Sunday, July 21, 2013

Le Chant du Mygale ...

May I suggest that, whenever you really feel like shifting house, you leave it to the professionals? Or perhaps just take a flamethrower to the place and claim the insurance. Just saying. We were "helped" by enthusiastic if somewhat clumsy yoof, and I don't know if that was a good thing or not. To be sure, things eventually wound up in cardboard cartons: many of them were in fact things that we had no intention of taking with us and that were destined, in our minds, for the tip - and of the rest, they were decanted into anonymous boxes that we shall, one day when Bob James the Builder has worked his magic, unpack and say "Oh gosh! Is that where that got to? Shame we bought another one."

Also, 40m3 somewhat underestimates the sheer volume of stuff you can accumulate over 15 years in a 200m² house.

Two vans were not, as it turns out, enough for our needs. Never mind, we got through it without filing for divorce - on to the blow by blow account of the past few weeks of our excellent adventure, heading to points south ...

So after a frenetic weekend's packing what we could into boxes and realising, somewhat belatedly, that we really should have started earlier and perhaps have had more boxes, Monday rolled round, as it will in the natural order of things after a Sunday, and we started loading those two vans and taking stuff for which even we could find no further use off to the dechetterie. Not, sadly, enough, for even as I write we are discovering things that turned up here that we had fondly hoped were gone forever: I guess that Jeremy and his eager friends decided that if it was in the house it might as well go into a truck.

A quick break around 16:30 for a shower and off to the notaire to sign the act and do the deed, after which we were considerably wealthier and, unfortunately, homeless: and as the new owners were turning up up the next day to start demolishing the kitchen (bloody good idea, we'd have done it if we had the money or the skill, Bob'll do it down here) we stuffed the vans, packed the rest into the garage, did a cursory clean of the place just to show willing, and finally, somewhat later than anticipated, turned up at Jacques' place for a rather late dinner and then bed at something like 1:30am Tuesday moaning.

Not the end of it, because later that day, after a totally insufficient amount of sleep, we then drove five hours down south (after picking up the cat) to start doing everything in reverse. Of course the bloody GPS Of Doom did its best to kill us or, failing that, lead us into crooks and nannies where we would be sure to get stuck, like asking us to take these huge vans down a sharp right turn off a street that is, at best, wide enough for one car and a pushbike down into an even narrower alley with overhanging balconies. But we resisted its blandishments and honeyed words, for our faith was strong, and eventually we found a local of whom we could understand three words out of five, and got directions. One day, I swear, that GPS will meet with an Unfortunate Accident.

Unpacking is, as it turns out, a lot quicker than the other thing. Especially as we made the acquaintance of Neville and Reet, whom I suspect of having lurked for at least 50 years, waiting for just such an occasion.In case you're wondering, they both come from the north of England and are consequently, unless you catch them on a good day with the wind in the right direction, totally incomprehensible. Neville is in his seventies, bald and apparently constructed entirely of string and sticks with knobs on the ends, and "enjoys" (without sarcasm, in his case) a 10 km run before breakfast and is thus, in theory, in much better shape than I, were it not for his bad back. Which gives him twinges. His favourite meal, should you wish to know such things, appears to be baked beans. From what he said.

But let it be said, bad back and all, he did sterling service that day, without even being asked, and I'm pretty sure we wouldn't have got everything unloaded without his help. Especially as the front door turned out to be too narrow to accept some necessary items, like tables and chairs. Which entailed a 100m dash around and up to the back door which was persuaded, after a bit of demolition work, to open and accept them.

So please, take the time to raise a glass of steaming (I suppose) Newcastle Brown to Neville, who has made us his projet du mois.

Whatever, as everything was going so well, something had, by the laws of narrative wotsit, go titsup. Which it duly did. It was hot as hell at 17:30, we were still busy unloading the first of the vans, and my phone exterminated at me: it was, of course, the banker. Who had just been contacted by the notaire down here to talk about the purchase and such things, and who was shocked to find that we had more than enough in cash to do the deed.

This disturbed her, for the object of the loan was to finance the purchase ... I left her with a promise to get in touch with Maitre Faure to see what could be done, and gloomily contemplated the possibility of not being able to sign the next day, leaving us, Jim, and Celine somewhat in limbo, and them with a houseful of our stuff. Also, they were flying back to the UK the next afternoon ...

Wednesday dawned bright and sunny, and we'd got onto emptying the second van (more of a bitch that one, as things had, towards the end, just been chucked in wholesale) when the phone rang again, the notaire this time, to say that all had been more or less arranged: they were going to pretend that we lacked 40 000€ and, whilst waiting for the bank loan to come through, would loan us that sum, and the banker would pretend to believe them. So that was alright then, I heaved a sigh of relief and carried on heaving furniture with poor Neville wheezing at the other end, and about 13:30 we all five of us crammed ourselves into Peter's Citroen and headed off to Siran to sign the sale.

The presiding notaire is obliged to read the acte de vente, or at least the important bits, and so we learnt that there are no termites, that where we are is not particularly inondable but that there is, it seems, a risk should ever there be a rupture de barrage (a phrase which we were, despite her excellent English, obliged to translate).

So that's alright then.

I suppose that normal people would then have gone and spent their first night in the new home, but we had other plans, and about 21:00 we turned up at Jacques' place again, having dropped one of the vans off at Montmelian, for a slightly earlier dinner than the previous one. Which didn't stop it being marvelous, Jacques seems able to outdo himself each and every time. Did not, unfortunately, profit from the occasion to soak in his spa pool, for an early morning beckoned ...

