Expats in France Donna and Dave Faulkner fell in love with Deux-Sevres in the Poitou-Charentes region when they visited friends who lived there. When Dave was unexpectedly offered a job – they said goodbye to Britain and jumped head first into life in France in their new home which needed a bit of renovation as Donna explains…
When we bought the house there was no electric or running water and the land was a positive jungle. We tried to renovate on our annual holidays to France and made many trips back and forth before finally settling here in January 2012.
We had a provisional electrical supply fitted to the house and we planned to get an electrician to sort out a proper connection. We started getting devis (quotes) from local electricians and luckily for us our local village electrician had the best one. After accepting his devis we were hoping for a reasonably quick turnaround. Silly me, I now know that artisans in France are very much in demand and that French life moves at its own pace, something that we generally love about France. But we were not expecting things to take quite so long – the wiring up of four rooms has so far taken 15 months!
Attempting to get the elusive electrician to actually come to the house is like trying to set fire to ice cream. Luckily we are quite patient people and not inclined to scream and shout (actually maybe that’s the problem and I should push him more) and we are finally now nearing the end of the saga with a ‘consueil’ inspection planned in just a couple of weeks. If we pass our inspection (fingers and toes tightly crossed) we can have a normal electric supply. I can’t imagine having more than two plugs in the house and lights that actually work; we won’t know what to do with ourselves!
As far as the water situation is concerned we have now got a water supply installed to our road. Once the electricity is sorted we plan to get water into the house. I have to say that bringing in the water from the well in containers (after it’s been pumped out into the holding tank) really makes you appreciate just how much water we all consume and how very precious it is.
We are going to install a demand pump into our well and route it to supply water for washing up and clothes washing etc. There’s no need to pay for drinking quality water for these things. The other half assures me that it is possible to have a pump that can switch to well water from the mains water and vice versa. Don’t ask me for technical details yet as I will have to wheedle this from him nearer the time, and then put it on here as we go along. I’ll let you all know how things go!
For us the house is quite habitable but not having all the mod cons means some things take more time and care than in a modern house. I currently do all my washing with a twin tub machine as I have to collect the water afterwards to dispose of as we have no fosse septique or mains drains. “How do you cope?” I hear you say.
Well we have an interesting compost toilet (more info here http://www.biolet.com/). It is rather posh and works brilliantly actually. As to the washing water, we collect it and take it to the nearest camping car (motor home) point for disposal. This life wouldn’t suit everyone, but we love the house and the country and feel that all the hard work will be worth it in the end and besides – the journey is such an interesting one.
We do our best to mix the work on the house with taking time to appreciate the beautiful country that we are in and have taken time to learn the language (a never ending task I think). We also do our best bit to fit into the daily life of our local village.
Some aspects of life are not so much fun. Recently I was dreading a trip to the centre d’Impôts (Tax Office) to register to pay tax in France and collect our tax forms. Tax in any country is daunting but I went with an English friend in the same position as me and managed to get understood and even better understand everything that was said to me. These little things feel like a breakthrough and help to make us feel even more a part of our adopted country. Paying tax takes you away from being a visitor and makes you a resident instead – mind you I may not be so happy when the bill comes in.