Friday, 31 August 2007

Final stretch - The Apartment Is In Sight

We delivered every bit of documentation they might ever want (or imagine they want!) to the Notaire's office today. Her assistant (who is getting our dossier together) was charming and helpful. Even asked if we would like an interpreter at the final signing on October the 9th!!
This of course might be because she was not impressed with our French........

We questioned a section on the form we had to fill in about marital regimes, etc.

She explained that the default in England is different to that in France - and we can choose. We intended selecting 50:50 anyway since this minimises (as best we can) the inheritance problems here under the old set-up.

However we are hoping to insert in the purchase contract that if either of us dies, the other will 'inherit' the whole house (contrary to the norm in France) since this should now be possible under the recent inheritance rule changes......
It will be interesting if the recent changes actually work like this in practise!
We are still astonished at how many English property owners down here do not understand the strict inheritance rules that are totally inviolate. Even if the rules have changed, it cannot be back-dated to previous property purchases because whatever is in the actual purchase contract, stands for eternity.

Very simplistically, as explained to us by the Notaire when we bought our current house (and as we knew beforehand):

1. Irrespective to what your wills say, when a married couple own a property (or part of a property) jointly and one dies, the children inherit a set proportion - for example 50% if there is one child; 2/3rds if there are two (split between them).

2. The surviving spouse only inherits at best 50% if there are children.

3. Children from a previous marriage inherit as well, so it can become complicated if one or both partners were previously married with children.

4. Any inheritance tax due is a debt on the individuals who inherit. Unlike in England, where the tax is deducted from the estate before it is distributed, here you as an individual have to pay any tax due - even if you cannot 'realise' your inheritance - ie the property you have inherited a part of, cannot be sold (see below).

5. Where a property is partly owned by under-aged children - it cannot be sold until they are considered old enough to make a decision of agreement (age 18)! There is a special court you can apply to, to get agreement to sell whilst they are under-aged, but this is expensive and not often granted unless the circumstances are exceptional.

This is what happened to an English couple we knew who had a holiday home in our village:

They bought the house here many years ago and renovated it over about 20 years. They saw it as their 'retirement fund' since they only had very small pension benefits accruing in England where the husband worked.

They were a couple of years off retirement when sadly the wife died unexpectedly.

They had two adult daughters, one of whom had died a few years earlier leaving five young children, all under the age of eighteen.

The property was now owned by seven different people:

The husband ended up owning 1/3rd of the property (and he no longer had a sufficient 'retirement fund').
One daughter inherited 1/3rd.
The remaining 1/3rd was now split between 5 under-aged children.

They were all liable for inheritance tax. However the house could not be sold.

The family took their case to the special court in Paris and, having paid a small fortune for good representation, the Court finally agreed that they would take the decision to sell on behalf of the 5 children.

It is fair to say that the family was traumatised by all of this 'officialdom' at a time when they were grieving.
An English couple we know see this French system for inheritance as ideal. They have a fixed view that all that a married couple accrue and own is, by absolute right, their children's even when the couple are still alive.

I do not see this. I understand the consternation when children do not inherit their parent's assets as they expected, but I am firmly of the view that you as an individual have a right to spend your assets or to leave them to whom you wish - if you are mentally stable, and not coerced in any way when you make these decisions. Obviously this assumes the children are adults!

Both Richard and I feel very strongly about this. We have both felt the frustration with our own parents' fixation with 'leaving an inheritance for our children'. They have worked hard all their lives and their money should be spent making their later years easier - not left untouched in the bank 'for the children when we die'.

If your parents brought you up well, provided you with an education and you are in reasonable health - then they have equipped you with all that is required to go out and earn yourself a living. What more should you ask for in this day and age?!

Thursday, 30 August 2007

The Working Mind

For some reason, people (my husband in particular!) often muse on how my mind can jump from one topic to another like a chain reaction - where only I can immediately see the logical links.

So I thought I would use this posting to publish my 'thought processes' from last night.

1. Promised the kids we would take them to Beziers this week. It is the closest thing to a 'serious shopping experience' that exists in our area. There are just no decent department stores down here!!!!

2. Going to the friday morning flower market in Beziers (along the allée Paul Riquet) is one of my favourite outings. I absolutely love fresh flowers. They have always been my first choice to receive as a present - far more than chocolates, perfume or jewellry.

