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Category Archives: Ordeal

Monsieur C Is A Very Happy Bunny!

So, the hairdresser will be moving out on 30 September 2012, but what about Monsieur C? No! He will not be moving out any time soon! In fact, he’ll possibly only need to move out in a box! Then, we would have more problems as one of his children could step into his tenancy shoes. French law is marvellous, it is very protective, but not if you’re an existing victim of fraud!

As a starter, it appears that his tenancy has the highest level of legal protection in France, I will explain, and he is further opposing eviction on grounds that he is a resident in the property, his tenancy is not commercial.

To clarify Monsieur C’s tenancy protection. It was revealed during our recent visit to Champagnac that Monsieur C was ‘placed’ in the property by the Social Services. We have no more details as that would ‘breach his human rights’, but the fact was confirmed by the former village Mayor, Monsieur G. It appears that our sellers were not given opportunity to refuse Monsieur C a tenancy agreement, the Social Services rule the roost in such cases.

No wonder our sellers felt the need to resort to fraud to sell the property, Monsieur C had apparently informed them that he would not move out to permit them to sell the house without a sitting tenant comfortably in situ.

Where can we go from here, regarding Monsieur C? The short answer is ‘nowhere’! The Cadastre can’t evict him, it was made clear to us that the Church will not object to Monsieur C remaining a sitting tenant in our house that truly cannot ever be our home.

In addition to the above shock, we also received a letter from the local Trésor Public to say they will no longer be able or willing to receive the rents directly from Monsieur C and the hairdresser. We must receive the rental payments directly, and pay our building taxes directly. If we refuse to accept the rental payments (as advised by our first avocat), we are “…breaking the law, Madame, and you can both go to prison.’

Do French prisons have central heating? If so, that just might be an option!

Just before we left the house, Tom and I heard Monsieur C walking down the stairs. Then, less than 30 seconds later, he walked back up the stairs to his apartment and quietly closed his door. He was obviously aware that we were in the building, Tom has great difficulty getting up the stairs to the first floor, he doesn’t climb stairs quietly as his breathing difficulties render him sounding like a traction engine, Bless.

As we left the property, we noticed an envelope in ‘our’ mailbox. Inside the envelope, addressed to us, we found a cheque made out to us and the following note (exact words):

“Bonjour! Cheque pour le loyer d’avril 2012 plus 0,38€, ci joint pour solde de 2011. Bien le bonjour à tous.”

For those without French language knowledge, here’s the translation:

“Hello! Cheque for the April 2012 rent plus 38 cents to balance the 2011 rent payments. Good day to you all.”

Monsieur C is, indeed, a very happy bunny.

That’s not all, it appears that the hairdresser needed to move home a few weeks ago; she is now a tenant in the same Public Housing apartment that the former Mayor was going to offer to us, before he was ousted by the current Mayor. I suppose looking after one’s own is normal, in any country.

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Whoops! Are We Back On The Roller-coaster?

After the exhilaration of the past couple of days, family and I had to get our feet back on the ground and our heads back on our shoulders, the reality is that we still have a long way to go. We’re nowhere near getting out of la forêt, yet! We must still face the daunting experience of our Case being judged at the Cour de Cassation in Paris.

So, today, in response to many questions that I have been asked by folks living all around the world, I’m going to ‘chat’ about potential next steps. I won’t go into the entire workings of the Cour de Cassation, I’m certain that would be boring to read, and I know it would be a very cumbersome post for me to write! The information I will give is based on data sent to me by various legally and part-legally qualified professionals, one of whom actually works within the austere confines of the Cour de Cassation, on my own research, and on verification of my own and others’ research.

How much information have I received from four (to date) avocats, including our specialist Cour de Cassation avocat? None, absolutely zilch!

The Cour de Cassation is the highest Appeal Court in France, it’s the Supreme Court. To get a Case to the Supreme Court, it must first be heard in one of the Tribunaux d’Instance local Courts, or in one of the Tribuneaux de Grande l’Instance Courts. The latter depends on the severity and the monetary value of the dispute. Our Case was initially heard in the Grande l’Instance Tribunal in Aurillac (15).

The history of the French Cour de Cassation goes back to the French Revolution, it was established by the Act of 27 November 1790. But, the Court’s workings are still largely based, in principle, on the ancient Roman judicial proceedings.

