Tag Archives: emphysema

Four Become Three Hobos!

Tom’s health had deteriorated rapidly during 2012, following a bout of pneumonia just before Christmas 2011. In the UK, in 2005, he had been diagnosed as having COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease/Disorder) at stage one level. Emphysema and asthma were the demons, and he took early retirement in 2006 at the age of 60 years. He had worked and paid into the UK tax and National Insurance system for a fraction under 45 years, he felt he was entitled to real quality of life during his autumn and winter years. I wholeheartedly agreed with him. 

Prior to taking the first steps to selling our UK property, in order to purchase a permanent retirement home in France, Tom and I investigated the potential short and long term effects of COPD, it made sense to do that. The bottom line prognosis was that Tom could expect between ten and fifteen years of relatively good health, as long as he took particularly good care of his lungs.  

Initially, when we moved to France at the beginning of March 2007, we took out full private health insurance. The cost was shocking – in excess of €3,500 for one year’s insurance that covered the two of us 100% for medical care, including hospitalisation, but with less than 30% cover for dental and ophthalmic care. 

Hey-ho, I shouldn’t have worried about the dental cover, Tom has dentures and French crusty bread have removed a lot of my teeth without anaesthetic! 

When Monsieur Sarkozy’s changes to immigrants’ health care hit British ex-patriots in November 2007, Tom and I were relieved that we had the private insurance. Yes, we were already resident in France before the law changed, but we had also experienced a taste of French bureaucracy by then, we tried to steer clear of arguments and hassle! 

Anyway, moving on, my E121 came into play in May 2010 – nearly eight months late, due to British bureaucratic tardiness, by which time the legal fees had kicked renewal of private healthcare into touch. Off we went to CPAM in Aurillac to get the ball rolling towards obtaining our cartes vitales. A five hours car journey, followed by an hour standing in a slow-moving queue that inched towards the stony-faced lass sitting at a cluttered desk assessing claims, ended with a rejection! 


“Where is your bank RIB, Madame?” 

“Ah, I only have a British bank account at this time, our French bank account has been frozen by the Bank of France because our illegal hairdresser locataire hasn’t paid her water rates, the local Treasury wants us to pay the bill. We have refused to pay the hairdresser’s bill, and we don’t have the funds to pay the bill.” 

“You must give me a French bank RIB, Madame.” 

“I can’t open another bank account because we don’t receive household bills in our names.” 

Gallic shrug from stony-face. Then……….. 

“Why don’t you have household bills, Madame?” 

“Because we can’t live in the property due to………………” I briefly explained the situation. 

“You don’t live in your property, Madame, but other people do live in your property. You have no home in France, you must return to England. Goodbye.” 

Yes, I’m sure the bureaucrats would love to see us abandon our property, and our quest for justice, to jet off back to the UK with nothing left and, as we have very recently discovered, to find we have been abandoned by our country of birth! 

We vacated the CPAM office and drove for five hours back to where we were pet/house sitting. That evening, I registered on-line and started up an AE (Autoentrepreneur) small business as a ‘femme à tout faire’, ie a Jill of all trades, a handyperson. 

RSI took more than two years to give me a carte vitale in return for paid cotisations. Despite me sending several LRAR (registered) letters to RSI Clermont-Ferrand, Tom was never added to my carte vitale – yet, it was his right to be added to my carte vitale. 

So, we have paid cash for Tom’s healthcare in France throughout the lion’s share of our long period of homelessness, to date. Far from easy, but we managed it, just! 

On Wednesday 16 February 2013, Tom was admitted to the CHU (hospital) in Limoges as an emergency. SAMU and the Pompiers were wonderful, my family and I will be forever grateful to them for their efficiency, kindness and care. Although Tom was actually recovering from yet another bout of pneumonia, a secondary lung problem hadn’t responded to the huge doses of antibiotics and steroids he had been taking during the previous two weeks, his oxygen levels had fallen into danger zone. That secondary lung problem was eventually discovered to be the main lung problem. 

Following swift assessment and intensive treatment by super hospital staff, Tom was able to very briefly speak to me from behind his oxygen mask, he said, “I want to go home, Chrissie.” I knew he was referring to the UK as home. I nodded and replied, “Ok, love, I’ll sort it out when you’re well enough to fly to the UK.” Tom relaxed and slept, despite the constant bubbling of oxygen through the water pipe at the back of his hospital bed, and nurses checking his machine-monitored vital stats every few minutes. 

As long as he can breathe, he can sleep on a washing-line, my Tom! 