3. Well maybe not jewellry if it comes from Simon Pure in Guildford. We originally discovered his new shop in Guildford many years ago just at the time when we were emerging from the astronomical overhead of monthly childcare costs (both girls finally in junior school!) and before we came up with the crazy idea of 'retiring' with a pension that would in those days have barely covered our payments to the tax man. For a few years we actually had 'spare' income and for a while I was spoilt by having presents bought from this shop.

4. Gosh - how I remember those childcare costs! We had to gross approx £12000 in 1990 just to cover the cost of full daytime childcare for LeeLee. By 1996 this had risen to £18000 for Nic.

5. And our mortgage?! Almost crippling at times just for a basic three-bedroomed semi-detached house in Surrey, and that is the magic word - SURREY. But we hung in there and when we came to sell our little goldmine, it did enable us to pay off our mortgage as well as buy a place down here!

6. We still remember when the interest rates hit 17.5% back in the early 90's. We were on holiday camping down here in the South of France when the news broke, and all the English couples sat around the camp that evening stunned - everyone of us wondering whether it was worth bothering to return home.

7. Our love of this area of France was consolidated that holiday. We formed a general plan to retire down here.

8. Some years later, Richard was injured on duty and had to decide whether to ill-health retire or be stuck with a desk job away from the public for eight more years. Difficult choice?!

9. We started looking for properties and two years later settled on our current house. Although up towards the mountains, it was still accessable to a sizeable town (Beziers) for serious shopping expeditions.

10. And that brings us back to ...... where we often go as a family to enjoy a bigger and better shopping experience!

As you can see - all very logical. And don't any of you mention that I seem to have gone round in a complete circle! I could not get to sleep!

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Water, Water, Everywhere

Got back from the airport late this afternoon - our family is complete once more! LeeLee has returned and is adjusting to life in the slow lane. This seems to consist of catching up on a multitude of text messages, filling up her social diary and verbal diarrhoea!
Sat down to dinner in sunshine. Finished dinner in sunshine and blue skies.

In between?

We had torrential rain, thunder, a fast flowing river past our house, hail and 'dropped' satellite and Internet connections. We also had a fast moving feline torpedoing through the cat flap!

Who says life is boring down here!

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Showing Off

Whilst searching for records of his family name on the web, Richard came across me. Yes ME!

More specifically the actuarial paper (presented in November 1992) that I helped with - running various actuarial valuation scenarios, and producing the graphical representations using that wonderful programme MS Excel. Ah, those were the days!

Just for info (and to show off!), it was called:


Want to know what it was all about? No?! Well you are going to.....

"This paper looks at the existing controls on minimum funding standards and the solvency of defined benefit pension schemes in the United Kingdom. It considers the definition and disclosure of solvency margins and then goes on to look at the operation of a ‘Pensioners’ Protection Fund which would underwrite the solvency of schemes in a winding-up. "

So there!!!

Not sure how high it comes in the listings of 'the most accessed web pages' - but I think I can guess...

Monday, 27 August 2007

Hope Over Experience

We LOVE runner beans. And what can't you get here in France? Three guesses.....

When we first moved here we set about growing our own as we used to in England. At that time, we had not fully appreciated the general principle - if it is not available in the shops, it is because it will not grow here!

We persevered or, more accurately, Richard persevered. The stringless ones are difficult to pollinate in England. Here it is virtually impossible - they do not like the heat, the blazing sun or the level of humidity.

So we gave up....

This year however, when the mangetout were over, Richard decided to try again - arguing that since the summer was 'awful' by French standards, it might suit them.

He has not recovered from being told by the many local experts that his vine (which he has been training along various wires for 5 years now) has an untreatable virus and MUST be cut right back to it's roots.

If you look closely at the picture above, you can see he has been training runner bean plant(s) along the now denuded wires!

Well they are coming along - and we check them everyday. OK, every few hours to be honest. When we see the local 'black bees' diving in the flowers - we cheer! We are weird, but you never know - this could be the year of the Stringless Runner Bean.
LeeLee phoned at 2:00 am (yes - that is 2 in the morning!!!) to tell us that she had survived her three hedonistic days in Birmingham and had just got back safely to Guildford.

Can't say that Richard was chuffed to be woken up at that time - but she did the right thing.

Having promised to call when she arrived back, not realising it would be so late (or early if you want to be pedantic!), she thought we would worry if she did not call at all.

Richard was worrying, honestly - he just snores when he worries.

LeeLee read this blog to catch up on home life, and phoned back later this morning - asking why there was no mention of the burnt pot when I wrote about the roly-poly pudding yesterday.

