RSS

Tag Archives: hobos

EDF…We’re On To Your Little Game!

Ten hectic days, predominantly spent packing up the house and putting it into the hands of a highly recommended notaire, brought some unexpected revelations from our resident locataire, Monsieur C, and several helpful suggestions from the notaire’s English-speaking assistant. But, that little lot followed on the heels of EDF trying to rip us off!

We have learned much during our time as hobos in France, however, our minds are constantly boggled by the learning from each new lesson!

Tom and I arrived in Champagnac (15), location of our pile, during the afternoon of Sunday 7 July. I was extremely (but silently!) worried about Tom driving such a long distance after so many months of severe ill-health, but, he took his time and even the dreaded A20 didn’t phase him! The A20 is what we consider to be France’s equivalent to the UK’s M25, to be avoided whenever possible! There is a D-roads system alternative route to the A20, however, that route would have added distance, time, petrol cost and greater wear and tear on the ‘old girl’. So, we chose the A20, followed by the much quieter A89, concluding with the D979 to Bort-les-Orgues (19), aka ‘the organ pipes’, then, into the Cantal and up the mountain road to ‘our’ village high on the plateau.

Despite there having been a live electricity supply to the shop section in the house when we last visited in September 2012, in time to oversee the exit of the hairdresser, the electricity supply had been cut off by the time we arrived on this occasion.

How could that happen? According to the relevant Civil Code, the hairdresser only had the right to switch off the electricity at the meter after taking her final reading and passing the reading to EDF. Only the property owner(s) can have the electricity supply totally disconnected, unless, of course, EDF consider the supply to be in a dangerous condition – in that event, EDF can disconnect the supply without permission from the property owner(s), fair enough.

Well, here’s the twist!

Unbeknown to us, the shop’s electricity meter had been installed by a private company way back in the late 1990’s when the original hairdresser had been permitted, by our sellers, to start up her business – illegally, without the necessary permissions, as we discovered in 2010.

Paul contacted EDF to get the electricity supply reconnected at the earliest – EDF (Ciel Bleu) had no knowledge or record of the electricity supply to the hairdresser’s shop, they had no record of the property’s change of ownership in July 2007. Yet, we were paying the bills for two of the apartments, until we had the supply disconnected in 2012 after a two years fight with EDF about the unsafe condition of the wiring! For goodness sake, Tom recognised the state of the electrical wiring in 2007 – he is a retired electrician and he didn’t acquire his professional qualifications and experience on the ferry that moved us to France!

Paul gave our original 2007 client number to EDF, also the full address of the property. EDF had no record of the property address being Place de l’Eglise, their details still offered the property address as Place de Bourg (we have no idea why!) and the owners as Monsieur et Madame T, ie our sellers!

What a shambles!

Eventually, Paul was able to persuade EDF that we do own the property and we desperately required electricity to be restored to the shop area to power Tom’s nebuliser. By Thursday morning, EDF were promising Paul the electricity would be reconnected on the 5 August!

What?

So, Paul jumped up and down – just as the French do when things are not going their way! It worked, but, at a price!

On Thursday morning, EDF advised Paul that the electricity supply to the shop would be reconnected between 10am and 12 noon on Monday 15 July; the cost of reconnection would be 100 euros plus TVA, due to the fact that the ‘emergency reconnection’ would have to be carried out by a private company.

EDF (Ciel Bleu) also advised Paul to contact them immediately if the electrician had not arrived by 7pm, at the latest, on the Monday. Paul said he would do that and he asked what time the Ciel Bleu helpline would close on the Monday…….”6.30pm” was the reply!

Chuckle!

Oh, joy! The electrician duly arrived at 11.55 on the Monday morning, Bless. Hmmmmm! His uniform and van portrayed the distinct logo of…EDF! Private company, my foot!

Oh yes, we’re definitely on to your little scam, EDF (Ciel Bleu)!

Next blog page – how the current notaire will get rid of Monsieur C, because we have “no chance of selling” if the locataire remains resident in our property.

Also, we have news about our ‘way forward’, according to the European Ombudsman – the same route was also advised by our current notaire and her assistant!

Oh la la! It’s all still happening for the hobos in France!

Advertisements
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 20, 2013 in World

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

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! 😉

 
24 Comments

Posted by on March 23, 2013 in World

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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  

 
4 Comments

Posted by on February 21, 2013 in World

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Moving Back To The Cantal!

