Abridged Too Far: Robert's Diary from
La BEHORAIS, 2002

Jeudi

1 Août

Left Glemsford 4 a.m., arrived Dover just after 7 a.m., ferry left just before 8 a.m., arrived Calais 9 a.m. French time, no Customs or problem importing Polly. Long drive. Polly fantastic, she meowed till Gt Yeldham, then accepted her lot and settled down in her cage.
After Calais, and I had fuelled up, I opened her cage and gave her some water, which she trod in, she settled down again and did what she does best - went to sleep.
After a few hours, I opened her cage - she came out a couple of times, had a walk round, looked out of the window at France and was so excited she went back in her cage and went to sleep.

Arrived La Behorais 8.30 p.m., very quickly set up caravan. My neighbour informed me he has Liver cancer and only has weeks to live!

Vendredi

2

Water is on, Electricity is not working, Riggette and good old Amour sorted out an Electrician to replace main trip. Unlike UK I will have to pay. Established a proper base camp, Polly OK and likes French cat food. Talked to Armour and some of his family who are gathering form Paris and all over France. Armour said good bye - I later found out that this was good bye forever.

Samedi

3

Cleaned out Pigsty, unloaded furniture from Van into Pigsty. Went to Chateaubriant for food and tarpaulins to cover furniture. My neighbour’s daughter arrived - she speaks a bit of English; she confirmed that her Father is very ill.
Just before 9pm heard 3 shots, followed 20 mins later by an Ambulance??????

Dimanche

4

My fears confirmed by neighbour’s daughter; he killed himself last night - confused by 3 shots but not saying anything in case an Englishman goes missing in Brittany.
Started to clean out cottage no.1, keeping a low profile.

Lundi

5

My neighbour’s Nephew arrived and speaks good English, he apologised for what has happened, I explained that I admired my neighbour’s decision to end it all as it is what I would do. He said that his Uncle was very excited about me buying the cottages, although we had only met three times, he liked me a lot, as I did him. The Funeral is on Wednesday but is a family only affair.

Carried on cleaning out.

Mardi

6

The family would like me to go to the funeral, I accepted.

His wife came to see me with her daughter to explain that the funeral is to start at 8.30am tomorrow; I asked to borrow a tie. His Wife offered to sell me the end cottage and the 1.5 acres that go with it, her son is coming tonight and will talk to me after the funeral.

Finished cleaning out no1.
My head is in a spin with the idea of 3 cottages and 4 acres!!!!!!

Mercredi

7

We left at 8.30 a.m. and drove to Chateaubriant to the Funeral parlour, where he was laid out. Considering he had blown half his head off the undertakers had done a wonderful job, he was laid out in a bed with the room as a bedroom, he looked at peace. After all the family had said their farewells to him we boarded a bus to Nantes Crematorium where a very simple service was held without any Religion as it was a suicide and Rome does not approve. We waited till 12 noon when Riggette collected the ashes, which were later scattered in the Garden. We arrived back at La Behorais where a wonderful French meal had been prepared. After lunch I talked to Claude who explained what happened on the Saturday night - Armour had explained to his family his intentions and written a letter to the Authorities, he had also told his Wife she should offer me the cottage and land at the price they paid for it 10 years ago, as none of the family wanted it and it was too much for her. He then went upstairs where he had a collection of mainly Second World War guns, the first one he tried did not work at all, the second one misfired twice, the third one did the job. I think he and his family are very strong willed, and I am a lot happier that that little mystery has been cleared up.

His son and me then talked he showed me the papers from buying the cottage at equivalent price in euro 6,500, I agreed to buy it, as all the Notaries are on holiday till the end of Aout we agreed to wait till he comes for a holiday in Septembre, but they are going to clear out the cottage tomorrow so I can move in when I like. The eating, drinking, games and talking ended about 8 p.m., so I sat in the Caravan with Polly amending my plans.

This is the end of my first week in France, dull it has not been.

Jeudi

8

Went to C’briant to buy wood and materials to start repairs on cottage no. 1.
Have made new plans, intend to paint inside of cottage no. 3 which is a single room 6 x 6m with tiled floor, open fireplace, French version of an Aga; water and electric are working, it has an unconverted loft which I shall leave the same.

Vendredi

9

Started repairs to cottage no. 1: replaced 4m x 10m of floorboards, repaired as best I can roof flashing where it joins derelict cottage no. 2. Made new loft door.
It is now my intention not to convert the attic of no. 1 but to use all the ground floor as two bedrooms, kitchen, bathroom, and large lounge with a sofa bed so it can sleep 6. This will be cheaper than my original plans. I shall forget no. 2 for quite some time.

Samedi

10

Started to paint front shutters of no.1 Breton Bleu.