Well it's my blog and I can censure the postings accordingly!

The fact that I forgot to regularly check that the water in the pot did not boil dry, is nobody's business but my own!

And wonderful hubby Richard - I love you so much - scrubbed it clean for me as well.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

Simple Fun

We have started a regime - to eat out of the fridges, freezer and storage cupboards in order to reduce our spending this month (and the next hopefully!). It also includes drinking out of the drinks cabinet as well when necessary!

So, in the spirit of things and because the pastis has run out, Richard decided to become a cocktail waiter. He made Tequila Sunrise's this evening - having seen what we had hidden away in the back of the cabinet.

In order to celebrate - I decided to take a photo - it looked so good. Only problem was.......between setting the glass down and going to get the camera:
But it still looked (and tasted) good!Whilst out on the terrace, I noticed the spontaneous squeals and laughter of children enjoying themselves. Looking out, I saw a group of kids from the village (mainly 6-8 year olds with an older brother overseeing things) thoroughly enjoying themselves - innocent fun from pre-computer age. They were sitting on skateboards and whizzing down the slope past our house - just like Le Mans!

Even Xena had to come out and have a woof!


As the temperature this evening reached 35 degrees in the shade, I realised that a menu of roast chicken, pommes anna followed by a steamed roly-poly pudding (made by Nicole) was not the best of ideas!

The thought of having the oven on for two hours - was daunting. Richard offered to cook the chicken on/in the Weber BBQ, and I leapt at the chance. A change to jacket potatoes (wrapped in bacofoil and also cooked on the BBQ) followed and a wonderful meal was had by all!! Just going to serve up the roly-poly......can't do THAT pudding on the BBQ!

Saturday, 25 August 2007

Thought Provoking

I mentioned yesterday that we had set off early to go to Montpellier and, as we had hoped, there was little traffic.

Just after leaving, as we went through Hérépian, a pompier pulled out in front of us with flashing lights and we thought 'oh no..., problem on the road?'

Sure enough, just a few kilometres on, oncoming cars flashed their headlights at us and we slowed down, proceeding carefully. We came across the pompiers, a police car and an ambulance at the side of the road with a member of the public directing traffic past.

There was drizzle in the air and the roads were slippery, so we assumed someone had lost it on a bend - but could not see anything obvious.

As we passed, the pompiers were struggling down the steep bank with a stretcher - and amazingly I could just see the tops of the wheels of a vehicle upside down!

I commented on how lucky the driver had been that someone must have seen him (or her) leave the road because you would never have noticed the car down there, buried in all the undergrowth.

It was Richard that pointed out that it could have been down there all night - there is very little traffic on the roads outside 'rush hour' and the chances are that if they had 'lost it' during the night or even yesterday evening - they might not have been noticed until now.

If that was the case, it could well be now a fatal accident.

It brought home to us that driving in this area is more dangerous than you consider - in the South of England (where we come from) there are not many routes where an off-the-road vehicle would go unnoticed for long. In all of Richard's years as a Policeman, he only came across one such incident, and unfortunately it resulted in a fatality - shock and hypothermia are killers.

Keeping a mobile phone easily to hand whilst driving around here, is more important than I had considered before. Also, making sure someone knows to expect you and when - so that if you do not turn up, an alarm can be raised.

A thought provoking start to the day.

Friday, 24 August 2007

To Arm Or Not To Arm

We had to go south of Montpellier today, so set off at the crack of dawn to miss the holiday traffic jams at the peage gates.

During the long (!) journey we got to talking about the main story on the front pages of the UK newspapers following the fatal shooting of an 11-year-old boy - the increasing prevalence of guns on the streets back home, and what on earth can be done about tackling it.

Richard predicted that soon we will be as close as we have ever been to the possibility of armed British Police Officers. The usual knee-jerk reaction of the British Public when such a spate of crimes has been majoring in the Press - arm all the police officers.

My contention was that this would not make any difference. You actually have to have enough police officers first to put on the streets, before considering whether to arm them or not!

The general public have no real conception of how short of police officers we are in the UK. Richard remembered there was a report in the early 1980's that concluded that about 50,000 Metropolitan Police Officers were needed as minimum just to police London. There are less than 30,000 currently, I think.

Peak recruitment was about 30 years ago, and it has been down hill ever since. Those officers are due to retire, if they have not already (they have served their time!) - and so things are just going to get worse.

