On the return journey to the UK from our 2013 adventure, all of our thoughts had turned to the French property we had seen. We decided that maybe we should consider putting our English home up for sale. As we pulled up outside of our house in the early hours of the morning we found that there were major roadworks taking place to replace mains water pipes right along the street. The lay-by directly outside of our property was fenced off and being used for storing the rubble and soil from the roadworks. I had left my work van parked in the lay-by and one of the workmen had asked a relative of ours who had access to our house if he could move the van so they could use the area for storage. The movement of the van was to lead to a series of problems.
In the meantime I parked the motorhome in the access road at the rear of our property for the night and would decide what to do in the morning. When I woke, I looked out of the bedroom window and could see that there was no room to park the motorhome in the lay-by. The previous motorhome that we owned fitted on the drive so we hadn’t had a parking problem, but this vehicle was longer by a few feet. Before we purchased our current motorhome we had spoken to our neighbours about using the lay-by for parking. They were very relaxed about it and saw no problem. I was told by our neighbours that the roadworks were scheduled to take about 10 weeks to complete, so we were going to have a major problem with the parking. We looked at the options and they were very limited. Parking on the roadside was out because of the length; leaving it in the access road was too risky as there was no road lighting; so finding somewhere to store it off-road really was the only realistic option. We began to look on the internet for local storage facilities and found three. Only one offered sheltered storage with CCTV monitoring, but access was limited and the price was over our budget. Storing the motorhome in an outside facility would mean buying a protective cover, and with the storage charges it meant that we would incur a fairly hefty bill but, as we were running out of options, a decision had to be made.
Discussing the problem in the kitchen over a coffee, I thought that as I needed to get some work done under the warrantee I would approach the dealers from whom we had bought the motorhome to see if they could help. After a short phone call they agreed to store it for us, which meant it would give us about 10 days to arrange a suitable storage facility, so we were extremely relieved to have found a solution.
The following day, as we had covered around a thousand miles on our holiday and the motorhome was filthy, I decided to give it a clean prior to taking it over to the dealer the following day. It was still parked in the access road right outside my garage/workshop, so the cleaning was not going to be much of a problem. I only need to extend the garden hose. While I was washing and rinsing, I had spent the time thinking about the problem we had had with parking since returning home and was feeling a bit cross with how things had turned out. I had almost finished, with just the roof to do. The access road has a bit of a camber to it, and I had to use a step ladder to get high enough up, with the hose laid across the roof. I pulled on the hose to make thing easier for myself, but it was trapped between the TV aeriel and the roof skylight. I pushed on the hose pipe to free it up, then I lightly pulled on it to give me another metre or so. Big mistake. There was no resistance, and suddenly I was falling off the step ladder. I put my right hand out to break my fall but my wrist collapsed with my weight as I came into contact with the concrete road. I screamed with the excrutiating pain. A little schoolgirl that had just passed came running back and asked “You all right mister?”. I was unable to reply as I was totally winded. All the loose change in my pockets had scattered on the ground as I fell and the little girl said, “I’ll pick your money up for you” as she put the coins back in my pocket. I got to my feet and looked at my hand. I looked at my hand and thought – and hoped – that it was just a bad sprain. I thanked the little girl for her help and kindness and she went on her way. I was covered in road grit and water from my fall. I put all of the cleaning equipment, garden hose and step ladder back into the garage, but when I look back and remember the state of my wrist, I’m not sure how I managed to do it. I shut the up-and-over garage door and got myself into the kitchen. I took another look at my right wrist and it didn’t look good. I phoned Mrs K to let her know what I had done. “I am on my way home ” she replied, but working in London I knew it would be a couple of hours before she got home. I knew I’d have to get to the hospital and was just going up the stairs to have a shower when my daughter let herself in the front door.
Seeing what I had done, she phoned her husband and by the time I had showered my son-in-law and grandson were waiting to take me to the local hospital’s accident and emergency department. Three hours later I had my wrist in plaster and was told that I would need an operation to put the damage right. They couldn’t do it that day, so the nurse made an appointment for me to return in three days’ time. I returned home in relief that I was out of the hospital. I’ve never spent any time in hospital, let alone had an operation. I was told that I had broken my wrist in four places but until the swelling around the breaks had subsided there wasn’t a lot that they could do. When I returned home Mrs K had me laid horizontal and was looking after me even more than she usually does. I got very little sleep that night as the pain was intense. As soon as it became light I said I would have to go back to the hospital because the plaster cast felt too tight and the pain was increasing, so I felt it needed to be checked out. The receptionist at the hospital was very unhelpful and, I felt, in desperate need for her to go on a training course to learn empathy. Much to my wife’s dismay I expressed that need to her as I left the hospital some hours later. It turned out that in the fall I had broken my radial bone in 3 places and the ulna in one place. One of the radial breaks was unstable because it also had a split travelling up the bone, as my wrist had taken all of the impact when I fell, and it had got worse overnight.
