Friday, 29 April 2011

Thank Goodness For Friends

It's my last day. I have spent the day in a pretty frock tying up loose ends and toasting myself and my friends with champagne being very very glad I'm not in London with all those ghastly people in my back yard.


3 coats of xylophene on my poor timbers.

2 bolts on the back door to the courtyard.

Wall paper stripped off in stairwell and bedroom.

Mouldy black blooms gone gone gone.

Walls cleaned with lessive du pin & treated with anti-fungal spray

Credit where credit is due, the above wouldn't have been possible without the help of Andy D. He turns up with a car-load of tools wearing the blue overalls favoured by all serious bricolageurs.

Note to self: Get some. Blue overalls that is. Tools can be borrowed.

He does all the complicated stuff like fixing the bolts, opening and pouring the MASSIVE can of xylophene, and puts my efforts with paint-stripper and a scraper to shame with some angle-grinder/sander behaviour that looks and smells jolly dangerous but cleans up the beams a treat.
I am not faint hearted. I AM going to learn to do all this stuff myself and I am perfectly capable of doing so, but one needs

a) the right equipment
b) more time
c) blue overalls

Paul starts on Monday. I have permission on paper from the Mairie for him to erect un échafaudage (scaffold tower) in the street outside my house. Hurrah for my first successful foray into French bureaucracy!

I just hope he remembers to wear his blue overalls.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Things I love About The French


I love cheese. People I know love cheese. I have seen grown men open the fridge with the same anticipation a child with its stocking on Christmas morning. I have witnessed the almost religious wonder with which a person can dip a lump of gouda into a pot of mustard. But nothing I have seen can rival the passion that greeted an innocent query from me about the difference between brie and camembert.

I’m dining al fresco on Easter Sunday (in April, yes, how fabulous?) and one of the party has brought some brie from Paris that is literally running off the plate. It tastes like heaven: yellow, with a crenulated skin, and a flavour that shakes up your taste buds and gets them dancing like they’re in the final of ‘Britain’s Got Talent’. The pasty white camembert doesn’t even get them past the selection round. Apparently this is all wrong. It’s usually the other way round. Camembert, I’m told, is the king of cheese. This brie is obviously the Robespierre.


It’s the same as the cheese thing. It’s not actually snobbery it’s about discernment. They don’t like bad wine. Or even mediocre wine. Or even good wine served in the wrong order. I’m with them on the bad and mediocre thing. I still can’t get with the order thing, I’m just happy to be drinking something that doesn’t come from Australia or California via Sainsbury.


Bonjour. Bon journeé. The niceties of everyday conversation. I love it but I still forget and lapse into brusque foreigner mode without even realising it sometimes. There’s a kind of old-world gentility about my every day exchanges here. I’m told the Parisians are rude but I’ll bet you they’re not as rude as Londoners. And it’s true that northerners in the UK are more friendly but they’re still not in the same league as the people here.

Merci à vous versus Ta duck

See what I mean?


They are much better looking than in the UK. Much.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011


Time is running away with me. I have so much to do before I start rehearsals for 'Marlene' in Scarborough and can’t see how for the life of me I’m going to get it all done. I feel like I’ve done nothing but the HHs who came round yesterday tell me I’ve done loads.

I’ll be happy if I can get three coats of Xylophene on all the timbers in the place and get all the shopping done so that Paul doesn’t have to spend half a day wandering round Castorama and can get on with the clever stuff like making my chimney look less like a precarious brick banana and more like a sensible enduring smoke-conduit.

Monday sees me wandering round Castorama, then Leroy Merlin, then Casto again comparing prices and quality in the company of a long-suffering friend who not only makes sensible suggestions about baths, but also helps, albeit a little reluctantly, to transport them. It.

The bath question vexes me for at least half an hour but when it’s a question of paying an extra €50 and having a larger bath that doesn’t look cheap and nasty, I eventually agree it’s worth it. I mean, I’m hardly going to be changing it on an annual basis, am I?

But still. My timbers scream out for treatment. No matter how much pastis I drink, the 25 litre tin of xylophene is not going to miraculously distribute itself in three coats over my attic beams.

