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Chapeaux – Frederic And Family!

During the past 5+ years, my menfolk and I have learned about many other vice caché Cases across France. We have shared the pain, heartbreak, frustration, disbelief, stress and distress felt by others who have lived in limbo, as we have done, as they and we still do live!

Many families have given up, returning to their countries of origin with nothing left to show for their lives in France, with nothing left of what they originally brought to France to start their new lives and live the dream.

Of course, there have also been French families embroiled in vice cache proceedings, we have met several. Likewise, there have been families with mixed nationalities, eg French and British, American and French, British and Dutch, French and Dutch, etc.

Wherever possible, when we meet victims of vice caché, we try to help them. We always extend a genuine hand of friendship, we share our experiences, we offer support and guidance if we have already come through processes and difficulties that they must still face and overcome.

My menfolk and I are hobos! Across France, there are other hobos, people who exist in a similar fashion to us. Some of them still have their homes, but face losing their homes. Others, like us, have properties, but they have already become homeless through no fault of their own. Some are virtually penniless (okay, centless!) and exist on handouts given by caring and concerned family, friends and neighbours. Others, like us, have low, fixed income to sustain them at base level, but they can’t afford to rent on top of property taxes and other costs relevant to the upkeep of the property they own. Whatever, we are all hobos with a common denominator, vice cache, and a common purpose, to persevere until justice has been attained.

A little over one year ago, Paul and I set up a forum. The main aim of the forum was to attract other hobos in order to unite and support, guide, advise and help each other. Naturally, we also hoped other interested people, ie non-hobos, would join the forum, we set it up to include ex-patriots living in France and folks who were planning to move to or holiday in France.

Within a few months, several people had registered as members of the forum to share their vice caché experiences. One of those people was Frederic. Frederic and his young family have been battling with fraud, corruption and the French judiciary for the best part of eight years. Just before Christmas 2012, they were being threatened with eviction from their home. They had lost their Grande l’Instance attempt, lost their Appeal, and had not been given leave to Appeal to the Cour de Cassation. They were also virtually out of money and were unsure about how or where to apply for Legal Aid to get their Case heard in the Cour de Cassation. Avocats had proved to be, at best, inefficient – at worst, corrupt!

Well, the experiences of Frederic and his family have not been so far removed from those of my menfolk and me! So, comparing, sharing, researching and signposting was relatively easy and painless – although, the sword of Damocles was definitely hanging over Frederic and his family.

Today, Frederic posted some wonderful news on the forum, he and his family have been given 100% Legal Aid to cover the costs of having their Case heard in the Cour de Cassation. Here is an excerpt taken from that excellent post –

“We have been given total costs!!!!!!!!!

As you know, there is no automatic right to have your case reviewed by the Cour de Cassation, and an application for legal aide is subject to a preliminary review by a panel of avocat’s specialising in cases that may be placed before the Supreme Court. In other words, you have to show that you have a watertight case before the French government will pay for your specialist avocat.”

I take off my hat to Frederic and his family. They have suffered enormously, and I really do know how much they have truly suffered, I chat with Frederic behind the scenes, but they did not give up their fight for justice. They did not give up hope.

Frederic and family, I know you’re out there – chapeaux, dear friends.

For those of you who would like to know more about Frederic’s fight for justice, and about how we worked together to prevent that dreadful sword falling on him and his family, here’s a link, you are very welcome to access the forum as a Guest –

http://hobosinfrance.proboards.com/thread/2247/cour-de-cassation?scrollTo=24617&page=5  

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Posted by on February 21, 2013 in World

 

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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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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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Phew! Close To Being Deported

2011 brought a lot of health problems for Tom and me, but, at our ages we don’t expect to have robust good health, especially as we both had pre-existing health conditions before we moved to France in 2007. However, we are convinced that our health has deteriorated far more quickly, due to harsh weather conditions spent living in the tent, than would have happened if our ongoing housing situation had never arisen.

The other two members of our family who have lived this life with us, have thrived! They have not lived according to their expectations, but they’re both young enough to take a lot of positive experience from the past 4+ years. Whereas, in truth, Tom and I feel the bottom line is that we have had 16+ years stolen from the four of us, to date, and those years can never be returned to us. They are lost to us forever, and not only to us, but also to our family in the UK.

However, thanks to supportive, caring friends, here in France, we have survived so far! Although, we did wonder if we were about to be deported back to the UK, in May 2011. Once again, as has been the case every year since 2009, we had not received our French Tax Declaration form, and we set off to Mauriac to complete the form in the Tax Impots office.

