Monthly Archives: November 2009

Il pluit chameaux et chevres

It’s November. It’s still pissing down. Flood warnings. Wind warnings. There’s not been a bright day for what feels like weeks. Misery and torment!

It’s not just the weather that’s pissed on my parade, England-wise; it’s a collection of everything else. Politics, taxes, education, housing, traffic, law…. In short, nothing there’s not a Cabinet position for.

It doesn’t seem long ago that British people were renowned for courtesy and politeness. Now, most people walk around looking at you as if they’d like to do nothing more than spit on you. The traffic is horrendous, and it gets worse, daily. I sit in traffic from 8:50, noticing how people cut out, cut lanes, don’t look. It’s as if cars are protective bubbles in which nothing else matters and utter selfishness is tantamount to good practice. Hence, you don’t stop at a double white-dashed line at a junction, unless the other person (me) on the main carriageway threatens not to slam on and let you in. Then you should let the nose of your car protrude a good foot over the line so as to make your indignation noticed, to make it impossible for any drivers to get past without swerving into oncoming traffic, and thus ensure you get your wish anyway. The white lines are all in the wrong places these days.

And to make it worse, none of the traffic lights seem to be synchronised sensibly. So…. let the flow of traffic stop at lights, to let a minor junction seep three or four cars into the road, then stop everyone at the next set, and so on. I can understand why I get stopped at the KFC junction, to hold us all together, but why, then, as the main ‘flow’ of traffic, do we then end up stopping at Tesco and then the turn-off to Bury? And when I get stopped at the main set on the A666, why, then, do I have to stop again moments after??? Do traffic planners not actually drive or do surveys of where traffic comes from???

So, what with the pulling out, the slow traffic lights, the people who double park, the people who park on double yellows…. the endless pelican crossings and stopping, starting, stopping, starting, the volume of traffic on the roads, the inconsiderate bus drivers who launch out after having stopped for two seconds, the lorry drivers who couldn’t care less about anything smaller than a tank, it pisses me off. Most right royally.

And then I get home to bills – extortionate bills – council tax reminders, gas and electric bills, super-inflated insurance, because nothing’s safe – only to settle down to read a paper, realise we’re being robbed blind by benefit fraud and politicians, that the sentences passed out to criminals are vastly disproportionate to the crime, that the country is plagued by hoodies and mini-terrorists who rule the suburbs, that the banks are frivolous, wasteful, over-paid wide-boys, that the politicians are so out of touch with reality that policy no longer reflects anything useful or relevant, that education is stuck in a rut to improve that it’s been in for at least the last 20 years, that public servants hear the same messages over and over again, and never change…. this is a selfish, selfish country and no mistake.

I don’t think most people are like that. I tend to think that most people are genuine and caring. That they would do as I did when a man had a vet bill for his cat’s euthanasia and pay it for him, that they’d let the knocked-over dog take their place in the queue for the vet, no matter how long it took, that they’d rescue a cat or lend their neighbour a hand. But they don’t. Maybe they’d like to, but they never do. This is the country of the onlooker, where only when it’s too late does someone offer to help. Houses get burgled, cars get stolen, and people watch on. So, if they’re not selfish, they’re petrified.

Yesterday, many hundreds of things pissed me off: the extortionate dentistry costs – £85.00 for a five minute extraction??! – the terrible driving, the double parking, the selfishness of the general populace outside.

People live in a bubble. And I know I’m not the only one to think so. From the supermarket-wanderers who wander aimlessly with trolleys, blocking the aisles with trolleys and aimless, meandering surplus family members, to the people who pull out expecting the world to stop for them, people are blithely unaware of everyone around them. I don’t know how there aren’t more acts of street violence when people just wander so aimlessly and so self-absorbed. Perhaps it’s me. Perhaps I expect too much out of politeness and civil behaviour. All I know is that with the country so heavily overcrowded, it’s ten times worse, and it’s time to break free, as Freddie would say!

So… doom, gloom, selfishness, overcrowding…. can I scrape together the money for the house??!

le compromis, notaires, agences d’immoblier…

Well, as it transpires, things are never that easy.

We’d hoped to buy Chez Blanchard, my father’s ‘spare’ property, and set up a visit at half term to arrange stuff. But, we were pipped to the post. A young couple put in a bid, got it and my father had to sell, despite having mentioned protestations from ‘la belle-mere’ (really, a daughter, desperate to buy)

However, I’m not convinced it’s all bad. The front wall was coming down and the floors were rotten. There were no windows. It was huge. Absolutely huge. The kind of huge that’s horrifying and amazing at the same time. The barn could seriously hold a 1,000 strong rock concert. You could have built three houses inside it and not felt crammed. There were five gargantuan bedrooms and five massive rooms, two other houses…. the barn. Oh my word, the barn. I’ve never seen Steve look awestruck until that moment. Walnut trees, apple and pear trees, in the countryside. Perfect.

But not ours.

It transpires later that there were ways my father could have got out of it, simply by saying he had another buyer who’d made the asking price, and decided to accept that offer. But it wasn’t to be. I’m a fate-believer, so I kind of hope for the best, but Steve looked crushed.

I spent the rest of the week searching for estate agents, spending 20 euros on cheese (really 25, but don’t tell Steve. I did get a free saucisson, but I still think he was horrified. The saucisson made no difference whatsoever….) and being taken about by lovely lovely estate agents.

I did the recce trips, on account of Steve feeling obliged to look after Jake (really being too phobic of the whole process)… saw some marvellous places. Some too expensive (why do estate agents think your upper limit is negotiable??!) some too much work, some with not enough land… I saw one I’d fallen in love with in Brettes, but really the house was too small and it was attached to neighbours… not quite what we wanted!

Then it was off to La Rochefoucauld.

I LOVE La Roche…. the castle is immaculate, totally French Chateau, perching on top of the hill (La Roche, I’m guessing), overlooking the sleepy Tardoire river, teeming with fish, with its converted watermill ice cream shop, row of beautiful boutiques and its delightfully French town feel. It’s a little traffic-busy, needing a by-pass to Limoges, but beautiful nonetheless. Thibaud was a friend-of-a-friend, and he was delightful.

First house: a ruin. Totally ‘a renover’, no barn and no land, really. I’m sure he showed me that to make me think I wanted the next one more….

Second house: an endearing little patch of houses cobbled together, inhabited by an old lady of 86, with her ferocious dog in his ‘chateau’ (cage!) It was beautiful. Stream at the bottom of the garden, trees, back roads, in the middle of the Foret de Braconne. Four bedrooms, five other rooms, two workshops, several stores, a barn and a hangar. And a cabin at the bottom of the garden. Amazing. I wanted it. She keeps chickens, makes soup, called me ‘courageous’…. I loved everything about her. Bless her.

Third house, two minutes from La Roche, but more derelict. More converting. Maybe if Steve would have looked he would have said ‘oui’, but my heart was with the less-renovating, more-refreshing mode of purchase.

And so it was that we came to see the place for us.

Now, it’s crossed fingers and toes to ensure we get it.