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Archive for January, 2011

Lyon: a beautiful city, shame about some of the people... Photo credit: Piglet in Portugal

Lyon city is fantastic but due to the high density of people living here, you also get a high density of jerks! One of the things I am looking forward to in the countryside is a slower pace of life and hopefully a less “dog eat dog” attitude from fellow inhabitants.

I had two encounters last week that made me desperately happy to be leaving city life, although of course, I do realize that jerks are everywhere but I really do seem to be living in jerk central currently!

Jerk 1:Carrefour! Down the road we have a mid sized Carrefour where I often go to do my grocery shopping. I popped in at about 5pm at the end of the week to buy a pack of cheese and the place was absolutely heaving. I dodged all of the trolleys and avoided tripping up over peoples bags and those pull along baskets. Queues at the checkouts were at least 5 people long so I finally made my way to the priority till and proceeded in requesting each person if I could go to the front, signaling my pregnant belly, my one packet of cheese and the fact that I had the correct change in my hand. All was well until I reached the front when I came across a big lady with the fullest shopping trolley you could ever imagine. You name it, she had it in there, it was that full! When I asked her, she curtly said no, I couldn’t go in front of her and that she had a disability card and had as much right as me to be in the queue.

I’m not normally one for quick witty answers, normally they come to me two hours after the occasion has passed, but on this occasion my pregnancy hormones did the trick!

“ah bon?” I quickly retorted “maybe so, but on this occasion I do believe that I am considered to have more of a disability than you, for starters I couldn’t even push that trolley round! Plus I only have a pack of cheese AND I have the correct change, surely it wouldn’t hurt you to wait 30 seconds longer?”

After much encouragement by the other shoppers the lady finally caved in and I paid for my cheese and left her to it. I felt a bit guilty afterwards – but the lady didn’t look disabled in anyway so if she truly did have a disability then it may not have been obvious to the eye, but surely if she could push that big heavy trolley around she could wait 30 seconds longer?

Jerk 2:Driving back from Carrefour, I had a near accident which could have wiped out both me and little miss Piglet. We get lots of greasy haired, self important jerks in the city that drive large cars and consider themselves superior to everyone else and that the world revolves around them and them uniquely. They are the type of people that park in disabled spots, outside my garage door or that try and run you down on a zebra crossing. They talk loudly into their mobile phones and never turn up at an appointment on time. They don’t consider it necessary to queue in banks or at cash points and can often be seen with trophy wives. Unfortunately this was an encounter with one of them.

I was driving calmly straight on when I had a green light, when suddenly I had to swerve and miss a huge BMW 6 series that was aiming itself at my door! I was absolutely petrified and my heart was going ten to the dozen as I swerved to miss him, leaving me in the middle of a busy road at a standstill, heart thumping as I narrowly avoided being run into. On closer inspection I saw that not only was he holding his mobile phone to his ear but he was also smoking a cigarette! He must have thought he had super powers to be able to drive a car as well… He seemed totally oblivious to the accident he had nearly caused and didn’t even have the courtesy to stop or hold his hand up to apologise.

I wonder what countryside jerks will be like? Tractor bust ups perhaps?

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The Piglet family should (dramatic pause), normally have a home to call their own again from 15th March. We’re due to complete on the city pad sale on February 15th, meaning that we need to move out really by February 11th, meaning “OH MY GOD, I’M GOING TO BE HOMELESS IN 16 DAYS!!!”

It seemed to be the perfect time to have a baby, aged 28 + 31 we were settled in life, had stable businesses, a nice home and now we are going to be homeless! What went wrong?! First of all it took much longer than we thought to actually make a baby and then the world’s economy decided to continue to being bad. So here we are at ages 30 + 33 with a bun in the oven and homeless in a matter of weeks!

Fear not for the safety of Little Miss Piglet however, as we have found a house to buy! In fact, it was the house I first presented here back in November – ironically one of the first ones we saw after accepting an offer on the city pad.

Needs some softening, nothing some plants and pots can't sort!

You may remember our original wish list?

- spacious, ideally 200m2
– outbuildings
– rural but not isolated
– character building if possible (shouldn’t be hard in France)
– ADSL required!
– Not on a busy road
– No structural renovation required in the main property

Well this property ticks all the boxes except the busy road one. There is a busy road at the end of the garden, but the gardens 1.5 hectares big, so that’s quite a way away and with some hedge growing and clever gardening we should be able to block out a fair bit of noise.