Morale is at rock bottom and public support for the Police is probably at its all time low.

As usual the Police are in a no-win situation. The same public that will be calling for all PCs to be armed, are the ones who will be screaming the loudest when the headlines are 'Armed Police Gun Down Teenager In The Street'. Note that most of the recent gun killings have been by adolescents, and those are the criminals that the newly armed police would be tackling on the streets.

The public has to realise that when an officer is required to carry a gun as part of their duty, they are trained to shoot it to kill. In a dangerous and fast moving situation, they do not have the option to think - maybe I should see if I can hit his right hand or shoulder in the hope of disabling him - that is assuming he is right handed......of course it might be just an imitation gun......

I do not know any officer who supports arming the Police but I know many who see it as inevitable, sooner or later. Unfortunately it might be sooner.

Once again Richard is thankful he is out of it. It is no longer the job he joined to do. A job it is increasingly impossible to do in fact.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Anything and Nothing

Today's post is a bit of a mish-mash. Odd thoughts and items.
If you live in Birmingham and are planning to go clubbing tonight - don't! LeeLee and her friend have gone to stay with the friend's cousin in the aforementioned city and you can guess what they are planning to do tonight....

So if you meet a cousin, the cousin's brother (on bodyguarding duty) and two girls, one of whom might be speaking French if she has been drinking - remember! The French speaking one is my daughter, so behave yourself !!!!
Richard has been setting up our family trees on the Internet and recently the 'World War I Army Pension Records' have been made available on line. What has this taught us? The Army keep very intimately detailed medical records of their soldiers - and consider how embarrassing it would be if your descendants look up your records in the future! So think very seriously before joining up!
Nic is begging LeeLee to come home - and share in the bounty of vegetables we are eating at the moment! Tonight we feasted on the green leaves of yesterday's blette, roughly shredded and then stir fried in butter and just the water clinging to them after washing. Yummy!
My 'sort of' passata looks great and more importantly - tastes good. Of course, I could of taken a picture of the row of glass jars now lined up on my larder shelves - but that would be REALLY sad! I hope you are impressed that I found a picture of blette on the web though!
Happy First Birthday to Floris - the grandson of our friends Riet and Albert. Gelukkige Verjaardag en alle onze liefde!

(I hope this says what I think it says!? My Dutch is not too good...)

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Going Vegetarian ?!

I know life is a bit slow down here but the highlight of my day today? A friend in the village bringing round a humongous sack of home-grown vegetables. Oh, and inviting us to her house for dinner on the 15th September.

Social calendars are booked well in advance this time of year - vendage is coming and everyone gets busy!

Now Richard and I like vegetables but are not meat-free by any means, and we now have enough healthy stuff to last us a month! But we know it won't keep that long and I have no intention of wasting such a wonderful gift.

Therefore the menu we had planned for tonight when an English friend, her two daughters and their young cousin are round for dinner, is going to change at the last minute.

Out goes the potato and leek dauphinois; in comes the stalks of all the blette, steamed and then lightly sauteed in butter. And amazingly, it was a great hit with the three visiting children!


I do not like tomatoes except in cooked dishes and there are only so many kilos of fresh ones that Richard can eat in a day. You might ask - why do you grow so many then on your terrace - and I often ask the same. Richard's reply is not really printable here however.

So last thing tonight, the leftover salad of tomato slices (in balsamic vinegar with basil), goes into the slow cooker with lightly fried onions and garlic - and as many of the 'just arrived' tomatoes as I can fit in the pot!

Left barely bubbling all night long and through to tomorrow evening - I will hopefully have a type of passata, ready to be bottled for the winter. Never tried this before but I am sure it will work......

Getting a bit worried - am I starting to turn into an Occitan Nigella Lawson !?

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Champagne Popping!

Today was the day we have been waiting for, for so long.

The telephone rang (whilst we both had mouthfuls of lunch); the answer machine triggered; a message was left by Mr Palombo asking us to come and see him - our final papers had arrived, all ready for us to sign.

Hallelujah! Our mortgage has been agreed, and the money is available for us to buy THE apartment!

We are going to be property tycoons !

So 15:30 we knocked on our Bank Manager's door and appended our initials (to every page) and signatures to 6 sets of documents! I love the fact that we have to hand write a paragraph each time - and to make it easier, the official paperwork comes with the correct words typed in. You just have to copy them out underneath!