On Friday 1st February 2013, Tom flew back to the UK. As his wheelchair was pushed towards the aircraft by a member of Limoges airport staff, he didn’t look back. I was so pleased, I was blubbing like a baby and that dismal sight would not have helped Tom! His destination was north London, to live with his youngest brother who lost his sweetheart of a wife to cancer last October. The brothers are very close. 

The following morning, Saturday 2nd February, Tom kept an appointment at the surgery of his brother’s doctor, as he had been advised. He took all the documents given to him by the Limoges hospital doctors; one of those dated documents showed that Tom’s prescribed medication was running very low. 

The doctor’s receptionist told Tom the doctor would not see him.

Why not? That’s for another blog page!


Posted by on February 9, 2013 in World


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One Down, One To Go – Maybe!

Three of us have just spent the lion’s share of a week a few kilometres inland from our favourite French beach, ie Saint-Georges-de-Didonne in the Charente-Maritime. We have visited just about every coastal area in France, from Brittany southward and from Nice westward, and we have yet to find a cleaner stretch of sand than the Saint-Georges beach. If anyone who is reading this has a hankering for a seaside holiday in France, I personally recommend Saint-Georges and immediate neighbour, Royan. Superb!

Our fourth family unit member, our son, was working for a wonderful couple inland, Gilly and Dave, pulling down a rather large shed! There can’t be many things that appeal more to menfolk than demolition! My other two menfolk and I slept soundly in the holiday home of yet another lovely friend, a super pal who has offered, on more than one occasion, to lobby the French judiciary by wearing a sandwich-board bearing words to the effect, ‘Justice for the Hobo Family’, whilst traipsing the main streets of Paris! This might present as being a tad unlikely to happen, but, believe me, that is not the case where this straight as a flying arrow friend is concerned!!

Anyway, during our few days of separation, an urgent request for pet/house sitters came our way, from a friend who lives on the outskirts of Civray. The super lady who contacted us, and who will remain anonymous, has much greater need than ours at this time. We still have the keys to the Gers property of our friends who live in the UK – we had only envisaged being away for 5 days, 6 days maximum with travelling, and we also needed to get to the Cantal to tackle the issue of having no French Income Tax Declaration documents, yet again! But, to reiterate, our friend’s need is more pressing than ours. So, we decided to drop off our two youngest family members to start the pet/house sit, Tom and I then planned to travel down to the Cantal to engage in this year’s inevitable battle with the bureaucrats! From there, Tom would drop me back at the pet/house sit to join our lads, and he would continue down to the Gers, returning to Civray to collect our lads and me in a couple of weeks. 

Good planning – not! Temperatures on the Atlantic coast barely crawled out of single figures; other than on the Tuesday afternoon, the weather was persistently cold and wet, biting winds chewed through our lightweight clothing, it was a really damp, icy, miserable week! The highlights were super lunches with Gilly and Dave, and with our lovely friends, Sue, Tchica and Elmo aka El Nino! At least we felt normal, not at all like hobos! In fact, all round, we were pampered – we appreciated that more than words can ever say.

Sadly, Tom’s breathing became more laboured as the days passed, and we knew he was fighting yet another severe chest infection come the day that we travelled to collect our son. Despite the many inhalers, the antibiotics, the steroids, the nebuliser that provides a limited period of time pumping oxygen into his lungs, Tom really does need better medical care and a stable lifestyle. We are so hopeful that 2012 will see an end to our years as hobos living in France. But, we fear we still have more mountains to climb before we even get a sniff of justice!

So, tomorrow, Tom will visit a local doctor and, once again, will be put back on his feet – for a little while at least, Bless him. The Cantal bureaucrats will just have to wait. Voila!

However, while we were off-line, an email came in from our friend and former neighbour, Madame ZC, I picked it up yesterday. It appears that the cadastre has been true to the word he gave in November 2010 – our hairdressing locataire (who is, and always has been, without a tenancy contract) has submitted her Notice of intention to quit our house that’s not our home!

To recap – after continuously querying the annual Tax Foncier cost, we were advised by letter sent from the Cadastral in 2010 that the property has always been, and will always be, residential only, due to it’s proximity to the village Church. The cadastre further advised us that both locataires, ie Monsieur C and the hairdresser, must find alternative accommodation/business premises, and the Cadastral would, as a matter of legal necessity, enforce that requirement.

Well, it has taken sixteen months, but, it appears that it’s now ‘one virtually down, one more to go’!

Do we envisage problems? Yes, we do, this is France! The hairdresser owes just under €4,000 for unpaid water bills. The Tresor Public has demanded that we must pay the unpaid bills, we have refused to pay; we advised the Tresor Public to cut off the water supply if the bills remained outstanding. The situation has been at a stalemate level for some considerable time.

