Tag Archives: moving house

La neige et la fermeture de l’ecole

School is closed today – les maîtresses can’t get into school. The snow is coming down quite fast now having floated around for a bit looking like it was thick but really just waltzing about. I did an impression of it and Steve laughed. He said it looked like the snow was conducting. It really does. But now… it’s thick and heavy.

Not quite so snowy as it is now...

Molly went mental when she saw it – racing about and getting giddy. She likes to root about in it and race about. She does this kind of figure of eight thing where she races about the garden like a (fat) greyhound. Unfortunately, Caesar’s owners have secured the garden better, so she hasn’t had any visits recently. At least I hope that’s what happened. I’m hoping Caesar hasn’t found a quick way to Doggie Heaven on the D6. Otherwise, were Caesar here, I don’t think we’d get her back in again. She loves the snow. Every time any one of us has stood up, she gets giddy at the chance she might be going outside.

Molly on the rampage with a big stick

Basil has stayed upstairs and doesn’t look like he’s coming down again. Sensible cat.

The chickens look quite bemused and haven’t come out of the woodshed. I wouldn’t either, if I were them.

Basil, surveying his empire

To say Basil has a new lease of life is an understatement. I’m not sure how exactly he got up into the barn, unless he used the ladders??! One minute, he was racing through the garden; the next, he was up on the top storey of the barn, looking down on us. I’ve not seen him so full of energy for years. It’s sad that his little friend Tasha, my mum’s cat, died recently. I think she was younger than he was, but it really reminded me how old he is. I’m glad he’s still got the energy to rampage and catch shrews and mice. He still gets bored on wet days, though!

At the moment, I’m contemplating cancelling tonight’s tuition – it’s over in Anaïs, and the road is extremely treacherous. It’d be probably easier to cycle. Mind you, it’s so thin it could conceivably have disappeared by this evening. I’m really just wanting to curl up with Far from the Madding Crowd, which I’m re-reading. I’m having a one-woman Hardy-fest. I do think Hardy is a writer for older people. I did Return of the Native at Uni, and I’ve read Jude the Obscure and a misguided student teacher made me endure The Mayor of Casterbridge. I don’t think it’s a good idea to launch this on teens. I think it’s the kind of text you get when you get a little older. Not a young person’s classic, by any means. Although, on such a day, I’m thinking of digging out Anne Radcliffe’s uber-fantastic The Mysteries of Udolpho. It’s high season for a little mystery, suspense and haunting gothic.

Before that, however, we’ve got a lot of decorating to do. We went to Brico-depot last night to pick up stuff to decorate the front room with. When we arrived, Madame had a fetching dirty green wallpaper embellished with wheat or bamboo or something – and the bottom half of the room was bedecked in green felt. Yes. Felt on the walls. We also had a door going upstairs that is entirely decorated likewise. I don’t think wallpapering doors is an English trend, and that makes it all a little more amusing. Loving the wallpapered ‘hidden’ doors. The ceiling (which could very well have exposed poutres – beams – underneath) is covered with wooden panels, which need painting. We also have a rather lovely fluorescent light bulb – the kind you get in functional kitchens (in fact, there is one in our very functional kitchen) and lovely exposed wires. So, the front room needs a makeover, because apart from the lovely fire and the furniture we’ve put in, needs a complete overhaul. Luckily, it’s structurally sound, so it’s just a case of stripping and repapering, and painting the ceiling. It’ll look a million times less gloomy and dark. The windows need painting, as do the external shutters, but then at least I’ll be able to make some curtains and make it look a little less like it was destroyed in the Blitz and never rebuilt.

Into the final stages…

I had a question from a friend on Facebook about the pet passports, and I have to say she was horrified by the expense. If I were of a less sentimental nature, I’d go with the ‘drown them…’ approach! Although it’s not a concern if you’re just taking pets out and staying out in France, it’s a dear do if you want to bring them back.

First, your dearest animal needs to be chipped. For the Molly, this is a good thing. She likes to escape from time to time and take herself for a walk. But she’s not particularly bright and forgets to come home. For the Basil, this is a bad thing. It’s hard to be incognito and ‘ownerless’ if you have a chip. In true net-geek speak, he is pwned good and proper. I own him. It says so in his passport. He has an address. He’s no longer the cat equivalent of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher. He has a home and family. The chip can be anywhere from £10 upwards.

Then, your dear animal needs to have a rabies vaccination. This isn’t that dear compared to the blood test. Our jab cost about £35 if I recall rightly. There’s some info out there on the net that says they need a booster 2 weeks later. Not as far as I know. The booster for our animals will be in three years time. I guess the second shot is just to check it’s worked… but given the expense of the initial shot, a second one seems a bit of a waste of £35 unless you really need it!

