Tuesday, August 9, 2016

At the Notaires, 9th August 2004

French Village Diaries new life in France orchard grow your own
Our orchard in France

Here is the third part of our moving to France adventure. You can read part one here and part two here, if you have missed them.

9th August 2004. 

A new day dawned and with it came a new weather system with cooler temperatures and lots of rain. We sat in the Notaire’s office with the couple selling the home that had been in her family for over fifty years, listening to the rhythmic drumming of the rain and crossing our fingers our money had arrived. As well as the issues that had plagued our journey to France, there was something much more serious on our minds. The day before we left and only one working day before signing, we discovered our thousands of pounds had left our bank account, but had not reached the Notaire in France. The transfer company took full responsibility for the admin hiccup that left them sitting on our money and assured us a speedy transfer would be made, but we had no way of checking this en route.

It was there and everyone was happy to proceed. Each page of the contract of sale had to be read aloud, initialled by both selling and purchasing parties and signed in full at the end. This took quite some time and as we put pen to paper for the final signature there was a huge clap of thunder directly overhead. We exchanged one of those ‘what have we done’ glances but there was no going back now. The house with the orchard hidden behind an old, green gate in the back wall of a barn was ours.

French Village Diaries new life in France orchard grow your own
A damp picnic on day one

The vendors accompanied us back afterwards to point out a few quirky features, like the upside down gate lock, badly fitting back door key and the 10,000 litre water storage tank concealed under the barn floor, but the house looked rather bare with room after room empty of life and furniture. Even an energetic three year old racing in one door, running through the house and out another door singing the Hokey Cokey, didn’t make it feel like home. The rain was still falling and the thunder was rumbling but that didn’t stop us having a picnic in the courtyard with a fresh baguette from the boulangerie situated only two doors away.

We had no phone line, no internet and no mobile phone signal either, so despite the excitement of the house being ours we felt rather cut off from our family we had left behind. We also needed to go shopping and sooner rather than later. Our furniture was due to arrive the following day, but we needed to buy a new cooker, fridge and washing machine, so we set off to our local big town for an exciting afternoon of white good shopping. By the time we arrived, Ed was fast asleep in the car and as most parents will remember, waking a small child can make them rather miserable. We needed him on his best behavior to allow us to concentrate on making our first important purchases in French, so we all sat in the car and dozed while the rain continued to pour. So far living in France wasn’t as exciting as I had imagined.

Once back at the house, with deliveries promised for later in the week, we couldn’t help popping a Champagne cork in celebration to accompany another picnic, even though the rain soaked walls on the terrace looked rather grim now they were dark with damp. The excitement of having our own orchard was still as strong as the first time we had stepped through the gate into the wilderness that had been untended for a couple of years. It was magical and like entering a secret garden. A little bit of rain couldn’t dampen our enthusiasm even if it meant the waist high grass stuck to our skin as we bravely waded in to discover what fruits were ready to pick for our first homegrown meal in France.

We could have camped that first night, but decided to close the shutters and return to the B&B for a final time. Tomorrow the removal men would bring our furniture and it seemed important for Ed to spend his first night in his new room with his familiar toys and bedding around him.


Tonight we will be feasting on homegrown produce and popping the Champagne corks once more, celebrating twelve fantastic years in France. Please join me tomorrow for the final installment of our journey to France.