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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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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

 

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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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Heading For Paris

So, where did we go wrong this time? Well, to answer that question, we first needed to know what had taken place in that Appeal Court, in Riom. Alexandra didn’t bother with the preambles, she gave us the bottom line in a series of telephone calls and emails, question and answer format. The judiciary “recognised the sellers’ fraud.” But, they decided, the sellers are elderly, they are retired. Yes, that’s true, and so are we. The judiciary commented that the sellers were “arrogant”. But, it was added, they are elderly. We’re not arrogant, but, to reiterate, we’re elderly too.

The judiciary did not agree that the garage was important to the purchase of the property. But, had the garage not been important, we would not have spent thousands on an architect and Plans; we would not have  submitted documentation to the Tribunal, including formal medical information, to prove how important that garage space was to us, to our health. The Tribunal ruled that our health issues were not for the judiciary to consider, our health issues were of no importance to the Tribunal.

The judiciary recognised that the sellers had ‘hidden the truth about Monsieur C, the locataire.’ But, they added, Monsieur C had (has!) an assured tenancy, a protected tenancy, and he can’t be forced to leave the property. But, where does that leave us? That question is not for the judiciary to answer.

The judiciary recognised the fraud committed by the sellers where the selling on of the hairdresser’s Lease was concerned. But, the sellers are elderly. Yes, we’re elderly too. The judiciary recognised the fact that the notaire had not divulged to us the selling on of the hairdresser’s Lease. But, they added, the notaire was “young and inexperienced”, and the justices had correctly ‘smacked the notaire’s wrist’ during the first Tribunal.

The Appeal Tribunal President concluded by saying the Court recognised the fraud (again!), but the judiciary did not have a law in place by which to find in our favour. Vice caché laws have been in place since the late 1990’s, 1997 or 1998, depending on which avocat one speaks with! The Tribunal President went on to add that we could take the Case to the Cour de Cassation in Paris, to Appeal. The Cour de Cassation is the French Supreme Court. Presentation of an Appeal to the Cour de Cassation requires the services of a ‘specialist’ barrister who acts accordingly with instructions given directly by the main avocat, ie in our case, Alexandra. There are approximately a dozen specialist Cour de Cassation barristers who are reputed to be the best in France; apparently, they really know their onions where the laws of France are concerned! A Cour de Cassation barrister will, apparently, only take a Case that has the highest possible chance of succeeding!

Cost? Too much! By that time, we were running on fumes! I was honest with Alexandra, and she responded, ‘You must apply for Legal Aid. You can obtain it within six weeks, your Case can be heard at the Cour de Cassation within 6 to 8 months. We will start the processes at the beginning of January (2010). The Appeal Judge did not consider your human rights.’

That conversation took place two or three days before Christmas Day 2009. It took us until November 2010 to get the Legal Aid. We are still waiting for a hearing date to be set by the Cour de Cassation in Paris. The only way we managed to obtain French Legal Aid was through intervention by the European Court of Human Rights, Strasbourg. But, that’s another story!

 

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Sticks And Stones

People often ask me how I can possibly recall precise details of events that happened several years ago, especially as our lifestyle has been, undeniably, utterly chaotic since 2007! When I reply, I sometimes see a fleeting expression that indicates total disbelief, but most folks are too polite to say as much! The bottom line is that I am blessed with a very good long term memory, and I subconsciously link public events that are of interest to me to my memory of personal events. Hence, I clearly recall what happened to family and me, in France, in October 2009, because my memories of that period are linked to the tragic, very premature death of a wonderfully talented young man in the public eye at that time, Stephen Gately. The words to the song I have posted above are indicative of how we conduct our lives as hobos.

During our years of fighting for justice, we have found some true friends of several nationalities, not only British, but also French, Flemish, American and Dutch. But, it must be said, we have also been verbally  ridiculed, taken advantage of, openly called “Traveller types” and “the Gypsy family”, and we were once accused of stealing from a house where we had pet/house sat months before the alleged theft, and the items had actually disappeared long after we left that property. If we were Travellers or Gypsies, we would possibly be afforded better treatment according to European laws! If we were Travellers or Gypsies, we might not consider the materialistic value of a house to be worth fighting for, to the detriment of health and well-being. If we were Travellers or Gypsies, we would be proud of our relevant history, culture and creed; but we are not Travellers or Gypsies, our current lifestyle is alien to us! We have ‘turned the other cheek’ on several occasions, we have carried out tasks, without complaint, that were not our responsibility, we have truly learned how not to treat others. Are we bitter? Absolutely not! French folks have an all-encompassing popular saying that we use almost daily, c’est la vie! That’s life.

Onward! Sue and Rick had asked us if we could return to Montpon-Ménestérol, in the Dordogne, towards the end of 2009, we were delighted to have that confirmed ‘booking’ in my diary. But, in the meantime, we travelled around France, enjoying, learning, meeting new people, experiencing nature’s fury in spectacular thunder and lightening storms, laughing as we quite often needed to lie on top of the tent to hold it down as the Mistral buffeted us and underpinned the reality of frail, human bodies. We even managed to spend two fantastic days in Albi, taking leisurely walks along the magnificent River Tarn, eating our picnic meals and feeding the swans, buying the odd day’s fishing licence only to catch nothing but the dreaded poisson chat that must not be returned to the water! France is only just beginning to jump on the ‘exploitation bandwagon’ of charging sometimes extortionate entry fees to ruins; many wonderful, historic buildings can still be accessed and appreciated by families for a very low cost.

We returned to Sue and Rick’s home and pets via Janet and Mark’s serene camping site, where we helped to prune and treat very elderly fruit trees, watched the hoopoes in the meadow very early each morning, spent hours walking in Melle’s fascinating arboretum, a place we associate with peace of mind, and we stuffed ourselves with the delicious, variously flavoured, melt-in-mouth yoghurt sponge cakes that Janet makes for us every time we turn up on her doorstep!

After leaving the micro-climate of the Deux-Sevres, heading towards the hot, rather humid and steamy Department of the Dordogne, we quietly talked about the content of my most recent conversation with our avocat, Julia. It was looking very likely that our Case would not be ready for Tribunal presentation by that coming December, Julia was seriously ill, urgently required surgery, and she needed to immediately hand over our file to another avocat, our third avocat.

 

 

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