Within the Court, there are six main sections in which a Case can be judged, these sections are as follows: Commercial, Labour, Civil, Criminal 1, Criminal 2, and the Chambre de Requetes – the last gives judgement on whether or not a Case is admissible for Appeal at the Supreme Court. During my conversation with Maitre at l’Huissier’s office in Mauriac, it emerged that our house Case has got through the Chambre de Requetes, and that is why we now have some action! Although, we have not received written confirmation, that might be one of the documents waiting for us at l’Huissier’s office, or at the house. We will find out towards the end of April.

Our house Case was referred to the Civil section of the Cour de Cassation, but a number of professionals have commented, during the past 2 years, that it should be heard by judges in the Criminal 2 section, because our sellers’ fraud has already been proved. Those professionals might well be correct!

If the Claimant fails to win in one of the lower Courts, an Appeal can be lodged in the Region’s Tribunal d’Appel; ours was Appealed at Riom in the Puy-de-Dome (63).

Failure to win the regional Appeal can result in a further, final Appeal to the Cour de Cassation, Paris. The judges in the Supreme Court do not judge on the merits of the Case, they are in situ to decide whether or not French laws have been correctly interpreted during the previous Hearings.

What sort of result may be seen coming out of the Cour de Cassation where our Case is concerned? Well, the previous Appeal decision can be upheld, and in that case, there will be no further French legal action, it would be all over as far as the French judiciary are concerned! Or, the previous Appeal Court decision can be quashed, and the Case can be returned to the Appeal Court in Riom for further consideration and a fresh Judgement. The Cour de Cassation might decide to quash the previous Appeal Court’s decision and order that there will be no further Appeal, the Cour de Cassation decisions about the Case will then be final.

Our Case will be heard by a panel of at least 5 judges, presided over by the Cour de Cassation President, or, a possibility, the most senior Cour de Cassation Judge.

There are a number of potential results.

The judges can decide that our Case is a straight forward vice caché and order the property to be returned to Monsieur and Madame T, with a full refund to us, and with no leave given for the couple to Appeal. On average, it would take 4 – 6 months for the final resolution to be attained, and the judges decision must first be endorsed by the Court President.

The judges can decide that, on grounds of the vice caché having been proved at Riom, the Case must be returned to the Riom Appeal Court for further consideration and a fresh judgement. That would delay the final resolution by up to a year.

The judges could rule that we, Tom and I, are partially responsible for the vice caché, due to whatever reasons they decide on the day. In that case, they could refer the Case back to the Riom Appeal Court for further considerations and a fresh judgement.

The judges could rule that our vice caché claim has been proved, but give Monsieur and Madame T leave to Appeal. That could result in us waiting for an Appeal to be lodged by our sellers, and the Case could drag on for a further period of one to possibly up to three more years.

Our fervent hope is that the Cour de Cassation judges find fully in our favour, with no right of Appeal to our sellers, and with an order that a total resolution must be attained within 28 days.Such a Judgement is rare, but it does happen, and it would need to be endorsed by the Court President.

If we are lucky enough to receive the justice for which we fervently hope, our sellers could plead poverty and state that they’re unable to refund our money! In that event, the Cour de Cassation judges can order them to give us their own home in return for taking repossession of our house that’s not a home, and they would need to live in the latter! Or, the judges could order that property and possessions, belonging to our sellers, must be auctioned and the proceedings used to refund us. That Judgement would need to be endorsed by the Court President.

According to a very knowledgeable source, our sellers are most likely to plead that they have shared their property and possessions among their children and grandchildren! In that case, the judges can order those items to be seized by l’Huissier, assisted by Gendarmes, and the property and possessions to be auctioned, with the proceedings used to refund us. Again, such a Judgement would need to be endorsed by the Court President.

So, there are many possibilities! At the end of it all, will we recoup all of our losses? Very possibly not! But, that’s another story!

 

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One Down, One To Go – Maybe!

Three of us have just spent the lion’s share of a week a few kilometres inland from our favourite French beach, ie Saint-Georges-de-Didonne in the Charente-Maritime. We have visited just about every coastal area in France, from Brittany southward and from Nice westward, and we have yet to find a cleaner stretch of sand than the Saint-Georges beach. If anyone who is reading this has a hankering for a seaside holiday in France, I personally recommend Saint-Georges and immediate neighbour, Royan. Superb!

