Archive | December, 2012

Manchester visit

25 Dec

We are spending this week in Manchester, visiting some of Trish’s many relatives.

On Sunday we went to Albert Dock in Liverpool then drive north to see Anthony Gormley’s figures on Crosby beach. We finished off with tea in a cafe in Southport.

It’s great to see old places again. I spent four years living in Manchester before returning down south with my new bride.


Christmas Greetings

18 Dec

We are almost there. More than half our house contents are now stored at the Peace Factory, together with the Smart car. We are living in our house in Kent at present with minimal furniture and kitchen utensils. We are planning to let our house as we could not sell it over the late summer. We have had five people interested in renting since it went on the market two weeks ago. We hope that we will get someone to sign up and move in by the end of January 2013.

We plan to move ourselves and Nettles with the remainder of our belongings to France near the end of January. We hope that many of you will come and visit us over there in the Peace Factory. There are cheap flights from Stansted to Carcassonne and from Gatwick to Toulouse. Montolieu is situated just 20 minutes drive from Carcassonne and one hour from Toulouse. There are cheap flights also from Liverpool to Carcassonne on Thursdays and Sundays.

We are taking over Louise’s apartment and she is having one built for herself above ours. There is room for around 15 apartments in the factory and these will be built over a period of time as people require them. There is also what we call the Little House which is currently used for volunteers to stay in. It consists of a mezzanine floor with 5 bedrooms (one double and four singles) and a communal ground floor with a dining and lounge area and a kitchen. Our apartment has two bedrooms with en-suite showers with a lounge between them. There is also a large room which consists of a lounge area, a dining area and a kitchen. We have a back door which leads out onto a terrace garden and a communal toilet at the back of the lounge. The main entrance is through the training centre at present.

The village of Montolieu is situated in the foothills of the Black Mountain and is called the ‘La Village du Livres’ as it has many small book shops. To see a little more about the area and what we are doing there, have a look at the website and look at the volunteering page then click on the link which says ‘For more detailed information on volunteering see here’. You can also Google Montolieu and take a walk down the streets. We hope to see you there one day.

St John Ambulance has now confirmed the date I can retire is 21 December 2012 so I will not have to return to work in January. Hooray!

Almost there

16 Dec

There has been so much to organise moving to another country, least of all working out what we are doing with our house. Having tried to sell it for 4 months with no success, we decided to let it instead. We have found a letting agent who provides a full service and has already found five people interested in renting.

Meanwhile I have been working towards retiring from St John Ambulance and have at last got an agreement which allows me to leave before Christmas. Only 5 working days to go! Having sorted out how I will receive my pension in France I am now working on getting a Carte Vitale to allow us to get free health care in France. We are planning to move permanently in late January. Nettles already has her passport and we have registered her on an international website so that if she was to get lost and found she could be repatriated with us.

The Smart car has already been taken to the Peace Factory for Louise to use as her car died and we are going to share cars and bikes within the community. We are buying a Fiat Tempra with a trailer (second hand from Hugh Hayward) which will also go into the car pool. We will take this down with us laden with the remainder of our goods and chattels in January.

With the help of our friend Sue Whibley, who has lent us an electric frying pan, we have been able to cook the food we had in the freezer in our much depleted kitchen. My new found friend and neighbour Ann has offered to cook any large items like a roast joint or chicken for us and wash our bed linen and dry it for us as we no longer have any white goods in the house. We have such wonderful friends. Thank you all.

Good News

15 Dec

Trish has been offered redundancy from her job at St John Ambulance. Can’t say any more as the agreement has to be kept confidential but it could not have come at a better time. The cash will be really useful.

It looks as though we will move in to our new home around the last week in January.

Journey home

11 Dec

We got up really early on Monday morning; about 3:30am. We had intended to leave at 5, but as we were both awake, we decided to go. The van was all ready with empty trailer attached so we went for it.

We wondered whether having no load would make much of a difference on the return journey. Coming down, the gross weight was 5.88 tonnes – we knew this because all freight vehicle are weighed before embarkation. We found that we could go a bit faster, up to 110 kph (20 kph over the limit) and that we didn’t slow down so much for hills but the diesel consumption was about the same at 27 mpg, which isn’t bad for a 2.8 litre commercial van with six speed gearbox.

The autoroutes were pretty clear as far as Paris. Progress was helped by using the Telépeage system which is a small transponder that you show through the windscreen and the tolls are charged to your account. On some toll plazas you can drive through at up to 30 kph!

We only stopped for diesel twice and filled up with coffee and rolls! We made it round the west side of Paris using local rounds and the Peripherique. I noticed even Parisians were giving us a wide berth as we were quite long (over 24ft and we needed some room to turn at the tight intersections). Only one person tried to edge in between the van and the trailer!!

We got to Calais ferry terminal at 5pm so we had travelled 650 miles in 13 hours. We got on the 6pm ferry and were back in Maidstone at 7:15pm.

Mission accomplished! We had moved 3.6 tonnes of household goods and Smart car to the south of France.

Van unloaded

9 Dec

Opened up the van rear doors – carefully (as I wasn’t there when it was loaded)! Everything packed in tightly and nothing moved or broken during the trip. Hurray – 650 miles and no casualties!

All our stuff is now stored in a nice, dry garage, to await the arrival of Mrs Romain who will supervise the fitting out of our apartment in January.


Arrival at 0330

8 Dec

We finally arrived at the Peace Factory at 0330 this morning after a 14 hour non-stop journey from Calais.

The photo below shows the van and trailer on which site SMARTIE our Smart Car!


Well on our way

7 Dec

We crossed the Channel this morning after a two hour wait due to the Tunnel hold up yesterday. We arrived in Calais at mid-day.

We are now near Limoges with just under five hours to go. The van is towing a trailer on which sits the Smart car. All up, we weigh 5.88 tonnes according to the ferry port weigh bridge!

Here is a shot of the Seine in Paris.


Nearly there

6 Dec

The stuff we are taking is now boxed up. Later today the team arrive to start loading the van. They will completely fill the van. Only then will we know what will be left over, and whether we will need to make a second van trip in January.

It’s been quite an experience so far. We’ve gone through all our possessions, accumulated over a 36 year period. When we moved to Maidstone from Manchester in 1982, we didn’t have much furniture as we had only been married seven years and we’d been living in a tiny house in Urmston. So one’s possessions expand to fill the space available! And it’s not as if we are downsizing because the apartment we are moving to has over twice the floor area of our Maidstone home!

So it’s more of a clear out of things we never really knew we had!


4 Dec

Here is our dining room after the packing tema have left for the day. Now I can’t find anything. just realised that they have packed all the saucepans so dinner tonight had to be microwaved!


Nettles the dog doesn’t look too impressed either!