April 18, 2014

BODGE CITY

We left the unfinished drop dead gorgeous barn conversion house behind us and followed Antony to another little hamlet only a few kilometres away.

Some horse riders waved to us as we made our way between the old houses and we stopped at the end of the lane.

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The house we had come to view was actually two old cottages knocked through into one house.  This turned it into a substantial sized property and it also had a nice garden with open views at the back.

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The entrance hall was in the smaller cottage and was charming.  In fact the house was stuffed with lovely old and original features, such as an open fire, a bread oven and lovely beams.

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The problem with it was that it had been horribly bodged, everywhere.

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All the modernisation that had been done to it over the decades was in a cheap DIY fashion.  There were cheap doors, flimsy staircases, wobbly lino and really bad wrinkly wallpaper over everything.  The bathroom and kitchen were tired and old fashioned rather than quaint, and needed replacing.

Alterations had been made to put as many bedrooms in as possible and in some rooms there were just mattresses on the floor.  This was a holiday home for a family who obviously descended en masse each summer for a few weeks.

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It reminded us very much of the little house we already have.  Masses of old cast off furniture and as many beds as you could possibly fit in to accommodate a large family gathering.  Everything done in the cheapest possible way.

Except that this was on a much larger scale than what we had to tackle in Le Grand-Pressigny.  The owners were asking a lot of money for their house and it would cost a huge amount to undo all the bodging and turn it into a lovely home. 

The other reason that we didn’t buy it is that it was in a small hamlet where the houses were very close together, quite hemmed in, and all but one of them were holiday homes.  When we were looking for a house last time we probably wouldn’t have understood exactly what that means.  With our experience we realise that the place would have been spookily deserted for probably ten months of the year, then come July and August scores of people would descend on the hamlet as it became the venue for a huge annual party.  Not for us.

Next we looked at two farm houses.  Both had a degree of quality restoration and both had a lot of bodging.  They also had a huge amount of land and outbuildings – barns, pig sheds, cow sheds, hangers and even spare houses in the yard to do up.

We rapidly came to the conclusion that we are doing this wrong again.  We assumed that by spending more money than last time (more than twice as much) we would get a better house.  It seems that in fact for the extra money you seem to get more unfinished projects, a lot of land, too many unwanted outbuildings, a lot more work than we want to do and an awful lot of extra money needing to be spent.

What we were hoping for was a nicely renovated house, a barn or garage, a shed or outbuilding for our stuff and a nice sized garden.  At this rate it could be a long time before we find it !!

April 9, 2014

HOUSE HUNTING

Step one of our house moving is under way and hopefully proceeding according to plan.  Just to remind you (and me, as I still can hardly believe we’re actually doing it), we have a buyer for our current UK home and have arranged to buy a much smaller one here.  It will take a few more weeks before the legal processes are all in place and we physically move from one to the other.

Step two is to find a larger house in France and my friend Gaynor sent me a link to one she found that was for sale in the village.  We are looking for a larger house than the little cottage we already have, with a good sized garden and either a garage or outbuildings, and so far had not seen anything like that for sale in the village.  Consequently this was very exciting so we decided to take a break from the packing and sorting and make a flying visit to Le Grand-Pressigny so we could see it.

We were disappointed when we looked at it.  It was a 1970’s build and although the exterior was nice and the position lovely, inside it was a charmless hotch-potch of plasterboard corridors and odd sized rooms.  Not for us.

The one good thing that came out of it was that we both realised that what we really like is old houses.  The one we have now is probably at least 250 years old and we would really like something of a similar age.

We contacted our favourite, rather lovable agent, Antony, and he took us to see this:

drop dead gorgeous

The property consisted of a small house, nicely renovated to a good standard, about the same size as the one we already have.

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The really interesting part was that it also included this beautiful house plus barn conversion.  It was drop dead gorgeous both inside and out, and was much more like what we were looking for.

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The property also included the ruins of yet another house where just the walls had been left standing and were used as a screen for a leisure area.

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There was a good amount of land which would be easy to look after, cultivating part of it as a garden, part as a vegetable plot and leaving the rest as orchard or just grass.  It was situated next to a horse breeding business, had fabulous views over open country and sat beautifully in its own plot.

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On the fourth side of the plot was yet another little building which had lovely original features such as a bread oven and was currently used as a little office.

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We didn’t buy it.

The main problem is that although the renovations were to a good standard, the main building wasn’t finished.  We didn’t need the little house, which was finished, although having somewhere to put visitors or even rent out was a nice idea. 