Mr Palombo congratulated us on the fact that we have four-months of bookings already, and gave us the good news that the purchase money does not get transferred to the Notaire until one month after we all sign the Acte de Vente. This means that in reality we are repaying the bank in arrears each month - and since we have a client that will be paying us rent from the day we purchase the apartment (a 3 month booking as well!), we will be receiving this rent each month before we actually have to pay the bank. He was rubbing his hands together in glee. We were in shock.

Does this all make sense? I am feeling a bit light headed at the moment, but who cares?!

Monday, 20 August 2007

There But For The Grace Of God .....

.... Go I.
Had trouble deciding what to do today. Somehow, I managed to acquire a bad back yesterday and this is limiting our options. Out goes:

- sorting through the contents of our barn,
- clearing the chemin between our garden and the barn,
- cleaning the house ready for tomorrow's guests,
- tidying and cleaning LeeLee's bedroom whilst she is away.

The last option brought panic vibes over the telephone wires to England last night. LeeLee seemed terribly worried that I might be planning to go through her drawers whilst she is away - as if I would!?
Mind you, she has good reasons for being wary about what we get up to - three years ago she came back from England to find the walls of her room had all been knocked down, and not put back!

In the end, we decided to go looking for a desk and chair for Nic's room - ready for her move up to college in September. We had seen a good selection at Carrefour in Lattes (Montpellier) and since we already know Carrefour in Narbonne, we decided to visit the one near Sete. Don't ask us why, just put it down to summer madness and a mental aberration!

Half an hour later we are driving round Beziers heading for the peage gate - and notice in passing that the alert sign for the Montpellier direction is showing amber. As we queue for a ticket, by some fluke, we decide to turn on the radio - and catch a broadcast describing a traffic jam at Beziers on the A9! By now we are approaching the split - to Montpellier or Barcelona? That is the question!

At the last second, Richard changes direction and heads for Narbonne/Barcelona - apologising all the while.

What a good call! I take it all back - men CAN make a good driving decision on their own (sometimes!).
We then see the road to Sete/Montpellier is absolutely solid and three lanes of traffic are going nowhere today. As we approach Narbonne - the queue still goes on into the distance!

There but for the grace of God.....

We MUST start remembering that August is not the month to be on the roads in the South of France!

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Day Long Celebrations

We were invited to a lunch today at Josette and Cyprian's house, to celebrate the start of the hunting season.

(one of their hunting dogs showing off her new haircut and bright collar and bell).

Josette came round to check yesterday that we could come and to confirm numbers - she needed to tell Cyprian how many hares to 'bag' whilst out hunting in the morning! A bit different to writing your shopping list before driving to Tesco's !?

Asked what time to turn up, she replied: " 13:00 for aperitifs - or 15 minutes earlier if you want to watch the hare going round on its spit!"

It was a fun lunch that went on until 17:00!

Whilst drinking the aperitifs and chatting around the outdoor kitchen, we had moules cooked over the open fire by one of the guests - just a little bit of white wine, mustard (acts as a thickener), onions and fresh herbs. Delicious! Also trays of pissaledière made by another of their friends.

Sitting down at the table we had a selection of starters: eggs mimosa, tomatoes stuffed with prawns and macedoine vegetables, a salad of potatoes/eggs/roasted peppers/vegetables - to name just a few!

Then slow-cooked duck in a black olive and ceps sauce, followed by the aforementioned 'spit roasted over the open fire' hare. If fact two - one cooked by Cyprian and another being cooked at their neighbour's next door.

We then moved on to the cheeses, fresh 'peches de vigne' (a special variety not seen in England) and local white grapes. And finished off with my contribution - a chocolate cheesecake. And did I mention the champagne?!

As we staggered home we declined their invitation to go for a walk - and also their invitation to come back later for dinner at 20:00 ! There is only so much good food and alcohol we can take in one day!

Saturday, 18 August 2007

Holiday Season

August is the month for going on holiday - or it is if you live anywhere but here. As the tourists arrive in droves, it is in fact a month of socialising for us in the village. Why? Because it is the lull between all the work on the vines (pruning, weeding, re-pruning, spraying, thinning out, etc) and the vendage.

With invitations galore, we spend more time away from home than at our house!

Tonight was our village get together, on the boule court. We turn up at 19:45 to help set up the tables, chairs, etc and start the eating and drinking at 20:00.

