(If you would like to read previous posts, please go to My French Life.)
By the end of January 2009, we still had no house of our own. We wanted something habitable, in the countryside, with land and outbuildings for my husband, Al to renovate. It had to have a nice garden and it had to have a garage to fill with motorbikes. The list had been growing for over a year! You may notice the total absence of practical concerns, like schools, transport, shops…
I’d already been to see a fair number of places, and had gone back to a few with Al and the boys for a second look. There was always something wrong. Mainly low roofs (we are a very tall bunch of people), lack of original features (ancient fire places replaced with shiny storage heaters), price (mythical) and condition. We came close with a couple and went so far as to make an offer on a huge house which had been half renovated and which we would have bought if the price had come down just a little more. The other offer was more of an act of desperation – so glad we didn’t go through with that one!
Then it happened! I was out with my favourite estate agent and she brought me to a house in Corme Royal – very posh! It’s a medium-sized village with all the amenities you could ask for, and elegant buildings around its own busy market square. I loved it as soon as I saw it. But where was the house? Would it be next to a power station? Would it be big enough for four giants? Would it have a garden? On top of all these questions, it occurred to me that we hadn’t really considered buying in a village.
Just opposite the bakery, Anna took a left into an Impasse and pulled up in front of the third terraced house along. Terraced! The façade was in need of attention, its tired paint flaking. And it didn’t look very big at all. There was just enough room to park outside and no sign of a garage. I looked at Anna. She was wearing her ‘don’t make up your mind yet’ expression.
Somebody didn't set the date!
Inside, the long hallway had an 80s disco feel, with enormous swirling patterns of very loud wallpaper and, half way along, a central heating boiler that looked as though it had been chosen as a feature, jutting out like a 19th century Dalek. But, the floor was covered in 17th century tiles and, looking up, the ceiling had its original beams (generously glossed and yellowed by time). After that, it only got better. Two Charentaise fireplaces. Two! (Although they too had been recently slathered in white gloss). Massive oak beams, solid hardwood floors and, piece de resistance! I glimpsed a walled garden of, as they say in every programme about house buying, a very good size. Yipee!
There were two large reception rooms: one done out as a bedroom, complete with open plan toilet, lid up but luckily sans organic interest. A dining room, a kitchen, three upstairs bedrooms and, surprisingly, along the back of the neighbouring house, a utility room, shower room, separate wc and a large chai (store room), which could be converted into more accommodation (bingo! – Al’s renovation project).
Outside, the garden was about as big as one and a half tennis courts, with a couple of small stone outbuildings and a shelter for wood. It was perfect. Stone walls all around and no viz a viz! What’s more, the neighbours’ gardens were strewn with beautiful mature trees to the right and centre. To the left, there was the enormous 12th century village church! I couldn’t believe it. Magnificent. The clock chimed and I laughed. Anna looked relieved – she’d shown me a lot of houses by this time.
January 2009! Before we moved in.
Back outside, I was beginning to take ownership already, assessing the shutters, which seemed in excellent repair. Then I remembered – garage! It would be, as they say, a deal breaker. I turned to see Anna unlocking a large double door in a lovely stone built building opposite the house. Thank the Lord and praise the angels! There it was. Big enough for a couple of motorbikes and plenty of other tools and junk.
Anna drove me back to the gite and I fell upon Al, gushing with enthusiasm. You have to come and see it! This is the one!