Then, 2 weeks after, you need a blood test to see if it’s worked. I guess, otherwise, you have a rabid pet?! This was the dear do… cost £70 each blood test. You can only get back into England 6 months after a clear rabies test, and they can be pretty funny about whether that’s 6 calendar months or some other calculation they’ve worked out. I’d play it safe and ensure it’s done 7 months before you’ll be bringing your pet back. You don’t want the poor little fella sitting in quarantine for a week just because some narky official has decided that it should be 6 months of 31 days or something bizarre.

Dogs also need to have their usual annual booster shots too (ours are £28. I don’t know if that’s dear or cheap, but I love our vet and I’d pay him twice as much as anyone else!)

Then, the passport itself is £40.

So… from start to finish, you’re looking at about £150 minimum. Per pet.

If you take them out to France on Eurotunnel, you don’t pay for the animal. The lovely Eurotunnel lady said we only had to keep the pets comfortable and happy – it’s their only requirement on the way out.

It’s on the way back in where it starts to get stringent! Then you need all sorts of treatments to get back in, in order to ensure there are no parasites, blood-suckers, pests and so on. I wonder why they let Mariah Carey’s entourage in with her? Maybe she should be de-loused before arrival? This goes for any number of foreign (American!) singers/actors with an accompanying cast of thousands, needless to say.

I must say, I like the little passports. They are lovely. I’m going to put pictures of Basil and Molly in the front of them (There’s a space – it’d be rude not to!) and then they are as good as people.

Given that their passport is more expensive than ours and that the most I ever paid for a jab was £33 for my yellow fever jab (LJ – Yellow Fever free since 2003) they are actually better than people. Or, more expensive anyway. Thank God Jake’s jabs are free, or else we’d be leaving him at home.

I jest. His passport is also up for renewal. This is a good thing. His previous passport picture, taken aged 5, makes him look a little …. hmmm…. simple. He’s staring at the camera with his mouth open and his dad has unfortunately given him a very nasty bowl haircut. Unfortunate. Steve looks like a criminal in his. I had a Mona Lisa smile in mine until it was renewed this year (and I have huge hair on this one, and a double chin!) so…. I need to make Molly and Basil look suitably ‘prison line-up’ ish.

To the left
To the right
and to the front

I did enter this picture on my Icanhascheezburger page. My favourite caption for it was:

“You is dismissed. I has finished with you. I has bizness to attend to.”

La justice reparatrice

Funny how ‘restorative’ in French (fortifiant or remontant) means giving back vigour or health: a tonic. I was going to say ‘le rétablissement judiciare’ – re-establishment of justice, but reparative justice seems to be the phrase du jour. I hope the justice I get this afternoon does restore me! I need a little bit of a tonic.

I think I hit the wall yesterday. This is a marathon runner’s term for when you are at about 19 – 21 miles in, and your mile takes you twice as long as your usual mile. You feel like you can’t go on. You want to stop. The end feels as far away as the beginning, and you can’t see the point. You question why you’re doing it. Every part of you aches and you tell yourself you’re punishing yourself needlessly, that you could have a more simple life. It hurts, physically and mentally.

My problem was I hit the wall on lots of things yesterday. I hit it with my marking: 270 scripts in out of 500 – it’s a little early, but it’s all downhill from 400 onwards. I hit the wall with the whole ‘France thing’ wondering what the point was and how we’re going to get through. We’re so unbelievably poor right now it’s untrue. It seems ages off to my marking payment. I didn’t even really have a fiver to lend Jasmin. I’m filling us up on cheap starch and crying inside every time Jake drinks a glass of milk since it’s costing us more than squash (growing boys, LJ, growing boys…) and worrying I’m stunting his growth by cutting back on meat for him. Steve’s had it up to the eyeballs with pasta and rice, though potato salad seems to restore him to his former self. I wonder how long that will last??

I hit the wall with how long I’ve got left, what I’m going to do with the house, how we’re going to get everything over to France, how we’ll cope… I feel like I’m holding all of us up and it could all come falling down at any minute. I just want it to stop for a bit and give me a break. Honestly, it’ll be easier with Steve in France. I won’t have to worry about him there. I can manage to feed Jake and live off spaghetti and tomatoes myself. That’s fine with me. I can’t do that to another human being, especially when it’s Steve. I can’t stop worrying about all the expense of living over there and keeping this house running here, because this house just isn’t selling.

I feel like punching my prospective buyers. If I had any morals, I’d tell them to get out, but I’m so desperate for an offer, I smile politely. They offer silly figures and hope I’ll accept. They never raise their price and I can’t afford to drop my asking price (and, neither should I! The last time a house sold around here for what they offer was back in 2002. Things just aren’t that bad!!)

So… the wall. I lay awake in bed thinking about it, stewing over things, worrying. I owe money left, right and centre. I’ve got my mortgage payment to make on Friday. I’ve got debt upon debt at the moment. I can’t see a way out. I know it’s there… when we’re in France, things WILL be easier. I can start looking for work. I can start advertising. It’ll be a tough winter, I know… we’ve not grown half the things we will need for the winter. But… I hope we can still manage.

