Wednesday, October 05, 2005

So we own the house. Yay. Now what?

The first thing that Dawg and I want to do is clean the place up. The house is filled with junk. Real junk. Not, ooh-maybe-some-of-this-could-be-antiques, junk. I'm talking smashed mirrors, rusted cans, beer bottles, filthy mattresses type of junk.

Technically, the owner was supposed to clear out the house before title passed to us. But, given that he is a festering piece of crap himself hadn't lifted a finger to clean the house in the 30 years that he owned it, we didn't expect him to start now. Instead, our notaire and agent had a shouting match with him at the closing, insisting that he contribute some money to our cleaning costs. The FPC refused. (BTW, I no longer think of him as the gypsy as I'd be inadvertently insulting gypsies. The man looked like a crusty heel. And he stank so bad I got a headache.) After lots more shouting, bulging veins, and flying spittle, the FPC agreed to pay taxes on the house for the rest of the year, and the agent agreed to chip in 200 euros toward cleaning costs. Dawg and I were so sick of the whole thing, we caved. We just wanted our house.

Two days after signing on the house, we drove back to Burgundy, armed with masks, rakes, shears, disinfectant and 15 heavy-duty garbage sacks, and spent the day hacking out a path in the wilderness-like garden, and clearing out some of the crap in the house. It was a funny day. We filled 10 sacs full of crap, and would have filled more but we kept getting interrupted. Curious neighbors would wander by and we'd have to stop and say hello and be friendly. In this neck of the world, we have to be super-friendly and open to make sure that we are not pigeon-holed as Parisian or American snobs. And God knows, what with Dawg being German and all (our village was occupied during WWII -- German soliders used the kitchen in our house), he certainly doesn't want to give any bad impressions or fit a stereotype. So, we smile broadly and wave and say "Bonjour" to everyone we see.

Some people ignore our frantic overtures of friendliness (a few even look annoyed) but mostly everyone has been welcoming. Our next door neighbors (very nice people, but with horreneous taste) have already invited us over for an aperitif. Another neighbor, Jackee, has agreed to help us cart away some of our garbage. The person I liked best was our nearest neighbor, Titi, a tiny wrinkly guy of about 85. He told us that he's gardener, and still seems to be at it, despite his age. When we met him, he was wearing green wellies and a mackintosh, and was effortlessly pushing a big wheelbarrow full of manure into his yard. He stopped to chat with us, clapped his hands with delight when he learned we were officially neighbors, and told us he'd be living next door to our house since he was a boy. Dawg and I are dying to pump him for stories about our house. But we can't exactly invite him over for tea yet.

What I didn't like about our neighbors was this: every. single. one. of them looked at the house, grimaced, and then said: Bon courage. Translation: Good luck -- you're gonna need it. We always respond with a wry shrug and smile, and insist that it'll be hard work but fun. Still, I always feel a thrill of panic when they say it. Are we crazy for taking this on? I'm not entirely convinced that we're not.

Anyway, in other next steps, we have arranged for a meeting with our architects friends at the end of the month. F. and K. will drive to France from Berlin with their favorite carpenter and F's dad, who is also an architect and who speaks fluent french. Dawg and I, for our part, will arrange to have local masons, roofers, electricians and plumbers come to talk to the architects while they're here.

Since my french isn't really up to making arrangements and talking shop with the various builders, my job will be to deal with Red, the English guy that lives in our little village. I'll have to write another post about him, he's a character, but for now, I'll just say that he's a very handy guy, and has agreed to help us out as much as possible. He has already voluntarily strimmed half of our garden. No more hacking through the jungle!

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