Our fourth family unit member, our son, was working for a wonderful couple inland, Gilly and Dave, pulling down a rather large shed! There can’t be many things that appeal more to menfolk than demolition! My other two menfolk and I slept soundly in the holiday home of yet another lovely friend, a super pal who has offered, on more than one occasion, to lobby the French judiciary by wearing a sandwich-board bearing words to the effect, ‘Justice for the Hobo Family’, whilst traipsing the main streets of Paris! This might present as being a tad unlikely to happen, but, believe me, that is not the case where this straight as a flying arrow friend is concerned!!

Anyway, during our few days of separation, an urgent request for pet/house sitters came our way, from a friend who lives on the outskirts of Civray. The super lady who contacted us, and who will remain anonymous, has much greater need than ours at this time. We still have the keys to the Gers property of our friends who live in the UK – we had only envisaged being away for 5 days, 6 days maximum with travelling, and we also needed to get to the Cantal to tackle the issue of having no French Income Tax Declaration documents, yet again! But, to reiterate, our friend’s need is more pressing than ours. So, we decided to drop off our two youngest family members to start the pet/house sit, Tom and I then planned to travel down to the Cantal to engage in this year’s inevitable battle with the bureaucrats! From there, Tom would drop me back at the pet/house sit to join our lads, and he would continue down to the Gers, returning to Civray to collect our lads and me in a couple of weeks. 

Good planning – not! Temperatures on the Atlantic coast barely crawled out of single figures; other than on the Tuesday afternoon, the weather was persistently cold and wet, biting winds chewed through our lightweight clothing, it was a really damp, icy, miserable week! The highlights were super lunches with Gilly and Dave, and with our lovely friends, Sue, Tchica and Elmo aka El Nino! At least we felt normal, not at all like hobos! In fact, all round, we were pampered – we appreciated that more than words can ever say.

Sadly, Tom’s breathing became more laboured as the days passed, and we knew he was fighting yet another severe chest infection come the day that we travelled to collect our son. Despite the many inhalers, the antibiotics, the steroids, the nebuliser that provides a limited period of time pumping oxygen into his lungs, Tom really does need better medical care and a stable lifestyle. We are so hopeful that 2012 will see an end to our years as hobos living in France. But, we fear we still have more mountains to climb before we even get a sniff of justice!

So, tomorrow, Tom will visit a local doctor and, once again, will be put back on his feet – for a little while at least, Bless him. The Cantal bureaucrats will just have to wait. Voila!

However, while we were off-line, an email came in from our friend and former neighbour, Madame ZC, I picked it up yesterday. It appears that the cadastre has been true to the word he gave in November 2010 – our hairdressing locataire (who is, and always has been, without a tenancy contract) has submitted her Notice of intention to quit our house that’s not our home!

To recap – after continuously querying the annual Tax Foncier cost, we were advised by letter sent from the Cadastral in 2010 that the property has always been, and will always be, residential only, due to it’s proximity to the village Church. The cadastre further advised us that both locataires, ie Monsieur C and the hairdresser, must find alternative accommodation/business premises, and the Cadastral would, as a matter of legal necessity, enforce that requirement.

Well, it has taken sixteen months, but, it appears that it’s now ‘one virtually down, one more to go’!

Do we envisage problems? Yes, we do, this is France! The hairdresser owes just under €4,000 for unpaid water bills. The Tresor Public has demanded that we must pay the unpaid bills, we have refused to pay; we advised the Tresor Public to cut off the water supply if the bills remained outstanding. The situation has been at a stalemate level for some considerable time.

If the hairdresser moves out of the property without paying her unpaid water rates, the onus of responsibility for payment of those unpaid bills legally falls on Tom and me – despite the fact that the hairdresser should not have been operating her business in our property, she has never had a rental lease or any kind of contract with us. We didn’t even know she existed until months after we purchased the property – the sellers, the notaire, the Immobilier, the former hairdresser, all had been aware of her impending takeover of the hairdressing business. Nobody informed us, we were told, by the Immobilier, the notaire and the original hairdresser, that the hairdressing business would be closed at the end of the 9 years commercial lease period in December 2007. We were given copy of an Attestation that confirmed what we were told. 

Madame ZC has advised us that the hairdresser actually had her Notice delivered by l’huissier (a French bailiff), a service for which she would have been required to pay. In fact, all the hairdresser needed to do was to send a Registered letter to Tom and me, and sending the letter to our house that’s not a home would have been legally considered as good enough! Tenants have virtually all the rights here in France, landlords (willing or not!) have very few rights. Certainly, a tenant who does not give Notice is very unlikely to be pursued, it is too costly in both time, effort and money!