So… how do I break through ‘the wall’? Just the same way I did in the marathon. Gritted teeth. Determination. A one-foot-in-front-of-the-other, one-movement-at-a-time approach. Focus on the end-goal. And the eye of the tiger…

I used to have my tracks set out for my marathon. I know, about 2:45 hours in, I’m going to need a bit of a boost, musically. This gives me a real ‘dig-in’ mentality. Is there anything better??!

As soon as I hear that gritty beat, slow but steady… I dig in, grit my teeth, suck it up, stop being mard and go for glory!

And then, it’s all downhill. My final song, round about 3:25 is this one…

Cheesy ice-hockey song. Still, it really picks up your feet that last half-mile. Sometimes, my mind is running so fast to this song, my poor old legs couldn’t handle it! I’d almost fall over. It was like putting rocket fuel in a robin reliant at that point.

Actually, thinking about it, the England team could have done with this before their match yesterday. Dismal performance. Dismal. So much, by the way, for my bet that England would face France. No chance!!

Anyway, because I love Jensen Ackles, because he is the most handsome man on the planet, and because I love the man laughing in the background, here’s Dean from Supernatural doing his take on The Eye of the Tiger:

I shall grit my teeth, dig in, suck it up and get tough for these last few days. Duh…. duh duh duh…. duh duh duh… duh duh duhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh duh…. ad infinitum

Bisous, Sky TV, a bientot!

I like to rant, but I’d like to stop and have a little ‘big up of the day’ to SKY TV.

I like they have a Scottish call centre. It’s impossible not to like Scottish people and at least they have a laugh with you. They’ve always provided a good service, never cold called me to prompt me to upgrade and they’re just brilliant. I wish there was a Sky in France : (

The lady in the ‘cancellations’ department was great. She said ‘don’t ever come back!’ and told me a story about her dad living in France and getting his wine from the market in a big vat for three euros – and the best wine she’d ever had. Most people when you cancel seem to think they should persuade you not to… not Sky. I promise, when and if I return, I shall have Sky.

I like Vodafone too. They’re always good to me.

Design ideas for the buanderie #1

We have a little laundry kind of room which joins the main house to the bathroom. It’s big enough for a couple of chairs and a small table, but it’s decidedly shabby looking. It firstly needs a good paint. Half of it is breeze-block, so plastering and a bit of white paint will be great. It’s also home to the boiler. I think a new door would be in order from the veranda, but other than that, it’s structurally sound, if a little battered. It could do with some new glass, I guess, too. Plus, I can’t remember what the flooring is. It’s not wood, I know that much!

I’d like it to be a warm, dry place for when you come out of the bath. I think I want it filled with tropical plants, possibly a tangerine tree or something to cover up the boiler!

La buanderie

Looking at it, maybe you don’t have the same visions I do! The ceiling plastic panels need replacing with something more substantial. It definitely needs a coat of paint or two, but I think it’s workable and quite liveable. One of my dad’s neighbours made some derogatory joke about ‘French-habitable’, which it will be, but I won’t care. It’s habitable. No, it’s not a beautiful conservatory design with stone walls and floor, but it does the job!

The door

The best thing is that it’s south-facing and it’s a sun-trap. When I saw it in October, it was roasting warm. I think Mr. Basil will love it in there, in a comfortable basket chair, away from the dog, roasting in the sun.

I’m going to continue the pink/green theme from the dining room into here. Partly because the dining room looks out onto the buanderie and partly because pink is such a great colour with green if you’re going for the tropical look. White walls, maybe some blinds and swags in coordinating fabric and then a couple of bits of furniture. New shelves, lots of plants, and it will be a veritable hothouse.

I’m going for the kind of look here:


It’ll notch the mint green of the dining room up a little, brighten the pink up, and look AMAZING with cheap white furniture.

It’s just me and the boy (and the dog)

So… Steve’s time is nearly up. I’m jealous. Our conversations have been a little perfuctory of late, mainly because I am doing my usual thing of trying to find out as much information as possible and Steve is doing his usual thing of giving away as little as possible.

“Hello Lillian. What do you want now?”

Lillian is his pet name for me. I’m not sure why.

“I’ve lost the dog.”

Yesterday, Molly decided she did not like the distinct lack of entertainment since her erstwhile friend Monty has been hemmed in next door. He used to be able to jump over the fence, they’d hare about the garden a bit and then roll about panting. Sometimes, whilst the dog sleeps next to me on the couch (blame Steve. I never had a couch for a dog. Couches are for cats!) Monty would come bounding in and off they’d go, racing about. Not so anymore. Monty is now behind 6 foot waneylap and they have to resort, like Pyramus and Thisbe to kissing through the chink of a wall. Well, okay then, a B&Q fence. Anyway, Monty, a.k.a. Houdini must have given the Mollster the wanderlust bug, because she’d run off by breakfast.

I was frantic. I drove about her usual haunts (she’s escaped twice before, and she’s always ended up in the new estate ferreting about.) She was nowhere to be seen. I raced back, trying to get the boy ready.