Need some hedges here

Why we didn’t buy it back in November I do not know, it just seemed to early in the search and then we went on to the other property with dreams of running gites and the like so I guess we (more like I) got sidetracked in a dream world for a while. I’m still keen on the gites idea and we will have a barn which we will be able to convert eventually if I still want to do it.

Somewhere to make our wishes


Small but pratical, I will miss my current cupboard space


Dining room


A country feel...

We made our first offer on the property last week and by Monday we had agreed a sales price and completion date with the agent and vendor. Spookily though, ever since things have gone quiet and we are waiting for them to formally countersign the offer letter we sent them to send on to the mortgage bank (the mortgage bank have agreed to speed up the process of issuing our mortgage offer if we give them a copy of the countersigned offer letter).

We didn’t have any news from the agent yesterday and no news as yet so far today. Maybe this is just normal for France, I really don’t know but judging by our experiences so far it seems as if it might be, so I am trying not to panic just yet. Afterall, the vendors agreed to everything on Monday so why would they change their mind just yet?

I have to say though, everything is slow in the property process, here are a few more examples:

1. Removal company: we’re using a removal company to remove, store and then install our belongings. We contacted them on Monday morning first thing to confirm a removal date and we’re yet to hear back. We have chased.

2. Notary: we contacted our notary ref the property we’re selling on Monday to confirm a completion date for the signature of the Acte Authentique as we’d agreed with the purchasers that we’d complete on 15th February. So far, no confirmation from notary.

3. SAFER: The SAFER is an organization who have first refusal on all agricultural and rural land over a certain size, a bit like how the townhall has first right to buy a property when a sale agrees. The vendor has to contact the SAFER and inform them that the property and land is being sold and then it can take up to two months (!) for them to come back and contest the sale. Because of our desired completion date we had to request that the fast track service was used as opposed to the normal bog standard service. Nobody in the sales chain (notary or agent) mentioned this was possible, it is only our knowledge of this that enabled us to request that it was used.

4. Our bank (three letter word with lots of L’s): refused our initial mortgage application because they were still taking into consideration our existing mortgage when deciding whether or not to lend. They wouldn’t reconsider until we could provide proof that our city pad was definitely sold (ie our buyers had got mortgage finance). This was sent to them on Monday morning. Today, I left my 6th message and finally got a call back confirming receipt but still no news on the mortgage – thank goodness we have another source to go to but I do prefer the rates our bank offer!

I’m sure there will be plenty more examples of how buying property in France is stressful over the coming weeks but let’s be positive, everything can be dealt with! So far, I’ve decided the best way to ensure that things keep moving (thanks to my business experience) is not to let up on anything! Each morning I make a list of all the people that are important to my project and I call them to touch base or to remind them I’m waiting for an update. This would annoy me so much but in France I’ve decided it’s essential.

You just cannot rely on people to get back to you, you have to remind them constantly. Proof of this is the number of people who are able to give you an update there and then and yet they hadn’t contacted you. Maybe I’m shooting myself in the foot and by calling everyday they won’t bother to update, they’ll just wait for our call, but at the end of the day it’s me that wants to move in as quickly as possible so I may as well make the effort!

Finally I can start dreaming up colour schemes and decoration for the nursery!

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Thanks everyone for your recent support and tips for dealing with a bad back. Lots of rest, stretching, massages and heat have been paying off and I’m back in front of the PC as of today and for short periods at a time!

Today is also special for another reason: I enter my third trimester of pregnancy and my bump is getting bigger, so much so I am beginning to feel like a hippopotamus!

I have also decided that being pregnant is no fun, what with my bad back and having to follow a no sugar diet as I am really close to having gestational diabetes. The no sugar bit is a nightmare as all my cravings are for sweet things (in fact, I fancy a chocolate chip cookie RIGHT NOW) and so calming my cravings is impossible leading me to be in a permanent state of frustration.

I am sure all those women that tell me how being pregnant is wonderful were lying through their teeth and its all just one big conspiracy theory to keep the human race going. Surely no-one can enjoy being in this state or maybe I’m just exceptionally unlucky?

I am currently enjoying lots of baby movement although it is not amusing when she decides to dance at night. I guess the night dancing bit is my fault though as when I wanted to get her to move for my Dad I played some music on my tummy and ever since she has been dancing! Apparently our little Miss Piglet loves jigging around to M, “Le roi des ombres” just like her Mummy!

