Fast forward fifteen years.
Life happens. Births, deaths, marriages. Job changes. Retirement.
We bought a house in Wales, and that needed renovation. The house in France got left out all this time. Plans to retire over there changed. Grandchildren arrived, we were needed.
Finally we had a bit of money saved up and could do something about the house.
We hadn't been to the house for quite a while, but it was all right, I'd checked on Google Earth and it was still standing.
Actually when we got there finally, it wasn't too bad. It had in the French fashion shutters on the doors and windows, and we'd left them closed up. There was a bit of dust, and some of the packets of food in the cupboard were a bit the worse for wear - we had expected to be coming back in a month or two's time. Our cans of baked beans exploded when we opened them, but other than that we were fine.
The thing was that even before we'd left the place, it had been a bit basic. We'd never managed to get the central heating going. In fact the boiler was so old the instructions were in Egyptian heiroglyphics. The little gas water heater gave out after the first couple of years, so we had to boild kettlefuls of water, pour them into a bowl and use a jug to pour warm water over ourselves in the shower. But the final straw was the outside toilet, or karsi in familiar parlance.
The karsi was actually a normal-looking affair at first glance: however instead of a water tank, it had some strange sort of cylinder affair, which seemed to work on the mains water pressure. The water in that part of Normandy is actually fairly soft, but over the years a certain amount of limescale does build up, and it did so in the pipe taking water out to the karsi. The pressure dropped, and the flush stopped working. We were reduced to carrying buckets of water out with us. We built up muscles.Of course, after a long time of no visits, the first problem when arriving was not actually carrying out the buckets of water, it was getting through the jungle of brambles and perennial sweet peas to the sentry box in the first place. We habitually arrive late in the evening, in the dark. On the first recent return we had difficulty even getting the back door open for the ivy that had grown over it; then we had to get through the gauntlet of vegetation. It grabs you round the ankles, trips you up, but after a drive down from the ferry you have no choice. Anyway, you get used to the middle-of-the-night stagger out through the undergrowth, in the rain, half asleep. You don't actually like it, but you do get used to it.
Then the shower started to leak from under the porcelain shower tray.
And the light switch for the shower room? Well, my husband used to keep a rubber glove nearby for when he needed to switch the light on. Apparently there used to be a factory just up the road. When it was demolished there was a certain amount of recycling of odds and ends. At one time nearly every house in the village had one of those switches fitted somewhere in it. And every one was live.
Doreen lives in the empty bit in the middle of Wales, where since her retirement she has taken up writing. She says it's better than working any day.
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