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Archive for the ‘Moving Houses’ Category

Hello! It’s been a while but boy have we been busy settling into our new home and adapting to life with Baby Piglet. I’ve barely had a chance to get behind a PC and my online time has been limited to Twitter and Facebook on my crackberry whilst I’ve been nursing.

Everything’s going hunky dory and Baby Piglet is proving to be an absolute delight except for when she has a growth spurt and then she turns into a milk monster. I’ve struggled to keep up with her but things are getting better as I get better (yes, I’m still not quite recovered).

Here’s a wee pic of Baby Piglet yesterday in her summer dress that her Gramps bought her:

Baby Piglet at 7 Weeks


Hasn’t she changed? I get quite nostalgic already when I look back at the photos and see how much she has changed and she’s only 7 weeks old!

The house is great. We felt at home immediately and whilst country life is taking some getting used to (more of that soon), we are so pleased to be here despite everything we had to go through to get here.

It took a while to get rid of the old owners and this Wednesday we were finally able to celebrate them vacating the workshop and leaving the property forever. We cracked open a bottle of bubbly after Baby Piglet had gone to bed and I was drunk within a few sips.

Its been great to get lots of help and sit back and watch as friends and family unpack our stuff and help us settle as I look after Baby Piglet and rest. The only downside is that Mr Piglet has discovered the full extent of my hoarding. The garage is full of boxes and the bedroom wardrobes are full and yet there’s still boxes everywhere and they’re all full of my stuff!

I’d managed to hide my hoarding during the packing as my Mum packed most of my clothes (including all the ones that had never been worn and still had tags on) but she’s not arriving until Tuesday and my French family already unpacked them!

I’ve been well and truly caught out and have promised to sell lots of stuff at a car boot or online as soon as possible. I actually felt embarrassed as they unpacked a box of clothes I wore 13 years ago (all in excellent condition though). Now that I’m a Mum I don’t want to hang on to this stuff and am finally ready to leave it behind me. Mr Piglet will be delighted I’m sure!

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Chez nous

Chez nous

Moving day was interesting.

The old owners were still moving out. They were supposed to have given us the keys on Wednesday but weren’t ready. They had a wardrobe to move still which took them 4 hours to dismantle and take out. It wasn’t a big wardrobe either. Words failed me but I no longer care so I watched on amused. No wonder they weren’t ready to move on time – they had made a simple job super complicated!

A few things have stood out for me since we arrived:

  • 1. There are cows (brown and white ones, not Milka ones unfortunately) at the end of the garden.
  • 2. The postman honks when he gets here and then stays in his car. I wondered what on earth was going on this morning.
  • 3. Its cooler inside the house than it is outside, we all need to wear an extra layer, Baby Piglet included! I had been told to expect this but found it hard to imagine. The house is made of pise which in its brut state to me looks like weetabix. Its a traditional building material for old farm houses in these parts and keeps the warm in in the winter and out in the summer. Clever stuff!
  • 4. Storms here are much scarier than in the city.
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    The day has finally come – move in day! We’ll soon be setting off, Baby Piglet, Mr Piglet, our two cats and me. Leaving the in laws house empty of our mess after over 3 months of living with them. We’ll be a small procession of vehicles: a large 23 m3 van, our car with me and Baby Piglet and my in laws. Yes, they’re coming too as I still can’t drive or do much so we need their help.

    I’m still amazed by the amount of stuff I have bought since I left Lyon on 22nd Feb. We struggled to get everything in and I spent the last few hours praying that Mr Piglet wouldn’t come and tell me there was no room left.

    Finally everything is ready and we’re off to finally start our new life in the country. Its not without nostalgia though. We’ve been through such a tough time and it’s only thanks to my in laws that I was able to leave hospital.

    We’ll miss having my Mother in Law on hand to bombard with questions: is this normal? How do I…? Her knowledge has been gained from years working with babies in a creche has been indispensable as Mr Piglet and I tried to find our way around parenthood. Its going to be like coming home from the hospital all over again.

    I still can’t believe this day has finally arrived. It seems surreal.

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    Little Miss Piglet

    The clock is ticking and Little Miss Piglet could be here any day soon! I’m in full blown nesting mode which is really hard when you’re not in your own home. I have re-arranged parts of the in-laws house, scrubbed the floors and the bathrooms, dragged Mr Piglet to IKEA at 8am on Saturday morning to buy furniture and ironed countless baby clothes, burp clothes and bits and pieces without setting fire to anything.