The walls are still covered in black blooms from when the condensation fairies got trapped inside the house because somebody closed all the double glazed windows too tightly.

The back door to the courtyard is still being held shut by a piece of weaving my mum did on the Isle of Arran; that I would like to re-instate as a scarf/belt before I leave.

I have no time to see anybody, to sleep or even eat. It's all a disaster. The house is going to fall into the cellar and the woodworm are going to hold a party as the dust settles on my decomposing body.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

No More Plaster Insanity!

I am going to give the hammer and chisel back to Aussie John. I am going to cut off my hands. I am going to lock myself in the cellar so that I cannot hack away at the colombage with my bloody stumps. I cannot, repeat, CANNOT allow myself to knock anything else down. The dust is driving me potty.

I'm escaping to the Correze this weekend for some jollity involving a party and a trumpet and no dust. When I go back, I'm going to get on with the far more urgent task of applying 3 coats of Xylophene to all the beams. And for a little house, there's a heck of a lot of beams.

It was this that got me started. Remember the post that ended: There's only on way to find out? Well, this was what I found. Obviously needs a clean and some Xylophene...

I was actually attempting to CLEAN UP when I had an innocent little poke about and ended up doing this. Jolly good thing, as these beams all need treating.
Now I could be going a little crazy as a result of an overdose of dust but it looks to me like the previous owner has put in a decorative beam and that triangular nonsense isn't actually supporting anything. Hmmm. Paul???

The real insanity is this. I got overexcited at the sight of colombage and started chipping away at a partition that Paul is taking out anyway! I now have straw and mud at my back when I sit on my 'sofa'. Nice one Lally.

So a little R & R is just what I need. The Correze is further south than the Haute Vienne and generally warmer by about 2 degrees, which in April is definitely a good thing. They'll all be coming to me in the height of summer when they can't move without leaving a trail of sweat behind them.

If you want to daydream check out some of the properties here:
It's an agency run by nice English-speaking Dutch people who've been selling houses in the Limousin for donkeys years and have oodles of experience. Anything is possible when you don't have to pay astronomically high UK prices...

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

The Master Plan

My Little House is bigger than it looks. It has 2 large downstairs rooms, two double bedrooms and a huge grenier that runs the length of the house.

My original plan was to spend my entire budget renovating the attic. WHY? I have no kitchen or bathroom. What fricking good is an attic going to be if I can’t eat or bathe? Perhaps I could practice yoga up there until the stench of my unwashed body drives all thought of food from my mind. Or maybe not. Hence the need for a new plan.

I have been back and forth, round the houses and to the foot of our stairs and back trying to decide what to put where.

Some things are fairly obvious. Like having the bedrooms upstairs. No point in being contrary for the sake of it. We’re not in Salford now.*

Other things are less obvious. Like which room is the kitchen and which the living room. Where do the things go that need water and electricity? Where the heck am I going to put the second toilet? Andy D. gets me thinking outside the box and the plan starts to take shape.

The kitchen has to go at the back because I am going to have a utility room in the courtyard. With … and this is the bit that has me jumping up and down… a terrace on top. L'Architecte des Bâtiments de France won’t like it. So flipping what? He doesn’t need to see it. I think, if I remember rightly, if he can’t see it, I don’t have to apply for permission. I’ll have to check.

My nice neighbour AJ is a bit doom and gloom about it, but I’m sure it’s only because I’ve rejected his idea of a glass roof as a passive heating system. I want a terrace dammit! Geraniums! Croissants and morning coffee!

Even if I’m banned from having a terrace it makes complete sense to utilise the courtyard. It’s too narrow and the walls are too high for it to work as an outside space, so making it an indoor space is sheer genius.

Paul comes round tomorrow morning. Terrace terrace terrace terrace terrace…

I need to check the Architecte's rules.

*Urban Splash's achingly trendy Chimney Pot Park sees Salford's old red brick terraces reinvented as loft-style living areas by, yes really, putting the bedrooms on the ground floor and the living space up above with terraces and balconies.