Why has the hairdresser gone to time, trouble and expense to notify us, via l’huissier, that she is vacating? Well, we may be exhibiting classic signs of paranoia – that wouldn’t surprise me, but we honestly believe the hairdresser’s action heralds more trouble to come! I will be speaking with l’huissier tomorrow, for as long as my mobile credit lasts, after Tom has been seen by a doctor.

 

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What Does The Future Hold?

Blogging our experiences has caused us grief, there’s no doubt in my mind about that! Quite simply, living the experiences put us on a roller-coaster that hadn’t stopped since July 2007. Being able to take time out from that constant movement during the past eight weeks gave us a false sense of security. My menfolk and I are tired, so very tired, and our emotions are raw. If that reads as dramatic or weak, I make no apology, we had long forgotten how to feel angry, disappointed, frustrated, betrayed and defrauded. All those emotions have returned, in force since I started writing this blog. But, we are well aware that we must keep going, there’s no way back, that’s reality.

On Wednesday this week, we ‘celebrated’ 5 years of living in France. But, we didn’t really celebrate, we just spent time recalling events of the past five years! Wednesday was a very solemn day in this household! I think our recent recollections, for this blog, had dragged all our emotions to the surface, emotions that we have constantly strived to keep under lock and key, metaphorically speaking.

So, on Thursday, to get us back on track, to buoy up our spirits without setting ourselves up for a fall, we talked about our future. Obviously, our plans are subject to that old adage, all things being equal!

We are fully aware that even an emphatic Cour de Cassation judgement in our favour will not immediately have a practical effect on our lives. Although our sellers would not be able to appeal the Court’s decision, they could use ‘accepted’ delaying tactics for up to six months, and force us to return to the Appeal Court to obtain legal enforcement. We firmly believe our sellers would do that. The only way that would be scuppered by the Cour de Cassation is if the Judge orders all arrangements to be finalised within 28 days. Such an Order can’t be undermined in any way, within the French justice system, that would be the final word. However, 28 days Orders are extremely rare in the French Supreme Court!

If we are awarded that 28 days Order, our sellers could then state that they have bequeathed all their assets to family members; our sellers are, like Tom and me, over State retirement age, they may already have done that, hoping to avoid giving us back our money! In that event, we would need to take our Case back to the Cour de Cassation for further consideration and judgement! The Judge could then place an Order on the family members to pay us. Although, that’s not likely to happen! Most likely, the Judge would make an Order for the sellers’ bequeathed assets to be sold by auction, and for us to be paid out of the profit. That would take time, estimated at 3 to 5 months.

Prior to bringing the lawsuit to the first Tribunal, our (then) avocat, Monsieur MA, ran checks to ensure our sellers had the funds or assets to use for settling repayment to us. The outcomes of those checks revealed that our sellers were property €millionaires. Had they not been in a position to refund us for the house purchase, it would not have been in our best interests to bring the lawsuit. We were assured by Monsieur MA that our sellers had the assets, even if not the ready funds, to refund us for the fraudulent sale.

Yet another aspect for us to consider is the fact that the Courts now know our sellers also defrauded the State, through tax evasion. It is possible that the more recent charges will take precedence over our Case. We have no way of knowing if the tax evasion charges are being dealt with even as we wait for a Cour de Cassation hearing date. If the tax evasion Case is under way, we may yet discover that the State will be paid before us!

But, all things being equal, we plan to purchase building land in France, and to have a property built, a ‘pukka  log cabin’, in our grandson’s words!

 

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A Reflection On The Appeal

Family and I have met so many wonderful people during our hobo years in France, some are now counted as being among our closest friends. Without doubt, one close friend is a super gentleman named Pete, and his family of pets that consists of Alf the Hound, and Misty and Arry, ie two cats that remind me of T.S. Eliot’s Jennyanydots (Misty) and Skimbleshanks (Arry)! After leaving Janet and Mark’s camping site in the Deux-Sevres, we spent the next six weeks with Pete’s pets in a beautiful medieval village in the Tarn-et-Garonne, during November and well into December 2011.