    There’s no way now that we have any chance in being our own home (even if rented) by the time Little Miss Piglet arrives, so we have resolved ourselves to making the best of a bad situation. I’ve also had to wave goodbye to giving birth in the birthing centre I had chosen in Lyon and on Sunday we went to check out the hospital in Valence. Thank goodness we did as I wouldn’t have fancied trying to find the birthing suites when in active labour, especially as it is 45 minutes drive from where we’re staying in rural Provence!

    I’ve taken great pleasure today in arranging all Little Miss Piglet’s 0-3 month clothes in her new wardrobe which we bought from IKEA on Saturday. I just hope she loves clothes as much as her Mummy!

    Contractions have been coming regularly now and are getting more and more painful. A crazy midwife whom I visited last week for a check up called me an adventurer (if only she knew the half of it!) and said that it could be any time now, everything is ready. She also said that Little Miss Piglet is BIG – boy, I’m worried now…

    Last night was a full moon and they’re supposed to cause an increased possibility of labour in the following days and according to my biorhythm chart I should give birth on Wednesday or Thursday this week:

    Biorhythm on my ownBiorhythm with Mr Piglet

    I doubt I’ll be able to blog when it happens as internet access from my phone is not great, but if you’re on Twitter and want to follow progress I’ve created a hashtag #babypiglet which you can follow for updates. Simply search #babypiglet on the Twitter search and you’ll get my latest tweets! Maybe it’ll be a live labour, who knows!

     

    The House

    The house, the house… where to start? Yesterday we were supposed to complete on the purchase and today we were supposed to move in, obviously we haven’t otherwise I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this!

    We’ve not had any official news from our notary since the devastating call we received and we can only deem him as being absolutely useless! I am at despair as to what to do about him but we’ve decided for our own sanity to seek information directly from concerned parties in the meantime.

    I was so fed up of not having any news last week that I rung the estate agent and vendors notary directly, seeking clarification on what was going on as I was in despair at the thought of not knowing anything until May 15th. It transpires that our notary had grossly exaggerated the gravity of the situation and that whilst the SAFER had used their right of pre-emption it was on behalf of a local farmer who claimed to exploit the land. We were told that this isn’t true and that the farmer boy has to prove that he exploits it or has reason to want to exploit it and that he’s not after the house anyway. So it may be that we can find a compromise!

    As we’re beginning to understand what the countryfolk are like, I can bet that he is someone the present owners annoyed and he is now seeking vengeance by trying to mess up their sale! It all sounds so very like a story you’d see on a farmer boy TV show that it has to be that – especially when you take into consideration how awful the current owners are and how they have treated us. If I wasn’t so desperate to buy I’d say it serves them right and is the bad karma they deserve!

    I’m keeping my swollen toes and fingers crossed that we’ll have some news after the Easter bank holiday, one way or the other, I’m past the point of caring just as long as we can move on with our lives.

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    Mr Piglet and I wish to thank you all for your kind words and support following my post yesterday. We are overwhelmed by the number of messages of support and advice that we have received here, on twitter and via email. Really, it is wonderful to know that you are all there and that good people exist in this world. Thank you so much everyone, you’ve helped us get through the weekend and find some positive energy.

    This morning we started off with much higher spirits, determined to find a rental property quickly so that as soon as we got confirmation from the SAFER later this week that the sale is blocked, we could move in and get on with our lives hopefully before Little Miss Piglet makes her grand appearance.

    Alas, as I’m beginning to expect now, things are not so simple.

    I wish I could just go back here for the next few weeks whilst everything sorts itself out.

    First of all, we still can’t find out when the meeting with the SAFER people is. Our notary does not know and the vendor’s notary is closed today. We tried to call the SAFER directly but no luck either. So no further advanced there.

    We then started calling the rental properties I’d found on the internet. There are only a handful available so it didn’t take long. Because the size of house we are looking to rent is large and the area rural, they are few and far between so we only had five on the list. The first two places we called were no longer available and then the third place was still available but the guy was totally booked up for visits today and tomorrow and was expecting it to be let within the next few days. He proposed a slot this pm at 4 and Mr Piglet and I were all set to jump in the car and go up and visit but then we spoke to the notary again.

