29 March 2023


We have been successfully ticking things off our to do list.

We have bought and fitted new blinds for all but one of our new Velux windows.  The bathroom looks so much better for having its window and now a blind.  

The blind for the window over the bed was out of stock in the colour we wanted at Leroy Merlin so I looked on Amazon Fr.  There it was about the same price but also out of stock.  I then looked at the Velux website where they were in stock but cost €30 more plus shipping.  Just out of interest I looked at Amazon UK and found they were in stock and £30 less but with free shipping.  All very odd considering that they are actually made in France!  So I ordered it from Amazon UK and had it delivered to my brother's address where I will pick it up next trip back.  A bargain!

We are going to get the Rolls Royce of electric gate openers.  Our lovely builder asked his supplier for a recommendation for our particular gates and that's what he came up with.  It's somewhat more expensive than we could get from the Brico shop but we decided to go with it.  The path of least resistance which will save us yet another trip to the shops and it should see us out!

Our lovely builder's lovely wife contacted EDF for us and arranged for our electricity supply to be upgraded from 30A to 50A so that it can cope with the addition of an air conditioning system.  I listened to the conversation between her and EDF and thought that actually I could probably have done that myself - except that there would have been much umming and ahhing, many more pauses while I worked out what was being said and consequently the outcome might not have been so certain.  But our French is definitely improving.

A very jolly chap called Jérôme from Leroy Merlin came to weigh up the installation of the air conditioning upstairs.  We only need it upstairs and already have one eyewatering quote from an AC firm nearby.  We nearly choked on our cornflakes when we read it so are hoping for a more favourable and affordable quote this time.  The jolly chap's ideas were certainly more simple and less heavy on the expensive gizmos.  Fingers crossed we could have it installed by summer.

The internet here seems to be even worse than ever this year which is tragic considering that the fibre optic cables that would improve it no end go right past our gate.  Sadly they end in a large reel of cable that's not attached to anything further down the road!

We made an appointment to visit the Orange shop in Loches to talk about other options as we are currently paying a small fortune per month for truly lousy service.  We managed the whole thing in our best French (with a little help from the young female assistant who was keen to practice her English) and thirty minutes later came away with a new live box, the order for an upgrade to 4G which can be changed once cable is available, and a French mobile phone SIM card.  One of the things we have found is that you need a French mobile number for so many things so a basic service using one of our own old phones seemed the way to go.

We celebrated our internet success with a delicious café au lait in the square opposite the Orange shop.

We then thought that while we were on a roll we should go and have a look at some French cars.  There is a Citroën that Nick has been hankering after so we went to the shop and were delighted to find one at the right price in a fabulous bright red colour.  However, the only sales person on duty was busy trying to sell a van to an older couple so we wandered off in the direction of the Peugeot shop.

There we got talking to an extremely pleasant man called Bruno who found us a newer version of the ROP which would have suited us very well.  Nick however was still hankering after the Citroën so we popped back there to see if the salesman was free.  He was but the car turned out to be a disappointment, the fact that it is apparently not possible to fit a tow bar to it put the tin hat on it.

We decided to go home and think about it, over a glass or two of fizz.  Note Daisy's new Dreamies tin!

On Monday we went back to Loches and arranged to buy the Peugeot.  

It's a very sensible car and although a less funky colour it's the right price and will do us fine.  Having made the decision and ticked that off the list we don't need to go looking all over the place for a car.  The path of least resistance again.

I took Hugo for a walk around the lake at La Celle-Guenand the other day.  A total joy with the trees just coming into leaf and the cuckoo calling somewhere in the distance.

22 March 2023


We have been away from our house in France for four and a half months. We were thoroughly entrenched in our UK life but by the time our departure was getting near we were longing to get back there.

This kind of dual existence is both weird and fascinating.  Within a day of arriving back in either place we always slip effortlessly into the other pace of life, almost as if we had never been away.  Except that it takes a while to open the right drawer or cupboard in the kitchen before we find what we are looking for!  

