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Posts Tagged ‘My Life’

Last Saturday we were invited to a neighourbood get together La Fête des Voisins
which literally means neighbourhood party. This is a traditional get together which takes place all across France albeit later in May generally.

When living in Lyon, this was the type of get together that I’d watch on the television but never see or even hear about in real life, so when we got a note through the letter box some weeks ago I was delighted.

Since moving to the French countryside I’ve not really met that many people and have remained in close contact with my Lyon based friends. It can be quite a lonely existence but the friends I have made more than make up for quantity in quality.

It’s said here that people are wary of foreigners and when I say foreigners, I don’t mean people from other countries but people from other parts of France! So I guess I am a super dooper foreigner for people in these parts!

Anyway, back to La Fête des Voisins. We’d been invited to Chez Gael which was one of our neighbours although I didn’t have a clue which one or where they lived. Our neighbourhood is quite extensive and to walk round it takes me 35 minutes and there aren’t that many houses.

I managed to locate the house quite easily last Saturday by walking down the lane whilst pushing Little Piglet (yes, I’ve decided on a name). I couldn’t but notice the huge marquees outside a house at the top of the hill, so I was guessing that either the party was there or I’d be gate crashing someone’s wedding reception… Thankfully upon arrival my destination was confirmed as being the correct place! Ouf!

I’d been told to bring along something for the aperitif or for dessert and in Mr Piglet’s absence (he was working) I took a long a bottle of white and some crisps. Good job I had Little Piglet in her pushchair as I was confronted with lots of home made specialties from the other guests making my offering look very basic. Little Piglet’s presence more than made up my lack of food however as everyone cooed over her, saying how gracious she is.

Eventually Mr Piglet turned up and it was great meeting all the people who live nearby. It was frequently commented how people were glad that the previous owners had gone and how they were very cold and snubbed people. We chatted and met so many people, I can only remember their faces not their names or where they live so it’s going to be fun over the next few months working out where everyone lives and checking out their names on their letter boxes.

I even met a lady who grew up in our house, it belonged to her great grandmother and her bedroom was Little Piglet’s room! She is very fond of the house and hopefully she’ll accept my invitation to drop in for coffee one day and tell me more about the house and how it was before it was renovated.

After a while the heavens opened and as Mr Piglet had returned to work and I hadn’t the foresight to bring an umbrella or rain cover I was kind of stuck, baby in tow and wondering when the rain would stop so I could run home. General debate amongst the neighbours decided that it wasn’t wise for me to run home in the wet so a car was arranged and a kind soul (the retired village Doctor!) drove us home.

We were made to feel truly welcome and it felt great to finally meet up with our neighbours and it feels even better to be able to greet them when I’m out on a stroll or working in the garden.

Vive La Fête des voisins !

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I am a horder. A serial horder. I keep pretty much everything, to me everything has a place in my home, a story and a reason to be here. Even if it is a t-shirt which still has all of it’s tags and has never been worn outside of the shop changing room.

Clothes and accessories are my main problem areas, but as our poor relatives who got roped in to helping us pack and unpack when we moved witnessed, my hoarding doesn’t stop there. Plates, apertif dishes, cutlery, books, pots and pans, dust pan and brushes… you name it, I’ve got it.

Mr Piglet despairs at my hoarding. We spent a fortune in storage when we moved just because I have so much stuff. And recently it has become just that to me, stuff.

You may ask why I have waited until now, why not get rid of it sooner? After all, in the last 10 years I have had two international moves and another move which made me homeless for 3 months whilst pregnant.

Having Baby Piglet has helped me gain a lot of perspective and suddenly I’m not so desperate to hang on to all of these material belongings. Okay, I’m not suddenly going to give away by Dior bags or Jimmy Choo shoes, but I have come to terms with the fact that even if I did manage to shrink myself back down to a size 10, my tastes have changed and I would quite frankly prefer to start again.