    I wanted to check the financial and legal aspect as to where to stood with regards to the sale now that the SAFER are involved and the notary was calling us back to explain. In our panic on Friday we had overlooked this and didn’t really know exactly what our position was but before committing to a rental property I wanted to be sure as we can ill afford to lose our deposit money or pay for two removals right now.

    I should have guessed that it was time for another BOMBSHELL! The SAFER have until May 15th to decide what to do reference the sale, so whatever the outcome of the meeting this week, it could be a month before they make a final decision and we get official confirmation whether or not we can still buy. Until we know that, we’re not really at liberty to commit to a rental place so we’re stuck in limbo.

    We have loosely considered getting a gite with internet access this morning which we could move into immediately, but right now I don’t think I could stomach a move to another “temporary” place with furniture that isn’t mine. What’s more, with the Easter school holidays, a two bedroom gite is well over 1500 Euros per month sometimes far more, if we can find something available…

    So, for the time being, at least for the next two weeks we’ve decided to stay put, I’m going to concentrate on keeping calm and we’re going to go to a nearby spa for a few days to relax.

    Hopefully things will become clearer in before Little Miss Piglet is born, but right now, we’re stuck “living in limbo”.

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    Our bad luck has continued and words have betrayed me ever since the latest news in the house saga came in on Friday morning. Since the bad news came in, I have not been able to stop crying, teary fits of hysteria have become common place and I feel like a butterfly floating around with no-where to go. I will be 38 weeks pregnant as of tomorrow. I don’t think I have ever been at this level of desperation and I am clutching at the ropes right now.

    Friday started pretty well, a gorgeous sunny morning with record breaking temperatures. I’d planned to spend the day relaxing on the terrace, soaking up some rays and reading the baby books I’d purchased. Fairly early on though, I could see that Mr Piglet was agitated and was trying to come to terms with something. He had one of those looks on his face and was flitting around, trying to occupy himself, as if he wanted to tell me something but couldn’t bring himself to do it. After nearly 12 years together I can pretty much read him like a book so I suggested that he tell me whatever he needed to say and I promised I wouldn’t hit him.

    As it turned out, I could have killed someone but he wasn’t to be the one and I am still working out who it will have to be today. Our notaire had called to advise us that the purchase of the property wouldn’t be able to complete on the 18th April after all. The SAFER had utilized their right of pre-emption on the land and property and had forcefully stopped the sale and purchase going through!

    What on earth is this all about you’re probably wondering? Well, the SAFER is a French government, supposedly non-profit organization whose job it is to preserve the French countryside and look out for agricultures interests. As part of its role, it can stop a sale going through if there is someone with an agricultural interest in the property or land that is being sold.

    Each time a property with agricultural land is being sold the SAFER must be notified. You can pay (or as Fly from “French Leave” put it “bribe”) the SAFER to treat your request quicker than normal as we did by writing a cheque (for a couple of hundred Euros BTW) and supposedly get a quicker response, or you can wait two months for them to come back to you and find out whether or not they want to buy instead.

    For most property purchase this is just a formality, a piece of paper that you have to obtain, just like obtaining the piece of paper from the Town Hall regarding their right to pre-empt. Never in a million years did anyone expect the SAFER to utilize their right and to put an end to the sale!

    As the notaire tried to explain to a devastated Mr Piglet, the SAFER had (at the very, very last minute) notified the vendors notaire that they would be putting a stop to the sale as they had a “paysan” (farmer) who wanted to buy. The notaire explained to Mr Piglet that they could impose a lower sales price on the vendors, forcefully stopping the sale of the property to us and if the vendors weren’t in agreement then the case would have to be presented to the Tribunal de Grande Instance (TGI) and it would be up to them to decide. Being familiar with the French legal system (I have had a business court case that has been going on for nearly five years now), this spelt things out pretty clear to us: we were in the s**t!

    The land in question


    According to our notaire there is a meeting next week between the SAFER and the vendors and we will try and attend also with legal representation as we are sure that there is something fishy going on:

    1. the property we’re buying has only 1.4 hectares of land (not all of which is considered agricultural) so we cannot see what interest the property truly represents to a farmer or how the land needs to be preserved

    2. the immediate surrounding land are all residential

    3. the adjacent residential buildings for the most part are all new builds (the small hamlet contains properties from the same era as the farmhouse) but the properties adjacent to the land are all new. This leads one to believe that someone may have their eye on the land for building purposes

    4. there was some suspicion back in March as the Town Hall utilized their right to pre-empt the purchase but then quickly withdrew it when it was queried by the vendors notary. No-one knows the exact reason they gave (as they didn’t give one!) which is fishy as now it’s been pre-empted again but by the SAFER! Could this be linked to point 3?