After I had some more X-rays taken I saw an Army Surgeon, Commander Hobbs, and he explained that I would have to wait around three weeks before I could have the operation, He said that I needed to be patient because of the severity of the break. Commander Hobbs informed me that my injury was “career changing” and that I would need to reappraise my life. But until he operated on the wrist he would not know the final prognosis. A nurse reset my wrist into a new plaster cast and we returned home. After about ten minutes I realised Mrs K was nowhere to be seen and wondered where she’d got to. About twenty minutes later she returned and said, “Well, that has got that sorted”. She was so angry about what had happened that she had gone to see the foreman in charge of the road works and asked him if there was any way that he could move the rubble and soil so that we could park the motorhome outside of our house. He’d replied, “Yes, that’s no problem. Give me half an hour and I will have it all moved for you.” So within the hour we had the motorhome parked up and safe outside our property once again.
I am a self employed trader with no employees. Before we went on our adventure I had completed a major modernisation of a property and I had given myself an extra “free” week after our return to the UK before starting my next job. It was obvious I was going to be out of action, at least for the foreseeable future, so I contacted the customer and explained what had happened. I said I would understand if they wanted to arrange for another contractor to do the work they required, but they said I’d been recommended by another customer and were prepared to wait and see if I recovered enough to do the job. Three weeks later commander Hobbs operated on my wrist. The operation was a success but I had to have plates and pins inserted to support my wrist. The injury was so severe it meant that any thought about me continuing with property maintenance was out of the question. It would take at least eighteen months if not longer for the wrist to repair itself. It was a month after the operation before the cast could come off and physiotherapy could begin. At the time of the accident I was two and a half years away from retirement.
The situation we now found ourselves in was a terrific shock. Everything had been ticking over nicely. We were both working and had a very nice home with all the comforts. Now suddenly we had lost half of our income and things had to change drastically. What were we going to do? One option would be to bring forward our plans about retiring and moving to France. We looked at what would be involved in doing this and how it would affect our family. But taking other peoples feelings into account was not going to solve our problems, so after many long late nights of talking and agonising over the situation, we contacted an estate agent and put our property on the housing market. As our property was in very good condition it wasn’t long before we had an offer from a couple to buy it, so the wheels swung into action and everything progressed smoothly. With a survey on our property carried out and a provisional completion date set, we arranged to go and have a detailed inspection of the French property, with the expectation of putting in an offer if the inspection went well and no serious problems were found.
The French system of buying and selling a property is completely different to the English way. It is not unusual for the agent (or immobilier) to act for both parties, the vendor and the purchaser. Basically, when the purchaser makes an offer on a French property, and that offer is accepted by the vendor, a contract (Compromis de Vente) is drawn up by the immobilier, with both the vendor agreeing to sell to the purchaser, and the purchaser agreeing to buy from the vendor at the agreed price. If either party breaks that contract, then the party that makes the break are liable and will have to pay compensation to the other party. Various clauses are added to the contract and agreed to by both parties, and it is not unusual for the purchaser to have to pay the immobilier’s fee – unlike in the UK as well as the Notary’s fees and all the taxes. When the Compromis is signed by both vendor and purchaser, a deposit (usually 10%) is paid by the purchaser within ten days of signing and is held by the registered immobilier and a provisional completion date set.
We had already signed the contract regarding the sale of our property prior to going to France for our second inspection of the house, so after the successful second viewing of the French property we made an offer to buy, with a clause inserted stating that it was subject to us ” selling our home” in the UK. We wanted to postpone signing the Compromis De Vente untilwe had confirmation that contracts had been exchanged on our sale, which was due within the next few days. We travelled on to La Rochelle and then onto Bordeaux, staying a few days at each place. We were to travel back up to Nantes prior to returning to Corlay to sign the Comproms de Vente. At Nantes we received a call from our estate agent in the UK, expecting to be told that contracts had been exchanged. Bad news. Our buyer had pulled out on the day of exchange, but the estate agent had received another offer. The new offer was financially not quite as good, but at least it was an offer, and he was a cash buyer, so everything could be completed as quick as the solicitors could process the formalities. We had to absorb the financial loss as we had already commited ourselves to the French purchase and we wanted the house, so it was swings and roundabouts. We called into the immobilier and signed the Compromis De Vente and returned to England. A week later we paid the required deposit to the immobilier. The sale of our house did not go exactly to plan but eventually it completed and in December 2013 we became the new owners of what we think is a beautiful home in France.