After another ten days in France thanks to a tube strike (there was no point going back) I’m heading back for my obligatory office days and to attend a now-cancelled-by Covid, 60th birthday.
Big T was scheduled to arrive on Friday but has decided to stay in France and avoid emptying the garden shed. Agnes also dodges a bullet as she avoids a dog sitter and all they have to do is keep the pool clean!
Work is due to start on the kitchen next week as we’re upgrading the floor, tiles and worktop and we’ve been to look at bathroom fittings for the upstairs salvage project.
And of course, we’re still waiting to hear if we’re moving… in two weeks.
As the sale and purchase plod slowly onwards, my inner project manager has had to step things up, big time.
I am liaising with numerous solicitors (five different firms) numerous times a day. Answering questions, submitting documents, clarifying intentions, completing lease extensions and, above all, knowing what’s going on.
Incredibly, I am the only person who seems to know what the fuck is happening. We’re selling one, buying another and need lease extensions on both. That’s it. Should be fairly straightforward. Not.
If things do actually proceed (it changes hour by hour) firstly it will be bloody miracle, and secondly, we may be moving on July 11th.
As this is in three and a half weeks, I’m laughing slightly hysterically.
It was a manic three nights with drinks, dinners and, I’m mortified to admit, karaoke. There’s nothing like going into a small room (similar to a padded cell) to belt out a random mix of songs with drunk colleagues. Very surreal indeed.
I went along for optics, that is to say, it was a sociable thing to do with a new emerging leadership team. I now find myself as part of this team, mainly due to lay offs and departures so the term failing upwards (one of my favourite corporate terms) comes to mind.
I escaped as the clock struck midnight and I scampered off into the drunken madness of Soho on a hot summer evening, celebrations continuing late into the night.
After a third sleeplesss night where I was awake at the ungodly hour of 5am and too much daylight, I couriered paperwork to the solicitor, picked up my replacement glasses with lighter frames and struggled through the rest of the day until it was time to head to the airport.
Summer travel has been chaotic in the UK so far but despite the long queues snaking back and forth around security, it was better than it looked and only took about half an hour.
My preference is always to fly in the early morning before the delays set in but as a late afternoon flight with a thirty minute delay, again it could have been so much worse.
And so with tube strikes ahead in London next week I’ve decided to work remotely and stay in France for the week so that’s one less trip.
Back in London for work this week and a heatwave has turned the city from damp and grey to red and sweaty.
The temperature, while technically not as hot as France, seems so much worse due to humidity and proximity. The English are not designed for summer!
It’s been one of those weeks when the US come to town and the red carpet gets rolled out. Meetings and dinners equal a very busy schedule and with an early flight on Monday and a return flight on Thursday afternoon, it’s been the first week of commuting this summer.
To top that off, I’ve been trying to sort out paperwork and solicitors to push the sale of our flat through and cycling around London acting as a courier has been very hot indeed.
Exhausting! I shall be glad to get back in the pool on Friday!
Sure enough, after a week in France it seemed like a good idea to bash down the ceiling in the upstairs bathroom. That didn’t take long.
We had thought it would be a great idea to remove the low ceiling and extend the bathroom up into the eaves having cut a small hole to have a look.
After a lot of noise, coughing and swearing (I was keeping well out of it) it seemed things had progressed creating a huge amount of dust and rubble where previously there had been none. I wasn’t in a frame of mind to photograph the rubble.
This then required an impromptu heavy duty cleaning session with rubble sacks, dust masks, shovelling, sweeping and finally mopping the entire house. Not such a relaxing Saturday after all!
Was it a good idea?
Probably not as we now have a fairly unusable bathroom which needs insulating, plastering and refitting and a very dodgy looking roof complete with rotten beams, mouse droppings and chinks of daylight, all of which had previously been hidden.
This has now become priority number one for the summer as we have to remodel the bathroom and I hate to say it, replace the bathroom roof. At least it’s separate from the main roof.
It will be a huge improvement I’m sure but there’s a lot to be done before we have the after pics.
Last night we spent an evening with friends who have recently moved from Valbonne to Le Rouret. We walked up through the village to their cottage for an evening barbecue on the deck.
It was a great evening, lots of fun and conversation as they’re about to embark on a gap year in a campervan travelling first to Scandinavia and then further afield.
