After a ‘quiet’ few weeks where very little seemed to be happening, everything is now back in full flow again and we have a completion date. The old couple who are selling the house to us were having trouble finding a new one to move into and while legally (thanks to the wonderful french system) we could have forced them out on a certain date, even I would have felt a bit mean making a couple of 80 year-olds homeless so we gave them a bit more time and have all now agreed on July 28th!
Technically this now means that we are ‘homeless’ in France for a few weeks as we have a tenant renting our apartment in Perpignan so I am now back in the UK and trying to sort out the move ‘long-distance’ which is even harder than doing it in person and not to be recommended. The traumas of moving all our personal possessions out of a 5th floor apartment (with a very tiny lift) and then cramming it all into a Peugeot 206 to transport it all to store it in a room in the new house pale into insignificance compared to dealing with all the relevant ‘services’. EDF were initially quite easy to get hold of but when I told the girl on the phone that I had no idea which of the 4 meters in the communal cupboard on the stairwell related to my apartment she just suggested I turn each of them off in turn. As I was leaving the building I figured it didn’t really matter whether my neighbours hated me for plunging them into darkness so went out to the cupboard and then realised that none of the meters even had ‘off’ switches. I tried again the next day and apart from an initial argument when the man accused me of giving the wrong account number (I later had to admit I thought I was talking to France Telecom!) managed to give all 4 meter readings and we managed to guess which one was mine! France Telecom was a different story – you can ring the customer helpline until you are blue in the face but if they are busy there is no option to ‘hold’ forever, they just tell you to try again another time and hang up on you! I must have tried 20 times with no success. I even tried from the UK on the ‘english-speaking helpline’ (which, naturally is only open from 9-5). During the ‘we are very busy’ speech they do suggest that if you speak good french you could try ringing the french helpline BUT you cannot access it from the UK! Grrrr. I did manage to get through on one occasion and was told that ‘yes, it is easy to cancel your phone-line but you must ring back tomorrow’ which seemed bizarre and when I questioned her further, she admitted that the computer was down! So near and yet so far. I ended up writing them a letter but am probably still paying for the landline even now!
My abiding memory of finally moving out of the apartment was when I dropped into the agent’s office to drop off the last set of keys – there were two girls at the reception desk and as I greeted one with ‘Voici les clefs de mon appartement’ they both burst into song and assured me that there was a famous french song entitled ‘Here are the keys to my apartment’......!