Usually my February posts are pretty dull as it is another of those months where not much happens here…but not this year! It has been filled with fun…both in the true sense of the word and also a bit in the sarcastic sense too. Either way it has been quite busy and we have made some life changing decisions too.
ll start where I usually do, with the weather. Despite my hopes at the end of last months post, we started February with more snow. There was rather a lot of it too as we had 2 solid days of falling snow which meant that yet again, we were confined to barracks for a while. It has all gone now…well here it has anyway. There is still some lingering in places where the sun doesn
t get to and if you drive a couple of miles into the hills the snow is still there too. We have a total reversal of the weather just now with temperatures into the high teens and it feels very Spring like. We have even been able to sit in the garden and the spring flowers are starting to bloom. My crocus patch under the ash tree is the best we have ever seen it for a long time and the daffodils, primroses and violets are flowering too. I am crossing my fingers now that we dont get another wintery blast…it is only February after all. I do love the Spring here with all the flowers and birdsong. I shall miss that when we move.
Talking of moving, things have been happening on that front too. We have had our diagnostic survey done on the house. It took ages and cost a fair bit but it is done now and the report was OK thank goodness. This report has to be included in dossier which goes to the notaire when a sale is finalised. I must admit, I breathed a sigh of relief when the very nice but a bit officious guy who did all the measurements and surveys, departed. The bleeping of his lead detecting machine was driving me mad as every bit of painted surface had to be tested…and believe me we have a lot of those! One of the more stupid aspects of this survey is that he couldn
t give us a rating for energy usage as we dont heat all the house (and certainly not the gite) all year round! Apparently, not having this rating is not against the law…but most other things in the survey have to be done by law.
Having got this survey done, we were now ready to put the house on the market. We had been so impressed with the enthusiasm and positivity of the estate agent (Aurelia) that we decided to give her exclusivity in marketing the property. She works freelance, but with an agency who market via the internet so it is very much in her interest to sell the house…otherwise she doesn`t get paid! The announcement went live 2 weekends ago and she had 2 viewings lined up in a matter of days. EEEK! The system here is very different to when we sold our houses in the UK. For a start the agents make it very plain that they do not want you here when they are showing people around, so we found ourselves having to take Xena for extra walkies last Friday and Saturday afternoon! The first couple were very interested in the house as they want to do much as we have been doing…B and B and renting a gite. They have gone away to have a think, but Aurelia was expecting them to make an offer, probably after a second visit. However, we have just heard that although they loved the property, they have decided to buy something over in the mountains which is nearer shops etc. The second lot were not interested at all…they wanted 4 bedrooms - so why view a 3 bedroomed house? We have another viewing lined up for Saturday though so we will see what happens then. Things are going too quickly for my liking really! Having talked to friends here who are trying to sell up, we had thought that it would take quite a while to get anyone to view the house let alone make an offer. Our house is looking quite tidy for once but I could get mighty sick of all this cleaning as time goes on! I refuse to turn it into a show house…it is just not practical when we live here with a dog, cat and are always in and out of the garden. As you might imagine, my head is all over the place now. I know we have no offers yet but we are nowhere ready to move at the moment. We still have lots of stuff to sort out and Geoff is still wanting to complete this year of teaching and running his business so if (big if) we get a buyer now, we will probably have to rent somewhere before making the big move. I am not sleeping well!!
Because of all the uncertainty about if and when we will move, I suspect I
m going to have a very poor year business wise. I am really not advertising much at all and in the adverts I still do have going, I am restricting availability to three months ahead…just in case. Its very annoying though having to turn down enquiries – 2 so far- for summer. I have had one couple staying in the B and B this month, but as they were the guests I put off in November, because of the snow, I had already been paid for their stay so the bank balance still isnt looking good. Our agent has said to keep taking bookings, but frankly I am a bit scared that if things move quickly, I will be a bit up the creek, so am choosing not to book folk in too far ahead.