The Bank, The Satnav & The Missing €2,400


The Vision

I have been tying my brain in knots trying to get a master plan together that will enable me to use Paul’s superior building knowledge to full advantage whilst I skip off to the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough to play at dressy-ups. Today, with the help of Andy D, that comes to fruition. More about that later.

Cut Price Xylophene

On my way out of St Leonard along the Bujaleuf road, I pass a Briconaut. Such is my obsession with all things renovatory, I cannot resist stopping and looking at power tools and paint and the like. Inside they have the tipetty-top kill-all-insects-and-anti-fungal-into-the-bargain Xylophene for a mere €31 for a 6 litre tin. I buy 3, hoping that the local builders yard will give me a refund on the Cecil on the grounds that the name is not scary enough. Hmmm. If they don't, I will have spent €200 on woodworm treatment.


Payback time at the bank.

They’ve given me my mortgage and in return I know that I am going to be pressured into taking out their package, which will include a bank card, cheque book, insurance for these items, internet banking, £400 overdraft facility… and for these privileges they are going to charge me, yes people, CHARGE me, over €100 per year. When I empty my purse and show Mme Faury my array of free UK plastic, she is gobsmacked. However, if I don’t take out the package, it all costs a lot more. I hate it. €18 per year for internet banking??? Tant pis.

Road Closures.

I’m a bit wrong footed when I get to the bank because a journey that should take me half an hour has taken three times that. I’m bowling along through rural limousin loveliness when I’m hit by a yellow sign. Route Debarré. Bollocks! I don’t believe it but yes it’s true, they’ve closed the road exactly at the only point I can cross the river to get to St Leonard de Noblat.


Useless useless bloody useless! People who know me know my view on Satnav. I know my own view on Satnav. So why oh why do I choose to rely on it?! When the road closes, it recalculates then spends the next hour telling me to turn round and go back the way I’ve come, whilst I end up at Feytiat before I have the good sense to stop at a garage and buy a bloody map. My view on Satnav is, for those who don’t know me: Invented for people who can’t read maps and deserve to be lost.

The Dodgy Notaire:

Whilst at the bank I get sight of a statement that says that the bank have paid just over €30,000 to the Notaire. Remember him? Scary teeth and a dodgy dye-job? Well I got my maths O level and it doesn’t take a genius to work out the following:

Cost of house: €24,000 (yes really)

Agent’s fees: €3,000 (I’m in the wrong job)

Notaire’s Fees: €3,000 (are orthodontics tax deductable in France?)

So what the hell has happened to the €2,400 I paid as my deposit?? After the bank, I head straight for the Notaire’s office. Access to him is restricted by three female pitbulls so I’m frightfully polite and ask to see the relevée de frais du prêt as I think there may have been une erreur. They are frosty in the extreme but do as I ask, and from the adjoining office I distinctly hear someone say: ‘Merde!’ Suddenly the atmosphere thaws and they are being extremely nice to me. What name would I like on the cheque? I ask for a transfer electronique. There’s no bloody way I’m driving all the way back to St Leonard, map or no map.

Actually, this should really be in the ‘things that are great’ column as I totally kick ass, in French, and get my money back.

It’s all good.

Shiver Me Timbers part ii

The pay off for all the scariness in the cellar is when I get to put on plastic eyewear and a gas mask, and play with dangerous chemicals. Yeeeehah! If any woodworm or capricorn beetles are lurking in my beams, the sight of me in my protective gear brandishing an innocent looking flower spray will strike terror into the very fibre of their beings. My fibre. From MY timbers. There is no nice way of doing this. This is war. They have to die.

A quick word about products: I’m going down the nasty-nasty route. Apparently you can use boron solution, which is less evil but I don’t want to take the risk that it is also less effective.
My builder has recommended Zylophene. I can’t face the drive up the A20 to castorama so I go for what the local builders yard have, which calls itself ‘Cecil’. As names go, it’s not one that inspires fear but it’s still got little orange pictures of dying fish on it and is guaranteed to keep the little feckers at bay for 10 years so I reckon it’ll be ok.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Shiver Me Timbers!

