Gently into Retirement No 5 – A Hot Date with a Cool Maître

While events were certainly moving along nicely in France with completion set for the first week of September, things were definitely not standing still in Ely either! Having sold to buy, as it were, we were now in the business of becoming tenants and so we were packing up the soon-not-to-be-ours house in Ely in readiness to move into a very lovely cottage just round the corner from our existing home in the middle of the town (technically a city I know but anyone who knows it would raise an eyebrow at that description!). This would be our future home until Steve’s retirement, at which point we would have to make the Big Decision about a complete shift in residence to France or to remain with a foot in both camps, with the UK base being almost literally a camp – well, a nice mobile home close to the North Norfolk coast at any rate!

David was also on the move; having completed his degree we were now assisting him with his move from Sheffield to Birmingham to start his career there. As anyone who’s been in this situation will remember, it’s hellish! Belongings coming home (into the garage in our case ready to move on), belongings from home going to the new pad, our belongings being ‘borrowed’ until they get their own (never happens!) changes of mind, you name it! By mid-August he was all set and we were in the countdown to completion this end and the horrendous prospect once again of a serious amount of money going down that black hole known as the money transfer. On The Day as soon as the money was in the bank, we leapt into action and I dashed into the office at King’s and completed an on-line transfer with all those terrifying noughts (just to pile on the agony, there’s a big disclaimer at the top of the form saying that HIFX accept no responsibility if the payee’s details are incorrect – so no pressure there then!!). As you might recall from an earlier chapter, we’d fixed the rate of exchange for this transaction at the time we’d transferred the money for the deposit. It’s a gamble and on balance I reckon we were several hundred pounds worse off than if we’d just gone with the flow, so to speak, on the day but it could have been so very much worse. Hey ho. I also e-mailed the notaire’s office in Céret and asked them to confirm to me the moment they received notification that the money was in their Paris account and with that it was back to the cottage to start to unload all our belongings.

It’s a tough decision isn’t it if you’re keeping a home here but acquiring one there about what’s best to do with the furniture and ‘stuff’. I’d had lots of quotes for ‘part loads’ of furniture so that we could take most of our belongings to France but they were horrendously expensive and we thought in the end we’d rather use that money to start afresh with the apartment and furnish it locally there.

And so August drew to a close with us in a new home in Ely, a few days’ respite grabbed in Norfolk to wind down a bit and then back at Stansted in the bleary eyed queue that always heralds the first flight out, this time to Carcassonne – there’s posh!! We’d had notification from the notaire’s clerk that all our funds were in place (phew and double phew) and so this was the moment when we were coming to France to complete on a deal that would define our lives for the foreseeable future. Everyone who’s done it will have felt the same I’m sure, every kind of emotion. And of course you’ve still got the comments of friends and family ringing in your ears – “Oh I do admire you” – read “You wouldn’t catch me doing anything so daft” and “Aren’t you brave” – read “You must be barking mad” and the classic “Are you sure everything’s OK; you see such terrible things on all those Channel 4 relocation programmes”. At the time I don’t think I mentioned to anyone that no, we hadn’t actually had a full structural survey done on the entire apartment block, I couldn’t bear the pitying look and the knowing expression!! (Heaven help us, time will tell!)

Now a conundrum for airport security! Although we were booked in to stay at the good old Arcades again we were determined to spend one night in our new home, but, alas, no bed – what to do? Well, what you do is take an airbed and pump in your carry-on luggage although unfortunately the pump, with its enormous batteries and nozzles looks rather like I imagine a home-made bomb might look. This is why it was in the hand luggage – if they didn’t like it I’d just have to ditch it at Stansted. But, hey presto, it passed muster and on the plane we went, batteries, nozzles and all! Extraordinary!

The two days before completion we were shepherded about again by Kim and Richard, the immobiliers, getting home and contents insurance in place and notifying the various utilities and getting direct debits set up; they were really thorough and helped us no end. We’d decided to forego the landline phone and the Sky package already in place in the apartment as we knew we were going to be there relatively infrequently in the first couple of years, so we’d have that joy to face later.

Completion day at last, best bibs and tuckers for this very formal occasion, and off with Richard to meet Monsieur and Madame at the apartment for an inspection and to confirm that all was as it should be before we all signed on the dotted line. No probs and off we all trooped to meet our cool notaire – OK, hands up, and step forward Maître Pujula (be still my beating heart!), he of the luscious hair, open necked shirt, a medallion or two on his manly chest and a ring tone that left me speechless – ‘Crazy’ by Gnarls Berkley; where did THAT come from in a legal office in the middle of Céret??? Just ring me on my mobile now next time you’re sitting next to me and what will you hear? Yes, you’ve guessed it – have you no shame Polly?? And has anyone else got his signature on anything? Wow! I’ve never seen anything like it!!

But all was as professional as before, with Richard, Monsieur Pujula and his trusty clerk making sure we understood each stage exactly before we moved on to the next and finally we signed the documents, page by page. Hurray, we’d done it – almost; we were due to return the next day to sign our wills and have the inheritance clauses drawn up and inserted into our documents – and another chance to ogle! Close your mouth Pol.

We had such a lovely lunch time celebrating with a couple of friends, Richard and Kim, Madame and Monsieur, and with Madame and I having a little weep and then it was time to set off back to the apartment and let ourselves into our new home for the very first time. Isn’t that a lovely feeling, and how happy and proud we were! Our lovely vendors, friends now as the months have passed I’m so happy to say, had left everything immaculately and had even left behind the terrace furniture so we had chairs and a table – which stood us in very good stead for the next few visits I have to say!!

We floated on air for the next two days, err……, well, not quite! We bought a duvet and pillows and decided we’d spend our last night on the airbed in our new home. All was going quite well I thought until Steve said ‘why are you lower down than me?’ Yes, you’ve guessed it, we’d got a puncture!! And so our first night in our very own French home was spent lying on a hard floor and we weren’t sorry to part ways with the miserable thing the next day. At the crack of dawn we went off to buy a bed and a mattress which was delivered later that same day and in the nick of time before we had to leave for the airport (excellent place, and very helpful man at Pro Nuit; they advertise in PO Life and are just off the roundabout at Pollestres on the RN9 just before the turn-off to Auchan). No time to put it all together (what’s all this with the frame, the slats and the mattress, what a nightmare!) – we’ll worry about it next trip!

Armed with detailed floor plans so we could start to plan where furniture might go we set off for Carcassone and home (seriously posh Ryanair lot there aren’t they! – very polite at the boarding gate. Well actually they ALL seemed to have priority boarding passes, so what’s the point????) and knowing that we’d be returning in just a few weeks with Mum and Dad for a few days but also then by ourselves to start the serious business of furnishing the apartment. IKEA, BUT, FLY, CONFORAMA, LOGIAL, PIER IMPORT et al – you’ve been warned!

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