Life & Death Discussions

Sorry to start off the New Year with a moan but what a tedious month this has been. I have been very bored this January with very little to do & the month has really just dragged on & on. It really didn’t get off to a good start when on New Years eve Geoff was struck down with a bad cold(or man flu depending on your sympathy level) & took himself off to bed at 10pm leaving me & the animals watching the terrible French TV New Years Eve offerings! Needless to say, I didn’t last out much longer & so for the first time in many years, & while most of our neighbours were just starting their celebrations & meals, we were both asleep well before midnight! Real party people eh? In fact that was the start of a bout of niggling illnesses for us both, as we had colds, aches & pains & in my case a bout of post Christmas blues at the beginning of the month. Not pleasant & not like us at all. I think that our Christmas trip back to the UK really takes a lot of getting over these days…we are getting older after all! Also we notice the decline in both of our mothers` health & that too weighs heavy each time we see them now. So, all in all, not the start to 2014 that we really wanted.

Part of the problem is that January & February are always low points in the year for me. I have very little to do as there is never much B&B business just after Christmas & so I have a lot of time on my hands. Although the weather has been very mild this month, it is far too early to do anything in the garden & it is too cold to do much redecorating or cleaning (not that they have a high priority for me anyway!). So consequently I spend a lot of time messing about on the computer, checking far too often for new enquiries & basically just getting very fed up. However it will pass…it always does...& the enquiries are starting to trickle in again now so I’m almost back to my normal happy little self again!

We have used some of the “dead” time this month having friends over for meals. We always “owe” people meals as we don’t really feel much like entertaining when we are busy in the summer months when we are busy. We had a good lunch with our friends Muriel & Ron on New Years Day as usual & our friends Julie & Jean–Luc came round one evening to eat with us. We always like it when we see Julie & Jean–Luc as, because they know everyone round here, it is always the best way to find out all the gossip & what is going on in the communes! We had a great evening discussing all sorts of things & felt that we were much more up to date with local matters! We have municipal elections(to elect maires & new councils) coming up in France in March & it was good to find out what was happening for these elections, in which of course, we can actually vote. It looks like there might be an interesting tussle for the position of maire in our commune again this time. That is good news as we might also get some things done, as the opposing candidates try to win our votes! We also had some good discussions with other friends Richard & Sarah when we went to their house to eat with some of my Red Cross colleagues & interestingly I was told about some ex battery hens which might be needing a new home soon. So I could well have some new chooks by the time I write February’s post! I really hope so as I miss my girls very much. I used to have some good discussions with them when hanging out the washing & I miss that!

We have managed to get out & about a little this month but some of our proposed outings had to be ditched due to the threat of bad weather…which in the end, frustratingly, never materialised. However I did enjoy one little trip over to the other side of the Livradois meeting up with my friend Tottie & visiting a local savonnerie (soap making place). It was just what I needed to lift my spirits at that time & I really enjoyed the visit, not to mention the fabulous soaps I came home with. I shall definitely be putting that little place on my “places to visit” list for my guests. The other major outing was to the Foire de Saint Paule in Issoire last Saturday. This time however, the weather was vile & although we enjoyed the big market as per usual, & had a lovely lunch, we didn’t stay too long as it was cold & very wet. I did return to the house with my usual huge bunch of mimosa (which I adore) so all was not entirely lost.

