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They Can’t Keep Good Hobos Down!

What a week it has been, more ups and downs than some fairgrounds can offer! Family and I have sunk into the depths of despair, we have rocketed up to virtually float on the highest cirrus clouds, and we have moved into the weekend with a balanced level of cautious hope in our hearts.

Yet again, good friends have provided us with unreserved support, kindness, encouragement and sincere offers of as much help as they can possibly give. So many people, who we didn’t know and who didn’t know of us before this week, have offered advice, guidance, kindness, information and support. Yes, we live in what can be a very cruel world, but, this week, we re-discovered the good that is also in this world! Good that is probably often smothered by the big selling power of bad news.

Receiving the knock-back from the ECHR sent me scurrying on a mission to find out if we could still take our house Case to the Cour de Cassation. I could not believe that all the fraud, corruption and injustice would win the day. Without doubt, I started this week looking and feeling at least twenty years older than I am! But, when I looked at the utter despair on the drawn, grey faces of Tom and Paul, I knew I had to make an effort to find a way to raise hope.

This is how we have survived the past few years. When one or other of us is down, the others pick up the fallen Hobo! On this occasion we were all down, but it took only one of us to get the ball of hope rolling again and to crank up momentum!

Grandson, of course, was totally oblivious to our very heavy sense of defeat; we ensure that he is always protected from this aspect of what we know as ‘real life’. He is too young to be burdened with such pain, sadness and futility.

After publishing my last blog post, I received so many messages from folks who were genuinely astonished by the fact that the ECHR had accepted the blatant lies issued by the Cour de Cassation Bureau d’Aide. Until the day I draw my last breath I will know that I did submit all documentation required to assess our total global income for Legal Aid. Nothing will change that fact.

One of the messages was sent by Catharine Higginson of SFN (Survive France Network). Catharine kindly invited me to post about our house Case situation in the specific SFN Group where there is an adviser with grounded legal knowledge. My first thought was that s/he might not want to become embroiled in our complex saga! But, I followed Catharine’s advice and posted a brief summary of events covering the years from July 2007 to the day, this year, when we received that shocking news from the ECHR.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained!

I had posted links to my most recently published blog on Hobos In France Forum (HIFF), on Facebook, in the Hobos Facebook Group and on Twitter – my usual practice. Although I didn’t post a link in my SFN summary, I soon discovered that several SFN members were already following my blog; some had subscribed, as long ago as January 2012, to receive notification of new blog posts as and when they are published. Within hours of publishing my new blog post, I was contacted by a wonderful gentleman who offered me access to his subscription to a website offering bona fide legal advice on any matter of law, including French law. My family’s benefactor wishes to remain anonymous, he knows who he is and we will always remain indebted to him.

I gratefully accepted the offer and my first question was submitted to the website experts. Briefly, are we able to have our Case heard at the Cour de Cassation if we pay the (approximately) 4000€ to 6000€ legal fees to our (third) avocat and the specialist Cour de Cassation avocat? The reply was, ‘No.’ We were out of time eight weeks after the Riom Cour d’Appel Judgement was given in December 2009, although that was extended to July 2010, as we discovered this year!

Whatever, the Bureau d’Aide had received the essential documents well before even the July deadline!

The legal expert who answered my questions is a Paris Court Judge. He went on to comment that he could not understand why we were offered opportunity by the Cour de Cassation Bureau d’Aide to re-apply for legal aid in October 2012.

I didn’t go into details, but I did include the fact that the Riom Cour d’Appel Judgement included the statement about recognising the fraud of the sellers, and, further, that the Court stated it had no French law in place to enable the justices to give a Judgement in our favour.

I then asked the Judge if there is a Court that might consider our Case, other than the ECHR?

The reply came back very quickly, yes, the EUCJ will consider our Case.

I returned to the Judge with one last question, are we out of time to take our Case to the EUCJ?

The reply arrived within a few (rather nerve-wracking!) hours. Given the circumstances, ‘No’, he did not believe our Case would be ruled by the EUCJ as being out of time. In my next blog post, I will be able to let folks know what the EUCJ can do about our situation.

