Leaving Séreilhac we had only a few miles to travel to reach our destination. We met the sellers, Pat and Julia, again on Monday morning to take final meter readings and inspect that all has been left as contractually required. We had a brief master-class in how to look after the pool, hoping we have understood, alongside gaining knowledge about other more familiar aspects of how the house works. Then we drove to the Notaire and revisited the purchase agreement, signed up and were handed the keys.
It is real. It is ours.
Since then, we’ve been settling into our new French home for about a month. We are loving it, but there are so many things we want to do, to sort out, to tidy up, to change, to fix, that we need to stop ourselves occasionally and take time to smell the roses. Each day, from waking at 8am to dinner at 8pm, we work. We scrub the floors, the kitchen units, the fridge, the walls. We cut hedges and bamboo and trees. We build a compost heap to corral all the cuttings in one place. We clear moss and ivy off old stonework. We clean out the sheds and ready them for new concrete floors. We remove all pots, balls, old tiles, bits of metal and discarded tools that litter the site to one busy corner, leaving an area of our garden looking like an abandoned brocante store. We end our days grubby, tired and contented.
We replace or renew window handles. We trim over-zealous plants to regain a semblance of control. We scrape peeling paint and varnish off sun-bleached doors. We remove nails and screws and hooks from walls, refiling then sanding down in preparation for upcoming re-painting. We call all utilities and set up our accounts. We organise to have TV and internet installed, eventually. Our hands and arms are speckled with petty cuts and bruises from the fights we’ve had with the garden. We unpack boxes and decide where our things should be, them looking meagre now in such large spaces. We pot up lettuce and herbs, to hopefully be ready in a month’s time. In the glaring heat of each day we sweat and toil, but reward ourselves with dips in our wonderfully refreshing pool at key strategic intervals.
We make lists and tick off jobs as we complete them, satisfyingly. Every third day or so we drive to the outskirts of Limoges with long lists of required items, buying shears and secateurs, gardening gloves, a wheelbarrow, tins of paint, rollers and brushes, wood-stain, furniture pieces, French plugs and adaptors, kitchen cooking items, lights bulbs, large bins, extension cables, pool treatment chemicals, curtain poles, plant seeds, and all the rest. All the things that we have not had to think about for the previous two years as we doodled around, unencumbered, in Benny. But mostly we love it, and keep staring, amazed, that this is our space, our garden, our pool, our land. Our home. Each night we go to bed exhausted but happy, tired from our efforts but happy in our choices and progress.
One afternoon we cycled to the nearby town of Pageas to visit the Mairie. We registered that we had moved in and had many questions answered by the helpful secretary. We registered our bin delivery (each bin is bar-coded and is weighed and charged per kg of waste) and signed up for a déchetterie card, allowing us to begin removing the discarded items we’ve uncovered. We cycled one Thursday to Champsac to meet the local Brits at a pub night; a necessary introduction, but not something we wish to make a habit of. We have run a few of the local paths and chemins, slowly finding our way around the local lands, excited by the variation and ease of off-road trails. We have immediate access to some lovely running routes straight from the house, although it’s been too hot to go far.
We’ve met many of the neighbours, getting rather drunk with them on far too many occasions, considering the short time we’ve been here. Everyone has been fantastic, helpful and very welcoming. The house has been measured and drawn up, in anticipation of sorting out semi-major renovations to both bathrooms and the addition of a pool surround. The future addition of a balcony to our master suite has been sized up, designed and the only remaining item to source is the preferred guarding. One of our small stone outbuildings has been ear-marked as a potential writing den and hideaway, once it has been tidied up and re-roofed. One guest bedroom has been fully completed, taking three or four coats to sharpen up, after weeks of filling and sanding and rubbing. All is going very, very well.
When we look at what we’ve achieved already, against the time we’ve been here, we are quite amazed. Our hands are cut and sore, we have a multitude of bites and scrapes, but already a basketful of great memories. But we are still impatient for more, as we can clearly see the full potential of our home and wish it to be completed. Orchards, wild meadows, a full vegetable patch, walls rebuilt, a secret garden area for the evening sun – we have plenty to keep us busy. We are also looking at upcoming trips in Benny, keen for a short break and a new adventure in the Pyrenees or Spain. Or the Italian Dolomites. Or Corsica. We shall see how the fancy takes us, as whilst we love spending time in our new house, we do also miss the easy freedom of the open road.
But we have nothing but time.