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The Reality For Us?

I must first apologise to readers who may have found my previous two blog posts somewhat confusing and little short of chaotic! But, that’s how it was for family and me throughout 2010. There were very few periods of peace and stability, our lives were anchored only by the unconditional support of good friends, including a family who will be anonymous because they, too, have suffered great hardship due to corruption, theft and fraud during their property purchasing processes in France.

One day, they may decide to take it further, it is never too late to seek justice.

The family gave us our first home, ie a caravan, since we had left Champagnac in 2008. We were able to sleep off the ground, with a solid roof over our heads, not far from the bank of a truly beautiful lake. They included us in family leisure activities and events, introduced us to their extended family and friends, both British and French, and for a brief period on several occasions during 2010 and 2011, we felt totally ‘normal’!

If this blog is being read by any member of the family, you will know who you are! Thank you for your unconditional support, despite having your own very heavy cross to bear. Our promise remains, if Tom ever wins a EuroMillions jackpot, half will be yours; our half will spread very well around our family and other good friends!

Well, we never know what’s around the corner, and we always try to see that our glass is half full, not half empty!

2010 was a year that will remain forever inscribed in our memories as the year in which our well-being and dignity were almost buried under bureaucracy, and under the knowledge that corruption in this physically beautiful country always lies sleeping  beneath a vividly ugly side that is only ever masked. During our quality time with the family to whom I am referring, I spoke with a number of their French friends and neighbours; it was their observations and life stories that showed us just how unfair and difficult life can be for so many French families, some of whom have also seen behind the mask.

Whoever enters the Elysée Palace as the newly elected French President, later this year, has a lot of work to do to inspire at least some of the people of France, where justice versus corruption is concerned!

Christmas 2010 found us, once again, pet/house sitting for Sue and Rick near Montpon-Ménestérol in the Dordogne. It was a bitterly cold Christmas, with a lot of snow falling throughout December – we had an emphatic White Christmas, our third in three years, but, thankfully, that one was also not spent in the tent! Our poor ‘old girl’, our car, had covered some 50,000kms during that year, and she was struggling! So, our Christmas present to ourselves was to get our ‘old girl’ rested, appropriately ‘medicated’, and back on her wheels ready for 2011.

The beginning of February 2011 saw us heading further north in France than we had ever wandered before, to a pet/house-sit on the outskirts of Chateaubriant, in Brittany. There, we were given the warmest possible welcome by Nikki and her ‘menagerie’! We remember all the names of the animals we have cared for over the years, and Nikki’s pets are no exception – 3 dogs, ie Dippy, Hector and Forest; 4 cats, ie Marmalade, Spice, Boo and Ghost; Nanny the Pygmy Goat; Jerry the pony; the goose and the gander, nicknamed, by me, the Gruesome Twosome, the gander can be a very feisty fellow, and the chooks. We had some fun and games with that little lot during the coming months! We still call them the ‘Super Squad’! Just as we still call Diane and Brian’s not-quite-101 tortoises the ‘Boys & Girls’!

Sadly, the Super Squad is now two members short. Dippy passed away after undergoing what should have been a simple veterinary procedure, when Nikki was back in France on holiday with her pets; and she emailed us, not too long ago, to let us know Nanny the Pygmy Goat had also passed away, of old age.

By the time we arrived in Brittany, we had come to the conclusion that there was nothing else left for us to do, with regard to the house Case, and now was the time for me to resolve my increasing health issues. Sadly, that was not to be! Again, before we had cleared the winter months, the bureaucratic forces were upon us once more, and, in response to my calmly delivered complaint about corruption in the Tresor Public in Saignes, I was equally calmly told, “Madam, this is the reality for you in France.”

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Mountains And The First Judgement

Following the ‘stolen teaspoons’ fiasco, we headed for Nice and the possibility of a pitch on a site that remained open throughout twelve months of the year. We were thinking about Christmas, wondering how we could celebrate Christmas in a tent with a ‘hobo’ cooker! We were also thinking about our family in the UK. By that time, our youngest grandchild, born in the UK in August 2007, had come through various life-saving treatments, but her condition still gave cause for concern about her future development. Her mum and dad were under constant pressure and, for the first time ever, I could not be there for one of my kids. Nobody will ever know how I felt during that dreadful period, I was torn apart by the need to ‘be there’ with family on both sides of The Pond. When people mention the word ‘compensation’ to me, I know they are referring to money. No amount of money could ever compensate for what we have suffered, that applies to our entire family living in two countries.

Earlier in the year, I had become a member of an on-line Francophile forum. Whenever possible, I would visit an internet café and keep abreast of the news for the British community living in France. Our telephone was still connected at the house, and I would spend a couple of hours on the forum when we went to collect our mail. The forum was ideal for locating camping sites that would remain open the year round. I also made time to offer other forum members information when I was on-line.

Unfortunately, when we arrived at the camping site near Nice, that should have been open, we found it closed with an à vendre (for sale) notice at the entrance. The forum had not been very helpful on that occasion! So, we headed inland. I was the GPS and, usually, my map-reading skills are very good, but, not that day! We headed up-country from Nice, aiming to reach Villars by late afternoon, where we knew we could pitch the tent for one night on a commune camping site that offered space, fresh water and toilet facilities. Somewhere along the route, we took a wrong turning and strayed off course.

The terrain assumed an undulating form, then the hills became very large hills, until they turned into mountains! We were in the foothills of the Alps between France and the Italian border, on a road that was one way only! The road back to the coast, to Monaco, was some 500 metres below us. Solid mountain to the right, a sheer drop to the left, I was mortified, I’m petrified of heights and that was not a wide road! Kilometre after kilometre, every time we rounded a section of jutting cliff face, the road seeming to hang off the edge of the rock, I hoped to see flat land in front of us. Instead, there was just another purple mountain, taller and more heavily snow-laden than the one we were on. Several hours later, a road sign took us away from the Alps and back down-country to Gap. That’s when we added our jerry can of petrol to the tank! That night, we slept in the car in an aire de repos (equivalent to a lay-be with a picnic area and shower facilities). We were shattered, and Tom, our only driver, was exhausted to the point where his face was grey and his eyes were red-rimmed.

We spent the next three weeks moving from camping site to camping site, spending occasional nights in one or another of the many aire de repos facilities that are widespread throughout France. One day, we found ourselves on the outskirts of the village where Brad Pitt and his family lived, I spent at least twenty minutes with my nose pressed against the cold car window, hoping for a glimpse. No such luck!

We returned to the house very early one morning in December, on the day of the Tribunal, to wait for the telephone call giving us the justices’ decision. We waited all day, but that call didn’t arrive. We stayed in the home of a French friend in the village for a week. The house was tiny, and we were obviously over-crowding the home of our friend, although, she never gave any indication of being unhappy about it. On the seventh day, I telephoned Monsieur MA to politely demand the verdict. Taken by surprise, he told me, “The justices did not find in your favour, and you must pay €1,000 compensation to Monsieur and Madame T. There will also be Court fees to pay, and my final bill will be there after Christmas, to give you time to pay. But, I think you should Appeal. I will send the documents to you by post. L’Huissier (the Court Bailiff) will bring you the Tribunal’s Judgement document.”

We couldn’t even cry, we were stunned. We just hugged each other closely together against the cruelty and the injustice of it all.

 

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