Since our house Case started, family and I have often wondered if our biggest error was made when we didn’t carry on down-country to settle in the Midi-Pyrenees. The Midi-Pyrenees was where we were heading to in 2007, but the mountains of the Auvergne were Sirens that persuaded us to end our house search there! However, in recent weeks, we have reached the conclusion that the Auvergne was, and remains, right for us, individually and as a family unit.

We miss the Sirens! Tom and I miss the relatively good health we enjoyed in the Cantal, and we all miss the space, soaring Golden Eagles, green lizards with blue heads, rural peace, crisp ‘dry’ snow that melts without leaving filthy slush for days on end, dry heat with relatively low humidity, spectacular storms that follow the meandering rivers and crackle and drum-roll below the top of the high plateau where our house is located. We miss the excitement of discovering exotic orchids that long ago disappeared from the British countryside – not just one or two orchids, but fields filled with orchids! We also miss the kindness of the villagers who made us feel welcome, valued and valuable. Only a handful of folks are responsible for our plight.  

The house we purchased was our primary home, not a holiday home, and we were the first British family to buy a primary residence in the village. We burned our bridges before leaving the UK, sold our house and most chattels, bought one-way tickets and moved to France – lock, stock and barrel!

Of course, those who have read my blog from day one will already know our house that’s not a home is the only property in the world that we own. But, other folks, who have cherry-picked – for whatever reason – when reading my blog, don’t know about that fact. In recent weeks, a couple of people have asked me why family and I didn’t just up sticks and return to the UK when we had to move out of the house in Champagnac. There are reasons, very valid reasons, as previously mentioned in my blog, but there are two extremely important reasons. The first is that we can’t obtain legal aid in France if we live in the UK, and we can’t obtain legal aid in the UK to fund this last step of our house Case in France. Secondly, we moved to live permanently in France for several reasons, those reasons still apply today, just as they did when we initially decided to move to France. Voila!

So, we will be returning to the Cantal. The hairdresser, Mademoiselle S, is due to vacate our property on Sunday 30 September, as confirmed in her formal Notice to us that was delivered by l’Huissier (baliff). Recently, the hairdresser sent a brief letter to us requesting permission to delay her exit from our property until March 2013. She told us (in her letter) her new business premises won’t be ready for occupation until then. She also asked us to ‘take pity on’ her business. Needless to say, we have responded to the letter with an emphatic “non”!

Copies of all relevant documents have been sent to the Cour de Cassation and the ECHR. Of course!

However – and, yes, this is the ‘but’ that tends to accompany most (all?) of our plans in France! Says she, rolling eyes! If Mademoiselle S decides to remain in our property until March 2013, leaving us out in the cold for another winter, our fifth winter as hobos in France, we won’t be able to do anything about it. Why not? I will elucidate next time!

 
14 Comments

Posted by on August 29, 2012 in World

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Rogues, Thieves And Hobos!

Christmas 2011 and the New Year period of 2012 were settled times for us. After the rather nasty Storm Joachim had ploughed its way through France and into Germany, wreaking havoc along its entire path, we were able to clear Sue’s garden of minor debris from the trees, and we headed for the beach at Saint-Georges-de-Didonne. Although he was still plagued by night time coughing, and unable to walk further than 100m without stopping to rest, Tom was feeling, and looking, much better; driving short distances presented as no problem for him. However, little did we know, but it was only a brief respite.

Nearly every day, coat pockets filled with ‘doggy poop bags’, we would pile into the car – Tchica sitting regally in the back seat with the lads, Elmo in the boot after we had removed all the furnishings. Tchica is one of the most laid-back RottieX bitches we have ever met, in fact, she and another Rottie, Amber, Sue and Rick’s bitch, are up there on a pedestal for us! Although, we have been very lucky, Alf the hound in the Tarn et Garonne, Leah and Susie in Les Eyzies, Forest and Hector in Brittany, there’s very little between them all where good, gentle character and obedience are concerned; each of them has a special place in our hearts.

Elmo, though, must be the naughtiest, most wilful, exceptionally mischievous dog of all time, and we love him to bits!

I nicknamed Elmo ‘El Nino’, after the Peruvian translation for ‘the naughty boy’, a weather cycle that creates all manner of problems around the world, when we first looked after him and Tchica during the summer of 2011! That’s what Elmo is, a constant series of whirlwinds and hurricanes that simply don’t dissipate until he falls asleep, exhausted, each evening! He is an absolute rogue of the first degree, a rascal that oozes unconditional love and affection for all man- and woman-kind! Elmo is the dog that all children should have as a play-pal during their early years, particularly. I expect readers get the picture by now, Elmo is the dog we would have loved to be a much-loved part of our family unit, if only circumstances had been different for us.