“Come on, Jake. Moll’s escaped. Can you get ready for school? What do you want for breakfast?”

“Crumpets.” Hmmm. Concerned then!

So I set about making the crumpets, burnt them, made some more, doused them with chocolate spread to hide the second lot of burns, raced upstairs and dumped them on his table. Breakfast in bed. Alright for some.

He grunted.

I went on looking for the dog, doing another three circuits in the car. No sign of her.

When I got home, Jake was standing at the top of the stairs in his Nike trackies. Hmmm. Not happy. We’ve had this argument for a week, since Miss let him wear them after PE. Apparently, it’s okay now. It’s not okay with me.

“Can you put your school pants on?!”

“Miss doesn’t mind.”

“Well, I mind. When we get to France, fine. Non-uniform is fine. Not here. Rules is rules.”

And then the sulks come.

“But Miss says it’s alright.”

Well, fine then. No arguing with that. Except I’m way more crafty than the boy. I have 37 years of experience of craftiness.

“Well, we can go by the head’s office and check.”


“What? Will he mind?”

“No, but…”

“So let’s go then.”

Dog still missing, burnt crumpets on the side, boy in a sulk. I’ve had no caffeine and no nicotine. It’s too early for all of this shit.

Boy deposited via headteacher’s office who reminds the boy that it is not okay to wear Nike trackies (like it is anyway?? He is mini-chav in the making!) in school and grumpy boy stomps off to class. 0-1 to me.

I go home, hoping Moll has returned. No such luck. I know I need to do something, so I call the dog warden and notify them. They don’t seem to care much about finding them as making sure they don’t do anything wicked, like chase cars, fight or violate old ladies. Probation for dogs. Then I have to call Steve. I don’t know why I do, except I don’t want him later to say I should have called him. He’s more bothered that someone might have stolen her. He knows I’ve covered all the ground he would have done.

I drive up to the quarry, thinking this is Moll’s favourite haunt. She’s not there. It’s a bit of a way and I think there are far too many distractions along the way. So I start with the side roads and work my way back.

Just as I’ve decided to give up the ghost and come home, there she is, standing nose to the wind on a piece of waste ground. Brazen as you like, like she’s on the chase for a lion. I pull over as soon as I can and go after her, shouting like a maniac. No sign of her. Shit.

Just as I think I’ve made a mistake and it wasn’t her at all, out bounds this filthy, smelly creature holding half a tree in her mouth, dragging it for all its worth. She bounces over to me, leaps all over me, tears half my skin off my arms, dirties my top and runs riot. 0-2 to me. Take that, Universe!

She’s still so giddy I can’t possibly take her home, so I finish the walk off trying to make her wash off in the quarry lodge. She’ll still need a bath. Poor dog didn’t know what she was in for.

I phone Steve.

“Lil, any news?”

“I’ve found the dog. She was halfway to the quarry, pleased as punch with herself.”

He muttered something about belts for lawnmowers and I said I’d call him back later.

3 hours later, one clean dog, one exhausted me.

Jake is still sulking out of school. He continues to sulk all evening and when he said he was going to his friend’s for tea, I was kind of glad. To be honest, he’s been an absolute star whilst Steve’s been away, and it’s the longest they’ve been apart since the Boy was born. There’s been a few sleepovers, a few nights where he’s gone to sleep down here on the couch in an odd parody of me and Steve, and a couple of nights where he’s asked me to read to him in his room, but other than that, he’s been an angel. Monsieur Sulk had gone with Steve, I thought.

But no, because here he was, larger than life, when he came back at 9 and asked if he could play out. So far, he’s never been out later than half eight on a weekend night, let alone a school night.

“No.” Harsh, me.

“Why?” I hate it when he does the ‘why’ whinge.

“Because it’s late. It’s dark. You’ve got school in the morning.”

And then he does his teenage ‘urgh’ groan and throws himself through the door way, into the kitchen, searching for God knows what.

“Lillian, what do you want now?”

“The boy says he won’t listen to me.”

“What have you done?”

“Sent him to his room.”

“Do you want me to speak to him?”

“Yes.” Because this is very much what I want. I want the boy to go back to being happy Jake and not sulky Jake. So Steve speaks to him. It doesn’t make any difference, but it calms me down. When we talk about it, though, it’s clear that Steve thinks I’m as much to blame. Grrr. Not a good line to take right now. So I leave it.

“How’s my carrots?”


“And the potatoes?”

“Doing good.”

“Good good.”

“Aren’t you going to ask me about the others?”

It’s a standing joke that for the last two weeks I have been asking him if my melons have grown, no pun intended. I daren’t ask. They haven’t grown at all.


“What about your melons?”

“What about them?”

“They’re growing!”

Hurrah! 0-3 to me and the day ends well.