We duly went in to Chambéry to sign the loan (that we did not, technically speaking, need) with the banker and organise those little things in life that you require when you finally have some spare cash, like credit cards and chequebooks, carpenters and kings, then back to St Pierre to empty the garage into the second van: kind of a bastard 'cos much of it was things stuffed willy-nilly into plastic bags (some of them, to add to the fun, were bursting - thank our overly keen youthful helpers for that) or, failing that, tied up into bundles with string.

And having done that we left again for Moux, Margo driving the van and me bringing up the rear in the Suzy, who was also stuffed to the plimsoll line and then some.

We got in about 23:30 I guess and, too tired to contemplate anything else, fell into bed and slept the sleep of the just (or the terminally exhausted), and left the van to unpack itself. Which it kind of magically did, for on Friday moaning we were back on the road headed north, to drop the van off at Chambéry and for me to do a bit of work at Miqro (yes, my old employer all those years ago). Then we packed even more stuff into Suzy and, its being one of the traditional journées de départ, ate (and drank, sparingly) at our ex-neighbours before going south again at around 21h.

Guess we must have made it back somehow, because I distinctly remember being woken at about 7 by the eccentric carillon on the church right next door, which has an extremely annoying off-tempo 5/7 beat to it: I think that will, at some point, afford me endless hours of pleasure doing ranging practice with the mortar from the terrace. Until of course I manage to score a direct hit, at which point I shall have to find some other source of amusement, such as skeet shooting with the local yoof as targets.

And for the first time in godnose how long we had the day to ourselves, and nothing we actually needed to do in it: only one thing to do in such circumstances, and that is to take a leisurely breakfast out on the terrace and look out over what is now our home. First major decision in our new life: buy a huge parasol.

The house is big and cool and dim and airy, kind of like one of those friendly old English sheepdogs that seem to spend most of their time asleep in the shade, lifting their head to cover you in slobber and wagging a bit for politeness's sake when you come close, before going back to dream about young poodles. I think we may well be happy here, it seems to have adopted us.

Good thing it is cool inside, for even with the gentle breeze that stirs the air a bit and stops it stifling you, the terrace is baking in the afternoon sun. You can understand why even the hordes of cats that seem to be one of the cottage industries around this place spend their time sleeping under the cars, parked à la sauvage around the square. Some things Peter Mayle did get right, about life in small-town southern France. Old stones, baking in the heat under that bright blue provençal sky. And the mosaic of fields, gold and violet with wheat and lavender.

That evening was the fête du village, with fireworks and everything for the 14th of July, and we had reserved tickets (15€ a pop) with Peter. Two little numbered slips of paper were duly slipped into an envelope in the mailbox during the day, and as I was struggling with my cufflinks Margo tactfully reminded me to take my wallet so that we could at least pay for a bottle of wine at the table ...

Need not, as it turned out, have worried. We turned up, decently late, to find the trestle tables set out on the aire de boules groaning under the weight of diverse pizzas and other amuse-gueules, not to mention the array of bottles - white and rosé, dripping with condensation, red, and whisky. Which I carefully avoided, given the heat. So I admired the costumes, which ranged from shorts & sandals (me, but with a black bow tie - have to keep up appearances) to evening dress, and tried to understand the local accent. Not, let it be said, with any great success.

We were introduced to the English community - quite a number, for such a tiny place - which collectively said something along the lines of "Yummy! New toy! New books!" and were then lead off to our places at the long lines of tables equally well-equipped in the alcohol department ie three or four bottles every 50cm to find ourselves seated with the English and other debiles mentales, and then they started serving the food.

So we start off with a slab of foie gras with figs on toasted brioche (lacked a bit of pepper in my opinion, but that's just me) and slowly moved on to the cote de veau and then to the lotte sauce provençale followed by a little sorbet citron with a generous lashing of marc sloshed over it, and every time a bottle emptied another two magically appeared in its place: my wallet stayed in its place, untouched, and about 1am, after the fireworks (which were excellent) had been admired, the kids had been shushed and the dancing had well and truly started, we sloshed sleepily back home, leaving everyone else to it, and slept.

Doesn't end there, 'cos I still had things to do in Chambéry so on Sunday I drove back up and occupied myself with clients and making sure I had all the gear I am going to need, duplicated my laptops, stuff like that. Bit of a b'stard but I might as well get used to it, I guess I'll be headed up for a week or ten days every month for the foreseeable future.

I left there early Saturday morning, way too early like about 5am, hoping to avoid the traffic and above all the heat: it more or less worked until after Valence, where you rejoin the A7 clogged with just about every species known to man heading southwards from Paris, Brussells, Berlin and points further north, drawn irresistably by the siren song of bloody boiling hot moules frites on the sweltering beaches, lying cheek by jowl with their neighbours from whatever shithole city they drove all night to escape from. Oh, and the péage at Montpellier was an absolute arse as well. Unimpressed.

Still, once you get to Montpellier you're only an hour away from here, whipping round Beziers, Narbonne and off towards Toulouse, so I took it quite calmly and drove on ... stopping only at Lésignan to pick up some summer fruit, and some decent meat from a butcher I came across who will cut pork chops to my specifications and who also makes his own sausages, which are really rather bloody good. Now if I could only persuade him to make some lamb sausages I would be in heaven.

Now the fridge stinks of melons, 'cos the primeur at Lésignan-Corbières had a special offer of a tray of twenty of the things for only 10€, and you know me ...

No pictures today because France Telecom won't be sending someone around until the 30th to reconnect the phone, as a result I'm using my mobile as a 3G modem which is all very well, and actually works, but uploading 50Mb of photos is a bit slow. Will do better next time, promise.

1 comment:

  1. The move sounds like a mammoth undertaking, but so good to hear that you've made it safely & (relatively) smoothly. (See, the yoof of today do have their uses!)