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Catch 22

March 10, 2013

We both seem to have caught a bug recently – feels a bit like ‘flu but isn’t really serious, just making us very tired. Consequently we didn’t achieve much for a few days but did get some serious relaxing done!

When Malcolm arrived on Wednesday the weather was really cold and the biting East wind hadn’t let up for days. He did manage to get the major pruning done on two large and heavily overgrown bushes in the front garden before calling it a day. We’ll have to dispose of all the cuttings next time but seeing as ALL our neighbours have been having bonfires this past week I guess it won’t be a problem. Bonus! He brought a dozen duck eggs as well and they are delicious.

The weather reports indicate that next week it will start to warm up to the dizzying heights of 12C so we may finally be able to finish the planting and small pruning we need to do. It could also mean the sous-sol becomes habitable again so we can finish sorting the remaining boxes. All we need now is some house buyers – we have one long-distance contact who is telling us they are very interested and will be having someone come and look at the house soon – we wait!  We got a second contact from an English couple but they are not visiting France again until late April – we wait some more!

I knew it would be difficult to get into and established in France when I started the process a few years ago, however I didn’t think it would be that difficult to get back into England. There are some real Catch22 situations that are proving to be challenging to say the least. First up is we cannot open a bank account in the UK without a UK address so our funds will have to remain in France until we can sort this out. However, in order to rent a place we need to have a UK bank account to pay the fees etc and bank references for landlords. Next up is buying a car – much the same applies, no UK address, no registration and I’m willing to bet renting a car for a short period is going to be a challenge as well. Then we get to the shotgun; this was relatively easy for France, I needed to join a gun club when I arrived, they issued a license and I applied for customs clearance – pretty easy as the gun was sat in storage in the US until we bought the house. So I contacted the police in England and they said I cannot apply for a license without a UK address and I should talk to the UK Border Agency. I did and they sent me off to the police again!  I found various complex documents on government websites (Customs, Police, etc) but still no resolution.

I spent about a week chasing my tail around these issues and still haven’t come up with a working solution for any of them. There is a possibility that HSBC can do the bank account as they have a “Passport” system set up – I’ve applied for it so we’ll see how that works out. The shotgun problem may be solved by shipping it to a registered gun dealer, the issue now is finding the necessary forms for sending it – all the forms I can find are for ‘importing’ non for sending. Yet again, none of the various companies and organisations respond to emails in a timely manner.

The UK estate agents are just as bad as the French – no response to enquiries sent from their websites or via direct email – one even deleted, without reading, a message I sent with a “read receipt” attached. Even after several phone calls the information dries up – it must be really easy to make money in England these days, you don’t even appear to need customers!

All of this is making planning such a move very difficult, not knowing sample outgoings on rentals, deposits and insurances required etc means budgeting is a challenge. Given the Catch-22 situations finding accommodation is going to be a challenge as well. One rental agent told us to start looking about 6 weeks before we are ready to move in, I think this is going to require some very temporary accommodation (holiday let e.g.) followed by search for rental, followed at a much later date by house hunting – three moves, Ugh!

Speaking of shotguns, my license in France had not appeared and after numerous unproductive phone calls I resorted to emails to the club secretary. The response was that as I hadn’t paid for the license they hadn’t issued it! When I pointed out (with dates and cheque numbers) that I paid for it in September their tone changed a bit quick and I finally got a note saying the license was on it way.

Next up was finalising the US tax return – they kindly (!) applied my 2012 refund to my remaining 2011 bill and quickly gave me the settlement amount which was much less than I was expecting. Now I have to transfer the Euros to the US, convert to US$ and send them a cheque before March 18th or the amount goes up. This is actually very simple, especially as I have maintained my dollar and Euro accounts in the US and already have standing transfer instructions in place. And it’s all free of charge, just need to watch the exchange rate.

By Tuesday this week the weather had really changed, now we have sunshine and 14C. After reviewing the problems with the grass box and its chute I made a minor modification to it and it seems to have worked pretty well – at least I got the grass cut and even got the power washer out and cleaned the car. I hate having a dirty car but living in a rural area with farm traffic spreading mud and/or dust around it’s almost impossible to keep it clean. There was a threat of rain which we need but none so far so planting the rest of the cuttings and grass seed will have to wait a bit longer.

I spoke too soon, by Thursday it was raining and continued into Friday but at least it is relatively warm. We got a couple of pieces of good news, two potential buyers for the house made contact and one is booked to come and view on the 16th. The second was a surprise text message from Peter & Jenny who are “on a flying visit” and we arranged to have dinner on Friday. It was a real pleasure seeing them again and I think we now both realise that one thing we really miss is the ability to have a conversation at normal speed in a language we all understand. Our decision to move to England was reinforced by this and by some of the discussions we had on various aspects of life in England these days. We must do more to maintain regular Skype conversations with UK friends – we both felt so much better on Friday evening and since.

We were planning to work in the garden on Saturday but the wind is still very cold even though we have some sunshine and about 12C – June is susceptible to cold winds so we decided instead to spend some more time in sorting and tidying the sous-sol. It’s all got to be done sometime and as we have potential buyers coming now is as good a time as any. We got on really well and have sorted and repacked much of the kitchen stuff we are not using and we found one (to date) missing item – an RNLI mug, the matching one was discovered as soon as we moved in, this one was hidden in a different box.

The weather is threatening to turn nasty again – even a hint of snow next Tuesday, so back down the sous-sol we go.

 

Cheers

 

David & June

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