Having removed a lot of fences placed by the previous owner to keep his various animals enclosed, we placed fencing such that the dogs could have full run of the just short of an acre of land that came with the house. Unfortunately, if they wander out of the front door, there are two very easy ways out.
To combat this and to improve the look of the property we have planned in a fence with a pedestrian gate along the side, and a pair of vehicle gates in the main entrance.
The current situation is that the posts are in their concrete bases, which are hardening off to full strength. The side fence and gate should be placed in a couple of days, the main gates – much heavier – will be placed a bit later.
The sunsets that we enjoy to the west of the house are incredible. As luck would have it there is a piece of land to the west of the house that is effectively unusable, but that lends itself well to the placement of a decking area.
The final dimensions of the decking will be 4 metres along the wall and 6 metres out into the western world – a total of 240 square feet. The ideal place to watch the sun go down and, we hope, ready by next Easter.
Never mind admiring the cars or their snazzy French number plates, look at the dreadful exposed blocks behind. A major part of what we wanted to do and which is, at the time of writing this, over 80% complete, is improving some of the outside appearance.
The rendering has been done on this front part and on two similar parts on the side and rear of the house. Final colour coat will be applied tomorrow. The big sliding door has been re-treated and all the front-facing shutters have been repainted (thanks Miranda and Dave). A satellite dish has been fitted on the side of the house (thanks Andy and Anne) and replaced with a more advanced one (thanks Wendy and Phil).
When we moved into the house in June, we identified a number of things that we wanted to do (and could afford). Much has been done already, so I’ll try to go quickly through them.
1. Bathrooms. We started with one bathroom off the kitchen, and a toilet on the first floor. Our immediate plan was to split the converted loft into two rooms, a study and bedroom, and to build an extension for an ensuite facility – this to be above the existing extension into the barn, which gives part of the kitchen and bathroom on the ground floor and the master bedroom on the first floor. We ended up not doing that, as the size and shape on the top floor wasn’t really suitable – instead we had the bedroom, whose extension covered only about 70% of the first floor extension, further extended to give a bathroom and dressing room/wardrobe. This work is well under way. The building work is complete, we have laid flooring and painted the walls and ceilings. The between room is fitted out (see photo). Electrics are due to be completed sometime in December, the plumbing work should be substantially completed within a few days, and the final step, door and steps from the bedroom, will happen either late in December or in January. At the same time, a shower cabinet is being fitted in the first floor toilet.
I am always asked what caused you to choose France and in particular the Auvergne. Well it’s a bit complicated as all things are but it started with holidays in France. We have been to quite a few European countries during our 17 years together but all the other countries always seemed “foreign” to us.
Our first foray together was to the south of France (Le Cap d’Agde) which was a bit like a holiday camp with sunshine. We escaped for one day and drove around the Camargue where we saw loads of wildlife and especially birds of prey. We didn’t know the Hawk Conservancy Trust then so we were suitably non impressed. Anyway, I digress (my favourite pastime)
Once the children were old enough to look after themselves, we went to France again for Keith’s birthday (he couldn’t decide what he wanted as a present so he got a surprise – 5 days in a tent in France) We looked at the map on the ferry going to Calais and just drove until we stopped at a little place in the Burgundy region called Château-Chinon where François Mitterand used to be Mayor. This was in the Morvan National Park and the scenery was wonderful. That’s where we started our search many years later. We always thought that Burgundy was the region to be in – all that wine and good food so we began looking for our “dream” home. Well, you know how things don’t quite go according to plan?
When we started looking we thought our budget was much smaller that it actually ended up being and as the search began it became apparent that we had enough budget to look a little further south. We tried all sorts of areas and were given lots of advice on where we should settle but after many house hunting trips we eventually landed in the Auvergne. I can’t believe I’m saying it now but, I was dreading another trip to France looking at houses. I can’t tell you what a chore it is coming to this wonderful country – meeting estate agents and looking at about 4 or 5 houses a day and let me tell you, some of them were pretty grim.
Almost at the point of giving up until after Christmas, we had one more look on t’internet and selected another batch. If you look at the pictures of our house on the main site, it looked a bit tatty on the website to say the least and we very nearly discarded it as a non starter then we looked at the second picture of the stonework just inside the front door and decided to take a further look.
We looked first at a house that was a very strong contender on paper. When we went to look at it it had been snowing and the view from the house looked straight across to the Puy de Dôme and it was stunning. If willing it would make it so, I would have willed the house to be bigger and in better condition and all would be well but, alas it wasn’t to be – everything about the location was wonderful but everything about the house was just wrong, (it only got a 5 out of 10) so…
The next house was the one in Terjat, the one we called “The Electrician’s House” because, strangely enough that was what it was! I think I have the houses in the right order?? they all blurred into each other and I had to start writing things in a notepad just to keep a handle on everything. This house was very good in terms of rooms etc and was in good condition but the location was wrong and I was still reeling from the other house – you know, the one with the view.
After one other disastrous viewing – a bright blue house in a village with lots of work to do on it we arrived at Beaugut. The view was different from, but every bit as good as the other one. The house looked a bit “shabby” on the outside but… when we went inside – we were sold but then you know the rest, all we had to do was move in but, that’s for another time.
In October of 2005, after almost 20 years with Twinings (the tea people), I was made redundant. After consultation and a lot of deep pondering, we decided that I should take it as early retirement (at the tender age of 56) and start planning for our future – a future with a pension a great deal less that we had bargained for, but a future that was within our immediate reach.
For the next half year my job was to make plans for retirement to France; to locate a house in France that we could happily buy and live in and to do all of the preparatory stuff that takes lots of the one commodity in which I had become suddenly rich – time. To reduce the number of unknowns and thus the risk of nasty surprises. In short, to ensure that the transition was well and fully planned, costed and prepared for. Oh yes, and to put in a good few house-hunting trips to France.
In May 2006, Clare also resigned from Twinings after over 18 years and the Channings set out on their great adventure; to prove what we had suspected for some time, that there is more to life than Twinings.
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