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Category Archives: Roller-coaster

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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Snakes Alive!

During our many journeys around France, we have seen some truly beautiful sights, eg majestic Golden Eagles hunting over the vast, volcanic contours of the Auvergne; we had never seen a Golden Eagle before we moved to France. Short-toed Eagles, Eagle Owls with their huge, brilliant orange eyes, red and black Kites, and a host of other birds of prey that are generally only seen in television documentaries in the UK.

We once heard the low growl of a bear when we were camping overnight in the foothills of the Pyrenees. We were thrilled, not at all frightened or concerned for our personal safety. Brown bears in the Pyrenees are an extremely threatened species, quite simply, they kill sheep and are killed in return.

In Brittany, snakes were our constant companions! During the 2011 summer, a Western Whip fell from a skylight onto the bed in which Tom was sleeping. Considering that Tom had never been quite that close to a snake before, his reaction was extremely laid-back, he calmly called me! Western Whips are not venomous, but they can be rather feisty if they feel threatened, and they will strike and bite with speed if pushed into a corner! The snake slithered into a hole in the wall of the bedroom, shimmied its way down inside the wall, and popped out through another hole in the dining-room! We decided to open the patio doors that exited the dining-room into the tiny front garden of Nikki’s house, and we evacuated for a few hours! It seems that the snake took the hint, we didn’t see it again!

A few days later, whilst strimming a path through the meadow to Jerry the pony’s summer pasture, we came across a specific species of grass-snake, a Couleuvre vipérine, slowly guzzling a large frog for its lunch! At first, we thought it might be an adder, but swift identification via the forum on which I was a Moderator settled our nerves, although, not without some hilarity! Advice given included the instruction to ‘find out if the snake’s eyes are round or slanted like a cat’s eyes’! Mmmmm, I don’t think so! Who wants to get that close to a potentially venomous snake! However, at the end of the day, the frog had a lucky day, the snake was as startled as we were and released the frog before slipping away into the long grass. Somewhere in my on-line storage file, I have a photograph of that snake.

Just after my 62nd birthday in October, Nikki returned from the UK, and we returned to the wonderful Limousin lake environment where our friends had kept the caravan aired and open for another visit. It was during the following few days that we secured a long-term stay at a gites complex in Provence, to start at the end of October. The deal was this, we were required to clean and maintain the three gites and the gardens, swimming-pool and grounds, take bookings and sort out the changeovers, in return for sole family use of a two-bedroomed cottage in the grounds. We were also required to pay €100 per month towards electricity and water, buy our own gas for cooking and our own logs for heating. Now, some might consider that to be on a par with slave labour, but we welcomed the opportunity for stability.

The day before we were due to leave our friends and their cosy caravan, yet another snake was dragged into our lives by one of our friends’ cats! Another grass-snake, the very pretty, less than a metre long reptile was playing dead as the cat patted and toyed with it on the lawn. Fortunately, the cat was denied the chance of a coup de grace, and the snake was released into a safer environment out of the confused cat’s range of vision!

During the course of that day, one by one, all the menfolk were struck down by a bug that turned out to be a 24 hours vicious gastric virus! So, we were a very tired, drained and motley family group as we left our friends in the Limousin and headed for Provence. Little were we to know that, once again, as has happened several times during the past 4+ years, our homelessness would prove to be a wonderful opportunity for another British human being to kick us when we were down, and put us back in the tent!

 

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On A Roller-coaster!

As the wheels of 2010 slowly turned, I began to feel quite depressed and bogged down with the sheer volume of paperwork, obstacles and worry that seemed to be never-ending. I was burning the midnight oil, writing letters, collating information, honouring my commitment to the forum moderating team, and putting together the facts of our house Case to create the main points for writing a book.

Never a big eater, and hating the texture of meat, I was by then living on cereals, cheese and crackers, and tea; I never seemed to have the time to eat a meal! In truth, I probably didn’t make the time! I lost a terrific amount of weight, there was more fat on a chip, and I started to feel quite unwell at times. Having Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and an historically ‘dicky ticker’, were obviously at the root of my general malaise. But, I had stopped taking medication for the diabetes and cardiac issues when we were becoming so short of funds towards the end of 2009, and I was so busy all the time during 2010, I begrudged the time to see a doctor.

Tom and I have both been seriously ill during our nearly 5 years of residency in France; living in a tent has certainly not been helpful, but, unlike Tom, I received the best medical care I could have had, although we had to pay for it all – but, that’s another story! However, in 2010, I really did begin to wonder if either of us would see the house Case through to the end. Tom and I were feeling very tired, but we were all feeling as though we were on a roller-coaster!

Something had to give, and family and I needed a positive boost to keep us focused!

We hadn’t heard further from the Bureau d’Aide about our legal aid application since we had received notice that we were “out of time”. However, in August 2010, we received a letter from the ECHR. We were advised to send copy of our forthcoming 2009 French Income Tax Assessment directly to the President of the Bureau d’Aide, in order that we could be considered for legal aid funding. That was the breakthrough we needed. In November, we posted the required copy document to the President of the Bureau d’Aide, our income tax liability was zero, we were below the threshold, as we knew we would be. By return, we received a demand to know how many French Benefits we were receiving, and how much money in total. It gave us quite a lot of pleasure to reply that we were not receiving any Benefits from the State, and we had not ever claimed any Benefits from France. Voila!

We have not heard since from the Bureau d’Aide, but the ECHR periodically sends letters to enquire if we have received communication from the legal aid office. Apparently, once we receive a legal aid award notice, our Case will be heard at the Cour de Cassation, in Paris, within six months to one year, at latest.

As that was going on, Madame Cosson at the Tresor Public in Mauriac, who had written to us earlier in the year, was making some headway on our behalf with the Cadastre in Aurillac; she was also ensuring that ‘historical’ income tax matters were being guided in the right direction towards full clarity! Two rooms, a garage, a part of the rear courtyard and a section of loft, that once belonged to the property we had bought, had been sold to the next-door neighbours, but the sale was never declared by our sellers, not to the tax man, not to the Cadastre. The property that we bought no longer has the dimensions for which we paid! On the plus side, our annual tax foncier has decreased by one-fifth! Sadly, there is no refund payable for the previous years! France doesn’t ‘do’ refunds further in arrears than twelve months.

In addition to that startling revelation, the (several) residential locataires who had apparently paid rent to our sellers had also not been declared to the tax man. Monsieur C, being the last of those residential locataires had, in fact, provided all necessary hard evidence of the tax evasion to the Appeal Tribunal in Riom, in December 2009. Even more of a surprise to us was the fact that another previous locataire of our sellers, a retired postman who still lives in Champagnac, had also given evidence against our sellers! That evidence was  presented to the Appeal Tribunal in Riom in December 2009.

By Christmas 2010, all the fresh evidence of fraud and tax evasion against our sellers had been filed at the two Courts, ie the Cour de Cassation in Paris, and the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

2010 was a very long year for us all, and Madame Cosson certainly ensured the end of that year was looking much more positive for us than the beginning of the year.

 

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