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Escape from the Country – part 2

September 15, 2013

And here we go!

We spent the rest of the weekend packing and organising the garage tools and gardening tools and all the stuff June keeps in the laundry room. I wrote a whole load of letters, this time for the US and UK businesses that need to know our new address. Next job was to sort out the bathrooms and all the “reserve” stocks we have accumulated, followed by sorting the clothes into movers and suitcases. We were now (almost) at a point where the movers could just come and move us with little or no intervention from us. However, we might make life a bit easier (given the reduced space we will have) by reorganising the china cabinet and the curio cabinet but this didn’t happen.

The weather is really warm but due to the winds we can’t put the patio umbrella up for shade – the evenings when the house provides shade are pretty good though. In fact this week has seen some of the most pleasant evenings we have had but it all changed on Thursday evening. We quickly removed all the patio furniture into the garage so as not to get it wet – I’m going to restore all the woodwork and it is really dry right now.

June decided she needed a perm this week so we reorganised the appointment and then booked the final visit to our doctor for prescription renewal. He had prepared all our medical records for us and transferred them to my thumb drive plus gave us prescription renewals that will last at least two months. Off we went to the pharmacy in Sulniac where I am registered and got my two months worth with no problem. However the bigger pharmacy in Theix where June is registered and prefers, would only give one months on the Carte Vitale, we had to pay for the second month (€105) and they gave us the reclaim form to submit when we hand in our Cartes Vitale.

We have been keeping a careful eye on the fresh & frozen food and are planning on eating it all before leaving. The weekly shop was just to top up the daily essentials. We actually got this very close and only threw some cucumber, tomatoes and a couple of potatoes away.

And finally the big day came – the removal crew arrived at just after 8:00 and came and inspected what they had to load. Three guys from Dorset in a very large removal van which they parked at the top of the drive and set up the loading ramps. They began upstairs and I think it took about 30 Minutes before the upstairs was empty; they worked at an amazing pace and never stopped – apart from tea at regular intervals. We asked them to leave the kitchen until last so we had somewhere to base ourselves and do what we had to do. By lunchtime, they had cleared out most of the living room and a host of stuff from the basement and garage. I decided we needed a run to the dump with all our old cardboard garage floor covering, sacks of rubbish etc and I set off at 2:00pm only to discover that is opened at 2:30! When I got back, they had run out of milk – ours and theirs – the local shop was closed so I had to drive the Sulniac for a litre bottle – must be the most expensive milk ever. Finally they got to the kitchen, and while June & I were cleaning the rest of the house they cleared it. These guys were like a plague of locusts in a nice way, we came back to the kitchen at one point and they had packed the cleaning stuff we were using – luckily we had enough in the bathroom to finish off. The last items were removed from the living room and I vacuumed the parquet flooring and then cleaned it with the special soap solution. The movers had virtually finished by then and were getting ready to leave but we were still cleaning. They said they had planned for a day and a half so if we wanted to they would come back on Thursday morning and collect the cleaning materials – brilliant!.

We finished the cleaning, loaded the car and were getting ready to leave for the day about 5:30pm when our neighbour arrived thinking we were leaving for good. That delayed us a while but finally we got away and headed for the hotel – stopping on the way to buy some bottled water. We checked into the hotel about 6:00pm absolutely shattered and I had quite a bit of pain from my gastric problem. A rest, shower and a bit of unpacking revealed our memories are not what they should be and various items we needed for the night were missing, left back at the house. However, by this time we had had two G&T’s (we remembered that!) so driving back was out of the question. We went for dinner and had a really good meal at the restaurant next door. We had eaten there on New Years with Marc & Sylvie and family back in 2012 and it was just as excellent. Off to bed finally relaxed.

Next morning we went back to the house, reorganised our packing ready for the boat trip and then the movers arrived to collect the last bits. I turned off the water, gas and electricity, closed the shutters and locked up. We were on our way. First we had to take the Orange Livebox and satellite decoder to the shipping company and then take the keys to the notaire in Vannes. There we learned there was a delay in the final signing because the buyers’ bank couldn’t issue the final payment for three weeks! Shades of May 2011! Anyway, nothing we could do about it so we said goodbye and set off for Caen.

The drive was pretty uneventful – French roads are almost empty which I’m going to miss – we stopped for a bite of lunch in a small town and finally arrived in Caen about 2:30pm having actually passed our movers along the way. We were way too early for the boat so we mooched about a bit including coffee in the Pegasus Bridge Café – site of the famous D-Day parachute landings. Realising that we had nothing to do but sit in the car all day, I found a small hotel close to the port and rented a room for the night (trying to explain we would check out around 8:00pm was just too complex) – we checked in and managed to relax and freshen up for a while. Nasty cheap place but good enough, we found a good restaurant next door and had our final meal in France – thank heavens they had moules on the menu as I’d promised June I’d get her some before we left.

