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The National Debt

February 2011 on the outskirts of Chateaubriant in Brittany wasn’t too bad, weather-wise, and March was even better, spring had sprung! So, Tom and I decided to take a chance and travel to the house in Champagnac to collect some summer clothing. The four of us only carry three changes of clothing each plus wash-bags; our tent, cooking equipment and sleeping gear virtually fill the boot of our ‘old girl’. So, other than when we replace with new any clothing and shoes that are outgrown or beyond needle and cotton, we transfer hot and cold weather clothing twice each year to and from the house. We really do have that off pat now!

We telephoned our friend, Madame ZC, to let her know we would be visiting and collecting our mail, and she invited us to stay overnight in her house to break the long journey. I suggested to Tom that we should perhaps try once again to sort out the hairdresser’s water rates issue with the Tresor Public in Saignes, as we could not persuade the hairdresser to take responsibility for her debt without our intervention. Tom agreed and I put all relevant documents into the car. Before doing that, however, I calculated the rental payments that had been made to the Tresor Public by Monsieur C and Mademoiselle S (the hairdresser), added to the amount that we had paid because Monsieur MA (our first avocat) had done a runner with our designated money, and I balanced the total against the taxes foncier and d’habitation that had been due for payment since 2008. The bottom line was an amount of +€1000. Tom and I decided to suggest to the Tresor Public that they clear the hairdresser’s outstanding water rates bill with that excess, we refuse to accept the rent payments, as advised by Monsieur MA right from the beginning. Off we set the following day, before sunrise.

We arrived at the Tresor Public just after 11am and were relieved to see the duty clerk was not our sellers’ relative. The relief was short-lived! Within seconds of approaching the clerk’s desk and laying our neatly printed paperwork in front of her, she just glanced at it and, without a word, walked into a back office. Tom and I were at a loss! What should we do? Stay or leave? People can be so rude, sometimes.

Just as we were walking towards the exit door, the clerk returned and literally slammed a jotter pad onto the counter, we just looked at her quite shocked. Then, she beckoned us over and started copying figures from a print-off. Eventually, the clerk turned the jotter around so that we could see the figures, and she pointed to the bottom line, it was nearly €2,000 less than my calculations and gave us a deficit, but I immediately saw the reason. I told the clerk she had miscalculated three years tax d’habitation, it had not been payable because my husband and I are both pensioners, and Tom was over 60 years old when we moved to France in 2007.

The clerk looked me squarely in the eye and said, “The house in Champagnac is your second home, you live more often in a tent, that is your primary home. You must pay taxe d’habitation for the house. You must also pay the water rates bill if you don’t sign the hairdresser’s Lease.” I calmly asked the clerk to put the details in writing, and I assured her that we would wait, she shook her head and said nothing further.

We walked out of the office and have not returned, we feel a return trip would be a wasted journey. We have never received a written receipt for, or a written breakdown of, the payments made by the locataires directly to the Tresor Public. We do know the annual rent payments made total €3,234:24, and the tax foncier last year was €806, after €200 was deducted due to changes at the Cadastre.

We’re quite surprised that France still has a National Debt!

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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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