Don’t get me wrong, I have some lovely clothes which I would wear again in a shot if I could, but I also feel that if I lose the weight I deserve the reward of getting to go shopping for new stuff. Right? Not to mention that right now I would like to open my wardrobe and see stuff that I can wear, not stuff that is all too small that it makes me depressed.

So yesterday I started clearing out my wardrobe. Emptying boxes and bags and sorting through everything. I took many pictures and started listing everything on Ebay. There was no pity. I want this stuff gone. And so starts my Ebay Wardrobe Challenge. By the end of the Spring, I hope to have cleared my wardrobe, lost some weight and started shopping for replacement clothes.

Now I just have to decide whether to part with my shoe and handbag collections, forever faithful no matter what my size.

Please help me by spreading the word. If you can share the link to my Ebay page here or my Facebook page here or my twitter feed here I would be really grateful. Doing a car boot sale isn’t practical with a baby and a Husband that works weekends, so Ebay is my best hope of completing my challenge. Unless of course you can think of any other ways (other than an open house)?

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This is probably the coldest winter I’ve ever had to deal with and right now I’m trying to deal with it with a boiler that keeps turning itself off and barely any wood. This country living lark is certainly an eye opener and there are A LOT of things that I will be doing differently next year! I’m welcome to any tips also!

I know some of you readers live in places where it gets really cold so you may read this and think “whatever!”, but for me -2 is cold, so -11 to -20 degrees Celsius is simply unimaginable (actually it’s not, I’ve been this cold before on a chair lift whilst skiing and I cried and ran off to the nearest bar).

Pretty, but there's no way I'm going out there

Running this house is worse than running a business. There’s always so much to keep on top of and our “to do” list seems to be getting longer by the day. We used to live in a house in Lyon but it was connected to the mains gas system so heating was never an issue as nothing could ever run out!

I recently spoke about my woes with our wood burning stove, well, no sooner had I got the hang of it we woke up one morning last week and realized that we had run out of oil! Suddenly, mastering the stove was no longer an option, I had to keep it going otherwise we’d all be mighty cold!

Thankfully I was able to order in some more oil which was delivered the very next day so only had to slum it for 1 and half days. Unfortunately though, the boiler needed some attention and the oil guy was luckily able to recommend someone to me! Convenient that!

Just as I was congratulating myself and saying how lucky we were that it happened last week, our log delivery was delayed by another week and guess what? We’re running low on logs! We used so many whilst we didn’t have any heating that our supply dwindled VERY quickly.

Real feel temps -16 to -20 degrees!

So fast forward to today… almost -12 degrees Celsius by the back window at just 0850 in the morning. The boiler has decided not to work as it’s too cold so we’re back to square one. No heating, nearly no wood left and no way to keep warm other than reversible air con in our bedroom and a small radiator in Baby Piglet’s bedroom.

Right now I’m trying to decide what to do, I’m tempted to lock up the house and leave as I haven’t been out for a week due to the snow and my lack of suitable snow equipment for the car. Right now I am getting cabin fever and feel as if I may explode. I suppose that would keep the house warm wouldn’t it?

The walnut tree

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No fire in the stove

If you’re reading this expecting some true insight into fire then I’m sorry to disappoint. My Art of Fire relates only to the use of my wood burning stove and my desperation at trying to keep the damn thing going.

 

When arriving in the countryside last summer, we quickly realized that heating the house using the oil boiler was going to cost us a fortune. A cold spell in July meant that we had to have the heating on so to avoid Baby Piglet getting cold. Our house is old, with thick pise walls, great for keeping cool in the summer or keeping the warm in during the long winter months, but when the weather suddenly turns from warm to really cool, not so great.

 

Every moment we had the heating on I spent fretting that we were going to run out of oil. I ended up placing an order and managed to get our oil tank half filled for the grand price of 1500 Euros. Having no idea how long this would last us, we were enticed by the French government’s tax incentive encouraging you to use renewable heating sources and ordered a wood burning stove.