Sadly, Tom’s health had been deteriorating for several weeks; one chest infection after another had rendered him virtually unable to walk and breathe simultaneously. Emphysema is an insidious disease that is included in a group of lung diseases known collectively as C.O.P.D., Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (or Disease). So, after a visit to the local village doctor and the dreaded diagnosis of pneumonia, Tom was confined to the house and loaded up with antibiotics, steroids, nebules for his nebuliser, and inhalers. To say we were extremely worried about him is an understatement. The bottom line is that family and I seriously thought Tom would not survive that dreadful infection.

Here, and with all honesty, I will say this, for the first time throughout this saga I became extremely angry, very bitter, very frightened, and I wrote to the ECHR to tell them how I felt, how we all felt as a family in fear of losing one of our own to death. We did receive a response, quite quickly, acknowledging receipt of my letter and telling us that it had been included in our Case file. The letter went on to tell us to notify the ECHR as soon as we receive correspondence from the Cour de Cassation; and so we continue to wait!

Tom’s health issues, specifically emphysema, were included in the reasons why we needed to have a lift installed at ground level, to access the first floor of the house in Champagnac. Emphysema doesn’t go away, it can’t be cured, it can only be treated according to the level of advancement, existence and severity of infection, assessment on a day to day basis. Tom can develop a chest infection overnight. We did our homework before moving to France, we knew exactly what types of property we needed to purchase, we knew exactly what provisions needed to be put in place to meet Tom’s needs as a disabled person. That was all deemed to be of no importance by the Riom Appeal Tribunal, in December 2009.

Through life experience, I have found that anger and bitterness are generally counter-productive, but, occasionally, human nature over-rules the need for cool, calm consideration!

Towards the end of our six weeks with Alf, Misty and Arry, Pete returned home and invited us to stay as long as we wished; the house was spacious with several bedrooms, and we all got on like a house on fire! How many people would make such an offer after knowing a family for what, in reality, amounted to no longer than a couple of days?

However, we were booked to cover Christmas and the New Year just outside Royan, a ‘sit’ that we anticipated with much pleasure because the ‘sit’ was for another very close friend, Sue, and we have a great love for her two dogs, Tchica and Elmo. A bonus, Royan is on the same coastline as Saint-Georges-de-Didonne, our favourite coastal town in all of France! Bormes-les-Mimosas, on the Mediterranean coast of France, comes a close second, but hasn’t quite got the edge!

The 17th December 2011 saw us heading back up-country, away from the Tarn-et-Garonne and towards Sue, Tchica and Elmo, just outside Royan. We were driving through yet another major tempest, with another Christmas on our minds as we travelled, our fifth Christmas as hobos in France. But, at least there were still four of us, that was all-important!

 

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R.I.P. Winter Tent

Leaving Provence, we worked our way north to Janet and Mark, and their camping site in the Deux-Sevres. Once again, we were in need of moral support, some tlc, and a pitch for our tent! Metaphorically speaking, we were bruised and psychologically battered, and our only thought was to get to friends.

Through the forum and a Chats du Quercy link, we had been asked to pet/house sit for a gentleman who has a dog and two cats; all three pets were rescued from neglect and cruelty. Family and I have the utmost respect and admiration for Rescue organisations, and for the dedicated people who spend their lives striving to bring peace, love, kindness and new forever homes to the most vulnerable and endangered of domestic animals. Against all odds, Charity Rescue services such as Chats du Quercy, Greyhound Gap and Hope Rescue, among many, achieve remarkable success whilst constantly fighting to secure funds for a never-ending stream of abused and abandoned pets. Family and I are always very happy to ‘sit’ for people who rescue pets, the animals can remain in their forever homes, and we feel we’re giving a tiny contribution to their happiness and feeling of security.

First of all, though, we needed to return to the tent for a few days! In absolute honesty, we were not looking forward to that, my menfolk and I were really feeling very weary and disillusioned. Hope was fading for the first time in a long time; we hadn’t heard from either Court, and we had no expectations at all regarding being contacted by our avocat, Alexandra!

But, our spirits were immediately lifted when we arrived in Tillou, at Janet and Mark’s wonderful sprawling property. It was the 28th October, the birthday of our youngest family group member – and, alongside that welcome and welcoming pot of tea was a delicious, chocolate birthday cake, made by Janet, with all the appropriate decorations! Janet never forgets a birthday. In 2010, our youngest member received a box of reading books, books that travel everywhere with us, books that our youngster cherishes.

Such are the memories that will remain with us for the rest of our lives.

