Moving and Arriving!
I'd had French lessons from a young French woman on a one-to-one basis every week for our final three months in England. This was to boost my "O" level French from many years ago and was the French I'd been speaking quite happily on all of our travels into France over the previous years, despite my grammar being a bit hit and miss by that time. I enjoyed speaking French and she'd told me I had a good accent (it seems everyone I've spoken to has been told this, probably to boost morale !!) - so I was innocently confident.
I'd always tried to learn at least a snippet of the languages of the many countries that we'd meandered into throughout Europe, so I'd been able to manage all the necessary touristy stuff in Italy, Spain, Portugal and even Slovenia but it's all disappeared through the sieve of my memory now. However, it was all good fun at the time. I could never get to grips with German but that is where Terry came into his own as he'd been in the Army for nearly seven years and had served in Germany (and several other countries) during his services period.
Terry had finished working his notice on 22nd December 2003 and after Christmas we held a big family get-together at a country restaurant for all those who could make it. Not everyone could as I had a daughter still in Australia, Terry's daughter was in Jersey and his son in America - but we still managed a good gathering including all the grandchildren. We also had get-togethers with various close friends around this same sort of time.
Before we knew it, the 12th January 2004 arrived - the day we were leaving England. The removals company was very efficient and we experienced no problems. We'd bought ourselves a trailer as we knew we'd need it for buying building materials once living in France and we filled it with various essential items in case the removals lorry was delayed.
My daughters came round before we departed - hugs, tears, promises and reassurances - that final farewell was hard.
The docks were only a twelve minutes drive from our English home and we boarded the ferry about midday. The weather was extremely stormy and the sea was running high when the captain announced that he had a "window in the weather" and was sailing a little earlier than scheduled or we wouldn't get away at all. Fortunately the lorry was on the same boat, as we heard later that all subsequent sailings had been stopped - the sea was so rough. Good job we are both good sailors! Lots of people were lying about on the floors, clearly not very comfortable but we ate a good lunch ready for the drive after we'd landed.
It was blowing a gale when we arrived in France and once on the road, high winds and driving rain buffeted our trailer about behind us. We stopped for the night just north of Orléans, then were back on the road again in the morning. It was still wild and windy and as we trundled our way along the N145 I spotted that the tarpaulin had come adrift and was wildly flapping about in the wind so we pulled into a lay-by. As we were leaping about battling the wind and rain to catch the tarp and tie it down, a gendarmes' car pulled in alongside us and the nearest gendarme lowered his window and asked if we were alright. Because excitement had again set in, I explained what had happened then with a happy smile, told him we were on our way to move into our French home. He looked at me for a long moment, then smiled, nodded and wished us "Bonne chance" then they took off.
It was still raining heavily when we arrived at our house. In a mad dash we rushed in, opened the shutters and started to unload the trailer. Everything was water-logged including the upright vacuum cleaner - which had an amazing amount of water in it's bag-less cylinder. The kettle was on and were just about sorted out when the removals lorry arrived. Brilliant timing and navigation on their part. Two triple wardrobes wouldn't go up the stairs so one was in the living room and the other in the downstairs bathroom but eventually everything was in the house. The furniture was roughly in the right rooms and piles and piles of boxes were stacked in our useful empty cottage next door.
The firewood that we'd ordered in December had been delivered but instead of into one of the barns that the previous owner had promised to unlock for the farmer's delivery, three cords of wood lay in a huge bonfire-type pile at the end of our barns and it was soaking wet. The previous owner had probably not fancied tearing himself away from the bar to drive the six kilometres to unlock the barn. In our waterproofs and wellies, we piled as much as we could manage into the wheelbarrow and transferred it into a barn so we could have a fire the next day then we collapsed into bed, happy and exhausted.
Utter chaos was all around us but we were here at last. We went to bed with tired but silly grins on our faces.