Making Friends in France - Memories from France 2017

Updated: Oct 21, 2019

I remember very early on in my year in France, how 'UnFrench' came into it's own and gave me two 'pen pals' in France. I say 'pen' loosely as they were both initially more' key board' pals, no pens involved really! Nevertheless, they were much need anchors in France.

I can't quite remember EXACTLY the dates, or how it all happened sadly, due to the operation I had only a few months after arriving in France, but I do know UnFrench brought us together and they've both been an amazing support network ever since.

I do vaguely remember seeing Sheryl's new 'Le Petite Manoir' page on Facebook and realizing she wasn't that far from me! I'm pretty sure Clare answered a call for help with UnFrench, not entirely sure! Still, It is now late 2019 and we are still friends! I will chat more about Clare in a separate blog.

Anyway, Clare was much further away in Chinon and it would be some months before we met up. Sheryl must have properly met me in late summer, early Autumn of 2017 at The Wreck, to help with the clear out or maybe buy some of the tat left there by the previous owners. Sheryl being a 'Brocantier', if that is even a word, must have been a bit foxed by my want to be rid of all things old and rickety! I'm sure she thought me potty and to be fair she was possibly right. I was still on fairly strong drugs and had a real hate relationship with The Wreck. Still do sometimes.

I remember on the day we got the keys in June of 2017, how dismayed him and I were at the state of the property. Not only had the rose tinted glasses well and truly fallen off but the 'sold as seen' thing seemed to have gone amuck! As we were turning the big key in the lock for the first time, we both turned to wave at the seller as she drove away! How nice of her to swing by one last time!

Ten seconds later, I could have throttled her! She had clearly been in that morning with a removal van and taken all the nice pieces of furniture and left me the rubbish! Worse still there wasn't a light bulb left in the house and the glorious chandeliers had gone from the formal rooms! The house looked very sorry for itself and I felt equally sorry for me!.

It wasn't just furniture that was left, it was lots of personal items that no one in this century would want or need. Everything had been re staged, as if we wouldn't notice there had been a heist! The house had a cold, damp feel and the old Doctors funeral picture was still on the hall way table, reflected in the mirror above the salon fireplace. His pipes and shoes were still laid out, as if he were returning any minute. It was quite spooky!

So, It would seem we had been had and we had, no doubt! Thereafter we learnt that the agent should have given us a quick tour round the property before signing! If nothing else I would have charged them for cleaning the place!

Suddenly, I was daunted by the task of clearing 4000 plus empty wine bottles and god knows what else by myself! Still, it had to be done. I had plenty of time as it turned out because once we got the first architects quote, we realized this wouldn't be an instant fix! So after long summer of recovery, I finally set to trying to shift all this unwanted stuff in the easiest possible manner, which was to sell what I could and then see what what left.

Sheryl and her partner Nick came and had a look round, along with some other couples and deals were made. I was so glad that these lovely folks were there with me that day because a 'dealer' tried to rip me off, after agreeing a price on an ornate bed and matching amoire. Thankfully, the chaps stood up for me but just for a few seconds up in the bedroom alone with this shark like character, it was a tad uncomfortable!

Anyway, bit by bit I got rid of some of the heavier pieces. Some had to be moved out through upstairs windows, but you could tell these chaps had done this sort of thing before! Moving hideously heavy french furniture seemed to be their past time and suddenly the house was finally free of the previous owner belongings, well almost! I'd say the last time I saw the house, early last year there was still at least 25% of clearing left to be done!

I have to say, looking back there were some nice pieces left, if you liked that sort of thing but for me, knowing the owner had died there, I really wanted to clear the house of his energy and start afresh. The more I visited the house, the more I was overwhelmed with the work that needed doing. Floors were sagging, there was and still is woodworm and fungus. Clearly there had been a few water leaks and some really bad repairs, especially the dining room gable end wall which is shot due to poor repointing. We may have bought cheap but by then we knew, we would be spending hundreds of thousands getting the GRANDE OLD DAME back up and running!

Over time, Sheryl, Nick and I became firm friends. They were in the thick of their own renovations and I of course had not even begun. Later, I came to rely heavily on Nick for his moving skills and much later he became the caretaker for the property, keeping the garden from morphing into a jungle and dealing with post.

It's not been easy dealing with the house from the UK and Canada and truly I have no idea what I would have done without them! I've watched in wonder at their own journey and they've made great strides with their renovations and building a business, sometimes against all odds. Before I left France we met up a couple of times and shared supper together. I made a cake as is my way! We bonded over pets and being British I guess. We just got on and still do to the day! So whilst I was busy building UnFrench as a community for you all, it gave me exactly what I needed in my real life, friends!

Donna x

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