Official Stuff, Excitement and Secret worries
We drove back to Creuse again in October for the initial "promise to buy" and to pay the deposit. The weather was still good so we decided to go in the MG. It was another short holiday for us - I'd finished working my notice out at the O.T. Bureau of Social Services in Folkestone and Terry was on the last half of the count-down of his own six-months retirement notice - our spirits were high.
We decided that realistically the auberge in Haute Vienne was too far away for this short visit so we stayed at the Campanile in Guéret. It had pretty basic rooms but surprisingly excellent food. We met up with our agent and the previous owner and excitedly went to see the Notaire. Everything went smoothly and we skipped out of his office well on our way to having our own French home. He warned us that as it had a reasonable bit of land we'd have to wait for a couple of months for completion to ensure that neighbours or farmers didn't want to buy it and that if they did, we could drop out of the sale. Our agent said it wasn't likely as the land was bordered by other large gardens, so not really accessible for farmers. The Notaire had set a date in December for our return. We had an exciting couple of days exploring even more in the area of our future home, smiled at everyone, then returned to Folkestone.
Once back in the UK reality kicked in and we had to arrange with all the services and authorities what had to be done. The agent organised the change-over of the French electricity and insurances on the house to take effect from the completion date and I wrote to France Telecom to arrange a telephone line - who were very helpful and phoned us in England to confirm it would all be ready for us.
On 17 December we went drove back to France in the Jeep as the weather was decidedly colder by then and we took our friends, H and D with us. We hired a car trailer and towed the MG down behind the Jeep and locked it in the barn to await our final return. Our friends were excited to see our house and H said she'd help us get started on the cleaning as by then the owner had moved out. H and I pulled on rubber gloves and got stuck in as the house, especially the kitchen, was pretty mucky. The previous owner had lived on his own there for the last five years since he and his wife had separated and he'd spent more time at the bar than in his home so he hadn't bothered - or probably even noticed - how dirty it had become.
Meanwhile, Terry and D looked all round the property, as D is a master carpenter and has his own business in the UK and he'd agreed to come to stay with us for a few weeks to do an extension into the barn for us, working with Terry. How wonderful to have such good friends!
We'd first met H & D some ten or so years earlier when they joined the MG Owners' Club that Terry and I had run for the Folkestone & Dover area and we'd been close friends ever since. Our French home sparked off a desire in H & D to have a look around to see if they could find a suitable barn to renovate for themselves..
We'd done a lot of research about French life and customs on the internet and in books and from some friends who'd moved to France a little before we did, so we felt that we'd done as much as we could to prepare ourselves. Terry had studied renovation books and we'd decided on how we wanted to expand and modernise the house.
Although all this was exciting, it was also scary and I must confess that since we'd first signed for the house I'd woken up many, many times at about 3am with my heart beating rapidly and thinking "oh my good grief - what on earth are we doing !" and there were times when I worried myself silly about whether we were doing the right thing or not. I was often so scared I couldn't go back to sleep and laid there trying not to wake Terry up. Often I felt so very upset about leaving the family behind, and wondered how I could possibly have thought that I could do it.
We had six grandchildren at that point and the thought of missing their growing-up, their adventures, the outings we went on with them and just the very fact that they were either just round the corner or in the next town, it was all a mighty wrench.
Our grown-up children too were going to be greatly missed, although Terry's son was married to an American girl and living in America and his daughter lived in Jersey, so we didn't see them so very often. My middle daughter was in Australia and my son considered himself a bit of an entrepreneur and moved fairly frequently, often abroad, so we didn't see them very frequently either at that time - though we've seen them much more since! It was mainly two of my daughters (though we think of them as "our daughters") with their families who lived not too far away and whom were entwined in our lives. However, we were committed and had long decided that this was our only option to continue to have a nice home, so I put on that British stiff upper lip and carried on doing what had to be done. When friends said how brave we were "at our age" to go off and live in a different country, I smiled and shrugged and said it was to be our next challenge ......