For 13 euros a head you get all the aperitifs you can drink (whilst nibbling a selection of salamis, peanuts, olives and crisps), excellent company plus the following:

Selection of crudités, salads, pizza
Gardianne de taureau with mixed white/camargue rice
Selection of cheeses
Ice cream
(Iced water and plenty of bread throughout)

What you have to remember to bring is your own plate, cutlery, glass and a bottle of wine - we actually remembered this year!It is simple, nothing fancy but virtually everyone in La Sesquiere comes.

We staggered home at about one in the morning - turns out most of the others carried on until three, and then went home for a few hours kip before going out hunting! Yes, the hunting season starts tomorrow - more about that in my next post!!

Friday, 17 August 2007

Poignant Programme

Tonight we enjoyed the various programmes celebrating the 50th birthday of Stephen Fry - an incredibly intelligent, articulate and self-effacing man. Although aware of the range of his talent, even I was surprised to learn that he also wrote evocative poetry and recently directed a film.

As a family, we all enjoy (again and again) his portrayal with Hugh Laurie, of the Jeeves and Wooster novels - they seem to have been born to play those parts!

His programme on manic depression was without doubt one of the most important documentaries of recent years - and his willingness to 'expose' his inner demons in the hope of helping others, must always command our respect.

The last episode of the last Blackadder series was indeed as emotional and poignant as ever. So totally funny, giving such an irreverent and at the same time accurate view of the First World War, it is the ending that reduces us to tears every time. The clever writers resisted the impulse to over play it - it was simple, with no words, no humour and as the scene faded to a view of a field of poppies, totally heart wrenching.

Happy birthday to you, Mr Fry!

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Shopaholics On Route

We waved LeeLee and Jenny off today from Montpellier airport with BA.

They have had two weeks together in the depths of rural France with nothing much to do except gossip into the early hours of the morning every day. Having been the very best of friends since the age of 4, their friendship has survived their separation and indeed their growing up in different environments.

So if you live anywhere near Guildford in Surrey (England), batten down the hatches and stay indoors.

Two boutique-starved, teenage, shopaholics are heading your way!

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

What Were You Doing 26 Years Ago ?

God knows! But I know what Richard and I, plus hoards of relations, and all our student and police friends were doing .....

They were watching us go down the aisle.

Yes it is our anniversary today - so I will take this opportunity to tell you all that I love Richard very, very much and have enjoyed a wonderful 26 years of married life with him. Here's to many more in the future!

Here we are last year celebrating our Silver Wedding Anniversary. Our bestman came out especially, and we duplicated a photo taken all those years ago showing the three of us (see below).

Yes, I am the short one in the middle. With Richard 6ft3 tall and Andy 6ft7 - I wore very high heels on our wedding day obviously!

The girls have spent the last few days 'secretly' making gorgeous cards for us, and decorations for our bedroom. Though you know how good females are at keeping secrets....

And Alex, if Richard starts calling me his 'little pool maiden' after reading your blog - it will be a divorce we are celebrating this time next year!

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Too Good To Be True ?!

We desperately want to buy our apartment in Lamalou! Why? Because we are getting booked up!

The owner phoned us again today to say someone wants to rent it for three months from the day we buy it - were we interested? Yes! A winter booking is an unforeseen bonus this first year and the income will cover the mortgage!

Aren't we lucky so and so's ? Yes, we hope so!!! So we have decided to go ahead with the mortgage from our bank SMC.

The issue was that they would not cover the Notaire's fees - so we had investigated the other banks in Lamalou who would. Unfortunately they required us to open accounts with them, which in turn would mean altering our monthly sterling transfers, and therefore standing orders, etc.

Too much hassle, so we needed to find about 5000 euro in cash for the fees. This we did by surrendering our last endowment policy left in England. Oh well, it will be worth it in the long run - certainly Lamalou property gives a better rate of return!

But our French bank manager was on holiday (aren't they always in August?!) so we had to wait until he came back.

On the dot of opening time yesterday, we popped in to say hello, asked him if he had had a good holiday and requested a rendez-vous.

Quatorze heure this afternoon we were at his desk signing paperwork, which is all on its way by now to the Beziers office. Keep your fingers crossed!

It all started to look a bit shaky when I notice that whilst Richard was covered by the life insurance for 100% of the purchase price, I was only down as 50%! Back we went to Mr Palombo who explained that this is normal in France. If a partner does not actually have a income currently, their death usually only provides a 50% payout. Because time is tight we decided it was not worth having all the paperwork redone - but at least you all know now! Always read the small print, even if it is in another language!

