Two weeks later Howard calls, the house is ours if we want it! The other people have dropped out.
Having it put it out of our minds, we have our offer accepted, then it sank in… Blimey, we’re moving to France and we need to put our house on the market – fast! The French system moved very quickly then, and it was likely that we would be in by mid-August.
It was staggering from mid-May, we put the house on the market and started getting viewings, then it got insane. Howard rang and said that the vendor wanted to bring the moving date forward. Our moving in date was now the 25th July!
The hardest part was telling family and friends, it was very emotional for me. One of my sisters had just moved to Spain with her family, and I felt really guilty as if we were deserting everyone. People couldn’t have been more positive or excited for us, at least I think they were, they could have been thinking we were nuts!
We sold the house and moved out to stay with our friends, Chris and Lorna, for 5 days. Biba, our cat, had been missing for a couple of days, the removal of all the furniture had completely freaked her out. There we were, spending the last night in a completely empty house with just a kettle, mugs, a duvet and two pillows – don’t ask me why, but we didn’t think to keep the airbed with us, stress probably, so we tried to sleep on the bedroom floor, on the duvet – most uncomfortable and cold.
Woke up to the most torrential rain, this was the beginning of the severe flooding that devasted a lot of the UK that July. I finally managed to coax the cat in after wandering around the garden shaking her biscuit tin, crammed her in the cat basket, and as I reversed out of the drive there was the loudest clap of thunder I have ever heard followed by a bolt of lightening that came down in our field – I really hoped that wasn’t an omen of some sort.
John rang the removal firm, to put his mind at rest that all the arrangements were in place. Well, no, they weren’t actually. The boss had booked our delivery for a week after we would arrive in France, and there was no way this could be re-arranged. All our belongings, everything apart from a few clothes, the cat and the cars were in a lock up somewhere in the midlands.
We left Buckingham in the early hours of the 25th July, because the cat was a bag of nerves in the car, the plan was to get the first Eurostar train out and just drive non-stop to Ruffec in the Charente, I had Biba in the Audi and John was driving the Jaguar. We had to be at the Notaire’s office for 3.30pm to sign all the paperwork, and take possession of the house. Two minutes down the road, Biba flipped out in the cat basket and I was flashing frantically for John to stop, we managed to wedge the basket back, so she couldn’t flip it over again and I noticed she’d torn a claw out and was bleeding, there was nothing I could do apart from hope she would calm down.
The journey on the train was the only time she didn’t howl, to say this was the most stressful drive of my life was an understatement. France was sunny and getting very warm, the cat was complaining. I was concentrating hard on keep tabs on John and making sure I didn’t lose him, he had the directions and the only road atlas. Then I noticed the signs for Paris… I knew we shouldn’t be going anywhere near Paris, but I couldn’t call John on his mobile, and just did my best to stick with him.
Let me just say that I wholly recommend avoiding driving around Paris if you can help it, especially if you hit rush hour. Dreadful. The best way to see Paris is to arrive by train, and walk around the city.
To cut a long day short, we pulled over, we were not far from Ruffec and were well ahead of time. So with some wriggling in the front seat, we both changed into our glad rags, and spruced up as best we could for the Notaire. We’d never been to Ruffec before. The place was dead, there should have been tumbleweed rolling through the main street. After driving around, looking for the street name, John found a couple of locals and managed to ask where we could find this address. Blank looks all ’round. Something didn’t seem right, then it dawned on me, they’d said something about the department number – checking the road atlas, we could see that we were in the wrong Ruffec, in the wrong department, about 2 hours away, at least!
John rang the Notaire, who thought this was hilarious and agreed to see us tomorrow, he also mentioned that the bank hadn’t transferred the money as promised, he did seem very laid back. I was panicking, Biba was in a complete state and very hot, all I’d wanted to do was to get to the house and let her hide in a cool bedroom and calm down. Now it looked like we were going to have to find a hotel that would let us bring her in. At this point, I think I was in pretty much the same state as the cat.
John’s phone rang, it was the Notaire again. Richard, the vendor, had said that we could go straight to the house – thank god! He’d had to stay behind to sign their side of all the paperwork and was staying overnight, what a lifesaver. So, although it strictly wasn’t our house until the following day he was happy for us to move in.
On the whole gîtes are sold furnished, so we had a furnished property to live in until the removal company decided to deliver our belongings. Biba spent the next 24 hours under one of the beds.