest coffee table.
We were both taken by the armoire on our first visit, but knew that even with acres of haulage room it wouldn't fit in the Jumpy, with all the other stuff, hence the second visit. The carved decorations took our fancy, and we know that it's missing bits and pieces and doesn't really fit into the available space, but at 40 euro and a free coffee table (courtesy of my little brother).......................

I mentioned that Emmaus is a charitable organization, apparently the men who live and work there all have "troubles". We dealt with a very jovial young Senegali, who was over the moon to be dealing with Australians and then ecstatic when I told him that I had been to Senegal, and not just Dakar. He started calling me his big brother and was quite excited to see us a second time. I am hoping that by the time a third visit is needed he will have sorted his troubles and moved on.

Madame Martel moved out of the house in March, in expectation of a quick finalization, so from then to October nothing was done to the garden. There were creeper tendrils making a bid for sole occupancy! We soon put a stop to that, but then there was the path, the yards and the fence to deal with. After six days of hard slog I still haven't touched the garden beside the steps from the church, or the main garden plot. There are cubic metres of green waste in the garden lean to, waiting on collection and removal. Although I don't know what that's going to cost us, or when it will happen.

Speaking of which we seem to have landed on our feet with our neighbours. Directly across the street form us are a French couple, Stefan and Manu, and in the next house along at the end of the street is Josepha, a New Caledonian.  Around the corner is Allan an Englishman who pops over regularly while his wife is mostly in the UK.  Steffan, Manu and Josepha are permanent residents and Allan has been in and out for 14 years, owning the house and a small farm just outside the village. They have all been very welcoming and Steffan even forgave me when I laughed that his dog Earnest had "broken out" and gone on the run again. He is a very friendly dog that loves people, cows and rolling in cow pats; of which there are plenty, of course, as Sept-Forges is in the middle of Camembert country.  Sad really.
The church above the house

As an added bonus, there is a "Sauf Riverains" sign at the end of the street. This means that if you don't have actual business here don't enter. So, in the morning and late afternoon, there is little traffic and otherwise blissful silence. Once the church bells stop ringing the hours in the evening there is absolute stillness, even quieter than Venice at night! Lovely - and a great view to wake to.

Proof positive that the kitchen works
So for now we have functional kitchen, living room, bedroom and a fold-out bed/chaisse in the living room. The showers both work, there's gas in the kitchen

Did I mention that the Emmaus furniture was all antique? May be in need of TLC and missing bits, but there's time.

As for now, we're back to Paris Friday afternoon before a flight back to Muscat and reality. Boy, will we be tired!

The view from the bedroom window - Note that the ascending wall was invisible a few days ago.


  1. 6 days - that sounds like a real work out! Congratulations on everything, it looks amazing, we may have to visit sometime for a decent stay, and you and I may investigate french furniture restoration :)

  2. Let us get a second bedroom operational and we can talk about timing, although with work it may not be for a while yet.

  3. It all sounds wonderful. If you're going to keep on accumulating green waste, maybe you should compost? I would think that things would tend to grow a bit between visits...

    1. That is on the agenda, but there was simply too much to deal with in the time available this time. Next visit will include resurrecting the composting.