The packing up process in the UK was made hard work by the weather.  It hailed while Nick was trying to pack the roofbox and a howling gale whipped things out of our hands as we placed them in the trailer.  The job was not made easier by the fact that we were both still very much under par having so recently had covid.

We set off at 3.20am.  To travel on the UK motorways during the night is the only way to make sure of getting anywhere within an hour or two of your intended time of arrival.  We had gone to bed very early the night before and got up at 2am.  It was -3°C outside and the car was covered in a thick layer of ice.

Daisy and Hugo travelled well and the first part of the journey was unusually straightforward, unless you count the two occasions when we had to take evasive action to avoid being killed by lorries swerving into our path, the drivers maybe nodding off, using the phone or just not paying attention.  At that time of night the traffic is 90% lorries, the cars and vans not appearing until we got nearer to the M25.  The twenty three mile long set of road works that has held us up in Northamptonshire the last few years had disappeared and we arrived at Folkestone in time to get the train one hour earlier than we had booked.

Having spent hours listing every item in the boxes of stuff we brought with us for customs, we were waved through as usual, nobody asking to see any paperwork at any point, even though the car, topbox and trailer were clearly stuffed to bursting.  At the French passport control our passports were stamped with barely a glance in our direction, the two occupants of the booth deep in conversation.

We lost fifteen minutes of the hour we gained once on the train due to a "technical problem" (which we think was a door being stuck) but we arrived in France at 10.10am and felt the usual sense of calm and relief as soon as we were on French roads.  The journey between Calais and home is long and tedious but rarely anything like as stressful as half that distance on UK roads.

It was not however entirely uneventful!  There was the petrol pump that would not accept our French bank card, then the ten minutes wait at a level crossing for a fast train near Yvetôt. This is where we break the journey by leaving the motorways to have a sandwich and a coffee, stretch all our legs (except for Daisy who hides in her cage) and fill the car up with cheap fuel at a supermarket, where we also pick up a bit of shopping.

The next bit of excitement was at a péage where all but two of the booths were closed with a long queue at both of them.  It wasn’t until we got near that we saw the customs police (douanes) stopping cars and lorries.  I was driving and as we pulled away from the booth a young female officer with a gun suddenly waved her baton that said "STOP" at us, as if she had only just noticed the bulging trailer.  I was a bit nervous about stopping suddenly as in the rear view mirror I could see an enormous lorry bearing down on us much too close to the trailer so came slowly to a halt, the young woman trotting along beside us.  

After a couple of simple questions she lost interest and waved us on.  Which was rather disappointing as I would have loved to show someone our endless lists of towels, books, pots, pans, and my collection of half knitted jumpers as they rummaged through the trailer looking for contraband!

The next incident was when Nick was driving and decided to clean the windscreen.  After two sweeps of the wipers one of the blades flew off, making a huge racket as it bounced off the car.  Consequently we had to make another detour to find a replacement, in case it started to rain.  Predictably, having this time gone to great lengths to pack the trailer in such a way as everything would stay dry, we had had little more than a light shower in the UK and nothing at all on the French side.

Once we left the motorway at St Maure we had that familiar "almost there" feeling but the excitement was not over yet.  We were very tired and overshot the turning for the road that bipasses Ligueil.  In the middle of the town we got stuck in a lengthy gridlock caused by ridiculously bad driving on the part of several car drivers.  The lack of road craft would have seemed hilarious if we were not so tired and desperate to get home!  Sounding the horn is no replacement for common sense!  However, we made it home by 6pm.  To our great relief there was not a single sign of mouse damage or even any droppings anywhere.  At least this year we have not had to fork out €1,500 for a new set of covers for our sofas!

It was sunny and 14°C when we arrived and the next day was even better.  20°C in the afternoon - a lovely welcome back to our French home.