Tha’ll be maunderin’ an’ maulin’ ’bout

I’ve got a couple of the bits and pieces coming through now to sort stuff out – namely, the motorbike and Jake’s school. I’d sent letters (it’s much easier to write in French than it is to come up with the right words when talking. I might pretend I’m mute) to the CCM importers in France, and to the Mairie, expecting bureaucracy, but not getting any. Harry, the guy from CCM Europa, doesn’t even work with CCM any more, but still faxed on my letter back to (ironiquement!) Bolton where they’re made, to ask for the Certificat de Conformité… moments later, I had an email from both; Harry said my French was very good – of which I was proud! – and Rachel from CCM asked if I could tell her in English what I wanted. If anyone tells me about French bureaucracy, I shall shoot them, especially in light of what happened later…

I also sent a letter asking what we had to do to get Jake into school – I’ve received the appropriate forms this morning, and had a little worry that his feeble ‘short’ birth certificate wouldn’t be enough. It was back within 7 days, all sorted, all clear, as well as the details we need to get him into school.

Not so Bolton Council, who umm and ahhh about everything, don’t send you stuff, lie about what they have sent, send you the wrong stuff, shout at immigrants and old people and entitled people and anyone who’ll stop a moment. They have bizarre protocol for some things, and then none for other, more important things. Then we had Aviva, continuing to charge Steve for a van he’s not had since October 2008 – and (in my very quiet opinion) his own fault for not checking his bank statements, but they’d also been charging him breakdown cover on a car he’s not owned for over a year, and not really bothered, as long as the money comes to them.

I duly went out in search of a form Aviva said we needed to send to the DVLA. The DVLA agreed: the V888 was the form in question (nicely titled, to avoid confusion with other V documents!) and you could get it from any post office that sells car tax. Not so, it transpires. I went to Deane Road post office (yes, I’m naming and shaming you, because you’ve been rude to me twice, and the women at St Helen’s Road Spar post office and the lovely Asian man in Daubhill post office are much nicer than you!) and was met by this:

Me: I need a V888 form.

BW: we don’t have any

Me: but the DVLA said you do

BW: but we don’t

Me: what is a V888 form? Do you even know?

BW: I know we don’t have any.

Me: well, could you at least look??

BW: but we don’t have any

Me: but the DVLA said you are supposed to

BW: Well, we don’t.

Me: Do you know where I can get one from?

BW: maybe from Bolton Central post office.

Me: Bah. I curse you and your offspring, you bureaucratic weasel of the highest order. May the stamps you lick give you tongue cancer and may your tongue grow sores and cankers and fall out, thus rendering you speechless, which, surely to God is better than now.

* BW = bureaucratic Weasel. It’s a name I give to jobsworths who rely on paperwork to get out of stuff. Mainly, they use the Data Protection Act as their main shield from doing work, but there are others.

So…. to anyone who tries to tell me that French bureaucracy is bad, I shall point them in the direction of Deane Road post office and tell them to go in there. What a waste of oxygen that woman was.

Things I shan’t miss:

21. Bureaucratic weasels and the rudeness from them.

22. Unhelpfulness (though I’m sure that exists everywhere in the world!)

23. The drivers that block the roads when there’s a lot of traffic

24. Drivers who pull out into the road when there’s traffic and make everyone brake. Has the point of the single white solid line or the double dashed white line been forgotten????! It means STOP if it’s the former or GIVE WAY if it’s the latter. Why isn’t this common knowledge any more? Has someone shifted the meaning to be that people on the main road should stop or give way???!

25. Overcrowded supermarkets

26. People who stop in doorways. Likewise, I know they will exist in France, but population density dictates these will be fewer and further between. I would, at this point, like to tell a little tale about a fight Steve and I witnessed in a car park in E Leclerc in La Rochefoucauld…. the man had obviously nicked her spot – which was ridiculous because there were about 200 spaces and only 20 cars… so she had got out of her car, where it was, where she had stopped in a moment of righteous indignation, and she was following him into the supermarket, barracking him and threatening to take his hat. It was hilarious. I think this should happen more often in England, let alone in France.

27. Those huge headphones. Anti-iPod headphones. As big as satellite dishes. What’s the point? You aren’t djing in the middle of the day, and the sound quality of an mp3 is pants anyway, compared with ‘older’ technology. You look like a knob if you’re wearing them.

Thar’s all moither’d

Still on the countdown… buying packs of vegetable seeds like mad and contemplating how many different strains of carrots to grow, in amongst countless viewings and worryings and so on. I’ve been compiling a list of things to be sure we can buy in France, food-wise, that make up part of our weekly diet… judge not!