Dimanche

11

Polly went out at dawn for her morning constitutional, and was chased by an animal unknown, she jumped clean on to the caravan roof, I went out and rescued her, she has been quiet all day and not ventured out.
Rigette and remaining family have gone to Paris till early Septembre, so me and Polly are Lord and Lady of the Manor, I don’t mind this as I will get more work done as the family kept interrupting work for wine breaks - the darling!
Cleaned beams and started to paint walls in no. 3 a Saffron yellow.

Lundi

12

Finished painting in no. 3

Hot today.

Mardi

13

Cleaned tile floor, moved in furniture from pigsty, slept in cottage, Polly apprehensive about the cottage – she prefers the caravan, the cow.

Very hot - 32 c

Mercredi

14

Finished sorting out furniture, put all surplus things in caravan, better than pigsty. Went C’briant to buy loads of French plugs etc, also went into buy fridge/freezer at 2.30 and it was delivered at 6pm - eat your heart out Comet/Currys. Hot today.

Jeudi

15

A lot of people I met at the funeral roaming about La Behorais, and I learn it is a Public Holiday so I invite a few in for a wine or two and take the day off, they cannot believe what I have done to no. 3 and how quickly I have done it. I explain that I hope to have no. 1 ready around Christmas, move into that one, then knock a door through from no. 3 to the pigsty next door to make a bedroom and bathroom, then move back in and let no.1 for holidays Easter 2003 onward, then I will think about no. 2.

Started this Diary.

Very hot today - 34 c

Vendredi

16

Went to Poste today to try and get the telephone connected -don’t know what the outcome will be.

Back working on no.1 today, continued painting shutters, hung my new loft door.

Had my 2nd letter today from dear old Babergh D.C. about the Council Tax - what a load of wankers!

Samedi

17

Went to C’briant for food shopping and to buy more plugs for appliances. Spent the rest of the day farting around putting the finishing touches to no. 3 - my home.

Polly is still not keen on staying in the cottage, have made a few changes that I hope will make her feel more at home.

Dimanche

18

Finished painting shutters no. 1, had a lazy Sunday.

Lundi

19

Working on no. 1, finished loft floor, spray loft for woodworm and beetle, started knocking doorway through to extension.

Polly seems to be coming round to the idea that no. 3 is home, although she still spends all day in her bramble patch.

Meet up with a group of the English community, at the Tabac Bar, seem to be good piss-heads, 2 are builders which could be useful, not madly impressed with them.

Mardi

20

A hard day in no. 1 finished knocking the doorway through, 2 feet thick walls have a lot of stone in them - have some lovely rockery stone for sale, buyer collects.
Polly is coming round to the cottage - it is 6.30pm and she is sitting on the scanner while I am updating this, we are listening to Radio 4 while sausages, potatoes, haricot beans and onion gravy is cooking.

Mercredi

21

Went into C’briant to open a bank account, tried to buy some building materials without success.

Jeudi

22

Tried to find septic tank in garden of no. 1, had no success - getting worried about this, decided the only way forward was to clear the 100 x 20m of 1.5m high brambles, borrowed a sickle.
After an hour I had nearly cleared a square metre, I got in the motor and went to Rouge and spent E475 on a motorised strimmer which I soon found out can fell a 3” diameter tree in one go: MAGIC.
Letter and my forwarded mail arrived from Rosemary.

Vendredi

23

As one of the forwarded letters was a French water bill, which I need a utility bill to complete the opening of the Bank Account and also to have the Telephone connected, I took myself into C’briant.

Bank Account is GO, tele will be connected 30eme Août.
As it was market day and I went mad and bought a new pair of sandals as my old ones went mort on me, have decided not to get hot and sweaty doing the garden but to clean the house and do the washing.

I may not have mentioned this but with no. 3, which readers will remember I live in, I inherited a 3-seater settee, 2 dining chairs, oil filled electric radiator, and a plastic version of a tin bath. The later is now a prized possession as it doubles as le douche et la machine à laver.

The following tips could well help readers who find themselves on a Desert Island with 8 records and a plastic tin bath, it would be advisable to make your luxury item a packet of washing powder, fill bath with water (tepid will do), place washing in water for approx 1.5 hours or the time it takes to consume 1 litre chilled Côtes de Duras [ e2.3/l ] boil enough water to make bath hand hot and pound shit out of clothes, rinse very well, or underpants can give you itchy bollock syndrome, always hang out at dusk as a heavy dew aids rinsing, and a heavy Jew is even better as it will do the ironing.

Pascal, a wonderful Frenchman I met a few nights ago, called in this evening for a drink, and hijacked me to his Maison which is in the next Commune a 100m down the road, he has a very fierce wife - understandable as Pascal is a small farmer and total pisshead, they have 3 very lovely kids, 2 boys (2 & 8) and a girl of 3, I met his new neighbours, an English family who moved in the same date as me - Août 1ere. Had a few drinks, good night it was.