And so we have now been back in our French house for almost a whole week.  We have fetched the garden furniture out of the barn and Nick has cut the grass, instantly making the place look more like home.  We have unloaded the top box and trailer, the unpacking of all the bags and boxes being a long job and still ongoing.  The new gates are installed and look wonderful although the electric opening mechanism has not been refitted as it was clearly on its way out and we have yet to get a new one.  We have paid the customary visits to most of the DIY shops within a thirty mile radius to acquire blinds for our new velux windows, and other essential bits and pieces for the various jobs left undone last autumn.

But mostly we have just been drinking it all in.  Enjoying the immense sense of peace and quiet of living in the countryside, the politeness of the ordinary people in the street, the lack of traffic on the roads and, so noticeable compared with the UK, the lack of potholes and litter.  Here we don’t have to dice with death to get out at a junction or swerve all over the place to avoid massive potholes and sunken manholes, turning a blind eye to the unkempt and filthy state of the pavements and grass verges.  The country roads in our part of France are looked after really well and in such good condition, even the bad ones we would think quite good by UK standards.

On the way here we passed many a team of road workers, mending, clearing and tidying.  My own personal sense of joy in being here makes me feel sad for how things have turned out in the UK.  Why are the roads so bad there?  I know that everything in France isn’t perfect and there are certainly things about living here that drive us mad but, on the whole, life feels so much better here.  Things seem to have gone so badly wrong in the UK, the state of the roads being only one symptom of a general sense of decline and decay.  It makes me very sad to think that British people are doomed to put up with all that, there being no sign that it will get better any time soon.

15 March 2023


 Home, sweet home.

14 March 2023

12 March 2023



Just popping out for a minute.

11 March 2023


News from chez nous is that our new gateposts are in, the hollow structures now filled with concrete that needs to go off before the lovely new gates can be hung.  They are also tied together with the footings between them so they should stay vertical!  I can't wait to see them.

Here in the UK there was a good 6" of snow overnight on Thursday.  The sky was a brilliant blue and the sun was out on Friday so some of it thawed.  Nick cleared the path around the house which became dry and stayed dry.  Late in the afternoon I spotted the patch of sunshine just in front of the garden shed so we decided to go with the flow and have our Fizzy Friday apéros with the sun still warm on our faces.  Too good an opportunity to miss.

We sat in the sunshine planning our trip.  Boxes are already packed with a detailed list of each one's contents.  We have to write an inventory of everything we intend to take to France now or within the next twelve months.  This is our one chance to take things that we can otherwise no longer take as visitors (post Brexit) because we are going to live there rather than just stay in our second home.  Things like furniture, household items other stuff that is over and above the modest value of "personal items".  Not that we need much as the house is already equipped with everything we need, but we might as well take the couple of bookcases that were my dad's as we can certainly find a place for them.  Plus all the spare bedding, linen and other bits and pieces.  We just need to list them.

10 March 2023


It’s mornings like this that I'm so glad to be retired.  I feel for my colleagues still grappling with a horrendous journey to work.  

We’re also glad that we were not booked to travel to France today either!

We haven’t had snow like this for a while in Derbyshire.  I feel sad for all those baby lambs.  A lot of them won’t make it.

9 March 2023

7 March 2023


We went out yesterday afternoon for essential supplies and when we got back this was in a parcel which was propped up against the front door.  (Right under the notice we had taped to the door asking for parcels to be left under the car port and out of sight!)   A kind and thoughtful gift from friends to keep us occupied until we get better.

We debated whether or not we should go out whilst having covid.  There are no restrictions, the only advice on the government website is to "try to stay at home".  We had run out of cough medicine and cat food so off we went to Tesco.  Nick donned his mask to go into the store whilst I waited in the car.

Afterwards we decided to go for a "run out".  This is what in our family we called a ride around in the car.  The weather was horrible but a change of scenery appealed.  Whilst we were a few miles from home Nick's phone rang.  It was the car auction people, a company called "carwow".  We would have to say that there is nothing particularly "wow" about this company.