The inside of the main, large house was full of lovely old features which had been tastefully retained and there was little or no bodging of the type we encountered the last time we were house hunting.  But the upper floor was half missing, there was no kitchen, staircase or bathroom.  All of which would be quite costly to put in. 

The current owners had done a quality job so far and had fabulous ideas about the restoration, such as a custom made glass staircase linking the two floors, but they ran out of money before they could finish it.

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If we were ten years younger and had twice our budget we would have bought it.  It was beautiful and in many ways exactly what we wanted.  But what we don’t need is a huge and expensive project.  It’s easy to get really excited about how much of a truly gorgeous house and land you can get for your money in rural France but we are wary of ending up with something that will sap our energy and use up all our money before it’s finished.  The so-called “money pit”.

It was with great sadness that I walked away from it as it ticked so many of our boxes and was almost perfect.  I also felt sorry for the owners who were having to sell their dream house before it was finished.  We are at the stage in our lives where the adventure of moving to France is the right thing to do but we can’t afford to be reckless.

So we drove a few kilometres further down the road where Antony showed us another one………..

March 24, 2014

BATHROOM CHIC?

While stocking up at Intermarché for a week chez nous, I spotted this on the supermarket shelves.

loopaperBlack toilet paper.

Our recent spell of house-hunting has proved fascinating.  Black bathrooms are very much the latest thing.  Now you can complete the look with loo paper to match.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, but somehow I am!

March 10, 2014

TIDYING UP

I used to follow a really nice blog about a dog.

An old English sheepdog who lived in Scotland.  Some of you may know the blog I mean.  After the dog died his owners deleted the blog.

Yesterday evening I was doing a bit of lazy blogging and noticed that the link to the old dog blog was still there on a friend’s blog.  I no longer have it on my list of blogs so I clicked just out of curiosity.  (I think that in the back of my mind I was wondering if they had got themselves another dog.)

The link for this blog now takes you to the kind of website that I personally would never want to visit. 

It looks like some devious and unpleasant people have used the old dog blog address to peddle their garbage, maybe in the hope of picking up accidental traffic (although that couldn’t amount to much surely) or maybe as the only way they can get their material out there.  What do I know.  I don’t usually look at stuff like this so I don’t know how devious people have to be.

Anyway, if you used to follow a really nice blog about an old English sheepdog who lived in Scotland with his owners, you might want to check if it’s still on your blog roll or in your profile.  I hope you have a strong stomach.

Periodically I tidy up my blog by deleting any links to old or deleted blogs.  Now I’m glad I did !!

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On the home front, we are very busy and somewhat bemused.  Totally flummoxed and in headless chicken mode.

In the space of four days we have sold our house and bought another one in the UK.  We found the perfect small house to keep here and, even more fortunately, it’s currently empty.  It’s also been recently renovated and we will be the first to enjoy the new plumbing, electrics, carpets and decorating. 

That will make life so much easier if we can move the stuff we want to keep in the UK straight into a house rather than having to do a double shuffle by putting stuff into storage intended for two different destinations.

Tidying up has therefore paid off on two counts.  My blog is (I hope) porn free and the house is sold.

I have however run out of fingers and toes to keep crossed !!

Have a great week !!

March 6, 2014

A BIG SURPRISE

Incredible as it seems, we appear to have sold the house only two days after it went on the market!

I was certainly hoping for a quick sale, to get it over with before I lost my nerve, but I did expect it to take a few months, not just a few days!

The agent had had an enquiry from a couple looking for a house in our area and he told them ours was coming up for sale.  As soon as they had seen the photos they arranged to come and have a look.  They obviously loved it but had offers on their own house which needed to be sorted out.

Over the weekend we showed three other couples round the house, two of which were obviously the “just looking” type and one who actually needed somewhere to live as they had sold theirs.  I was beginning to find the task of keeping the place immaculately tidy a bit of a chore already when the first couple came back for a second viewing and that was it !!

The house is perfect for them and it was the lucky combination of exactly the right house being for sale at the right time. Of course it could all go horribly wrong if their buyer drops out for some reason so I'm not counting my chickens just yet.

The curious thing is that my emotional attachment to this house, where I have lived for twenty nine years, seems to have vanished. We were both feeling nervous about giving it up, like finally throwing out a comfy pair of old shoes, but now we can't wait to pack up and move on.

Things are going to be hectic so I may not have time to update the blog regularly for a while.  I will be keeping up with my blog reading though so you will hear from me one way or another!

