On a bitterly cold, dark, frosty morning in December 2008, we quietly packed the car and left Champagnac, heading south to the Pyrenees. Our friend and neighbour, Madame ZC, had been a true benefactor in terms of accommodation, but we knew her two sons would soon be arriving for the Christmas and New Year period, and that’s a time for families.
By that time, we were aware that we needed to raise more funds to pay for an Appeal, we had sufficient savings left to keep us going until my UK pensions payments were due to start in October 2009. Monsieur MA estimated a further €4,000 to €6,000 would be needed to pay for the Appeal. Before leaving Champagnac, we contacted our nearest Troc store, in Clermont-Ferrand, and offered the manager our brand new, still shop-packaged furniture and white goods. Troc stores buy and sell second-hand household furnishings and accessories, splitting the return with the original owner of the goods. Suffice to say, for the €10,000 spent on furnishing our new home, we received €4,000 for the sale of those same furnishings. We had no reason, nor inclination, to complain about that return; once purchased, such items become second-hand, that Troc store manager was fair. But, it still hurt Tom and me! We had never had new furniture, until we moved to France. Letting it all go, unused, wasn’t pleasant for us, but, materialism had to be firmly placed on the back boiler. Tom arranged to return to the house during the first week in January 2009, to assist the Troc manager with loading our possessions into the removal vehicle.
I had booked us into a Caravelaire on an à la Ferme camping site located on the outskirts of a tiny village at the foot of Les Mont d’Olmes, in the Pyrenees. The camping site was owned by a lovely Flemish couple, Natasha and Jacques, who made us feel so very welcome throughout our two months there. We told Natasha and Jacques our story, they were horrified; Jacques had a working background as a ‘legal beagle’, and he immediately opined that our avocat had not “…correctly prepared the Case, the evidence against the sellers, the Immobilier, the notaire, it is overwhelming!” We took on board his comments. Jacques cut down a small sapin (fir tree) on the estate, that was our Christmas tree; Natasha loaned us the baubles to decorate the tree, and we bought a set of lights. It didn’t take us long to get ready for Christmas.
We were really out in the sticks, and it was a wonderful environment! The twin peaks of Les Mont d’Olmes hung over the commune and surrounding countryside like two huge purple-grey birds of prey with brilliant white snow-covered heads. Within days of us arriving, the winter’s first very heavy snowfall arrived; two days later, we were exploring our location by walking through snow that lay, pristine-white, at an average depth of 20cms. It was exhilarating, and we became more positive in thought and deed with each passing day.
The nights were not so relaxed! Jacques and Natasha had erected an awning from the front of the Caravelaire, That was an excellent way to minimise the volume of mud that might have been traipsed across the meadow and into our living area. But, as heavy snow continued to fall, we needed to shake it off the awning! Through the nights, we took turns to set our alarm-clock every two hours, for one of us to get up and clear the snow from the awning. That was chilly exercise!
With snow-socks on the car’s tyres, we managed to get out and explore the Department’s administrative capital, historic Foix, and the wonderful medieval bastide town of Mirepoix with its intriguing Cathar connections.
In the meantime, according to our telephone enquiries, Monsieur MA was busily preparing our Appeal documents. But, he didn’t do that, as we eventually discovered in 2009.