Also, the shopping part is really, really fun!!! Everyone has been warning me about going silly and buying too much stuff so I’m really trying to limit myself. I am having a bit of a problem resisting all the gorgeous dresses though, especially with summer coming:

Adorable dress that my Dad chose for little Miss Piglet

Mr Piglet and I are still currently homeless come February 15th but the good news of the day is that we have agreed a price on a property at last!!! Update coming soon…

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I’ve been a bad blogger, no updates and no visits to my favourites blogs – sorry everybody, I should have my knuckles rapped! To be honest nothing has changed this end, we still don’t have a house to move into and we are still searching…

Last week we visited a beautiful house but it was next door to a chicken farm. Whilst there weren’t THAT many chickens (probably about 30 chickens, guinea fowl and cockerels all combined) they didn’t half make a racket and they didn’t seem to like me too much when I went over to speak to them. They made so much noise the old farmer boy (complete with flat cap) came out to see what was happening! I must have been quite a specimen as he couldn’t stop staring at me and my baby bump but he was very pleasant – obviously not used to seeing many foreigners around those parts! I can say that that is one property that we will not be buying as I’m not quite ready for total countryside immersion and living on a farm!

Chickens next to the house (these were the stragglers that didn't run away quick enough!)

As for not visiting my fave blogs, sorry everyone! I’ve had killer back ache due to having a generally bad back before being pregnant and the growing nany bump has been progressively making it worse and worse. I can now barely sit in front of the PC without being in pain but I now have a back support belt and twice weekly massages so things are looking up… Plus I bought myself a hot water bottle – heaven! I’m just beginning to catch up with work so I’ll be back to check you all out soon. If anyone has any tips on relieving pregnancy back ache I’m all ears! Currently lying down helps but that’s about all…

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…a rather disappointing end at that but at least we can move on.

The House

Despite Mr Piglet’s best efforts on Friday and the agents assurances that the owner was open to an offer, poor Mr Piglet was unable to negotiate and the owner would not move from their asking price, not even by a Euro! Even the estate agent tried to reason with the owner but she would not budge and was adamant that we would be able to find the extra cash to purchase.

The fact that the house needed rewiring and a new heating system straightaway was of little concern to her or her son. The fact that the property market in their area is in a dire state with prices heading downwards was of little concern. The fact that she advertised 440 m2 of living space when in fact there were 350 m2 didn’t bother her either.

Mr Piglet pointed out that the urgent work needed to take place straightaway and he had to keep some money to do these as we are a new family moving into a house and that work had to be done straightaway.

Her son who was present and seemed to be leading the negotiations said that his mother would not move on price and would not entertain any offers. He was adamant that they would obtain the asking price either with us or someone else.

We thought the property had been on sale for 1 year but in fact it has been on the market for 2.5 years now and is probably not going to get sold any time soon.

Given the way French inheritance laws work, the son is obviously hoping that his mother will pop her clogs sometime soon and that he will become the owner of the house and won’t have to sell. He’s pretty well installed there, runs his business from there and is a bachelor so it would probably be a major pain in the rear end for him if he had to move, which to me explains why he is blocking his mother from accepting any offers. If only we’d known this before…

To top it all off poor Mr Piglet broke down on his way home and had to call the roadside assistance, a 1 hour journey back home took him in excess of 4 hours. Just what he needed to end a crappy day!

We may try and make one final offer in a few weeks time if we haven’t progressed on any other properties but if we have then we’ll just say good bye to this house. I never wrote about it here as I didn’t want to jinx myself with bad luck, but it was a lovely house with two separate gites, very oldy worldy style but snug at the same time.

So at the moment I’m still none the wiser as to where we’ll be living come February 15th. We picked up the search on Saturday so hopefully we’ll have some positive news soon.

Here are some photos of the house that didn’t work out:

Dining room

Kitchen

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For a whole week the estate agent decided to do nothing with our low ball offer as he felt it would anger the owners. We found this out on Monday when he finally decided to respond to our emails and telephone message and update us on where we stood. Needless to say, we were not happy.

Our offer was an initial offer as is often practiced in the world of property, a starting point for negotiations. The agent seemed to have difficulty grasping this as well as our reasoning behind the offer, which is worrying to say the least. We decided that it would be safer if we could negotiate without having to rely on him in the middle.

This is yet another example of how estate agents can be totally unprofessional in France. I know they have a bad reputation generally which is a shame as there are great agents out there who do a fantastic job, but this agent is yet another example of how poor they can be. When I think that he will pocket anywhere between 7 000 Euros and 18 000 Euros approximately in commission drives me wild. Sometimes it’s best not to think about these things.

Having suggested that he arrange an appointment for us to meet the owner, it took four days (yes, four whole working days) for the appointment to be arranged and confirmed with all parties. The appointment is today and Mr Piglet will be setting off on his own with strict instructions to make sure he gets that house! I daren’t attend as I don’t trust myself to manage my emotions, so trying to keep a poker face during negotiations just wouldn’t be possible!

