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Category Archives: Tribunal

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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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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The Reality For Us?

I must first apologise to readers who may have found my previous two blog posts somewhat confusing and little short of chaotic! But, that’s how it was for family and me throughout 2010. There were very few periods of peace and stability, our lives were anchored only by the unconditional support of good friends, including a family who will be anonymous because they, too, have suffered great hardship due to corruption, theft and fraud during their property purchasing processes in France.

One day, they may decide to take it further, it is never too late to seek justice.

The family gave us our first home, ie a caravan, since we had left Champagnac in 2008. We were able to sleep off the ground, with a solid roof over our heads, not far from the bank of a truly beautiful lake. They included us in family leisure activities and events, introduced us to their extended family and friends, both British and French, and for a brief period on several occasions during 2010 and 2011, we felt totally ‘normal’!

If this blog is being read by any member of the family, you will know who you are! Thank you for your unconditional support, despite having your own very heavy cross to bear. Our promise remains, if Tom ever wins a EuroMillions jackpot, half will be yours; our half will spread very well around our family and other good friends!

Well, we never know what’s around the corner, and we always try to see that our glass is half full, not half empty!

2010 was a year that will remain forever inscribed in our memories as the year in which our well-being and dignity were almost buried under bureaucracy, and under the knowledge that corruption in this physically beautiful country always lies sleeping  beneath a vividly ugly side that is only ever masked. During our quality time with the family to whom I am referring, I spoke with a number of their French friends and neighbours; it was their observations and life stories that showed us just how unfair and difficult life can be for so many French families, some of whom have also seen behind the mask.

Whoever enters the Elysée Palace as the newly elected French President, later this year, has a lot of work to do to inspire at least some of the people of France, where justice versus corruption is concerned!

Christmas 2010 found us, once again, pet/house sitting for Sue and Rick near Montpon-Ménestérol in the Dordogne. It was a bitterly cold Christmas, with a lot of snow falling throughout December – we had an emphatic White Christmas, our third in three years, but, thankfully, that one was also not spent in the tent! Our poor ‘old girl’, our car, had covered some 50,000kms during that year, and she was struggling! So, our Christmas present to ourselves was to get our ‘old girl’ rested, appropriately ‘medicated’, and back on her wheels ready for 2011.

The beginning of February 2011 saw us heading further north in France than we had ever wandered before, to a pet/house-sit on the outskirts of Chateaubriant, in Brittany. There, we were given the warmest possible welcome by Nikki and her ‘menagerie’! We remember all the names of the animals we have cared for over the years, and Nikki’s pets are no exception – 3 dogs, ie Dippy, Hector and Forest; 4 cats, ie Marmalade, Spice, Boo and Ghost; Nanny the Pygmy Goat; Jerry the pony; the goose and the gander, nicknamed, by me, the Gruesome Twosome, the gander can be a very feisty fellow, and the chooks. We had some fun and games with that little lot during the coming months! We still call them the ‘Super Squad’! Just as we still call Diane and Brian’s not-quite-101 tortoises the ‘Boys & Girls’!

Sadly, the Super Squad is now two members short. Dippy passed away after undergoing what should have been a simple veterinary procedure, when Nikki was back in France on holiday with her pets; and she emailed us, not too long ago, to let us know Nanny the Pygmy Goat had also passed away, of old age.

By the time we arrived in Brittany, we had come to the conclusion that there was nothing else left for us to do, with regard to the house Case, and now was the time for me to resolve my increasing health issues. Sadly, that was not to be! Again, before we had cleared the winter months, the bureaucratic forces were upon us once more, and, in response to my calmly delivered complaint about corruption in the Tresor Public in Saignes, I was equally calmly told, “Madam, this is the reality for you in France.”

 

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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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Pension? What Pension?

Against a fair few odds, I think, family and I had watched my 60th birthday roll in at the beginning of October 2009. Obviously, it was a low key celebration, and, to be honest, having received no birthday cards from family in the UK – a parcel of cards was en route from Champagnac, but it didn’t arrive until several days after my birthday – I was feeling rather quiet. Tom and I had also celebrated our Silver Wedding Anniversary just days before. 2009 will forever be known by us as the celebrations year that wasn’t!

However, by March 2010, I was still not receiving my pensions, and the rest of our savings were gushing away like water out of a broken pipe! I had applied for my pensions in June 2009. Not receiving any acknowledgement by August 2009, as I had requested, I wrote to enquire if that large brown envelope had arrived. I heard nothing, so I telephoned Newcastle. The large brown envelope had not been received! “Complete it on-line.” advised the very pleasant lass on the other end of the phone. I tried three times using the on-line service, without success, my application just wasn’t accepted, so I downloaded the documents and tried again. It was fortunate that I had an extra copy each of my Birth Certificate and Tom’s and my Marriage Certificate.

