The months of July and August represent ‘the summer’ across France – only those two months, I should add! We can enjoy high temperatures, wall-to-wall sunshine, picnics by the lakes and on coastal beaches, from as early as mid-April right through to mid-November. But, July and August are the only summer months that are recognised as such by the French people.
During those two months, the famous laid-back French lifestyle adopts the stance of supine! Heaven help the householder whose plumbing springs a leak, or the car-owner whose exhaust drops off, or even the victim of fraud whose life has been turned upside-down and inside-out.
Finding a plumber who is not ‘en vacance’ during July and August is a true feat of determined dedication! Finding a garage mechanic to sort out the exhaust – without initially posturing, prancing and pursing lips as the calendar is scrutinised for a time and day that will not inconvenience ‘mon holiday’ – can take many frustrating days! Obtaining a Court hearing date during the hallowed months of July and August, well, forget it!
After living in France for a couple of years, it gradually clicks into place that virtually the entire French workforce is ‘en vacance’ during the months of July and August, unless the tourism industry is involved. Although, it is a fact that family and I have discovered a number of French tourist information centres with locked doors and shuttered windows during July and August. Usually, a scrap of paper sellotaped to the door proclaims something along the lines of…..‘Fermé. Raisons exceptionnelles.’ Quick translation – ‘if you’re having a summer holiday, so are we’!
So, bottom line, knowing how France ticks, we were not expecting to hear from the notaire this side of mid-August, despite being advised by her assistant that she would return from her annual holiday at the end of July. In order to give her as much information as possible up-front of receiving the anticipated date of the first rendez-vous, we sent her a package that we’re fairly certain will have resulted in her feeling rather shell-shocked!
Included in the package were separate files containing the full raft of survey results and Reports that we commissioned in April 2007. We were fully aware that the sellers had procured the basic necessities, but we also required a full structural survey and written, verified confirmation that our Planning requirements would be acceptable to the local Council. Copies of our architect’s Plans, dated from April 2007 to July 2007, inclusive, showing how our ‘pile’ would have been returned to its former glory as simply a family home with a lift installed in the garage to take us to the first floor. With ‘shot’ lungs, ie advancing emphysema (Tom) and a proven dicky ticker (moi) between us, we knew a house comprising more than one storey was not for us, not without that essential lift.
Had all things been equal, the property would no longer have been an ‘apartment block’ by Christmas 2007.
Prior to tucking the beautifully bound architect’s files into the package, I couldn’t help myself – I just had to take a final look through what might have been the future for our autumn years.
What a seriously stupid error of judgement!
For hours over several days, I ran the full gamut of emotions – deep sadness, raging anger, sour bitterness, fear of an endlessly stretching, empty, homeless future for my menfolk, soul-destroying disappointment – you name it, I believe I felt it.
I didn’t post the package for almost a week. There’s no point to anybody asking me why I didn’t post it earlier, I really don’t know the answer! Suffice to say, though, as soon as I handed it over to the lovely lass in La Souterraine La Poste, a huge weight seemed to lift from my shoulders and I felt at peace, as happy as Larry in fact!
Nowt so queer as folk, eh!