So, our Case is going, as swiftly as possible, to the EUCJ in Luxembourg. Voila!

I have much to do, including arranging the retrieval of our file from the ECHR. That mini forest contains all the evidence of the treatment my family and I have been subjected to throughout the (almost) six years that we have lived in France.

In the meantime, RSI, that superbly efficient representative of worst bureaucratic practice, has lost the two S1 forms that we posted (LRAR) at the beginning of this month! In the same envelope, we placed all necessary copy documents, including the two S1 forms and the completed form that is relevant to my RSI issued carte vitale. Tom is legally entitled to ‘piggyback’ on my carte vitale until we move over to CPAM at the end of April. We’re dreading the changeover, I make no bones about that!

Yes, I know, how can we expect better bureaucratic administration, we live in France! Chuckle!

But, one day, they will all realise the fact that they can’t keep good Hobos down!

Now, where is that ‘wink’ Smilie! 😉

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Posted by on March 23, 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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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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Losing A Friend And Meeting New Friends

Nothing else is more clearly defined in my mind than receiving the news about the death of our dear friend, step-mother to my three eldest children from my first marriage, in December 2008. Although we could always be contacted by mobile telephone at that time, we didn’t receive that shattering text message until a week after the funeral. Obviously, death and a funeral do take precedence over all other events and considerations, but, that was when we started to discover just how much family opposition there was to our fight for justice in France. Immediately after receiving the text message, I contacted my sister, I didn’t know if she had been informed. She had been informed, before the funeral. My sister was verbally disappointed in me for not returning to the UK, for choosing to fight for justice in France, and that was the last time we had mutually agreed contact, she has no wish to have further contact with me. But, we send her and my brother-in-Law birthday, Christmas and Wedding Anniversary cards, and we send them postcards each time we move to a different commune. We must respect the wishes of others, but two wrongs never make a right.

During January, Tom duly returned to Champagnac to help load our furnishings onto the lorry for Troc to take and sell. Unfortunately, the village was snowed-in for ten days, so we didn’t see Tom for nearly a fortnight. It was an unnerving period of time, being apart reduced our team strength and our focus. We were much happier when Tom was able to return from one thawing village to another!

Mid-February 2009, we packed up the car, said fond farewells to Jacques and Natasha, after letting them know we hadn’t packed the teaspoons! They both laughed with us, we had shared the story with them, weeks earlier, over mugs of steaming hot chocolate in their wonderfully traditional, rustic, farmhouse kitchen! Then, once again, we were on the road, leaving behind us the towering, snow-encrusted twin peaks of Les Mont d’Olmes, heading to Castres in the Tarn Department.

Through the forum, I had found another camping site on the outskirts of Castres that remains open throughout twelve months of the year. We arrived in Vielmur-sur-Agout well before dark, booked into the camping site and had the tent up, car unpacked, meal cooking, and we were drinking mugs of hot tea as the sun disappeared from sight. The Vielmur-sur-Agout camping site is run by a lovely, warm-natured French family. They allotted to us a pitch opposite the children’s playing area, where we were protected from the icy winds by tall, dense hedgerows on three sides of the pitch. Just as we have always found in France, wherever we have pitched our tent, the shower blocks and toilet facilities were immaculate. We have landed on the Vielmur-sur-Agout camping site, often without giving prior notice, several times during the past three years. We are always warmly welcomed, and that same pitch is never booked to anybody other than to us!

Finding an internet café in Castres, I visited the forum to find other camping sites closer to Albi. Tom and I, with my sister and brother-in-Law, had visited Albi in September 2003, during an extended holiday spent mainly in the Midi-Pyrenees. We had promised ourselves that we would return to that magical City one day. But, that had to wait until a later time, through the forum I found another member asking for a pet/house sitter in Department 12, the Aveyron, I contacted her immediately, and she booked us for five weeks starting on the 1st March. We couldn’t believe our luck, a house, a log fire, beds, a cooker, a bath, and a super little cat to make it all just purrrrfect! But, first, we had to get through two weeks of camping in February’s unforgiving, harsh weather.

