The house that I have temporarily borrowed in Cour Cheverny, in the Loire Valley, while I continue to hunt for my new home in rural France, is really a very pleasant place to live. On the edge of the village, a few minutes from the Place de l’Eglise, shops, the bank, la poste and the oftenmentioned Hotel Les Trois Marchands, it has any number of charming features. It has also, unfortunately, been sold.
The compromis de vente was signed a while ago and contracts exchanged but the purchasers, some pleasant Parisians – for they do exist – afforded the vendor, and consequently me, a period of grace of six months to find something else.
The vendor moved back to England and I house-hunted like mad. Three weeks ago I realised that I had two weeks to find another temporary residence or I would be SDF – sans domicile fixe: homeless.
I cast about among my various agent contacts and new friends in the village but was met by shrugs and headshaking. In desperation, I reached for the Pages Jaunes until I got to D for déménageurs – furniture removal firms. After visits from men and women with clipboards and measuring tapes, I received a number of quotes.
The contents of an averagesize house was going to cost about €2,000 (£1,600) to be moved a few miles up the road to a furniture storage warehouse, which was itself going to cost €400 a month to rent. If I did find somewhere else at a later date, I would also have to factor in another couple of grand to get it moved again.
At these sort of rates, I was not going to be able to afford much more than an emplacement on the municipal campsite, I thought, as I trudged over it in the direction of some liquid refreshment at Les Trois Marchands with only nine days to go.
Of course, it was at the l’heure de l’apéritif that I finally struck upon a bit of luck. My cheerful neighbour offered to buy me a drink – un petit rosé. I accepted and managed a grin. He lived opposite my soon to be ex-domicile in a pretty old farmhouse shaded by great tilleuls, those distinctive French lime trees, with his wife and youngest son. His two older boys had left home to move in with their petites amies.
So now, he explained, he was moving out, getting a new place. Bonne chance, I said with a certain cynicism.
Oh no, he said, he had already found somewhere. Just as I was formulating the French for “you lucky sod” in my mind, I happened to notice that he was looking a bit crestfallen.
The problem was that he needed to give three months’ notice on his present place. Otherwise he would have to pay rent on two houses or run the risk of losing the new one – available immediately. Unless, he pondered, he could find someone ASAP to take on his present home.
How would in about nine days sound, I asked as I ordered two more glasses of wine.
So it came to pass, last weekend, that I moved my belongings on foot across the road into the house of my former neighbours. The experience was surprisingly painless, thanks mainly to the arrival of family and friends, who brought with them brawn and great good humour. I am deeply grateful to them.
Finally, after two days’ slog, we plonked ourselves down among a modern art installation of lamps, rugs, kitchen utensils and a shower cubicle (which I must throw away) on the lawn.
So, I said to a charming octogenarian friend from down the lane as I opened a bottle of Montlouis-sur-Loire and the last sun of the day glinted off the church steeple, you must think we English are quite mad. He took the proffered glass but did not demur.