  • cornflour…. custard, thickening, gravy
  • suet… dumplings, suet puddings and suet crust
  • olive oil – simply because last time we were in Geant, it didn’t seem to have any! Can’t believe it would be a rare commodity, but there you go
  • corned beef – you can’t beat a tin of corned beef in the cupboard as a classic favourite to make a mighty meal with – much like last night, when I’d mislaid my shopping (it happens!) and we had corned beef hash with a suet crust!
  • curry spices
  • mushroom sauce
  • worcestershire sauce
  • toasted sesame oil
  • ginger
  • baked beans

I’m sure there’ll be more, but this is about it. As long as I’ve got something as a substitute, I’ll be okay. I know we go through pints of double cream, so it’ll be creme fraiche from now on, and I know we’ll have to make the switch to French cheeses, which is fine, although you can’t beat the versatility of cheddar or double gloucester, or the lovely acidity of lancashire or cheshire or caerphilly. I’m sure I can manage with good old Port Salut for melting on stuff, and I’m looking forwards to a proper tartiflette with a reblochon cheese, rather than mozzarella and cheddar. I’m not sure I mind going completely native, but it is good to have a suet crust from time to time, or a bit of custard. I am, however, looking forwards to the rewards of fresh eggs on tap – home made mayo, ice-cream, meringues, pavlova, forgotten pudding, yummy baked cheesecakes, boiled eggs for breakfast and proper egg pasta, and eggy bread, and bread and butter pudding…. I was reckoning I spent about £250.00 a year on good organic free range eggs – I might have given up my vegetarian ways, but I can’t quite bring myself to buy something made in a cage by a poor life-less animal, unless I can absolutely help it. I don’t even buy things with eggs in these days, for much the same reason. I’m planning on turning Steve meat-free, over the long run. I reckon with our own eggs, plenty of fresh fish and lots of vegetables and cheese and bread, that’ll happen fairly easily.

What I love is how often he tells the Molly-dog ‘you’ll love it in France’, which is sweet, if un-needed. I know animals understand a lot of what we say, but I’m not sure she yet understands she’s moving from England to France. I think what he’s really doing is getting himself excited. I hope so. He’s not a gig-dancer like I am, so it can be very hard to the untrained eye to see if he’s actually giddy.

There’s a lot I shan’t miss… the media frenzy and deliberate misinterpretation of facts, the ‘sleb’ focus we have in this country. I don’t care what Jordan/Katie Price/Kerry Katona et al are up to, but someone must. They keep buying magazines with their faces on them, tuning in to programmes about them. I shan’t miss that at all. I also shan’t miss the way the press make demons of people, or angels, when we’re all somewhere in between. It’s shallow and fickle and cruel. Headlines won’t affect us so much, I hope. I’m sick of the way the world has become managed globally, although I appreciate that someone somewhere has the foresight to see a big picture on our behalf, and I’m hoping I won’t feel as enmeshed in politics as I do here, and that the media frenzy which turned a slump into a credit-crunch and a recession, in my opinion, is in some way responsible for the panic that ensued.

Neither shall I miss the foul-mouthed, nasty, small-minded underclass we’ve got in this country, the kind that litter the Jeremy Kyle show. I wish, I really, truly wish, that Jeremy Kyle had no guests and they were actors, but you can tell that they aren’t. They’re symptomatic of the foul society that Britain rests on, its weakest link, the Karen Matthews’ of the world, who pop out children and fill up the welfare system and drain resources, and there’s times when I wish the government, the police and social workers would say ‘you’re a foul individual! Stop being such a fuck-up and sort yourselves out. You’ve got no-one to blame for this but yourself. Now step up to the mark and start contributing to society instead of sucking it dry’ Petty-minded, over-fertile, badly-nourished alcoholics and drug addicts and dependants who haven’t got the slightest concern about any other living being, and feel like the world owes them a living. The worst thing is, there seem to be more and more of these as time passes. I don’t know whether it’s the distorted view I get from the press or the fact that I run into these oxygen thieves on a daily basis, but I’m sick and tired of the fact that nothing is ever done about them, although we all seem to despise them, and no-one would own up to being one. Where have all the nice people gone??!

And now you get a small sense of what it is that’s driving me to abandon this country and have a go somewhere else. I’m tired of everyone running each other down with words, terrorising each other, abusing each other and thinking it’s harmless. It’s okay to scream at your children instead of loving them, blaming a seven year old for being ‘bad’ instead of thinking it’s anything to do with yourself. I hate the way there’s no-one left to intervene and neither the police nor social workers are even allowed to say ‘this isn’t okay’, and it’s left to Jeremy Kyle to say ‘it’s not okay for you to behave like this’. Heaven forbid anyone should cast blame on a parent for not bringing a child up effectively. I hate that. Maybe if we did say ‘it IS your fault your three-year-old is naughty’ instead of accepting excuses, then things might be a little better. Too few people take responsibility for their own weaknesses, yet find much to criticise in others. I hate that.

So… I’m hoping the nun-like solitude and the occasional copy of Charente Libre will keep me up to date, and revive my faith that the world is a lovely place after all.

Eee, put th’kekkle on, I’m just back from th’ospikul

My snowy driveway

Day 46 and counting…. Steve’s got the packing bug, now, and there are boxes everywhere. I’m still no nearer to finding a buyer, and despair of ever finding one, on account of I think people these days are trapped in a game of ‘real-life-through-the-keyhole’ and have a good game of a Sunday afternoon by going round other people’s houses, seeing what they can glean about their personality and trying to work out ‘who lives in a house like this?’. I half expect Loyd Grossman to walk in before them and comment on my artwork.