Then we headed for the port and joined the queue of cars, trucks etc and checked in in the terminal building. About now things started to get a bit difficult and challenging – first the building was way overheated and full of the terminally stupid who could not work the security doors with their boarding cards, spent ages at the front of the line discussing the options on the menu and the best of all one couple were moaning about how hard it was to find the port from the motorway, especially with all the roundabouts! They clearly were not on the motorway at all – these two spent the entire time arguing about whose fault it was, it was like watching an old episode of “Til Death Us Do Part”. Finally we drive onto the boat and get to our cabin which had wheelchair access (only one available) – fine, explain to me how anyone in a wheelchair climbs a ladder into a bunk bed! First off the air conditioning wasn’t working so a technician arrived, went, came back, went and came back and his only solution was that we leave the bathroom door open as it was working in there. The temperature was about 28C and we were exhausted and needed to go to bed so we settled for that and bid him goodnight. There followed the most uncomfortable night of my life – it was noisy, very difficult to get into the top bunk and I needed to get out and use the bathroom about every 30 minutes as I was in some pain again internally. This proved so difficult we ended up both sleeping in the bottom bunk.

Eventually we arrived, the crossing at least was smooth but I’d had almost no sleep and was still suffering. We drove out onto the motorway and went looking for the first service station – turned out to be much further than anticipated and actually on the A34 but we got there. Filled the car, found the Little Chef for breakfast and I made use of the facilities. Breakfast was strange tasting sausages, watery scrambled eggs, toast and a cup of that hot brown liquid that passes for coffee in many places in the UK, not impressed.

Back on the road, fortunately the traffic wasn’t bad and the weather fairly reasonable – just the odd shower or two – which was good as I could concentrate on working out how far the next service area was – I used most of them between Portsmouth and Swansea. A long and very tiring drive and in pain most of the time but we got there in the end – a thankful relief arriving at our friends house around midday.

We hadn’t finished though, after lunch and a bit of a rest we had to meet the agent at our rented bungalow at 2:00pm – what a find! It was tucked away at the end of a very private cul-de-sac with a few other houses and it was immaculate and very well equipped – in fact too well as there was built-in furniture. We signed all the papers and were given the keys and went on a tour around it trying to work out where everything would go. It was immediately obvious that we were going to have two problems – space and access. The space we could probably deal with but the cul-de-sac has a couple of sharp bends in it and is only 12’ wide in places – I could see issues already with getting the removal truck in.

I called the movers and they asked us to do some more measuring and take some more pictures, but not to worry about space as we could always find a storage place nearby and they would take any excess there for us. They didn’t seem overly worried.

Next up we had an appointment with the local bank manager and opened up our new UK account. The manager was very pleasant and helpful and the whole process took about 30 minutes. Then a trip to the post office to send back our Carte Vitale and then it was back to Joan’s for a well-earned rest and dinner. We slept like logs for 10 hours straight, first time I’ve done that in years!

On Saturday we went back to the bungalow armed with a long tape measure and a camera and took pictures and measurements of the approaches. We also surveyed each room and, having all the dimensions of our furniture, started to make plans. Crazily enough the biggest issue was ceiling height – and that was not obvious from the original pictures and plans we had seen back in France. The ceilings were only 7 feet high and two of our cabinets are 80” – they will go in – just – but they won’t all go in the rooms we had intended. However, after a lot of discussions, friendly arguments and inspired creativity we think we have a working plan. We’ll see on Monday when the movers arrive.

I telephoned them again having emailed the plans and pictures and they still seemed pretty relaxed and didn’t want us to make any arrangements for storage or a pallet truck in case the van didn’t get in. If they are as good at unloading as they were loading this should be OK. During the measuring session we met most of the neighbours and they are all very nice and helpful people, quite accepting the fact that their Monday is going to be disturbed by our movers. In fact, our next door neighbour turned out to be a gem. The owner of the bungalow had given us permission to put a satellite dish up, but it had to go on the garage, not the house. This was not possible as there was no clear sight of the sky through the trees and we were mulling this over when the neighbour introduced herself and her son, who was a satellite TV installer. His solution was for us to share the dish on his mothers’ house; put up a new dish for her and add an 8-way LNB to accommodate hers and our connections. As her dish is about three feet horizontally from where our TV will be this was a solution, especially as the son said he could get a mate do it for a reasonable price – result!



Finally back to Joan’s, dinner and another solid nights sleep and my gastric issues seem to be improving as well. It has been a very stressful week or so but now we are here, the bungalow is really nice and we have started to settle down, there is no pressure on us to do anything.


David & June

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Mrs Niklasson's Adventures

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