Friday, February 28, 2014

signed, sealed and delivered

On the 26th February I signed my deal and am on the way to being a property owner in France.  

Sealed and delivered, this morning the postman delivered a sealed bundle of papers that I had to sign for in person.  It’s the dossier of paperwork that accompanies the proposed purchase.  All 113 pages of it.  

There are only two possible hurdles to cross that would negate the purchase.  

The first is that the Mayor has the right to cancel planning permission on land as it changes hands, I doubt she will as in such a small village an extra inhabitant increases the population by 2% and the village revenue similarly.  I shall be asking to renew the outline planning permission in due course.

The second is the work of SAFER, a government sponsored agency that is responsible for keeping as much land in agriculture as possible.  It has three months to check that none of the local farmers want to buy the property.  This is only happening because I am purchasing some adjoining land which is agricultural .  Thankfully, any interested party would have to buy the whole lot, not just the fields and with the planning permission it works out rather expensive for a farmer to acquire an additional couple of acres.

Fingers crossed until mid May.....................

I spoke to one of the owners after the signing and he is more than happy if I make a start on clearing the brambles, turning a bit of soil and starting a vegetable garden.  Just as well, as earlier in the week I bought a huge collection of seeds on offer in the local supermarket.  They’ll get to grow this year some way or another.

I can also get on and apply for connection to electricity, water and phone, arranged for after the completion date, and also make provisions to insure the land from when I take possession ( a legal necessity here in France).  I need to ask the mayor too, for permission to put up a temporary cabin until such time as my house is built, apparently is it normal practice and permission is often granted for four years, I don’t imagine using it for that long.  There’s plenty to be getting on with in the mean time.

We, me and my current hosts, celebrated with a lovely meal and a bottle of champagne amidst the chaos of their moving.  Five more days and everything will be moved, the house cleaned and the keys ready to hand over.  That’ll be the end of my time here, onto the next.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

a date

I have a date.

No, a date for signing the initial agreement for my land.  Not a date date, though that would be good too.

On the 26th february I shall visit the notaires office, pay a deposit and sign the agreement to buy.  The discussions with the neighbouring farmer have been formalised and are now legally binding, the owners are still keen to sell and the date is getting closer.  I am so excited.

I’m not entirely sure which way to turn or what to do first/next or in what order or when.  So I started with a list, this is now a list of lists and is gaining some semblance of order.  I’m not concerned yet about how it will pan out, I am trying to get as many thoughts down on paper as I can, so that as my thoughts evolve the order can be changed and things added and moved as a timescale becomes apparent. 

Thankfully I’m being kept busy with the move, otherwise time could be passing rather slowly.   I’m learning plenty there too, namely, to throw unnecessary things away, declutter and keep life simple.  Their collection of belongings is an enormous gathering from previous houses and marriages.  Things that have been packed away in the rush of moving last time and never  since sorted, they move again with the same promise and join more belongings from parents and items, the story goes on. Plan ahead so things don’t need moved several times, pack non essentials well in advance to lessen stress in the weeks before moving and remember that everything takes longer than expected.  

I get to escape to the garden too, preparing the veggie plot, pruning and tidying and planting the seemingly never ending trickle of plants that keep arriving.  I’ll be back when the time is right later on for a few cuttings and divisions when they have had time to grow.

My latest reading is a book on Permaculture gardening, the subject is fascinating and turns on it’s head much of the theories that I learned back at horticultural college all those years ago.  I’m not sure that I’ll be following every morsel of advice, but know for sure that things’ll be done differently than before once I get going.  When I put learning into practice, I’ll be letting you know.  For the moment all that is growing is my beard.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

It's starting well, 2014

I know, I know, it’s been over a month since I last wrote and I am starting to get emails from close friends checking that I am OK.  Yes, all is well with me, I’ve just been rather busy and not often with internet access.  

The second week of January, I stayed with my good friend Pierre in the mountains, we skied twice, went out on racquets in the snow and generally enjoyed a few cold and sunny days in winter wonderland, though, after November the scenery wasn’t quite as spectacularly snowy.  We even spent a day at Chalet Lou Rider with Clare and her team which was great.  A really good crowd, great fun, but with all that is going on with my land purchase, I am glad that I’m not there this year. 

On that front, things are progressing slowly.  Problems with a farmer neighbour (involving the present owner) have been sorted and all that is needed now is a reply to a legal letter confirming the outcome.  I met the farmer a couple of weeks ago and we have agreed ongoing rights of passage and his use of part of my future land, for an indeterminate period of time, this is an additional area that the present owners are pleased to sell rather than the initial plot.  

For two weeks I have been working flat out with a semi professional team, endeavoring to finish the ground floor plastering of Pierlo and Sandrine’s house as quickly as possible due to a change in family circumstances..  I’ve helped them periodically during the last four years and when I discovered that their son, Jules, had been in a swimming accident last autumn and is still quite disabled, decided to lend a hand.  He suffered an apnea attack as he dived into the pool and was without air for some time before he was rescued.  His lungs did not fill with water, so he had not drowned, but still, spent a couple of months in a coma.  He is slowly gaining his senses, movement and comprehension, but it appears that it may take several years before he returns to some sort of normality.  A huge shock and life changing for the family.  They hope to get Jules home as soon as it is in a fit state to receive him and a great group of friends are rallying round to give support. I’ll no doubt be back to help from time to time, but for the moment have committed myself to another project.

I am back with Cherry and Chris, where I stayed over Christmas and the New Year, where I planted over a hundred trees in the autumn and house sat on a couple of occasions.  They move house at the start of March and have an enormous list of chores.  The offer of £££ for extra hours was a tempting one, so I am working more than full time for them till the end of the month.  The new house is in the process of being renovated and will be no where near ready , so I shall be heading back to  give Pierlo a hand when I finish here.

Looking further into the spring, hopefully I will have signed for the purchase of the land by then, I have 2-4 months for searches and official paperwork before completion.   There are already three possible straw bale building projects available that want help (more arrive as we get closer to spring) and with Percy at the ready I am easily able to move from place to place to head off and lend a hand, learn still more skills and better formulate how I plan to proceed.  Hopefully the current owners will allow me to plant a vegetable plot during the transition period so I am not too far behind with the season and then in early summer there is the possibility of a 6 day professional course in straw bale building near La Rochelle.  I can use the trip north to visit other friends on route and then head back to the UK for Percy’s MOT and a long awaited visit.

Not sure how it’s all going to pan out and in what order it’s all going to happen but its going to be a challenging, exciting and demanding year.  I am almost bursting with anticipation and am finding it difficult to hold back on planning and getting stuck in to my next chapter.  I must be patient and bide my time until the formalities are over.  There’ll be plenty of time afterwards for it all to unfold.
snow capped Pyrénées

winter sunset

my current abode

Suzy, the bestest french dog I know



newly planted beech hedge

the new residence