The worst time during that two weeks was right through a night when the temperature dropped to -18C degrees. Two of us in the car, two in the tent, three of us didn’t sleep at all throughout that long, extremely cold night. By the time the sun rose, we knew Tom had at least two frost-bitten toes. Despite obtaining medical treatment that same day, Tom suffered almost continuously with pain in those toes until gangrene set in; He finally lost one and a half toes to amputation in February 2010. Surgery had become urgently required to save his leg. But, that’s another story!

 

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People

Different people respond or react in different ways when life suddenly turns turtle for themselves, for loved ones, or for friends. Our family and friends were no different when we told them our house in France could never be our home. But, I think the worst parts of the responses and reactions have probably been associated with the sheer disbelief that we have met since August/September 2007. In all honesty, I can’t blame anyone for not believing what has happened to us during that time. I can’t blame anyone for not believing the difficulties we have faced during our fight for justice in France. It is a fact that nobody could ever have envisaged how we would be living now, compared with how we lived our lives in the UK before we moved to France.

I digressed because I am now receiving stunned messages from family and friends who, understandably, have not realised, probably have not believed, just how serious our situation has been throughout the past 4 years and 6 months. In simple terms, it must have seemed incredible, ridiculous, unbelievable and beyond all comprehension. But, for each and every paragraph I write, there is a formal document to confirm the content of each paragraph.

A few days after our initial conversation with Monsieur MA, avocat, the resident locataire, Monsieur C, sent  a formal, registered letter to Tom and me. In the letter, Monsieur C refused, point blank, to allow any repairs or restoration works to be carried out on any part of the property that was rented to him. He also referred to our ‘family’s dream’ becoming our ‘nightmare’. What a charmless person!

I telephoned Monsieur MA and was able to speak with him immediately, his cheerful greeting was confirmation that we did, indeed, have a vice caché Case against our sellers. I asked if our property insurances policy would cover the cost of the legal fees, Monsieur MA replied that we were not covered under the policy. Tom and I had €50,000 set aside in our French Bank account to pay for the restoration and conversion works, €10,000 more than our architect had quoted. We also had £25,000 savings stored in our UK Bank account, the rest of our life savings. I asked Monsieur MA for a ballpark figure for the cost of the proceedings, his reply was €4,000 to €6,000. I quickly explained to Tom and he immediately agreed that we should proceed.

Monsieur MA was totally incorrect. To date, the proceedings, other expenses incurred due to French law, the extra costs associated with owning one property and having to live in other properties, plus the expense of having to constantly move around France, in addition to having to pay in full for all medical treatment, has cost in excess of €55,000. Our remaining life savings, plus £5,000 loaned to us by our eldest son, plus £1,200 jointly loaned to us by my sister and my cousin to pay towards my breast cancer and cardiac issues, well, that little lot just saw us through the three years until my pensions kicked in and started being paid! It took a little under eight months for DWP to finally start paying my pensions, that was after I had contacted an MEP about the delay. The MEP (then) was Caroline Lucas, she is now the Green Party Leader, a wonderful, caring person.

Monsieur MA had some bad news for us, though, we could not undertake any works on the property during the proceedings, but any existing works Contracts would have to be honoured, in French law, and the cost would be claimed from the sellers in due course. So, we paid Monsieur MA’s initial bill, he thanked us; we paid the architect’s bill, he thanked us; we paid the double-glazing guy – the new windows and external doors had already been ordered – he thanked us; we had paid for other materials up-front and we gathered all the receipts together.

But, temporary repairs on the toilet and other plumbing requirements gave up the ghost, the plumber was unable to carry out further repairs and we weren’t permitted, in French law, to have new plumbing. The electrical installations that would have been entirely replaced under our ownership, were suddenly considered by EDF to be ‘dangerous’, but we weren’t permitted, in French law, to have a re-wire. Yet, it took EDF over three years to disconnect the meters, so we had to keep paying Standing Charges until the meters were eventually disconnected! People, eh?

Oh, and Monsieur MA was (for want of other words and terminology) incorrect, our legal costs would have been covered by our insurance Policy – if Monsieur MA had bothered to contact the agent! Some people are just not thorough. However, we didn’t actually discover that little gem until over a year later.

Bottom line – we had to move out of the property.

 

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