During my early years at Sigoules I engaged a national company of repute to carry out various window repairs. The work was completed to my satisfaction. Soon after this, the two representatives visited saying that they were setting up their own business. There followed more internal improvements over the next year or so. This involved one of these two men having a key to the house while I was at home in England.
For ten days during August 2014 I exchanged a stream of electronic communication between me and people in France concerning my house in Sigoules.
A family to whom I had agreed to let the house, and had thought were friends, moved in ahead of the drawing up of a contract without letting me know. The first I knew of it was when I received complaints from neighbours about noise throughout the night. Texts and e-mails to the male partner of the couple who seemed to be in possession gleaned no response. When, earlier in the month he had, on the telephone, told me the internet had been installed I asked him if he had moved in. He denied it. In case you have not guessed, the miscreant was the man mentioned in the first paragraph above.
Having had very little sleep during this period, I set out on a long journey on 27th of August 2014 to attempt to remove my squatters. The first step was Jackie driving me to Michael’s home in Sanderstead. There, we were greeted by Emily who scanned my passport and proof of ownership documentation and e-mailed this to a solicitor Michael had researched on the internet and engaged on my behalf. The police were aware of the situation. I would not have been able to manage all this alone.
When, in the 1970s and ’80s, as a Social Services Area Manager, I had been responsible for my staff going out on potentially difficult and stressful visits, I had always insisted that they had all the necessary help to have administration, relevant forms, and potential back-up in place, so that all they had to worry about was the job in hand. I now have direct personal experience of how necessary this was. Without the support and practical help of my friends in France; my lady and my son and granddaughter at home, I would not have been able to carry this through.
An hour after Michael arrived home from work, he drove me to No. 6, rue Saint Jacques. The only respite he had from more than ten hours at the wheel was the 35 minutes on the Eurotunnel train. I am known for falling asleep as a passenger. Remarkably, however, I remained awake, except for momentarily dozing on occasions. Having arrived in Calais from Folkestone, we set off into the night, taking the faster toll road route skirting Paris.
Michael, driving me through the night, was probably skirting Paris when the digits of the clock turned to 00.01 on 28th. We became aware of the metropolis as the dark midnight sky brightened with the multicoloured lights generated by urban living. A surprising number of other vehicles were on the road, most, as we continued further south, heading north towards the capital.
My son had not enjoyed the dubious sandwiches he had bought at Calais, so we made a number of stops in search of more sustenance. These were unfruitful, as every outlet was closed. Fortunately there were a number of all-night public conveniences, albeit of variable cleanliness.
The indigo sky was largely cloudless and sprinkled with numerous stars. It was not until about six in the morning that light, then eventually a strong sun, began to emerge behind my left shoulder. Parts of the landscape seemed to be scattered with creamy white pools amid the undulating hills. Nearer to hand, swirling mists, which is what these were, rose from moist fields and drifted upwards to dissolve into the air. The low sun cast long shadows across the pink-tinted countryside.
I regretted that we had ‘no time to stand and stare’ nor, more importantly perhaps, to photograph such evocative scenes.
What happened on arrival must await my next instalment