During our years as hobos, there have been many other pets that we have met, cared for, loved, and that have loved us in return. One of those pets was a very large, overweight, black Sam. We had been recommended to young Sam’s owners as ‘excellent sitters who enjoy walking dogs’. Absolutely correct! So, during the summer of 2009, we were called on to look after Sam in the Dordogne, and to exercise him until he attained the sleek shape he needed to be to live a long, healthy life. In the six weeks I was with Sam, my menfolk were ‘sitting’ in different regions in France, we walked an average of 12kms to 15kms each day. Sam lost weight, so did I! But, we were both much healthier for that weight loss and muscle toning. End result, a happy, bouncy Sam, and two happy owners who arrived to remove Sam to their new home in the UK, and to continue with his exercise regime.

Sadly, some two years later, and long after our son had painted and decorated a lot of that same property in the Dordogne, unpaid, in return for the owners putting a roof over our heads for a period of 5 weeks during the winter of 2009/2010, one of Sam’s owners emailed me to ask if we had ‘removed tools from the property, forgetting to let him know’! In other words, had we stolen the tools, including a rather large strimmer! I still have the email, and my emailed response, in which I reminded him that our ‘old girl’ aka our Citroen, could not carry his ‘missing tools’, we always have a car that is filled to capacity with all our worldly hobo goods! I also informed the guy that we had been hundreds of kilometres away from his French property when his tools had, allegedly, been taken – a fact I could prove. Additionally, I reminded him that he and his family, and their friends, had spent holiday periods in the property since we had last been there, I have the chatty emails letting us know when they were in France with Sam.

Pete, you know who you are, we are still waiting for your apology. We are hobos, not by choice or deliberate design, but through circumstances that are beyond our control. We are not, never have been, never will be, thieves.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Broken Dreams And Sunny Days

Dusk was falling as we arrived at the camping site, we barely had the time to get the tent up and a hot drink made before the night clouds arrived, and shockingly chilly air descended. After the warmth of the sunny day, we were brought back to the reality that it was still Spring, early in the year and weeks away from Summer!

Everything we could carry had been packed into the car, including three extra sets of clean clothing each. We gradually put on most of our extra clothing until it became obvious that we could not beat the cold night air! So, we gave up and went to bed, that is, we climbed into our sleeping-bags still wearing a full set of top clothing each!  We lay in the cold, pitch-black darkness quietly talking about our broken dreams, it was a moment of truth we had not anticipated. I know I silently cried, I have no doubt my menfolk wept too. It’s something we have never spoken about, we each need to hold onto every shred of pride and self-esteem we have.

The following morning, it was still dark when we woke up and started the day’s necessary activities. It was cold, so very cold. We scurried around, trying to keep warm while we automatically prepared breakfast, took turns to watch the pan of hot water on our single camping-stove, and visited the shower-block to complete our ablutions. As the first warm rays of sunshine started to appear over the grapevine planted hill in front of us, we sat on huge boulders facing the welcome warmth, with steaming cups of hot tea in our cold hands.

We take so much for granted during our lives, I have been no different to many. But, since that early May morning in 2008, I have welcomed each and every sunrise with the thought, and very often the spoken words, “We have survived another night.”

Almost five months of glorious sunshine, walking on the beaches, visiting relatively busy coastal towns and tiny inland villages as they seemed to stretch, yawn, wake up and come alive for the season. We watched the crowds increase in volume as Spring gave way to early Summer. We spent the first week at Manjastre, then we started moving along the coast towards Nice, camping on the cheaper, although not cheap, municipal camping sites with their pristinely clean shower-blocks and washing facilities. Gradually, we relaxed and started to enjoy this magnificent country, its culture and history, its wide open spaces and beautiful countryside. I have travelled extensively during my life, but France is the only country where I want to spend the rest of my life. Despite our ongoing ordeal, my menfolk feel the same as I do.

Every month, we travelled back to the house in Champagnac to collect mail and to ensure the building was still standing! Each time, we spent at least two nights in a Premiere Classe B&B hotel en route, ensuring that we did not need to stay overnight in the house that can never be our home. We remained in contact with our avocat, via emails and telephone calls, throughout. There was never any news for us.

Our savings were dwindling, camping is not the cheap adventure of yesteryear, fuel and vehicle repairs can empty pockets and wallets without too much trouble at all. But, a severe storm warning sent us from our tent into a chalet on a mobile homes camping site, on the opposite side of Toulon from Manjastre. More about that on the next page!

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,