Hopefully we’ll have some news by the end of the day… fingers crossed.

Whilst all this waiting has been going on, Mr Piglet and I have been keeping a close eye on the property market in our desired search areas in case we miss out on this house and so that we have a plan B. As of today we still don’t have a back up plan and will be homeless on February 15th but we’ve certainly viewed some more interesting properties:

The goats shed:

This was one of those properties were the estate agent annoys the hell out of you to go and visit, for once they remember your number and call you every other day asking when you’d like to view. Eventually, with nothing moving on our favourite property, we gave in and agreed to visit. Oh boy, was I angry when I go there.

We met the agent in the nearby town, it was a snowy day and thankfully we had snow tyres on the car. One of my criteria was to be close to local amenities (no more than a 5 minutes drive) so as we started to take windy, one track lanes up a steep hill, I realized that the location was going to be an issue. Of course, this was one of the things we had checked with the agent prior and he had reassured us that it was just a five minutes drive… 20 minutes of winding roads later we arrived… we were at the end of the road, we couldn’t go any further and we were surrounded by piles and piles of snow. We couldn’t even drive up the drive to the property so we just left the car on the road outside (it was so remote there was no traffic as there was no where to go!) and walked.

When we finally made the trek up the icy hill we were met with a fantastic, panoramic view of the mountains and the valley and a rather large goats shed.

This should be proof that you should never visit a property with no outside photos… I was so enraged that I didn’t even think to get my camera out for your benefit, but believe me when I say goat shed, it looked something like this:

Of course, it had been converted inside, but the first thing the agent said to us was that the asbestos roof wasn’t dangerous… WHAT? What planet is he on? Okay, so it may not be dangerous if you don’t come into contact with the dust particles, but does he have any idea how much it costs to remove and dispose of asbestos and then how much to re-roof? Fancy even beginning to imagine that this is the type of work a pregnant women would even consider undertaking!

A quick dash around the property confirmed my thoughts and I didn’t even bother going into most of the rooms. It was supposed to have been refurbished in a loft style (I am quite partial to industrial conversions as I currently live in a paper factory) but this was a joke. The floors were uneven, the studwork was not done correctly and the ceilings were just plasterboards nailed to bits of wood. The bathroom smelt of excrements and rot and the stairs were not safe – Mr Piglet didn’t even want me to go up them!

We made a sharp exit after about 10 minutes, our quickest visit yet, and started back down the hill onto our next visit:

The Ravinghouse:

Nestled between two hills we arrived at a rather bourgeois house, that was slightly out of budget but we had been told the owners were willing to accept an offer. The house was set in split level grounds and had a large double garage, 6 bedrooms and plenty of living space. However, it just wasn’t getting us excited and it was all rather “boring” compared to other stuff we had seen and of course the house we want to buy.

I’d pretty much written the house off and my thoughts were wandering to the journey home and turning on the heated car seats to ease my back pain (I am currently suffering from a bad back due to being pregnant, hence I’m not spending much time on the computer these days).

The estate agent led us down some stairs where we discovered an indoor pool area and gym space. I had not read the details so hadn’t been expecting this at all! It was Mr Piglet’s surprise for me as I’d said I wanted an indoor pool one day (I love swimming but cannot stand public pools and an outside pool, even if heated, just won’t cut it). It was a lovely pool but I still couldn’t see myself living in the house, it just didn’t have that wow factor.

Whilst Mr Piglet and the agent carried on looking around, I had noticed some doors, rather like stable doors on what looked like a building under the terrace. I then discovered a red door on the side of the wall and pushed it open to see where it led. Mr Piglet and the agent followed me as the agent had not been to the house in a long time and was not aware of any more rooms.

We entered what only can be described as a pub bar/nightclub complete with pole dancing pool, raised dance area and dance floor with chairs on the outside! We were all absolutely gobsmacked, this was completely not expected and the agent wasn’t even aware of it!

I was laughing so hard, I couldn’t resist taking some photos of this unexpected surprise:

A pub at home!


complete with pole dancing...


...and dance floor


not to mention the indoor pool!

We wrapped up the visit pretty quickly after that as I felt as if the bar/club area was used for some not so normal activities and was completely put off by the whole thing. How weird it was to have such an outfit as part of your house!

When we returned to the car I noticed the village name signpost was just outside the house – RAVIGNHOUSE! Okay, so the G and the N are the wrong way around but if you look at it quickly you read RAVING HOUSE – for me that just about said it all!

Turns out the village has an appropriate name...

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