We did manage to have some real fun too this month when we decided almost at the last minute, to take ourselves away for Geoff`s birthday weekend. We drove down to La Grande Motte in Sylvie car (our Nissan being in the garage for a really expensive but necessary repair) and had a great time. The weather was perfect and we had a super little apartment which was ideally situated for the beach and the port. Geoff celebrated his birthday in style with a lovely lunch, which included eating oysters and drinking champagne in one of our favourite restaurants in LGM, and all in all we had a really nice break. Geoff did take his swimmies but that was a bit optimistic really even for us! However, his tootsies did make it into the water…for a short period anyway. As we were sitting drinking coffee on a beachside terrace in the sunshine, we realised how much we were looking forward to living next to the sea. Suddenly, making the move from the Auvergne to the Med looked like a great idea again.
Another fun excursion this month was a trip into Clermont Ferrand to see a ballet…something I
ve never done for years. The Auvergne is a great place to live, but I do find it is a bit of a cultural desert when it comes to wanting to see plays or ballet. One of the cinemas has started screening “live” ballet, opera and theatre and Hazel and Phil had bought a ticket for me as a Christmas present, to go and see Swan Lake. I was a bit unsure if Id like to see ballet on the big screen, but I loved it. Although you didn`t get the atmosphere of being in a real theatre, there were many more advantages such as being able to see all the footwork, being able to see the people on stage and not just as little dots (I never was able to afford good seats!) and seeing all the corps de ballet swan formations from a camera angle looking down onto the stage was fantastic. I enjoyed it very much. They are screening the ballet Cinderella next and I think I might try and go again.
Continuing with our plans to take our private pensions…retirement issues again… meant that Geoff once more was kept busy contacting our pension suppliers and putting all the paperwork in place for that. It proved to be amazingly straight forward really. I suspect that the French applications (we are both entitled to small French pensions) will not be so easy! We have not heard anything regarding our applications for the Carte de Sejour yet, but some friends who applied not long before us went for their interviews yesterday, so things must still be moving…if slowly. I also had a bit of a frustrating morning trying to get myself a UK senior Railcard ready for our trip to see the family next month. Having filled in the online form and reached the payment stage, I was halted as my address (or billing address) was not in the UK. The helpline guy was not really helpful, but eventually did say that it could be bought in the UK by a third party. Hazel to the rescue then…and now I have the said railcard but what a palaver!
One of the not so fun things we have done this month was attending the funeral of our old wood supplier on Monday. Gustav was a real character and we liked him very much. When he was diagnosed with inoperable and quite advanced oesophageal cancer five years ago, we thought he would die quite quickly. However, he proved to have the constitution of an ox and we continued to enjoy his wood right up to this year…even if we have had to go and collect it ourselves, for the last couple of times. His story though, was a bit of a sad one, as he had outlived all his family and although he had plenty of money, he continued to live in the old family home (which was in a deplorable state really), on his own until almost the very end. Geoff really liked the old guy and tried to go and see him when he could, as Gustav loved the fact that an English man would take the time to do that and he loved telling his stories to all and sundry. The funeral was well attended, but as with all these country funerals, I thought it was very cold – and not just the church which was freezing. There were no hymns, no flowers, an ancient priest who could not be heard and frankly no real humanity at all in my opinion. The other thing that always amazes us here is that although a lot of people are prepared to attend the funeral and often go to the graveyard too, those people who do not see themselves as “believers” refuse to go into the church itself, choosing to wait outside until the service is finished. Very sad. I shall never get used to these funerals at all.
So, on we go into March. I have just had a walk around the garden and we have daffs, crocus and primroses flowering everywhere now. It’s a beautiful Spring like day today with clear blue skies, sunshine and lots of birdsong, so I
m feeling up beat again. I know this weather wont last (rain is forecast for the weekend) but I am making the most of it and my garden chair is already in use! Somehow, even the continuing decluttering and tidying of the outhouses and the attic doesn`t seem so bad when the sun is shining! Geoff is becoming a regular at our local tip as we continue to try and get rid of stuff. We also have our upcoming trip to the UK to look forward to. It will be good to see the family again. March should be an interesting month and keep your fingers crossed that I will have some good news to report in the next blog.
A bientot mes amis.