Geoff got involved (much more than he had bargained for really) in very earnest discussions with some of our French friends when he was “volunteered” (by me) to go to one of the Cine-Parc sessions in Sauxillanges this month. Cine Parc is a way of bringing films into the rural communities & the films (which range from Disney classics, documentaries to popular blockbusters) are usually shown in village Salle de Fetes & are sometimes accompanied by a bloke who then sets up a discussion session afterwards. I had been approached by a friend & asked if we would go to this particular session as the film was in English & she thought we would be interested. The film in question was Ken Loach’s “Esprit de`45” (Spirit of`45) & I quickly decided it was not for me but Geoff said he would go with another English friend…who then backed out as he wasn’t well that night! It then turned out that the bloke who leads the discussions afterwards was not there either, so the discussion very quickly became question & answer session with poor old Geoff having to defend the image of Britain in a roomful of very left wing French people with very definite anti Thatcherite views! Now don’t get me wrong, we were never great lovers of Margaret (I’m a miner’s daughter after all!) but Geoff reckoned the film was very one sided & of course, dredged up all the old footage of the horrors of the miner’s strike etc without putting any of it into perspective. Fortunately, Geoff’s French is good enough to cope with things like this, so he tried very hard to put the record straight, but as we have found many times since coming to live here, some people only want to believe the worst of British politics & will not be swayed into thinking that anything good ever happens in the UK!I think the final straw for Geoff was when he pointed out to the room that the British public elected Margaret into office THREE times. He was then asked, seriously, by one of our good friends, what form of system Britain used in its elections & was it democratic?? At which point, he gave up….!

The other really big discussion we have had this month really does encompass life & death. We have been thinking for a while now that we really should get our wills in order. We are getting older after all & having had two lots of bad news recently, health wise, concerning members of my immediate family, we feel the time is right to get this thorny subject sorted. Our existing English wills are a bit out of date now really (they still have clauses in them concerning the guardianship of our now grown up children!) so we asked a colleague of our daughter to have a look at them & change some stuff. She then replied & said that before we did this we ought to check out the position regarding any assets we had in France as these would be covered by French law & we needed to put a clause in the English will to cover this. Now the only real asset we have here is the house & gite & we thought (smugly) that we had that sorted having had a tontine put into our deeds when we bought the house to prevent the usual inheritance laws applying to the houses should one of us die, as the houses are held in both of our names. How wrong we were on that score! Having checked again with our notaire, it now seems that this tontine is almost not worth the paper its written on, & should one of us die, the normal French inheritance laws will apply, meaning that our two children will end up sharing the proceeds of any sale of the house with the surviving partner. So we are now trying to sort it all out again. Fortunately, our young notaire`s assistant is fascinated by all this & is trying very hard to make sure that we get things done to our satisfaction, as far as she can within the French legal system. It is, however, a statuary lesson to any of you who are reading this & who live & own property in France to get your French will sorted. Any English wills will not apply to assets in France. In the meantime I have pointed out to our children that if either of them chooses to cash in their inheritance to the point that Mum or Dad would not have enough cash to buy a new abode, the said Mum or Dad will just have to come & live with them wouldn’t they? I think they got the message!

So, we come to the end of another month. I can’t help but think that we are going to pay for all of this mild weather in February & so we are not putting the snow shovel away just yet! Hopefully I will find more active things to do this month...more “doing” than “talking” perhaps! Only time will tell!

We hold all our property jointly under Communaute Universelle.

Oh thats interesting. What do you mean by changing your marriage regime? All seems to be fine until you (as the surviving partner) wants to sell the property...which as we live in a fairly isolated place might be the case as we get older in our case..

We changed our marriage regime when we bought our house, so that the surviving partner has the total of our assets at their disposal. The girls only inherit on the death of the surviving parent.

Yes Jane that is what our Notaire has found out. It is not quite as simple as that though. We understand that an English will covers everything except the property, which still comes under Fr inheritance laws. However the tontine we had put in our deeds does protect us a bit & she is working to make sure we have all our wishes firmly stated. You understand we don`t want to disinherit our kids but only to make sure that the surviving partner has enough to buy something else!

Hi Christine,
You have not been alone in having aches and pains and feeling tired and low. We have had two bouts of this each following a cough.
Our English wills are with our notaire in Cluny, who said that as we have no property in England and jut the two daughters and no complications re divorce etc. our instructions will be followed.
I believe that you can soon choose to have English law applied to your will! this is an EU
Regulation soon to come into effect.