You know how it is. You go on holiday and you come back with a house.
You might construe this as a moment of inattention, careless even or, as my parents declared, “downright irresponsible”. I had to agree that this particular purchase trumped any other impulse buy I had ever made. “And it needs so much work!” they wailed as they surveyed the lack of windows, doors, electrictricity supply… (the list is quite long so I’ll stop there). Not for the first time, they were shaking their heads, wondering what on earth we thought we were doing.
It had all started a few months earlier in a jaunty little conversation with our hosts at the chambre d’hôtes.
“How much would you pay for a little house in the country around here?” I asked, thinking that Madame would give me directions to the nearest estate agent. Instead, she put her finger in the air with a “Ah!” and started talking animatedly to someone at the other end of the phone. We were lucky, she told us, Monsieur Dubois was free to show us around some properties. She had in fact given the estate agent directions to us.
I looked at John who was wearing his what-a-waste-of-time face, but by then a car was pulling up and we were shaking hands with the agent. Even as we set off behind his car, we were arguing – John had been looking forward to a nice long lunch and a not-so-petit rouge.
“Apart from anything else, we haven’t got any money to buy a house,” he said, then shut up when he realised he couldn’t talk and concentrate on keeping up with the Alain Prost driving the car in front. His mood did not improve as we were shown around a house with termites and a house in a valley so deep you would only see the sun at midday.
And then there was Bournac…
Looking out at this view, I had tears in my eyes at the unfairness of life showing me this place. We could never afford somewhere so perfect, so unspoiled in England (unless one of us discovered a connection to the landed gentry). OK, so the asking price was twice the amount I had thought of paying and yes, maybe it did need a little work, but look at that view!
John was mooching around, wiggling bits of wood which might once have been a window frame and testing the give in the floorboards. I noticed that Monsieur Dubois waited for us outside the house.
As we climbed back in the car, I said nothing, not out loud at least, and off we went to look at yet another three properties, of which I have no recollection because I could only think about the house I would never have – and that view.
At the end of the day, when I asked John what he thought, he made the shock announcement,
“We have to have number three!” and promptly asked Monsieur Dubois for a dotted line to sign. It made me glad I’d married him. Then he started chuntering on about how to convert the manger and pig pens – never had I seen him more enthusiastic, the best sign to me that this was absolutely the right thing to do.
We headed to Toulouse airport somewhat heavier than we had arrived, weighed down by the document we had signed stating that we were obliged to buy the house and, if we didn’t, we would have to pay for it anyway – no gazumping mullarky allowed in France.
Thus, we were destined to become les nouveaux Tarnais, with no idea how to renovate a house, let alone how to do it in a foreign country, just an overwhelming sense of optimism over experience and the hope that we could somehow scrape together the purchase price.