Today I am mostly scaring myself rigid by tackling the timbers in the cellar.

I had a good meeting with my builder, Paul, on Friday. He and Nikki live up on the plateau of a thousand cows. I lodged in their guest apartment before Christmas and Nikki was the first person I called when I drove my car into a ravine. Logical. If she can cope with raising four sons, she can cope with anything.

Paul and I agree that as my current budget is limited, he’ll do the more skilled, builder-orientated work like stuff involving roofs and walls and plumbing; and I shall stick to reasonably disaster-proof tasks such as timber treatment and painting.

Ha! I am not a faint-hearted individual. I am not afraid to tackle scruffy-headed youths who drop litter on city streets, but my knees start to buckle at how much rotten wood comes away when I attack the beams in the cellar with a wire brush.

Here’s the thing: the theory is that oak is so invincible that the little bastard woodworms can eat away at a good third of the outside without touching the heartwood. Nice theory. These beams are holding up the entire house, so I defend my right as a property owner to be a bit scared.


Get someone else to do it. You’ll save yourself a fortune in valium.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

How Cool?

This is the swimming lake that is 5 minutes walk from my little house. 'Nuff said.

Hidden Treasure

I've always been good at demolishing things. Food, wine, relationships...

When I tell JL I'm getting busy with a crowbar he laughs wryly. He remembers the time I pulled down the ceiling in his Chelsea flat then promptly got a job and buggered off on tour leaving him with piles of rubble.

In this instance I am buggering off, to Scarborough this time, but not for a couple of weeks. Plenty of time for a little exploratory work...

I'm just trying to imagine the thought process behind it. I mean WHY? Why brick the fireplace up in the first place? And why hide not one but TWO woodburning stoves behind it?

The chains, I'm reliably informed by my neighbour, were used for cooking. No reason whatsoever why I can't recycle them in the torture chamber I'm planning for the cellar...

Aha! OK, this is starting to make sense. Central heating. Boiler. Flue. No wood burners required.

Now how the feck am I going to hide that boiler flue?

The Cracked Pipe

Winters out here in the Limousin are very cold. No need for the word ‘apparently’ because I’ve been here in winter. I know. The lady who owned the house before me obviously didn’t know, or didn’t care or was very stupid, because she didn’t drain the system the last time she was here. One of the first things Mr B showed me was how to turn the water on and off, and how to get all the water OUT of the pipes. Had she been more knowledgeable/caring or less stupid, the following would not have happened:

1. The beautiful cast iron radiators in both upper bedrooms would not have split

2. The embryonic shower plumbing in the bathroom would not have blown

I was lucky in two respects. Mr & Mrs B noticed the radiators and had them capped off. They didn’t notice the shower but were here testing the boiler with a plumber when the water was switched on. He fitted isolation tapas for the shower. Olé.

When the HHs came round for champagne and jollity, Nick worked some plumbing magic (I think he just took the flexi pipes off and capped them but one never knows with plumbers!) so that I could have water upstairs, use the loo and shower in the bedroom; where either the plumbing is more robust, or the temperature doesn’t drop so low. I’m really hoping it’s the latter. I’ll let you know in November.

I’m digressing madly on the subject of plumbing, a dangerous thing to do. I can’t blame the previous owner for what I’m about to tell you next, although I suspect she may have known about it.

So here’s the thing: I’m sitting having breakfast when I remember that a few days ago I put a bowl under a drip in the cupboard where the downstairs loo used to be. I meander over to check it only to discover that not only has it overflowed, but also the water in the bowl is suspiciously murky.

Murky water. Former loo. A bit niffy. Oh shit. Shit shit shit shit shit.

I phone Nick. He’s calm as you like. Of course he is, it’s not his loo that’s backing up! He says it’s probably where my pipes join the tout-à-l’égout in the street. He tells me to pop over to the Mairie and ask them to get someone to look at it.