By the end of October 2009, I still had not received acknowledgement, so I telephoned Newcastle yet again and spoke with another pleasant lass. Once more, I was advised that the large brown envelope had not arrived. I then had to wait for more copies of Birth Certificate and Marriage Certificate, before I could re-apply for my pensions.

At the end of January 2010, Tom physically took the next big brown envelope filled with documents to a JobCentre Plus near his youngest brother’s home in London! Incredibly, when I telephoned towards the end of March, having not received an acknowledgement, a very pleasant lass advised me that my pensions application, and formal documents, had indeed arrived on her desk, but they had then “been misplaced.”!

By that time, I was feeling rather upset by the fiasco, and I contacted the office of (then) MEP Caroline Lucas. Her PA was horrified and told me she would pass all details to Caroline within 24 hours – Caroline Lucas was, at that time, preparing to represent the Green Party at the forthcoming General Election, and she was only days away from stepping down as an MEP in order to become an MP/Leader of the Green Party for England and Wales. I have never voted for the Green Party, yet, Caroline Lucas took up the fight for my pensions – and, whether the threat alone was enough, I don’t know, but Newcastle went into overdrive and I received my pensions backlog within days! Touch wood, my pensions have continued to arrive in the UK bank account every four weeks since then. But, it was a very close shave!

At this point, I would just like to acknowledge the unconditional help, support and kindness of two close friends, ie Diane and Natalie; without them, food and medication would have been very scarce during two weeks, specifically! The words, ‘thank you’, are never enough, but those two little words come from the hearts of family and me.

Buoyed up and in fighting mode, I emailed our avocat, Alexandra, and I asked her if she would please ‘look over’ our application to the European Court of Human Rights, before I posted it to Strasbourg. By the beginning of June, we had not received a response, and we never did receive a response! I posted the application.

A few days later, we received a brief notice from the ECHR, Strasbourg, to say our application had been filed at the Court on 10th June 2010, Tom’s 64th birthday.

 

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The Start To An Annus Horribilis

January 2010, the beginning of what was to be our worst year as hobos in France. As we waited for news about Tom’s progress in the UK, I received an email from Alexandra to say the Bureau d’Aide had not accepted our 2008 income tax assessment that consisted mainly of capital realised before we moved to France. The Bureau insisted on having our 2009 assessment. I quickly replied, reminding Alexandra that the 2009 figures would not be declared until May 2010, in accordance with the French income tax system, and the 2009 assessment would not be with us until August 2010. She telephoned me and became quite upset that I didn’t have a 2010 tax declaration form on which to record our 2009 income, telling me to “go to Aurillac and get one”!

Eventually, and after much logical persuasion, Alexandra realised that I was physically unable to provide the Bureau d’Aide with our 2009 income tax assessment form. So, she advised me to write to the Bureau d’Aide, and to send all the evidence I could find to prove our income and any savings for 2009. A taller order than she could ever have envisaged, bearing in mind that we could not carry our household filing cabinet – but, we did it, with a struggle!

However, everything was bounced back at us a few weeks later, the Bureau d’Aide bureaucrats did not believe that four of us had survived the year on a total income of just over €8,000, net of taxes, bank charges, and the last of the EDF and telephone bills relevant to the house in Champagnac. Of course, that €8,000 didn’t include the cost of running the car all over France, but I had sent receipts for all vehicle repairs, fuel, insurance and toll charges. But, the €8,000 did cover the cost of camping site fees and a couple of B&B bills, receipts also sent to the Bureau d’Aide. It’s amazing what one can do when somebody says, ‘You’ll never be able to do that.’ Hobo Stew is a favourite dish in our household!

Tom was discharged from hospital after five days, but he was readmitted a couple of days later, another toe was infected, more surgery was necessary, Tom’s right leg was infected from toes to groin. Tom now has three and a half toes on his right foot, and he responds with a grin to being called ‘Tommy Hobbit’, Bless him. His brother, Martin, came through his medical emergency and has since undergone surgery to implant an ICD (Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator).

Alexandra was at a loss as to what to do next, we had received a letter from the Bureau d’Aide telling us we were out of time to apply for Legal Aid. We spoke on the telephone and I asked her to help me to apply to the European Court of Human Rights, we could not let this go. Alexandra was clearly horrified at my suggestion, and she told me we had no Case to take to the ECHR at that time, but it would be a consideration after the Cour de Cassation judgement was made. Catch-22. We couldn’t file at the Cour de Cassation without paying the cost, up front, of two avocats. Paying those fees would have left us with no money on which to live. We had to secure that Legal Aid, but Alexandra had backed away, that was the last contact we had with her. Although, we did receive an emailed new year message for 2011, and again for 2012, with a brief assurance that she remains at our disposal.

As Tom was heading back to France from the UK in February, I was hand-writing our nineteen pages of application to the European Court of Human Rights, Strasbourg. Computers and printers don’t work in a tent, the plugs drop out of the holes in the walls!

 

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