Tag Archives: Christmas

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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Off The Beaten Track

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.



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