Is tennis popular in France? The receptionist at the Mairie has obviously been practising her return serve because she tells me I need a plumber. Mr. B’s French plumber is booked up for weeks but on hearing the problem comes straight round.

Can I just take a self-congratulatory moment here? I had to leave him a message. On the telephone. In French. About
PLUMBING. And he understood!

He identifies the site of the blockage (unfortunately in my cellar not in the street outside) and gets out his rod (oo-er Mrs). It’s only when the rod doubles back and hits him in the face that we realise that this is not just a simple case of irresponsible sanitary towel disposal. Look at the picture below. That is the soil pipe that runs under my floor carrying waste from the loo. Notice it’s cracked? The reason it’s blocked is because all the ancient rubble and dust has fallen INTO the crack. I have an open sewer running underneath my front room.

Lots of Gallic shrugging ensues. I prefer this to the teeth-sucking behaviour of the British. The main problem appears to be that he is supposed to be working at the boulangerie down the road. He speaks to his boss. I am banned from using my facilities for 24 hours. I can still wash up and shower, I just can’t do anything that involves lowering my pants for lavatorial purposes. Fortunately there are excellent public facilities in the square that are clean, warm and open 24/7. I love France!

The following day I make Christophe-le-plombier un café then depart for Castorama (Think Wickes) and the SFR shop. By the time I return with some self-adhesive decorative plastic and an internet stick, he has fitted a new loo downstairs. This is a temporary measure as to fit it upstairs requires the removal of the large metal soil pipe that is of the same provenance as the one featured in the picture above.

I am feeling cheerful about my new loo for the following reasons:

1. My dealings with Christophe and the Mairie were conducted entirely in French and I have learned several new words.

2. It has totally cured me of the notion that I will be able to fit a second loo downstairs. There are huge privacy issues before you even address the question of hygiene and odour management. The other thing is that because the cubicle is so wee (no pun intended) there is barely room to close the door if you’re sitting down, so God knows how the gents are going to manage!

I am feeling apprehensive about my new loo for the following reasons:

1. My curtains downstairs are not substantial. If I neglect to close the door whilst the light is on (very likely: see above), there is a danger that I will be sharing my toilet behaviour with the square outside.

2. The last time I used the upstairs loo, I didn’t flush. At some point, I am going to have to empty it manually.

3. I haven’t had the bill yet.


Le tout-à-l’égout = mains drainage
La vidange = waste pipe
Completement pourri = completely rotten
Boucheé = blocked (can be used for traffic and noses as well as drains)

Friday, 15 April 2011

What Lies Beneath?

I’m taking a break and writing as I’m working because I want to share whilst it’s all still fresh.

Today was supposed to be a ‘clean’ day. Yesterday, I was so grumpy after trying and failing to plan the layout of the kitchen that I needed some serious therapy. Cue intensive hammer & chisel action on the fireplace.

Lally & brickwork: 1
Old fire-blackened plaster: 0

After 3 bags of rubble, the clean up took me nearly as long as the work so today I swore I’d just make a start on the mouldy wallpaper.

Ha! I certainly made a start on the wallpaper, but then found some wood. And some plaster. And then I grabbed the chisel and started working.

Here’s the thing: The plaster I’m about to tackle looks really old.
It’s lath and plaster with proper horsehair mixed in. Does that mean the wood underneath will stop? Or does the wood pre-date the plaster? Am I about to make a huge mistake?

Only one way to find out…

Thursday, 14 April 2011


Mine doesn’t conform to post office standard apparently, so one of the first things I do is buy and fit a new one. One of the things the Notaire kept repeating was that ANY changes to the outside of the house have to be agreed with the Architecte de Batiments de France, a process that involves applications in triplicate and sometimes pentaplicate. M le Maire, who is also M le Docteur at the surgery next door comes round to introduce himself so I take the opportunity to establish that La Poste ranks higher than the Architecte and my boite a lettres is exempt. Phew. He looks uncannily like my youngest sister’s husband, a man I would definitely trust on matters postale, so I take his kind advice on where to put the new boite.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011



Officially. Unofficially, I’ve had them since I arrived back in France as the vendor’s representatives gave them to me so that I could unload my car, measure up, stand in the middle of the floor with my mouth open looking dazed for hours at a time…

The HHs come round and we celebrate with champagne. As well as having first introduced me to the Little House, they have loaned me a bed. I have a lot to thank them for!