Monday, 13 August 2007

Family Boules

I know blogs that keep talking about pets (and children!) are exceedingly boring after one or two posts - but we have had a hilarious evening, so please bear with me.

First you have to appreciate that Sussex Spaniels are 'different' to other breeds of dog at the best of times - at the worst they are individualistic, bloody-minded and down right mental.

They generally fall into two categories:

1. The 'Beaters'
Ones that like to woof a lot whilst rooting around under every bush and brier looking for 'game' for you to hunt. They can fetch and retrieve a ball when you throw it but after two goes, sit down and tell you to go get it yourself if you want it back - you are the idiot who keeps throwing it away!

2. The 'Retrievers'
Ones that will not leave the clear footpath to enter the forest, but LOVE to go and get what you throw. Sometimes they will bring it right back to your feet but more often keep it safe in their mouths whilst you throw the second one for them to go and get .... a bit like filling up a shopping basket in fact.

Now our previous Sussex was a No 1. It came as rather a surprise then to find our second (Xena) is most definitely a No 2.

And to be even more weird, she disdains balls, sticks and soft toys - and LOVES to chase fist sized rocks - called her 'pebbles'. She collects them as she goes, but when her mouth is full, she empties out all but her favourite and carries on. At the end of every walk she arrives home with a minimum of two in her mouth!

So getting back to this evening. The girls decided to go down to the boule court after dinner, and Richard and I followed a little later with the refreshments.......and the dog. Seemed like a good idea at the time but I admit it - I do make mistakes, and I made one tonight. Thank goodness we also had her lead in the bag!

As we approached the boule court, Xena not only heard the girls' voices but also the promising sounds of heavy objects landing......and off she went like lightening (well as much as a short rotund animal ever can!) up the steps and full pelt after the boules being thrown. To the loud exclamations from the children, she proceeded to try and pick up the boules, and the jack, and generally had a great time with her tail wagging furiously.

I called her to heal and she obediently came, having found it impossible to fit a heavy metal 'pebble' into her mouth. The girls carried on playing only to realise that it was not the jack they were aiming for but a dark patch on the gravel - the jack had disappeared!

Fishing in a slobbery mouth with large teeth, I retrieved said jack and the game continued.

Xena, realising that all her wishes had come true, raced after the boules again, managed to pick one up and was waiting for the next throw eagerly.

With a cacophony of 'MUUUUUM!' in my ears, I tied her up to the bench in disgrace.

Except that is not a word in her dictionary - she then proceeded to bark and woof and whine, surging forward each time someone threw a boule. As the bench started sliding across the court, and the darkness became just a little too impenetrable, we decided to call it a night and headed home.

I know who won't be coming with us to watch the local petanque tournament in neighbouring Taussac this week!

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Sun Worshippers

How come the hairiest members of this family are the most ardent sun worshippers?!

Xena (the dog) and Smokey (the cat) LOVE sunbathing.

But when I go and sit in the shade, the dog insists on coming with me. And wherever the dog goes, the cat follows soon after.

The main difference is that one is always alert and looking for something to do, whilst the other is ..... well comatose! And I do not mean me!!

I'm bored. (says the cat)Wanna play?Oh, go on. Play with me!

How about with a stick I have just gone and got for you?

That's it! You know you want to!

Oh, please!

Pretty please!
Suit yourself, misery guts!

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Commune Fete

Tonight was the 'commune' get together and good fun it was as usual. For a token 10 euro a head, you got:

Drinks (pastis, muscat, etc) whilst you chat and watch the chef at work.

Freshly cooked moules a l'americain, eaten standing up with the aperitif (a bit messy!).

At the table: A glass of punch followed by all the red, white and rosé wine you can put away.

Selection of charcuterie (lots!).

A main course of rice with something that included ecravisse and chicken portions in a tasty sauce. Even more messy! Richard regretted wearing a white shirt - I had even ironed it as well!!!

(who invited Laurel and Hardy?!)

Apple pie plus two cheeses.

Bottle of (local) bubbly with freshly picked, local 'table grapes' .

All the while, music played and people danced. Lots of children enjoying themselves, dancing with whoever happened to be on the floor at the time.

And me driving home afterwards (only a couple of minutes away luckily). The whole evening I was commiserated and told 'but you live just down the road?! No gendarmes out tonight, honestly!'

But just in case.........

As soon as I got back, a large glass of rum and coke went down well!