 

The stove has been Mr Piglets domain since it was installed, but a new work challenge has meant that Mr Piglet is no longer at home everyday to keep the thing going. This has left me, not even a girl guide, yet alone a scout, at home trying to figure out what to do with it. I daren’t turn the heating on downstairs for fear of having to re-fill the enormous oil tank again, so I persist in my trial and error with the stove.

 

Each morning, Mr Piglet gets the fire going and leaves me with the instructions on how to keep it going.

 

The first couple of days I kept getting distracted by work. By the time I went back downstairs the fire was out and I spent the next 5 hours trying to get it going again. Each evening Mr Piglet would give me a lesson in the art of starting a fire. Needless to say I failed miserably again the next day as each attempt to start a fire quickly fizzled out.

 

After the first week, I became better at keeping the fire going but then I burnt myself on the door after successfully managing to chuck in a few logs and wouldn’t touch it until my burn had stopped hurting.

 

Now, I can just about manage to keep it going from 9am until gone 7pm when Mr Piglet returns. I’m even managing to do it without smoking the house out and for the moment, without burning myself. My technique? I let the logs burn almost right out and then I stoke the ashes around, chuck on as many logs as I can get in the stove and turn the air vent right up. So far, so good although there really is an art to fire and I think I’m a long way off from learning it. Just so long as the wretched thing doesn’t go out…

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I feel old. My frequent trips to and from the hospital in Lyon for my eye have meant that I’ve spent more time than I dare consider sitting in waiting rooms and hanging about in hospital corridors.

 

Whilst in the beginning I couldn’t see and Mr Piglet’s comments about how young the Doctors looked fell on deaf ears (I thought he was having a crisis as his birthday was coming up), as I waited on Tuesday, I was astounded by how young these Doctors were!

 

I cringed inwardly as I watched Converse clad feet, holey jeans and ribbon bracelets parade around in white Doctor coats. Spots, nose piercing and those weird things that make your ear hole get bigger were everywhere. I knew that it was a teaching hospital and automatically assumed that all these kids were just out of high school and on work placements.

 

But no! Alas! These ugly ducklings were fully fledged Doctors (or ophthalmologists) and were totally qualified to treat me. As I watched the young girl examine my eye and provide notes I felt as if she should be asking her Dad permission to stay out late (it was past 6pm). Thank goodness that there were more senior members on the team too although they only looked about my age. What happens to the older members of staff? Do they evaporate somewhere?

 

I have another question though – whatever happened to dressing up for work? I know they spend a lot of time on their feet but their clothing hardly looked clean yet alone suitable for a professional person. Maybe times have changed, they obviously have and I am obviously getting old.

 

I always assumed and was used to being treated by Doctors that were older than me not considerably and noticeably younger than me.

 

This is going to take some getting used to. I had better start putting plenty of anti-wrinkle cream on.

 

When was the first time that you felt old?

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Hey! Sorry for no updates or recent blog posts, my feet haven’t touched the ground! Here’s a few things I’ve been busy with:

- Baby Piglet of course! She’s 4.5 months now and is rolling over and giggling like a champion! She’s just started with the nanny so when I’m not working I’m dedicating all my time to her.

- Work! After nearly a year off (I worked very very part time) I’m back at work and loving every second of it! My return to work coincides with new directions and I’m pretty much investing all my baby free time there at the moment.

- Ankylosing spondylitis: Since giving birth, I have had major complications and problem after problem and have been diagnosed with Ankylosing spondylitis. Rather than manage it with anti-inflammatories. I have decided to go on an anti-inflammatory diet. No gluten, dairy or sugar. For a girl that practically lived on ice-creams and pasta before giving birth this is one hard task as I hadn’t a clue what to eat and all my habits needed changing!

So, that’s what’s what in the Piglet household these days. Do drop me your news in a comment below or link to any important news on your blogs so I can catch up.

Keep well!

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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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