We had been chasing them all morning to find out what had happened to our buyer.  They seemed not to be able to get a response from them either and were ringing back with a new offer from a different buyer.  A much lower offer which we declined.

When we got home we put our car details into the website of "Arnold Clark", a used car company with an outlet not far away.  They offered a much higher price so we booked an appointment for twenty minutes later.  Nick took the Mazda and I followed on behind in the rattly old Peugeot.  Nick donned his mask and got part way through the deal when their computer system crashed.

We brought both cars back home feeling rather dejected but as soon as we walked into the house his phone rang again.  They were back online.  He was back in the car like a rat up a drainpipe and thirty minutes later he phoned me to go and fetch him.  The deal was done, the car was sold.  We're sorry to see it go as it was a lovely car, the best we've ever had, but it is, after all, only a car, and selling it has taken away a level of worry and aggravation we can well do without.

Nick had spent some time in the morning trying to get a certificate of conformance to enable us to register the rattly old Peugeot in France, just in case we had to.  Let's call it the ROP from now on.  The link on the Peugeot website took us to an online form that said it would cost £220 which seemed rather a lot.  He contacted the local dealer who had no idea what he was talking about and referred him to the main dealer in the next town.  There he spoke to a woman who said we didn't need one because it had been manufactured in France before Brexit.  She knew this, apparently, because she used to live in France and had imported several Peugeots herself.  Nick didn't suggest that the rules might be different now we are post Brexit, just thanked her for her help.

One of the frustrations has been the plethora of conflicting advice online.  Every question asked of Mr Google results in a number of alternative solutions but which one is the right one?  It's hard to tell.  

Two days ago, to try to get to the bottom of things, I filled in an online form on the French Embassy website to ask if we were obliged to import the car we arrived in or if we could use it for a while before returning it to the UK, and if so, for how long.  A helpful reply has come back in mega quick time - two days being mega quick in my book - to say we can use whatever vehicle we arrive in on UK plates, without having to register it in France, for a maximum of six months, after which time we must return it to the UK.  That suits us very well.

We are very much of the mind to take the path of least resistance in everything as we navigate our way through this stage of our lives so we're going back to plan A.  Having got a sensible price for the Mazda we will buy a nice French car in France and, when we've got it, bring the ROP back to the UK and leave it here.  The reply from the French Embassy tells us that we have six months to do this.  If there is enough money left over we will buy a second French car, a little runabout, if we can find one.  You never know, I might achieve a longstanding ambition of owning another Renault 4TL, just to see if they really are as bad as I remember - my very first driving lessons were in a blue one in 1975!

Our twelve month visas actually start tomorrow, 8th March.  Our plan had been to go to France tomorrow, in the Mazda, with cat, dog and a trailer full of stuff, day one of our move to France.  It's lucky for us that we delayed it for a week to sell the car, not only because we are both rather poorly but also because we wouldn't have been able to get in!

Our builder has started the work on our new gates and poured the concrete footings last Friday, which take a week to harden and that isn't until two days after we would have arrived!  I can't wait to see our lovely new gates in situ (ones that don't need painting) and fab new gateposts (ones that don't lean at a jaunty angle).

As for the dreaded virus, for the first time this morning we both feel a bit better.  My painful sore throat has mercifully gone and I now feel like someone with a bad cold instead of some life threatening illness.  We both look dreadful but are definitely on the mend.  Hopefully we will be on our way to France in the ROP with the cat, the dog and the trailer full of stuff in a week's time.

6 March 2023


Needs a lick of paint. 

