Why does life come up and smack you in the face when you least expect it? I had thought that with all the stress of the house purchase over the last few months things would gradually start to get easier and life would become "normal". It never does become straight forward or "normal" does it?! My life has been a catalogue of successes and disasters but after having my palm read about 10 years ago have realised everything she said was true. I was told that I was a strong woman and that I would have to make my own success in life. I was not lucky and would never win the lottery but would live to a ripe old age and at some point be content! Well i'm not there yet!
Rant over!!!.... on with the saga of moving to France.
Last week we had to go to the house to try and buy some of the furniture from the vendor. She is 82 and moving back to the UK. We did make offers for the items we wanted but after much haggling she decided that we could not offer her what she wanted so decided to auction all her possessions instead. In her words "you can come to the auction and you may get a bargain or you may not!" nice.....
I have never been to a house contents auction, let alone in France so did not know what to expect. Half of me was not really looking forward to going as all sorts of people would be poking around our new house.
I was collected from work by my husband and we arrived at the bed and breakfast in Valence d'Agen at 11pm last Friday evening and flopped into a tiny double bed with plastic sheets!
The house was open for lot viewing from 10am on Saturday with the auction starting at 2pm and the same for Sunday and Monday.
First problem, the bank had not sorted our new account so we had no cheque book or card and could not easily pay for anything in Euros. However I had had the forethought of taking the RIB details (account info) and persuaded the auctioneers to accept a transfer at the end when we knew what we had spent. So off I went happy with my paddle!
There were about 100 people in total and the auction started slowly. It was not long before I realised that my French was good enough to grasp what was being said and after the second row between the auctioneers (one had sold an oil painting under its reserve) I knew we were in for an interesting few days.
I cannot believe that so called professionals could have acted so badly in front of so many people, but perhaps that is how it works in France! The 150 piece Spode China dinner service went for a song, but one of the casserole dishes was smashed by an auctioneer so it reduced the value. They had absolutely had no idea what the English items were that they were selling. Spode, Minton, Lalique, Auvillar antique plates that were 150 years old were all sold at incredibly low prices. The poor old lady was nearly having a cardiac arrest! Final straw was when an oil painting was slashed by mistake and items that I had bought the day before were being sold again! I had to say something..... I politely mentioned to the auctioneer that I had purchased the same wardrobe and two lamps the day before and rather than listen to me he just threw his gavel on the table shouted "Vivre La France" and stopped the Auction.
Everyone was horrified and muttering in both French and English spread around the assembled crowd. When he had calmed down he actually realised he had in fact sold me items twice and refunded me but with no apology!
This week was make or break, yet again on the purchase, after another 10 day cooling off period with the mortgage company (normal practice in France) as we had to renegotiate the price, we could sign the documents to accept the mortgage offer and send them to France. Easy I thought........no!
Firstly we had to determine which papers were to be signed and returned and , scanning and sending by email was not an option. So off I went to the local staples to organise DHL to courier the paperwork to France. Minus £25 and half an hour later the documents were on their way.. Great I thought, things are going to plan.
I go on a jolly with a friend shopping for interior furnishings for the new gites. Midday, a spot of lunch in order... shopping hard work you know! After my first non-alcoholic beverage (as I was driving) phone call... removal men. Furniture now being collected tomorrow (Thursday) not Friday as planned................ OMG quick dash home to stressed other half who was none too chuffed about rushing around to pack boxes. Can men not cope with pressure? Took the reins as usual and hurriedly packed youngest daughters bedroom, throwing toys and papers in boxes and sealing them, while she was wailing she wanted xx teddy to travel with her in the car! Next on to the airing cupboard, and main bedroom. Way past 7pm when I realised nobody had eaten except me at lunchtime! dash into kitchen, russel up some pasta dish and garlic bread, bath daughter, shout at older daughter to clear table and carry on with packing until midnight.
Did not sleep last night worrying about all the things on the to do list which seems to be getting longer not shorter. Anal I know but I have to keep a pen and paper by the side of the bed now to note everything down as I think of things that need doing!
School run as usual this morning, followed by a short concert for my 8 yr old who was playing the Ukelele, back to the house to meet the removal men and then out again to collect both kids from different schools in different locations. Return home to continue helping pack the lorry. Lorry finally goes at 5pm. Flop into chair exhausted.
Now we are living for the next 5 days at least out of a suitcase. We leave the UK on Sunday morning with two cars, two kids and two dogs to make our way south to our new home. Furniture will not arrive until Wednesday or Thursday next week so we have to wait with what we have.
Will be off line for a week or two while France telecom get their act together and get us internet access and a phone number. In the meantime our new website will be live from 1st April - hopefully! take a look on www.lefarat.com.