I personally didn’t have the time for this when I went looking in France. I met up with a couple of lovely estate agents, including the wonderful Thibaud, looked at 7 houses which were 90% like I’d asked for. I had a clear view of what we wanted, such as land size, bedrooms, outbuildings, state of repair and budget (most important!) and I told the estate agents, both of whom found me things that mostly looked like what I wanted. I didn’t care about where, as long as it was a small village in some space, and had some connections to amenities, and whilst every one of the seven houses was lovely, and I could see myself in any of them, at the same time, none were perfect. One felt right, and that’s the one we’re lucky enough to be buying. Hopefully!

But this breed of British real-life-through-the-keyhole-contestant/tyre kicker don’t even seem to want to buy an actual house. Some want a look. Three of my neighbours had no intention of moving, they just wanted a nosey. Loads more seemed to think that a modern-three-bed-semi-detached should actually be a mansion with three en-suites, a utility room, a conservatory and several drawing rooms/morning rooms and that just over 6 figures is too much for the aforementioned mansion they want. Even in France (even!) you’d get a mansion, but it’d be a ruin needing £200,000 worth of work. With the average UK house price at quarter of a million (yes, people, quarter of a million!) I feel like kicking the viewers in the head several times before beating them repeatedly with several thousand estate agents’ reports.

The family that came yesterday were a fairly typical example. The man knocked on the door, and then everyone decided to get out of the car (mum, kids, grandparents) whilst I’m standing there with a fixed smile on my face as all the heat blows out of my door into the wilds of Bolton’s mid-February air. After five minutes of door-opened, freezing, fixed smiling, the family are all in. All of us in my small front room. I say ‘What are you looking for, exactly’ in the hopes of getting a better picture so I can aim my pitch more accurately, and the woman says ‘just a look around’. I laugh, and explain, thinking she’s got the wrong end of the stick, but in the end, I’m the idiot, because that’s all they did want, not a house at all.

After that, we all cram into my small dining room. They won’t go outside, even though I suggest they should, so they can get an idea of how quiet the neighbourhood is and how secluded it is, and peer at it through the window. She asks a dumb question about why I’ve put double glazing in, and replaced the old, so I explain patiently. One previous visitor got obsessed by the water rates… bizarre. Think he was planning on running a water-bottling business from home. Then we all traipse upstairs. This is where the rudeness really kicks up a notch. Not one, not two, but ten of the viewers have felt it necessary to open my wardrobes and cupboards in my bedroom. When did this become de rigeur??! Whilst they’re all lovely and ordered, it’s still a bit much, especially if you’re only on a lookie-loo. And then they can’t be bothered to go into the bathrooms, bedrooms etc. It’s soooooo rude. They basically want to march in, root around and then vacate. I feel like I’m in a surreal version of The Life of Brian, where the Roman soldiers all march in, root a bit and then all march out again. Next time, I’m going to gauge them from the window, and if I don’t like the look of them, I’m going to shout obscenities from the bedroom window, until they go away. Or I might rig up the door handle so that it gives them an electric shock. I would love to know exactly what proportion of them go on to buy an actual house. Maybe they get tea and cake in some, and it’s a bit like those people who go to wakes just to get fed. I can’t think of a single real reason why anyone would want to spend their time looking round anyone else’s house, especially if the owner is there. You feel uncomfortable and a bit awkward, especially if you don’t like it, and you feel (well, I do!) like you should make soothing noises about how lovely it is, risking them getting excited about a future offer, so you don’t come across as rude. But not these vultures. They don’t care how rude they are, not one bit.

The worst thing is that it is starting to make me rude. I just feel like saying ‘what is this? a fucking freebie freak-show?’ I know families used to go to mental institutions in centuries gone by, to pass the time after church. Zoos have become a bit too saintly and ecological, without the chained animals and the rocking polar bears, Jeremy Kyle isn’t on, and I’m sure they just want a good gawp at someone losing their sanity.

Not only that, even if one of these bemoiled rudesbies actually made an offer, I’d feel inclined to reject it simply because I like my neighbours and I wouldn’t want to leave behind terror in my wake. I’d feel cruel.

Not that it will come to that. The woman (and family) yesterday were quite put out that the house had stairs. How very dare it. Stairs, indeed, in a house! Turned out it was for her elderly parents, and really they need a bungalow or flat, or assisted living, but I think the daughter thought it would be nice for them to spend the day getting cross at house owners for having stairs, which, according to many of my viewers, are in the wrong place. Or they’re too big, or they’re in a funny place. I’m guessing this is in that they go from downstairs to upstairs. How bizarre! Not only that, but my house is too small. I’m not sure, dearest Bastard Thieves woman, how I’m supposed to do anything about that, but thanks for the feedback anyway. That was a waste of two minutes of my life, and an added stress.