When they have gone and it’s just the Little House and me; I dance for joy and sing in every room, including the Grenier. The acoustics are generally excellent, especially in the front bedroom. I feel the hour is a bit late to take out the trumpet, especially given that Mme M next door has already leaned out of her window as the HHs were leaving. Fortunately they know each other.

Note to self: Try not to upset the neighbours

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

The Build-Up


Ha! There are rules for this one and I broke them all. I recall an evening less than 6 months ago, standing in a garden, smoking with some new canasta-playing chums, Immo amongst them, saying:
Yes, I’d love to live out here, but I’m not rushing into anything. I think I’ll rent for a while, look around, see what area takes my fancy. Put in a few low offers here and there, see what comes back…
Double Ha! Wise words indeed. Do all that, then do what I did and chuck rationale out of the window, fall in love with somewhere and buy it because a tarot card you pick randomly out of a pack says you should.
I think I’ve been lucky. My Little House is in a pretty village with a swimming lake 5 minutes walk from my front door. It’s near a main auto route, easily accessible from several airports, has a railway station, and I got it at a good price. Occult influences notwithstanding, look around, weigh up the pros and cons and don’t pay over the odds.


I’ve always been rubbish at this bit. When I bought my first house, even though I was temping in the property industry, I still laid all my cards on the table and offered what I was prepared to pay. The estate agent obviously came back asking for more and was shocked when I refused and withdrew the offer.
On this house I decided what I could afford to pay, which was significantly under asking price. The Immo was a personal friend so I levelled with her and told her how it had to work for me and how she then structured it was up to her. I didn’t want to muck about putting in stupidly low offers just to do the dance and get to the figure that was my best offer. It worked for me. Do whatever works for you, just remember that the French market is flooded with properties right now. It’s a buyers market. That said, there are some properties that will get snapped up regardless so gosh… I don’t know. Chance your arm. I did.


My mortgage is with Banque Populaire. Things I like about it are:

1. They’ve given me a fixed rate of 4% for the duration of the mortgage. No mucking about, no reverting to standard variable rate, EVER. A decent rate for the duration of the loan. Payments fixed at €250 per month, including insurance. Get in!
2. It’s a mortgage for a ‘maison primaire’ as opposed to a ‘maison secondaire’. If I ever decide to sell, the distinction will save me a shitload of tax. This is quite a coup. Britline, with whom I also applied for a mortgage, were only prepared to lend as a second home purchase. This is because despite intending to have my main home here, I’m self-employed and earn most of my money in the UK.
3. They are also lending me money to renovate. French banks will do this. It’s brilliant! You have to submit a quote for works (a devi) from a registered builder with your mortgage application. When the builder carries out the works, he applies to the bank to be paid so that there’s no danger of frittering away your renovation budget on champagne and naked dancers. The downside is that if you plan to do the work yourself, you have to be a registered, qualified builder as opposed to a talented amateur. Banque Populaire however, have gone the extra mile and have juggled the finance so that my personal contribution of €8000 makes up the bulk of the renovation monies whilst the mortgage pays for the house. This means I can get whomsoever I please to do the work. Bring on the dancing boys!
4. I’ve got a proper bank manager with a face, just like in the olden days in England. Remember the days when human beings in suits made sensible decisions about whether other human beings were responsible enough to be given money to play with that wasn’t theirs? When firm handshake, a winning smile and a daring hemline actually counted for something… instead of the ‘computer says no’ culture that now dominates our UK banking life.

Things to watch out for:

As with all banks, there is a danger that they will try and sell you insurance of all kinds, some of which you need and some you don’t. Fortunately my nice bank manager realised that there was little point in a self-employed person having unemployment insurance. I was pressured into taking out buildings and contents insurance with them but as it came to a grand total of €162 per annum, I rolled with it.

