In 2002 Colin and I had only been together for a few months when we decided to spend a couple of weeks camping in France. As we toured the beautiful areas along the Loire and Cher rivers I fell in love with the country all over again and the seed of an idea began to grow. By the end of the fortnight, the clandestine glances into the windows of estate agents had developed into me dragging Colin from one agency to the next in whichever town we found ourselves. We returned in October to house-hunt in earnest. A small inheritance from my mum was going to provide the deposit and if I was really careful and creative, I could just afford the mortgage repayments on a holiday home in France. By February 2003 we had ourselves the shell of a beautiful stone 16th century village house, complete with tower and stone spiral staircase!
Roll forward thirteen years…
After many happy years of hard slog and every holiday spent lovingly bringing back the house to its full glory we had finally ‘finished’. OK, so there was always something else we could have done, but retirement was approaching and we started to think about what we might do with more leisure time. Of course it was a given that we would spend more time in France, but was this house going to be our forever French home? It was fabulous as a lock-up-and-leave holiday home, but with little land around it to indulge our passion for gardening and its village location restricting the amount of sun we got in the winter – I started to wonder.
At first Colin was reluctant, but he admitted that he could do with a new project to get his teeth into when he retired. He patiently listened (or pretended to) as I rattled on about the slow-down in the already depressed French housing market, showed him details of ‘doer-uppers’ that we might be able to afford and even indulgently agreed to let me get ‘La Tourelle’ valued and put it on with an agent ‘just to test the market’. Over the years we had made some wonderful friends in the village and there was no way we wanted to move away from them, so this somewhat restricted the size of the area we could search in. After 9 months we had had a few viewings but no offers – the French didn’t want to move to a small rural village where there was no employment and the English weren’t interested as we were miles from the nearest airport. (A distinct plus, as far as we were concerned – we had wanted to be in la vraie France, not in a tourist honeypot or an expat enclave).
And then I saw it! Love at first sight! An old stone-built water mill on the edge of another village, not far from ours. The price was ridiculous – way beyond our reach, especially as it obviously needed work, but as I showed the pictures to Colin that evening, I’d already moved in, in my head. On our next visit to France I persuaded him that it wouldn’t do any harm to book a viewing and that was it! He was smitten!
I even discovered that my normally calm, sensible husband had been showing pictures of the mill to all his mates down the pub, explaining what we would be doing to the place as soon as we got it…
Looking back on the laughter and tears that had gone into our previous renovation project, I regretted not keeping a diary to look back on. As our new love affair begins I’ve decided that I’m going to keep a blog to chart all the highs and lows, victories and disasters along the way. It’s primarily for me, Colin (if he wants to read it) and our families – but if you are reading this and don’t fall into the aforementioned audience, a very warm welcome to you. I’ll try and keep it updated regularly and if you feel like adding a comment, please do.
Names have been changed to respect people’s privacy.