    Writing this has been quite therapeutic as the facts are in black and white – we are stuffed unless we can prove one way or another that something dodgy is going on and try and fight it. Of course if everything is legitimate then we must also have a plan b so we have two things to work on:

    1. Find out when the SAFER meeting is and seek legal representation (a lawyer) urgently. I have told Mr Piglet that I will look after this as I need to have some role in what is going on to make me feel as if I am doing something rather than just sitting back and accepting the crap that is being thrown at me.

    2. Find somewhere to live! Little Miss Piglet is due to arrive and we cannot continue living with my in-laws, 2 hours from our friends in Lyon! We need to find alternative accommodation and quickly! Mr Piglet is going to start hunting this week for a rental property that can accommodate us, our furniture and the baby as soon as she arrives. Just what we needed!

    So there you have it! The latest saga in our quest to purchase a property in the French countryside and after months and months trying, we’re still not any closer to realizing our dream. Rather off putting isn’t it? Mafia and Barons spring to mind, maybe I’ll write a book when this is all over, who knows…

    PS. Buying French property isn’t usually this hard – our first property purchase was easy and took just two months.

    PPS.
    Find out more about the SAFER here

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    The Piglet family hasn’t been having much luck lately. We call it La scoumoune. I’m not quite sure of the origin of the word, I believe that it is Arabic but it’s commonly used in the infamous HLM cities in France (social housing concrete jungles) along with “avoir la mauvaise oeil” as a way of saying that you’re very unlucky. According to Wiktionnaire it’s of latin origin, but whatever it’s origin we seem to have it!

    Our unluckiness has now lasted over a year, starting with the Fondue fork incident last February. It has spread like a virus through various aspects of our lives including health, financial, work and more recently our home move.

    If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you will know that we were supposed to move into our new home in the country on March 28th but that the current owners wouldn’t move out! They didn’t even notify us that they were refusing to move until 10 days before we were due to move in! After six weeks living with the in-laws I cannot even begin to explain my desperation and how I felt.

    Legally, they have no right to delay and we can sue them and seek interest and damages but as anyone who knows the French system we may as well dream on. We are going to try and seek some damages but the thought of having another legal battle and ongoing dealings with them (albeit through an avocat) and additional expense leaves us cold. We tried to reason with them and were told that we were nasty, evil people. We were called liars (they obviously can’t read the contract we all signed agreeing the date!), we were told that we were trying to evict them from their home and that we were causing ill health. It got to the point where Mr Piglet stopped updating me on what was happening as he could see it was causing much stress and heartache… I’d never envisaged becoming a Mother in such circumstances.

    At one stage, I wanted to pull out of the sale completely but common sense prevailed – it had been so difficult to find a suitable house that I couldn’t bear starting the search again, 9 months pregnant!

    Finally, after 10 days of legal battles, the owners have agreed to move out on April 18th and we have managed to convince the removal company to slot us in from the 19th onwards. I hope this is the end of our bad luck period as I cannot imagine another year of bad luck and thinking whatever could come next. They say bad luck comes in 3’s but in our case this last year it’s been in 3 dozens…

    As you can see by the pregnancy counter in my side bar, time is ticking and Little Miss Piglet will soon be here. In fact, she is due to arrive anytime now according to the hospitals midwife as she is sitting very low and I am having frequent contractions! I doubt that we’ll be in the new house before she gets here, but now I’m learning to relax and accept what will be will be.

    Having our first child in totally unplanned circumstances (to the point where I don’t even know in which hospital I will give birth) is not something I had ever planned and certainly not something I had wanted, but it is what life has dealt me and I am grateful to even be pregnant. My priority now is my little baby and I can’t wait to meet her, but if she can wait another few weeks for Mummy and Daddy Piglet to move in, we would be grateful.

    They say things happen for a reason and I’m yet to discover what reasons are behind all of this. Has life dealt you with some unexpected delays/news which you were grateful for afterwards?

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