Samedi

24

Hacked down brambles with strimmer: about half way through - knackered.

Dimanche

25

Got up late still knackered, Polly slept in. Cooked healthy breakfast, 2 fried eggs (free from my farmer neighbour, the deepest yellow yoke I’ve ever seen, have to be careful not to knock the coating of shit into the pan when cracking)} on fried baguette. Went to Rouge to phone Mum and get fresh bread.

Had shower in plastic/tin bath. Went to Rouge Hippiques, this is the local Gymkhana with gallops and trotting which I haven’t seen since Rhodesia days, good bar, good food stall, a type of Tote bookie with a maximum bet of e1, very rural but interesting. Came home and cooked me and her chic-chic a la micro, leeks, pots avec parsley sauce.

P has found new hiding place under kitchen sink next to bog rolls - bless her.

Lundi

26

Pissing down with rain all day today, first serious rain since I arrived, très bon pour jardin. Decided to tackle authorities about registering the Belgique van in France, went to see Municipal Police in C’briant who sent me back to Rouge Marie to get a form, which took me 2 hours to translate, then went back to C’briant to Sous Prefecture, who gave me another form - think I’ll have to get help on this!

Polly likes French rain as much as English and spent all day in new hiding place.

Just about to cook my 1ère French beef burger.

Mardi

27

Bootiful, oh ye know not what you are missing Anglais.

Radio 4 my lifeline to the outside world, what did the Bastards do last night - I’ll tell you - started a new serial
Peyton bloody Place, that will not run for more than 20 years will it?!

Still seriously pissing down, P is exercising extreme bladder control. Spent the day measuring up and drawing plans no.1.

Mercredi

28

Stopped raining, so put on my wellies - they don’t call them Wellingtons here, I wonder why?- carried on with bush clearing no. 1, till I ran out of petrol. Had another go at finding septic tank, still no luck, did find the other end of a water pipe that had been puzzling me, it feeds an outside tap by the old chicken shed.

Riggette is back.

Jeudi

29

Went to C’briant to do my shopping and get petrol for the strimmer. Finished the main part of bush clearance no. 1.

Riggette informed me she has been to the Notaire this morning and she has to wait 6 months to see if anybody challenges Armour’s Will, this is no problem for me as she says I can still stay in the cottage.

P has had her nose put out of joint, as I have a frequent visitor now, his name is Fabian and is nearly 3, he is Riggette’s Grandson and a true little boy, he is a real darling but P does not agree.

Vendredi

30

Appointment with france telecom 8 to 10 a.m. to connect telephone, 8.15 engineer arrives - bollocks BT - phone connected, - no double glazing calls required. Went C’briant to buy comms lead for computer, think I was stitched up by small computer repair man who looked similar to Stuart Seaton - he charged me e20.
Connected Computer to line and loaded Wanadoo and am back on line, had a quick look at HUN’S YELLOW PAGES just to check, e-mail address is robert.chilwell@wanadoo.fr

Samedi

31

Put Napoleon bashers on and finished bush cutting back garden no.1 - praise be.

Fabian is helping me write this, heating the water for a plastic/tin bath Douche, then going to the Tabac bar for a couple of beers.

Dimanche

1 ère Septembre

Riggette’s son Jason and his Girlfriend are here for a holiday - both brilliant English speakers - are going to help me during the week in my attempts to get the van registered.

Spent another 6 hours looking for septic tank, partial success as I found the overflow outlet about 30m from the house, now I have a start and finish I hope I may find the bloody thing soon.

Lundi

2

Englishmen are back in France digging trenches, not under fire except from horse flies with a nasty bite, yes I am still trying to find the septic tank, found the main drains, hope to locate tank soon. The plastic/tin bath is no more; just had a douche in it and it cracked and very kindly washed the floor.

Mardi

3

Justin went with me to sort out van registration and to insure it, after 3 hours we are not much further forward, I need an additional paper. I rang Philippi in Belgium who said he would get it from the local Transport office and post it to me.

Could not face any more disappointment with the septic thing, so went shopping in Brain de Bretagne.

Mercredi

4

Rejoice at this news,

septic tank found at 11.30 a.m. - praise the lord.

It is a proper double chamber tank - and active, plenty of bubbles coming to the surface - capable of taking 2 properties, probably all 3 as 2 are only going to house 3 people.
This has just saved me e7,000 I am a very relieved chap. Spent the rest of the day digging a chamber to connect the tank to the weepier system, which had never been done although every thing was in place from when the place was abandoned over 15 years ago.



Page maintained by Stephen Clarke, stephen.clarke@ukonline.co.uk. Copyright(c) . Created: 14/09/2002 Updated: 09/03/2003