Just before I spent the week in Eymet with Maggie and Mike in September 2008, culminating in agreeing to buy their house in Sigoules, I enjoyed various locations with Mike and Heidi, Emily, Oliver, and Alice. One of these was at
Onesse in Les Landes. Oliver doesn’t seem to be in this family shot.
I am not sure where this beach was, but I remember picnicking on the bank in the foreground.
We took a number of walks in the sun-dappled forest with its tall pines, red-brown streams, and sandy banks of bright purple heather.
The farmhouse and its field; the nodding sunflowers; and the village perching above it are all outside Eymet, while the colourful garden and the church spire behind the rooftops are probably inside it. Without notes I am a little hazy after fourteen years.
I really regret not being sure where this wonderfully sensitive sculpture of an unknown soldier adorns a war memorial. Maybe someone will enlighten me.
Our accommodation in Les Landes is forever afterwards known as the gite from Hell. When the barbecue turned out to be a toasted sandwich maker and resin oozed out of the garden table onto my trousers we began vaguely to wonder whether all was as it should be. Michael and Heidi were expected to share a single duvet. Heidi said they would just have to snuggle up. It was when Michael went for a bath that serious alarm bells rang. If these bells had been wired up to the domestic electricity supply, and needed activating after we had switched on more than a couple of appliances, they would have fused the system. But that came later. Back to the bath. Michael, a builder, could see that a hole, near the plug hole, eaten away by rust had been plugged with some very soft substance, which he recognised, but the name of which currently escapes me. When confronted with this the female proprietor denied that it existed. When pressed, however, she allowed us to use a shower in an annex to her own house, saying that the plumber would come on Monday.
It being August, surprise, surprise, the plumber was on holiday. Her husband, however, was a retired builder. He was unable to work because only one quarter of his heart was working. This after major surgery. I checked this statement most thoroughly, fearing the truth may have been lost in translation. Veracity was absent, but certainly not subject to any problem with the language. Quite apart from the unlikelihood of the story, we knew that the gentleman concerned was building a house further up the hill. However, out of the goodness of what was left of his heart he undertook to replace the bath.
After three more days we had a new bath. It fell upon Heidi to sample this new fitting. Having completed her ablutions she came into the living room with the circular plug adjuster in her hand. When attempting to turn it to let the water out it had come apart in her hands. A bath we couldn’t fill had been replaced by one we couldn’t empty.
The next day it was the electric iron that fell apart in Heidi’s hands, and a while later the whole electrical system fused. Michael investigated the fuse box and established that there was insufficient supply to cater for the various appliances in the house. The proprietor said that we should not have more than two appliances on at any one time because the utility company did not supply enough juice.
When it came to depart Michael demanded his deposit back from the female owner and her daughter, who, as to be expected, refused to return it. I gathered the rest of the family into the car, hoping that the resultant multilingual slanging match might subside without an audience. This was not to be. Moreover the husband with the allegedly dicky heart and his son-in-law surrounded my son with threatening gestures. “Oh, dear,” I thought. “I’m going to have to get involved.”
I disembarked and squared up to the father; Michael confronted the son-in-law. Now the numbers were even the battle ceased and off we went.
The rest of the week was spent in a three star hotel at the expense of Brittany Ferries, who also refunded the rental of the establishment and gave Michael a £200 voucher for a further trip. This, however, put my Francophile son off arranging such a holiday again; my friends in Sigoules were struggling with a bridging loan; I had the cash and couldn’t afford to buy in London; so I bought No. 6, rue Saint Jacques.
Completion could not have come at a worse time than December of that year.