November 2008. With the double-whammy threat of an Atlantic storm rushing in, and a wild Mistral blowing, we packed up the tent and the car, and we headed for cover. We didn’t have much choice at that time of the year, most camping sites close down by the end of September, even along the Mediterranean coastline. Going inland wasn’t an option, it’s colder inland!
We found a large camping site with static mobile homes and chalets. The entertainment facilities were closed for the winter, but that wasn’t of interest to us, there was free hot water for showers, and a launderette with decent, working machines. We knew we needed to stay under cover for at least a week, so we booked in for nine nights. Another chunk of savings gone, but needs must!
The young French lad who showed us to our chalet was very pleasant, friendly, and he spoke extremely good English. He told us bookings had been poor during the summer, British holiday-makers, particularly, had been very thin on the ground. Recession was obviously beginning to bite, and we told him we were feeling the effects of pound sterling falling against the euro. By that time, we were leaving our euros in our French bank account, to pay legal fees and French taxes, and drawing from our UK bank via ATMs. Although we have travelled extensively around France since 2008, we haven’t left a paper trail, but we have left an impressive ATM trail!
The Atlantic storm blew in, and it blew around us, it had changed course almost at the eleventh hour. The Mistral continued to rage, and another Atlantic storm appeared on the horizon. Throughout the night before we were due to leave the camping site, storm and Mistral fought, the thunder and lightening were spectacular, the rain fell in torrents – and the chalet seams peeled apart like a banana skin leaving the fruit! The beds were drenched in both bedrooms, we stood the mattresses up against internal walls, hung bedding over doors and from clothes hangers, and we mopped virtually all night. Eventually, the storm abated and, just before dawn, we fell asleep on the lounge floor in our sleeping-bags.
Barely three hours later, I went to the site office to collect our deposit, and to explain what had happened during the night, before we got back onto the road. The site manager listened to me with a stony expression before indicating that I was to accompany her back to the chalet. I showed her what we had done to alleviate the damage, she just looked without saying a word. I showed her the split seams, we could see daylight and a tree through one split, she remained silent. Suddenly, she rushed into the kitchen area, yanked open the cutlery drawer and spat out words I will never forget, “I suppose you have stolen the teaspoons. You English always steal the teaspoons.” For, possibly, the first time in my life, I was speechless! Then, I calmly replied, “Madame, we don’t steal teaspoons, we don’t steal anything, our deposit please, now, before I call the Gendarmes.” Madame pulled the crumpled notes from her pocket, threw them at me and hissed, “Go now.” I went!
Later that day, I telephoned our avocat’s office, Monsieur MA asked me if I had our resident locataire’s telephone number as he had received a letter from Monsieur C saying he would like to give evidence for us, against our sellers. I told Monsieur MA that we didn’t have the locataire’s telephone number, and I instructed him to contact Monsieur C in writing and without delay. Monsieur MA agreed that would be best. He added that there would be another facture sent to our house address as the Case was “….more complicated than I thought. More work is needed.” I told Monsieur MA we would be collecting mail from the house the following week, he replied, “No problem, there is no rush. The Tribunal Hearing will not be heard until next month.”
As we headed back towards Nice, I felt as though there was an ominous shadow hanging over us. My feeling was correct.