We waited to be called to the desk by the duty clerk, and I gave her copies of our previous year’s French Income Tax Declaration and Assessment documents, containing all the information she needed, with evidence of my pensions increases. The clerk read the documents, looked at us and asked for our Carte de Sejour. I was ready for that! I handed over our Residency Certificate to her without saying a word. She looked at it and said, “This is out of date.”

Tom and I were dumbfounded, I replied that we didn’t actually need a Carte de Sejour or a Residency Certificate, being British citizens living in another EU State, and owning our only property in that EU State. The clerk looked at me and said she would not give us a Tax Declaration form until we provided a current Carte de Sejour, or an updated Residency Certificate stamped and signed by the Champagnac Mayor.

Without completing a current Tax Declaration, and sending copy of the ensuing French Income Tax Assessment to the Bureau d’Aide, we would lose our right to Legal Aid. I explained that to her, she shrugged and looked away from us, just couldn’t meet our eyes!

I was close to tears! Turning to Tom, I said, “What have we done wrong?” He shook his head, took my hand, then, in English, he said to the clerk, “We’ll get a new Residency Certificate and will post it to you.” The clerk understood, she nodded and waved us away from the desk, saying, “You must get one soon, or you will have to return to England.”

Tom and I drove to Champagnac, to the Mairie, where we spoke with the office staff, we know them all! Jacques, the Mayor, was in a meeting, but the senior receptionist was horrified when I told her what had transpired with the Tax Impots clerk, she said, “You don’t need a Carte de Sejour or a Residency Certificate. This is stupid, she is racist.” The ladies made us coffee and asked how we were managing, they were obviously, genuinely angry and very upset at what had been going on in our lives. Within half an hour, we had the updated Residency Certificate to hand, and we left the office after being kissed on both cheeks by all three Mairie ladies! We climbed into the car and headed back to Brittany.

I completed the tax Declaration form and posted it, with enclosures, to Madame Cosson at the Tresor Public in Mauriac. I also included a brief letter to explain why we were sending an updated Residency Certificate, and why we were sending the enclosed documents to her, ie a person we trusted. We received our Tax Assessment document in October, a couple of weeks earlier than usual, and we immediately posted off copies to the Bureau d’Aide in Paris, and to the ECHR in Strasbourg.

We received acknowledgement from the ECHR within a few days. As usual, we received nothing from the Bureau d’Aide! But, every letter we send to bureaucrats and Courts are sent LRAR (Lettre Recommandé avec Avis de Réception aka Registered Mail), We track them on-line until we see they have been received, accordingly with a signature, because the receipts are always sent to our house that can never be our home.

We wonder what will happen this year!

 

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More Than One Cuckoo In The Nest!

The weeks passed, and the weather never quite attained summer values, in fact, we were very disappointed with Brittany, on the whole. But, we do know 2011 was a strange year where weather was concerned, and not at all the norm, world-wide. Further south in France, there was severe drought and sun-baked crops and meadows, whereas, we seemed to have wall-to-wall rain, much cooler than average temperatures, and, in all honesty, we hated it! Years spent living south, where the Mediterranean climate seems always to have the upper hand over the wet, Atlantic winds, had left us struggling to cope with what we call ‘British weather Brittany’!

2011 in Brittany was not kind to Tom, and he fell foul of one chest infection after another, the emphysema was biting hard and he was virtually living on antibiotics. Unfortunately, my health also took a swift and steep dive, and I realised one morning that, once again, I had what I call a ‘cuckoo in the nest’, ie a rather large lump in my left breast. I have no idea how I missed it before it grew so large, having been there before and always being aware of the possibility of recurrence, but, there it was, and I knew I couldn’t waste any time.

I discovered the lump on a Sunday morning and told Tom I needed to see a doctor the following day. Despite not being well, himself, and not really relishing the idea of driving, Tom didn’t hesitate. He thought I had decided the two angina attacks I’d had in recent weeks, and my second dose of shingles in two years, had finally pushed me in the direction of common-sense! I decided not to worry Tom further until I had a better idea of what was going on with my own aging, decrepit body; he had enough to contend with, breathing needed to be his priority.

That night, the nagging headache I’d had constantly for two days and nights reached a crescendo – stress, I was convinced. Yes, it was attributed to stress, in part, but the lovely lady Doctor Labenne in Chateaubriant was clearly very worried when she examined me on that Monday afternoon, 4pm being the earliest appointment I could get. Her immediate suggestion that I should go into hospital was politely but firmly declined by me, and I explained that I had an Attestation for healthcare, but no Carte Vitale. She understood, the Attestation would not ‘work’ for me outside the Cantal. My word, that lass had her work cut out! But, within four days, she had brought my blood pressure down to below ‘dangerous’ level, my scan showed I had two ‘cuckoos in the nest’, both benign, my blood sugar levels were falling slowly but steadily, and the litres (well, slight exaggeration!) of blood I had voluntarily given the local ‘vampire’ were being rushed through various analysis systems. Voila!