February 23, 2014

IN LIMBO

We have spent the last two weeks in frantic activity, turning out everything and turning our house into the show home that the agent wanted to see when the photos were taken for the website.

cupboards

The kitchen before.

To say this has been blooming hard work is the understatement of the year.

(So far.)

kitchen after The kitchen after.

Our garage is full of the excess contents of the house that littered all the surfaces such as the kitchen worktops, bathroom and other furniture.  That’s after we had filled my dad’s garage and spare room with as much excess as we could get into the space available.  We even removed six bookcases (and all the books contained thereon) from the third bedroom so that people can see properly how big it is.  (Definitely big enough for a bed.  A single bed would leave lots of space for furniture.  A double bed would leave about the amount of space that you get in the “master bedroom” of some of the new houses we have been looking at lately.  I don’t think we could physically fit into a new house.)

We do have an awful lot of stuff.  It’s tempting to just scoop it all up and take it to the charity shop or tip.  In reality, it represents so many chapters of our lives so far that we are painstakingly sifting through each cupboard and each drawer to inspect the contents and decide properly what we want to keep, what we can do without and what we can throw away.

It’s not easy.  It sounds easy enough but when we find ourselves looking at a pile of stuff that hasn’t been used for an embarrassingly long time, but cost some of our hard earned cash and has its own story to tell, it’s difficult to make the decision to part with it.

I have to balance this against the knowledge that when I have been in our little cottage in Le Grand-Pressigny for an extended period, managing perfectly well with a fraction of the stuff we have at home (thinking that we still think of our house in Derbyshire as “home”), if someone had sent me an email saying “I am sorry to report that your house in England has blown up” (or burned down), I would not have been the least bit perturbed.  I would have missed some of my cake stands and crockery, and my beads, but not the rest of the stuff.

This weekend we have been having a bit of a breather before the real work really starts.  We have hidden as much as we could behind the cupboard doors and in my dad’s house.  Now we have to truly get down to the nitty gritty of really sorting out and getting rid, whilst trying desperately to keep the place clean and tidy just in case someone wants to come and have a look round.

We are in limbo, playing the waiting game.  We can’t move forward now until the house is sold and the money is in the bank.  This is not easy for a Sagittarian, whose main accomplishments do not include being patient.

Have a good week !!

February 7, 2014

POSTAGE STAMPS

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How many stamps come through your letterbox these days?  Not many I think.  Most of today’s post is franked and parcels usually have printed stickers on them. 

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We both collected stamps as children, encouraged to do so by parents and attending stamp clubs at school.  I wonder how many children collect stamps these days.  Not many, I would guess.

About twenty years ago we were clearing out the loft and found our old stamp albums.  There was at the time a stamp shop in town so we went to have a word with the owner and find out if the stamps might be worth anything.  Instead we came out with a set of brand new albums and started to build a proper grown-up collection.

We haven’t collected seriously for a while now, largely because we have acquired all the easy ones and the gaps in our albums are too expensive to fill.

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One of the things that makes a stamp worth collecting is the postmark.  The most sought after stamps often have something called a “circular date stamp” or CDS.  A stamp with wavy lines on it is still collectable, but much less desirable.

So how many stamps plop through your letterbox with a CDS on them?  Very, very few I think.  So it’s worthwhile saving them and, if you’re not interesting in stamp collecting yourself, pass them on to someone that is or give them to charity.  Charities love them. 

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A nice stamp, now worthless because of the creases.

It is however, very important how you save them, preferably leaving them on a nice margin of paper so they can be removed carefully.  Above all, don’t just rip them off the envelope.  A damaged stamp, even if quite rare, is uncollectable and therefore worthless.

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When I buy a stamp to post something, I try to be careful how I stick it on the envelope, and like to think that one day, this stamp might end up being a prized item in somebody’s stamp collection!

I was reminded of our long forgotten pastime the other day, when we moved our stamp albums and all the paraphernalia that goes with them ~ in the process of trying to make our house look like a show home. 

stamps4 About an evening’s worth of sorters.

I had almost forgotten my large box of “sorters”, something to settle down with on a cold winter’s evening when there’s nothing on the telly.  All of them have been given to me by people who have saved them from their letters and parcels.  I will sort them, keep some and pass the good ones on to charity ~ most charities accept them very gratefully and will have an address on their website showing where to send them.

So the next time you get a nice stamp through your letterbox, save it, don’t bin it ~ someone somewhere might just be very pleased to own it !!