We were a little jealous of the adventure and then we were completely envious as their house faces towards Nice. The sweep of the Côte d’Azur to Cap Ferrat was the most stunning and mesmerising of views.
As I’ve spent five years desperately looking for the tiniest chink of blue from every window, every angle, even standing on the pinnacle of the roof, this was a great source of frustration as we’re literally centimetres too low, we see the lights of Nice and the edge of the cliff in Cannes but not the water beyond.
We walked home to the sounds of the summer frogs chirping in the darkness to have another look convinced that one day the sea view will be ours to enjoy.
Our next door neighbour has the most beautiful voice you’ve ever heard, deep and soothing. We hear him talking in French to Agnes as she watches him through the fence watering his garden each evening. We don’t pick up everything but it’s a voice you could fall in love with and fall asleep to. Agnes certainly loves it.
Speaking of voices, with her relocation to France Agnes has rediscovered her voice and for a dog who never barks in London, she loves a good shout as she stakes her claim on her garden each summer.
Of course, all barking stops as soon as the dulcet tones of Monsieur Voisin are heard and the inevitable treat is poked through the fence.
Everywhere we go we seem to have three-legged animals following us.
In London we have our nemesis the three-legged cat called Cider which hops past the french doors and torments Agnes on a daily basis.
In Le Rouret, we have a three-legged dog (well, to be honest he has all four legs but can’t use one) who lives across the road and hops up and down outside our gates. He’s a lovely dog but appears to have been run over by his slightly alcoholic owner who bombs along the road each day. I’m not sure the two little Chihuahuas who have moved in recently will survive long.
It’s been a week since we left London. During that time we missed the four days of Jubilee celebrations but celebrated our own arrival in the south of France after what felt like a long, cold winter in the UK.
We’ve spent a few days discovering general wear and tear, wondering what happened to the salad bowl and discovering that the washing machine now leaks. The chimney is completely black and the fireplace has a whopping big crack in it as apparently our winter tenants have burned every bit of wood they could lay their hands on.
Apart from that, things seem pretty much as we left them and the garden has flourished despite severe water restrictions and a complete hosepipe ban. It says a lot for planting drought-tolerant natives as lavender, olives and rosemary as well as my succulents have all done very well. Avocados not so much!
We’ve been adjusting to a different pace of life as things move a little slower, food tastes a lot better and the sun is guaranteed to shine at this time of year. Swimming has commenced as well as daily pool sweeping and skimming and a week has passed quite slowly. It’s good for one’s mental health and work/life balance although the last two years were easier without travelling back and forth to London. We’ll just have to see how it all goes.
It’s remarkably quiet here and for the majority of the day, the only sounds are the little birds feeding in the olive trees. With the temperature increasing, it’s important to remember not to do too much and to sit in the shade. Sounds idyllic.
Of course, we’ll be renovating the kitchen and knocking out the bathroom ceiling and a few other bits and pieces but surely that’s not too energetic!
We were on the train from Lille to Paris where we had a 53 minute connection when the train slowed and eventually stopped and nothing else happened.
Eventually the announcement came that there was animal material on the line and that the train had to wait. I assumed it wasn’t a rabbit but something rather more significant like a cow which must have been hit by another train. It doesn’t really bear thinking about, poor thing.
While it was a sad situation and obviously a bit of a mess, we had some concerns about getting our next train.
Time ticked on and when we eventually moved again, the announcement came that we were running 25-30 minutes behind schedule. Crikey, that meant getting from the Gare du Nord to the Gare de Lyon and on to our next train in about twenty minutes. Yikes!
We dashed off the train at the Gare du Nord and rushed down to the metro. Thank goodness for prior knowledge, we already had our metro tickets knowing there’s a queue otherwise and we were able to get straight on to a train.
Ten minutes later (which felt like forever) we jumped off at the Gare de Lyon and followed the crowds up to the Grandes Lignes where mayhem and chaos ensued (as normal).
Our train was boarding as we arrived and luckily had been delayed for fifteen minutes but still, we made it and sank relieved into our backward facing seats ready for a five and a half hour journey to Antibes.
With only a sandwich to share between us and feeling delicate from a bad night’s sleep and too many glasses of celebratory Rosé, it was going to be a long day ahead but at least we weren’t stuck in Paris!