Nowadays, Tom and I are like a pair of football rattles when we’re out walking together! His antibiotics, ‘puffers’ (inhalers) and steroids, and my bum-bag filled with pills nicknamed ‘the screws’, ‘the tens’, ‘the bombs’, ‘the green goddesses’, etc! I’m still in line for further investigation and treatment, one of my kidneys was damaged during the period when I could not afford medication as a hobo here in France. However, we will cross that bridge in due course, the kidney is currently responding to my much better health.

If a medical professional were to read my health file and tell me Doctor Labenne had saved my life, I would 100% believe that, in truth, it’s what I believe anyway!

How I wish it were that quick, though, to vanquish our two-legged cuckoos from what should be our nest!

 

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Lies Laid Bare

Until our second avocat, Julia, received our resident locataire’s Attestation (sworn Statement), she seriously doubted we had sufficient hard evidence to win our Appeal. One of our witnesses, Madame B, had responded to Julia’s request for an Attestation with a letter addressed to Tom and me. In the letter, Madame B emphatically refused to give evidence for us, and she concluded by writing that she would consider any further contact from us or our avocat, to be harassment.

Who is Madame B? Madame B is a retired businesswoman who moved into Champagnac during the same month that we completed our property purchase in the village. She is a French national who had spent some 30 years living in the UK with her British husband, they were divorced and she moved back to France to be near her elderly mother. One side of Madame B’s family originated from Russia, the other side from the Champagnac commune. Madame B speaks fluent English as well as her mother tongue, also Russian. When she heard about our immediate concerns, in the village Bar/Café-Tabac-Presse during the evening of the day we had completed our purchase and had discovered the deception, she immediately offered to accompany us to the notaire’s office to translate for us, when the notaire returned from her holiday. Madame B did accompany us to the notaire’s office, and she translated for us. When the notaire telephoned our sellers, putting the telephone in loudspeaker mode to speak with seller, Madame T, and asked her if she or her husband had given Monsieur C a rental Contract, the response was, “Non.” The notaire asked our seller the same question twice, the response was emphatically, “Non”, both times. The notaire then asked Madame T if she or her husband had rented the garage to Monsieur C, the response was shouted, “Non, he is a liar!”. The notaire thanked Madame T, disconnected the call, looked at Tom and me and said she could not help us, but she would “speak with the sellers and persuade them to offer” us “some compensation” for our “inconvenience”. The notaire also advised us to “sue the Immobilier”.

Madame B gave her contact details to us and urged us to pass them to our avocat, We followed through and Monsieur MA said he would contact Madame B and request her Attestation. He had never contacted her. I asked Julia if Madame B could be subpoenaed, or a French equivalent. She shook her head and told us Madame B would probably just say she could not remember, it was two years ago.

Monsieur MA had never contacted the resident locataire, Monsieur C, either! Julia contacted him by post and he replied immediately, telling her he had been waiting for our avocat to contact him since July 2007. Within days of making contact with Monsieur C, Julia telephoned us to say she had received a wonderful Attestation from Monsieur C, via his avocat, plus documentation that included copy of his Rental Contract. The Rental Contract covered Monsieur C’s apartment, sole use of ‘Mon Garage’, sole use of one of the three cellars, sole use of a rear courtyard outbuilding, and sole use of a measured, designated section of the loft. All documents had been endorsed by our sellers, ie Madame T. Included with the documents was a copy of Monsieur C’s Contents Insurance, and copies of every Contents Insurance Policy that he had renewed each year during his tenancy. There was also copy of a letter from the insurance company, it confirmed copies of Monsieur C’s annual contents insurance renewals had been sent to Madame T each January during his long period of tenancy, until 2008 when their client had informed them of the property change of ownership.

Julia told us that was the evidence we needed to prove our Case against our sellers, it was conclusive beyond all doubt. That evidence, together with our pre-Sale Contract, signed by both parties, and which stated that we had sole use and enjoyment of the property, was more than sufficient to prove the sale was fraudulent, in French law and terminology, a vice caché.

That’s when we dared to start hoping we were seeing light at the end of that long, dark tunnel. How very wrong we were!

 

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