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A Quiet Retirement in France? 

misty morning over the rolling hills of Perche Normandy

One evening a few years ago my wife and I overheard several tales of woe that almost made us re-think our plans to buy a house in France.

We were on a golf break in Le Perche, Normandy, staying at a lovely hotel with a fantastic restaurant. One evening, after our eighteen holes we went for dinner at the restaurant. For the first half hour we were the only guests. Then a party of Dutch people arrived. We could hear everything they were saying, they were four retired couples, living in the area. They all agreed that buying a house in France had been a fan-tas-tic decision, the best they had ever made. Such a beautiful country, so quiet, all that space.

After the potage, a few more remarks reached our ears, a little more critical. Of course they missed their typical Dutch treats; the ‘drop’, the ‘rookworst’ the ‘stroopwafels’; just like Brits would miss ‘a proper cup of tea’, Marmite and a ‘decent bit of cheddar’. Apart from that, everything was great and they loved their new life.

For a while the cutlery was tinkling and wine flowed. Lots of wine! Then the coffee arrived, of course with the brandy. Followed by more brandy. Only then did we get to hear that not quite everything was rosy in their gardens. In fact each couples’ offspring was the cause of great misfortune to their parents.

Father One had had to transfer several hundred thousand Euros to his son on more than one occasion. Unfortunately, the son was not the entrepreneur they thought he was. He may have been willing, but was alas, very unable. After his fourth bankruptcy further parental assistance would not be forthcoming. One had to draw the line somewhere…didn’t one?

The shares in the family business of Father Two had been transferred to the children, with the understanding he would be paid out of the future profits. The future was still there, but four years had already passed without any profits being made, let alone any payments. He was increasingly worried, this deal being his only retirement fund.

The offspring of the third couple also were a source of misery. I cannot remember the tragic details any longer but it wasn’t good news.

Couple Four seemed to have the worst situation. They had given control of the family business to their sons. Recently the father had been warned by old and trusted clients that he should come back and regain control; things were not as they should be. He took the advice and made an unannounced visit to the company back in The Netherlands. He had just returned to France; it had not been a good trip.

It seems that on his arrival back at the company, he had found the office empty, though there was a lot of noise coming from the factory floor. Unfortunately, it was not the noise of machinery and industrious employees. The anxious dad had entered the production hall only to be confronted by a highly motivated and busy, yet unproductive, workforce. They were diligently drinking beer, gathered around the newly built bar, the beer tap being manned by his sons!

Our retired compatriots shook their grey heads and finished their coffee. Was their retirement in France at an end? Was it time to go back and take the reins again?

Peter Schoenmaker retired from advertising to run a small luxury hotel in France. His e-book Breakfast in Gascony can be downloaded for Kindle from Amazon. Find out more at: www.peterschoenmaker.com

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