The bank that gives you a mortgage will want you to have a bank account with them. Banking is expensive in France. Your current account can cost you several euros a month and you pay for pretty much everything, including your carte bancaire. Oh, and the French don’t do irresponsible money-management. Not that I have a cavalier attitude to my finances, pas de tout, but it’s worth being extra vigilant as unauthorised over-drawing on your account can lead to you being taunted in French and pelted with rotten tomatoes in the village square. For more details, see this excellent article.

Other options: BRITLINE, mentioned above, are part of Credit Agricole. They are an excellent, efficient organisation with English speaking staff catering to Brits who want to live in France. They cover all aspects of finance in your mother tongue. That makes some people feel more secure. Not me. I never really understood the mysteries of banking so no change there. Britline weren’t offering as good a rate as BP, and they’re based in bloody Normandy! It’s not like in the UK, your bank is the branch you open the account with. Had I gone with Britline, I’d still have had to close my Credit Alcohole bank account in Chateauneuf la Foret up the road, and open one with them. In Normandy. That’s like banking with the Orkney branch of Barclays when you live in Berkshire. I like my local bank for local people. They have a translator for if the going gets too tough but this is France, people! Speak French!

NB I reserve the right to make a U-turn and eat my words at a later date if it all goes tits up.

Didn’t get one. I went a bit native on this one. The attitude seems to be over here that if it’s been standing for several hundred years it’s unlikely to fall down for a while yet. Croise les doigts!

This is the first piece of paper you sign, and is the equivalent of exchanging contracts in the UK. If I change my mind, I lose my 10 % deposit, all €2,400 of it, and if the vendor pulls out, she has to pay me the same sum.
I agreed 2 clauses suspensives with the vendor: the first that the contract was subject to mortgage approval; and the second that the boiler, unused for 7 years, had to be working. This was one of my better ideas: It meant that not only was the boiler checked and tested by a French plumber, but my lovely Immo took responsibility for the admin involved with getting the water and electric switched on, and the first lot of oil delivered. All I had to do was pay for everything…


The Beginning

This is the story of the Little French House.

Last September, after my stint with the circus, I came to the Limousin to get some perspective on a turbulent personal life. Today I am the proud owner of the most amazing little house in the whole of France. Or at least it will be when I have finished renovating. Renovating whilst trying to maintain a flourishing acting career back in England.

I am not French. For this I blame my parents. Had they moved to France when my mother became pregnant, I would be French, and this whole thing would be a lot easier. Some might call it selfishness on their part but I’m not one to bear a grudge. Eh? Maman? Papa??

Furthermore, I have never renovated anything in my life. For this I cannot blame my parents. They did their best. Most of the places we lived in started out as draughty ruins and once they’d attained a basic level of comfort and warmth were sold on, before our expectations got too high. If I’d known what lay ahead, I’d have paid more attention.

So I’m sitting in the Notaire’s office, with a slight sense of being outside my own body, wondering if I have in fact bitten off more than I can chew. The Notaire takes his job very seriously but is also, I suspect, a frustrated actor. He hammers home the salient points with a stern demeanour but is also prone to cracking jokes. My French isn’t good enough to keep up. He doesn’t signal the joke until it’s over by which time he’s laughing his socks off and I’m left to chuckle along nervously, hoping there isn’t a sub-clause in French property law that forbids the sale of pretty village houses to stony-faced bints with a sense-of-humour by-pass. I’d like to tell you that he’s wearing a toupee but that would be a lie. His hair is, however, an alarming shade of brown and his teeth are very scary.

A big thank you to my lovely Immobilier (estate agent) who has made this purchase sail through with minimum stress to me. I don’t feel that I have done anything, but I suppose somewhere along the line I must have, as find myself the proud owner of a gorgeous little house in need of a great deal of TLC. For anyone else contemplating doing what I’ve done, I’ll try to itemise the stages involved but I suspect that it’s a bit like child birth… having come through it I’m in denial about how painful it actually was.

If this doesn’t interest you, please feel free to scroll down to the bit with power tools and pictures of people doing things.