Well, the sun was definitely in full view when we arrived, but that was the last we saw of it for nearly a week! October is usually still warm, sunny, calm and settled in the Deux-Sevres micro-climate. It wasn’t in 2011! It was unseasonally cold, wet, windy and not at all kind weather for campers! The storms rolled in, and the storms rolled over, we were constantly struggling to keep clothing and sleeping-bags dry and aired. Having use of Janet and Mark’s huge portable barbecue was our main comfort, we were able to keep reasonably warm as we sat around the log fires we made in the big steel base, and hot meals were easy to cook between showers! Nevertheless, by the end of that six days, Tom was clearly unwell with yet another chest infection. How very ill he actually was, we didn’t discover until a week later. But, that’s another story.

During the night before we were due to leave Deux-Sevres to travel back down-country to the Tarn-et-Garonne, a massive tempest hit the region. Right through the night, we fought to keep the tent in position. The pegs held the guy ropes, but the stress from the guy ropes tore the tent to shreds! Flying twigs, and even small branches, ripped the nylon that had been weakened by alternating high temperatures and freezing temperatures, and the seams parted. Torrential rain had already penetrated one ‘wall’ of the tent two nights before – another good friend, Jeannie, had loaned us dry sleeping-bags, and she had kindly driven to us to drop them off – but, another night of horizontal, fiercely lashing rain finished off our winter tent, and two of us were saturated. By the time day-break arrived, we were all up, the car was packed, and our winter tent had been deposited in a poubelle for recycling! R.I.P. winter tent, you served us well for three years.

 

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A British Shrug And Drug-dealers In Provence!

It was the end of October 2011, and we were rather wearily heading for Provence, but our spirits slowly lifted as we headed south once again. We were looking forward to yet another birthday within our small family group, the birthday of our youngest member! Having already bought the two-wheeler with stabilisers that was tightly strapped and secured to the back of our ‘old girl’, our long-suffering Citroen, we anticipated much use being made of the bike in the ample grounds of a Provence gites complex.

My menfolk were all suffering in the aftermath of a particularly virulent gastric bug, so there were many pit-stops en route, and we arrived a little later than we had agreed with the owners of the gites complex. However, that didn’t appear to be a problem, a lovely pot of tea appeared within minutes of our arrival.

As we sat and talked about ‘roles, responsibilities, expectations’, I noticed Madame B was not as visibly jovial as her husband; in fact, she looked distinctly nervous! Just as I was beginning to wonder when we would be taken or directed to the cottage for our ‘sole family use’, Monsieur B suddenly told us that he and his wife had heard about our ‘dreadful ordeal’ from friends who live further north. Without further ado, he proceeded to clarify a new agreement that he and Madame B felt would be in our ‘better interests’. Based on his understanding that we are pensioners with little to no chance of securing paid work, the new deal was that we should rent the cottage for €460 per calendar month, pay for our own utilities, and gas for cooking, carry out the full list of ‘jobs as previously agreed, in return for the low rent’, and consider it a ‘long term arrangement’.

By the time Monsieur B finished with, “Now, how does that sound?” Tom and I were virtually slumped in our chairs, we knew we could not afford to go with what the guy was suggesting. It was as simple as that! Furthermore, despite the €50 worth of fuel we had put in the car that morning, and the €50 worth of fuel it would take to get us back up-country to friendly faces, we were not prepared to be taken advantage of in that way.

I pulled myself together and politely asked Monsieur B if we could please revert to Plan A, as Plan B didn’t suit, and it certainly didn’t equate with his advertisement in a particular forum’s Classifieds section. Madame B swiftly agreed with my request, but Monsieur B just shrugged (had obviously lived in France for a long time) as he uttered the immortal words, “Well, I don’t believe you have much choice, Chrissie, your only alternative is to spend another winter in a tent.”

Family and I still have something left that is of immense value to us, our dignity. I thanked Madame B for the tea, and I saw honest tears in that woman’s eyes as she caught hold of my hand and gently squeezed it, mouthing one word, “Sorry.” We quietly headed up the drive, back to our ‘old girl’, and the sun was dropping beyond a beautiful blood-red horizon as we drove off to find the nearest, open camping site.

Provence in late October – an open camping site is a tall order! That night, we slept in the car, behind evergreen shrubbery that divides most French lay-bys from motorways. Just after 3am, the menfolk and I were wide awake and fascinated as we watched the drug-dealers at work. My word, there are certainly some busy night owls in the south of France! But, in reality, that was the lull before the storm!

 

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