Whilst I write, the family I’m waiting for haven’t turned up. How rude! At least it saves me from swearing at them through the letterbox and saying ‘no tyre-kickers today, thank you!’

At least no-one told me it would be easy!!

France, nous arrivons!

We’ve finally got our timetable together. Steve has quit his job. 10 years working for the council – it’s a bit like that Deacon Blue song, except not quite so negative. He gets to hand in his resignation today, and I think it feels like a ‘get out of jail free’ card – the end is nigh. I felt the same when I handed in my last resignation, with nowhere to go, no prospects, no hope, no planned future. It was a little weird. Of course, mine wasn’t in the same circumstances, but it felt liberating all the same, if completely and utterly terrifying!

I’d made a very beautiful, colour-coded timetable/calendar on Word, documenting our every move. I’ve started booking tickets, so I’ve hyperlinked all the reference documents in, put down key dates, started adding times and so on. It’s an OCD nightmare/heaven. Only Steve’s decided it works better in Excel, and has spent the last two nights working through it, counting up his days ‘en France’ until we’re over there permanently, all together, on the 18th August. He’s got 43 days down, 20 or so, ‘seul’. I don’t know what he’ll do with himself. I’ve suggested he takes his night fishing equipment, since he won’t have me, the dog or the boy to ‘entertain’ him of an evening, but I somehow suspect he’ll get lots of pleasure out of it. It’s a good thing, too, so he can get to know the area. I’ve been lots of times, know it more than he does, and to some extent, since I’m the one who’s seen it properly, it’s ‘my’ house – so I think it will give him ownership of it. I’m kind of hoping he eases into ‘bar’ life, going for ‘un cafe’ and meeting with the sage old men of the area, but I doubt it. I’m not entirely sure the bar, ‘Celtix’, actually opens. I’ve never seen it open, let alone seen people in it. I’m not sure where the local congregation meet, watering-hole-wise. I was looking on the town hall website yesterday, and it says, as of 2004, there were 499 people in the commune. That’s so lovely. Imagine having 499 people to be responsible for. Every single school I’ve worked in has been bigger than that, by far. It’s like the first year and second year of most schools. That’s bizarre. I can imagine knowing who lives everywhere. I plan on becoming the village Mary Poppins, bringing light and love and laughter whereever I go, making teacakes in the afternoon for anyone dropping in, taking cassoulet round to the elderly/infirm in bad weather, sorting out problems. I know it won’t be like that, but I can dream.

I packed all my lovely floaty skirts yesterday. They’re the kind that look good with wellies, in a ‘country chic’ type of way. I see myself, a hue of yellows and oranges, floating from house to house like some kind of social butterfly. I know I won’t speak to anyone for weeks, really, and I’ll be living in jeans. But, like I said, I can dream.

Steve’s pretty much looking forward to the fact that no-one will visit and he’ll be all on his own, allowed to do as he pleases. I think his day will pretty much go like this:

8:00 get a pot of coffee on. Take the dog for a walk.

9:00 drink coffee, go to grange to do some general woodwork/metalwork

11:00 eat a couple of croissants and have some more coffee

12:00 do some light gardening

13:00 eat a hearty broth and some home-made bread

14:00 nap

16:00 pick the boy up from school

16:30 take the dog out again for a walk/do some light fishing/wandering/cycling

18:00 eat a hearty ‘plot-to-plate’ supper, light the fire, snooze with the dog (whilst watching Cop Wars, Road Wars etc)

23:00 to bed.

We’re 38 and he’s heading for retirement behaviour!

I’m having a panic about work. Like work in England, it is littered with acronyms like URSSAF and CAF and RMI and weird concepts like being an author means being in a different tax bracket than a tutor/commercial writer, and trying to get to the bottom of how much tax to pay, and to whom, since some of my income will still be British income, and all kinds of unknowns like chambres of commerce and CIPAV and so on. It’s all vaguely reminiscent of England, but in complex ways. I’m hoping I find as good an accountant out there as I have over here. I love my accountant. He makes me happy in that he just takes over, sorts it out and usually finds me some kind of rebate at the end of it all. I know it’s all above board and sharp and so on, with him doing it. I need the same in France!

Sometimes, I think my French is good, and then I resort to ‘what???!’ when I realise how complicated it all looks and when I think of the ways those rude women in the council offices speak to less competant English speakers in England, how they speak slow and louder and louder, getting more and more irate, simply repeating the same thing over and over. Will the same happen to me??! I hope not! I’ll be standing in the chambre of commerce, desperately trying to start up a semblance of a business, and they’ll be yelling at me in complex bureaucratic language, and I’ll probably just cry and remember the north with a sadness.

Anyway, we’re on countdown. It’s 8 weeks and counting. I have a diary. I have dates. I’m organised beyond belief. I’m good at this.

No matter how much I tell myself this, I am still in a panic. Yikes.