5 March 2023



I don't know where we got it or how.
Maybe shopping in Meadowhall on Tuesday when we went to M&S for new underwear. (His - worn out.  Mine - too big now.)
Or maybe at the car place on Wednesday when we thought we might buy a UK car with the proceeds from the sale of the Mazda, one that would be easier to convert to French plates, ie without the fancy headlights.
The buyer of the Mazda seems to have gone very quiet, which is worrying.  It’s a garage in Glasgow and they are not returning our calls.  We are bracing ourselves for the possibility that the sale might fall through, which will be a bugger, to say the least.  Scuse my French.
Further research tells us that buying a different UK car is a non starter, because we would be stung for the VAT and duty on a vehicle we had owned for less than six months before moving to France. So it looks like we might end up having to leave the Mazda in the UK while we take the Peugeot to France after all, unless we delay our travel again and have another go at selling it.
Nick has the symptoms of a mild cold.  I have the humdinger of a sore throat, can't speak or swallow. So much for those who said they don’t know what the fuss is all about, there’s nothing to it.  I haven’t been this poorly for years.  Goodness only knows what might have happened without the multiple vaccines and boosters.
Our original plan was that we would be going to France next week.  The car conundrum has delayed that for a week (could be more) which is just as well.  I am in no condition to do all the packing up required, or at least my share of it.
I wouldn’t want to catch this disease again.  It’s horrible.

3 March 2023


 Bridge over the river Creuse.

1 March 2023


In 2021 we traded in our old Mazda for a new one.  At the time we bought the car my dad was still hale and hearty so we thought the opportunity to spend more time in France was a long way off and having a decent, modern car that would last us a few years seemed like a good plan!  Now that we are seeking to become residents in France we would like to take it with us.  Unfortunately it turns out that registering this particular Mazda there would be rather tricky.  

Generally speaking, the process would begin with obtaining something called a "certificate of conformance" from the dealer/manufacturer, then to change the headlights to ones for a left hand drive version, take the car to a garage in France to have the equivalent of an MOT, present all the paperwork to the appropriate Préfecture, pay the fee and come away with a new registration number.  We have done this before with cars and motorcycles and know how it works.

Our trusted UK garage person told us that the replacement headlights would be expensive and he could not get hold of them.  We would have to get them in France and a French garage would have to fit them.  When we looked into it further it seems that changing them is no easy task and, according to Mazda, the French garage would have to get in touch with Mazda technical support and be "talked through" the process as it would involve reprogramming the car's electrics.

Alarm bells started ringing when we discovered this!  You can see how it could all go wrong, that it could cost a fortune and we could end up being without a car at all for weeks if it didn't go right first time.  Not to mention that messing with a modern car's electrics is rarely a good idea!  Just to be sure, I emailed the Mazda main dealership that's nearest to us in France and they said they could not do the work.

We have decided that a good solution is to sell the Mazda in the UK and buy a French car instead, using the ancient and rattly old Peugeot to get us to France in the short term.  As I write this we have the car up for sale in one of those online auctions you see advertised on TV so we are on tenterhooks to hear if it sells.  We're not prepared to let it go too cheap but........what to do if it doesn't sell?

We could leave it in the UK for use when one or other of us returns and take the old and rattly Peugeot to France instead - that one would migrate more easily (and cheaply).  That's not an ideal solution; having your best car stood doing nothing for most of the year while we rattle round in a scruffy old jalopy does not make sense.

We could trade it in for a different good car that would migrate more easily - one with headlights that switch to left hand drive!  Time is running out to get that organised. **

We could take it to France and use it there for a few months, returning to the UK with it sooner than we thought we would, and stay here until we've changed it.  Although are we allowed to do this - to turn up at the border with a visa that leads to French residency and a car that we are not importing?

Questions, questions, and the answers can be hard to find!

Well, one way or another we will find a solution and I expect this is only the first of many "challenges" that will crop up as we go through the migration process!


**This option is not really an option.  Further research tells us that if we import a car that we have owned for less than six months we will have a hefty bill for the VAT and duty.  The only viable option therefore is to use the proceeds from the Mazda to buy a French car.