I wonder where the last 15 years have gone – on a hot weekend in February we were sitting out enjoying a wine or two in celebration of buying this house in Salignac. It was unusually warm and Barry got sunburned on the back of his head! This year it has been freezing and I was having a little walk one Sunday afternoon to remember how I felt then . Anxious but looking forward to the challenge I believe. Well it has been interesting and I am still learning. The language is much better now and has had to improve with all the admin and need to be more integrated with everyone. I feel more confident too but maybe that is to do with getting older? I don't care if I make a grammar mistake and often can tell the French a thing or two. I learnt a wonderful word recently "petaoushnok" not sounding very French is it? But it is a real word and means something that is at the back of beyond.
I felt a little like that about going into the back of beyond when I came here at first, and looking at the house, I wasn't sure. Especially as the estate agent, the owners plus two other people who I didn't know, were all looking at me expectantly. No more than Barry who had his heart set on it. I had to come back a second time by myself to look at things more clearly. Well we are still here, 15 years later, the house is in need of a paint job now and some repairs but the roof is fine and no doubt, after being here for 800 years it will survive us.
Tucked away in a lost corner of the town of Brive La Gaillard is our optician's. I have already explained the difficulties both in finding one here but also in getting an appointment. We have seen several different people over the last few years for Barry and his cataract but this time we have been overwhelmed. A severe woman, grey haired and wearing a pristine white coat, barks at us to enter. Reminding us of an SS doctor and with the manner to match already we were quaking. Never addressing a word to Barry she spoke with her back to me about his eye. Very disconcerting. Her assistant,a young girl, who appeared to cope with her strange manner, came in and they had a conversation completely overriding us. We didn't know who was speaking to who.At the end of the examination she told us to come back the next week for a further consultation before going to the eye clinic for the operation.Quite complicated for us to do and to organize as it is not on our doorstep.
We did manage to sort it out and found ourselves back in the waiting area to wait for our payment details to be done. Looking around we thought we had stepped back into the past. Set in an old fashioned room with faded wallpaper and bird prints on the wall, it seemed to be this woman's flat. Down a corridor we glimpsed a salon with antique furniture and coloured rugs haphazardly thrown on the polished wooden floor. A real death trap.
We stumbled out into the fresh air, laughing about it! However what will happen next when we have to go back?
There are a lot of houses in Salignac up for sale. Some have been lying empty for years and it is sad to see them getting really run down. I have looked after one house for the last 3 years now, when the owners split up and went their separate ways . I go in to check on their roof because when it rains it leaks. It is a fabulous old house , originally the mayor's house several generations ago, and has some lovely features, notably this lauze roof which is a ton a square metre of stone, intricately laid on wooden supports. It is highly skilled work and there is only one company left in the Dordogne who do restorations. It also costs a fortune. Recently the now Salignac mayor and his team of experts went in to have a look and see if maybe they would take it on as part of the "patrimoine" ie a listed building . Like the Historic Buildings in the UK, the "Batiments de France " will assess it and decide if it will take it on for renovation. I hope so.
I like to have a look at the local estate agency's windows just to see and compare prices. You can still get an old derelict barn for about 40,000 euros but these are far less than before. Prices have dropped too and one English couple I know waited for 4 years before selling and at a much reduced price. Walking around Salignac now is very different to 15 years ago I think.Too many " a vendre" signs but on the other hand new properties have been built and rented properties have been revitalised.
I wish you all a peaceful month and shall catch you next time for a Fifi report from rural France.
February 2015. www.salignacfoundation.com