If the hairdresser moves out of the property without paying her unpaid water rates, the onus of responsibility for payment of those unpaid bills legally falls on Tom and me – despite the fact that the hairdresser should not have been operating her business in our property, she has never had a rental lease or any kind of contract with us. We didn’t even know she existed until months after we purchased the property – the sellers, the notaire, the Immobilier, the former hairdresser, all had been aware of her impending takeover of the hairdressing business. Nobody informed us, we were told, by the Immobilier, the notaire and the original hairdresser, that the hairdressing business would be closed at the end of the 9 years commercial lease period in December 2007. We were given copy of an Attestation that confirmed what we were told. 

Madame ZC has advised us that the hairdresser actually had her Notice delivered by l’huissier (a French bailiff), a service for which she would have been required to pay. In fact, all the hairdresser needed to do was to send a Registered letter to Tom and me, and sending the letter to our house that’s not a home would have been legally considered as good enough! Tenants have virtually all the rights here in France, landlords (willing or not!) have very few rights. Certainly, a tenant who does not give Notice is very unlikely to be pursued, it is too costly in both time, effort and money!

Why has the hairdresser gone to time, trouble and expense to notify us, via l’huissier, that she is vacating? Well, we may be exhibiting classic signs of paranoia – that wouldn’t surprise me, but we honestly believe the hairdresser’s action heralds more trouble to come! I will be speaking with l’huissier tomorrow, for as long as my mobile credit lasts, after Tom has been seen by a doctor.


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In The Loop

Rather unfortunately in some cases, foreign buyers tend not to have surveys carried out on French properties, pre-purchase. A false sense of security exists within the purchase processes, although the seller must provide the notaire with information relevant to the property’s strengths and weaknesses, eg lead content, the presence or treatment of asbestos, termites or active woodworm, energy efficiency, electrical installations efficiency, and so on. Since November 2007, after we purchased the property in Champagnac, the list has increased, but more stringent revelations and control are apparently in the pipeline.

Having heard a number of horror stories about sellers ‘fixing’ surveys by offering ‘back-handers’, we decided we would commission an independent architect to carry out a survey for us, the buyers. Our Immobilier was visibly astounded when we told him about our decision, but, he could see we were determined, and he recommended Monsieur G who operated out of an office in nearby Bort-les-Orgues, in the Correze, Limousin. That was the only good deed the Immobilier did for us, as it turned out!

The property is a three-storey, traditional stone house that was originally a stable when it was built in the mid 1800’s. According to the Deeds and other relevant documentation, the building was renovated and given change of use to residency status in the 1940’s. It was further renovated in the 1980’s, when our sellers purchased it,  and changed the use from a family house to a commercial outlet on the ground floor, an apartment on the first floor, and two apartments on the second ie the top floor. At this point, I need to clarify that our sellers changed the layout and use, but they omitted to inform the Cadastral, ie the Land Registry Office in Aurillac, in the Cantal. But, we didn’t find that out until November 2010! In fact, the property must not be used for commercial enterprise, including as a rental property, unless permission is given by the Church. Records show that appropriate permission has never been sought or granted. We were advised in 2010 that permission would not have been given because the front door of the house is just a stone’s throw away from the Village Church. The house is one of four properties built on former Church land, now known as the Place de l’Eglise.

Monsieur G, our architect, agreed to conduct a full survey, and to draw up a set of Plans, in accordance with our instructions, to return the property to family house format, extending into the very high loft area. Tom and I have a large family, it was our dream to be able to accommodate all our children and their families during family holidays together in France, without worrying about space!

An integral part of our plans was to include a lift from the garage, located on the ground floor directly beneath the First Floor apartment, to take us up to the first floor where Tom and I intended to live. Tom was diagnosed with advancing emphysema in 2005; I am a Type 2 diabetic with a cardiac condition that had given me two heart attacks between the ages of 41 years and 56 years. Stairs were obviously going to be a problem, so purchasing the property was very much reliant on whether we could have that lift installed. The architect’s Plans, costings and reports included the lift, and he confirmed there would be no problem. That information was, later that day, shared with the Immobilier when we visited him in his Egletons office, in the Correze, and he told us he was delighted for us because we were “such nice people”. He was always calling us “nice people”, it was rather embarrassing at times.

The full Survey Report, together with the initial set of renovation and modernisation Plans, was with us just a week later. Copies were sent to the notaire directly from the architect’s office, we handed another set of copies directly to the Immobilier, for him to pass to the sellers, before the pre-sale Contract was signed. All parties were kept in the loop at all times, We realised, even at that stage, it was vital that all parties were fully aware of our expectations as buyers.


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