Two months ago, we took a trip to our house in Missillac after a two-year absence. Staying away for that long is very unusual for us, as our routine always used to be to take a trip every 3 months. But due to travel restrictions brought on by Covid and the fact that our elderly little dog was no longer able to travel, we were stuck in England! Sadly, we lost our dear little chappie in early February. To help with the heartache, we decided a change of scenery would do us good. Besides, a trip to the house was long overdue, so returning to Brittany was the answer for us.
We took an overnight ferry from Portsmouth to Caen Ouistreham and after a 4-hour drive (including a lunch break) we arrived at the house early afternoon. It was rather important for us to arrive in daylight, as the house is situated in the middle of nowhere, in a street that isn’t graced with lamposts. After such a lengthy absence, we really didn’t want to arrive in pitch darkness as, among other things, we needed to turn the water on: the manhole is in the middle of the garden. We didn’t fancy plunging our hands into a wet, dark hole where God knows what creatures would be swimming and crawling. Besides, having a proper look at the house in broad daylight would provide some reassurance that all was ok.
During our absence, we were lucky enough to rely on our neighbour Françoise to regularly air the house at the weekends and on sunny days, by opening the shutters and the windows if possible.
However, we expected a head full of cobwebs as soon as we stepped through the back door… it didn’t happen. We were actually amazed at the lack of dead flies, woodlice and critters of all sorts and congratulated ourselves on owning such a great house with such easy maintenance. The house is over 100 years old with very thick walls: perhaps that was its saving grace, who knows? Ok, fair enough, for some reason, there was about an inch of water sporting quite a few dead spiders at the bottom of the bathtub (there is no leak, so not sure how this happened), but apart from that, it was all pretty good.
The mystery of the magic house was solved when we next saw Françoise. She quite innocently asked us:
– “Vous n’avez pas d’aspirateur ? (do you not own a hoover?).
– Well, yes, we do, of course. It’s upstairs. Why?
– Well, I couldn’t find it, so I went around with a broom to pick up all the dead flies. I removed all the cobwebs with a duster too”.
Such kindness! We certainly would not have expected her to do that but it definitely made our return much more pleasant.
On the other hand, not everything was perfect and we had to deal with a few techie issues: no internet, no landline, no TV, no fridge, the list goes on. It was all pretty demoralising, especially as this was a Saturday afternoon and we were unable to get very much done until Monday.
Still, we took ourselves off to the Orange shop in Guérande and were met with a very efficient and professional young lady. Originally, we were so angry that we wanted to cancel our subscription (we pay 43€/month for internet, landline and mobile) whether we are there or not, and generally there is a problem with the internet every time we visit the house. She suggested splitting the subscription as we just wanted to keep the mobile phone and also gave us all the advice needed to get everything sorted out. In the end, we thought twice about it and decided to give it a go. The problem was actually due to the outside phone cable which had been cut in half (probably by a passing tractor as it extends across the road. It seems this is a common problem in the area, as our guest blogger Nicola can testify in her post “Be careful what you idly wonder”). Problem solved when the engineer came in the week!
The fridge: hmmm. Every time we leave and lock up the house, we switch the fridge off and make sure both the fridge and freezer doors are wide open to avoid mould forming inside, but after 2 years, the seal had dried up and the doors wouldn’t shut anymore. So off we went again, this time to Leclerc in Herbignac to find out about buying a new fridge, having it delivered and disposal of the old one. We were getting rather fed up by that point. Once again, we got lucky: after a few hours of the fridge being switched back on and the door pushed closed, the seal must have regained its elasticity and the door closed properly. Another hurdle overcome!
The TV: our TNTSAT card had expired one year previously. We didn’t realise that these cards are only valid for 4 years. This time we went to Darty in Herbignac, to be told that the cards can only be bought online and posted to us. Fine. We went home and did just that, but then started worrying: over the last few years, everyone in Missillac was given a house number. Not us. What if the post lady delivered the TV card to the wrong address? (we had quite a bit of mail destined for other people in our letterbox when we got back). So, on Monday, we went to the Mairie in Missillac and were told the “policière municipale” would come over and give us a number, with a house number certificate. It is now mid-April and we are still waiting. Having said that, the TV card arrived after 4 or 5 days, so we are not that worried about a house number anymore. We will probably chase it up next time we go.
Having a holiday home abroad is fabulous and we are very aware of our luck. However, these past 2 years have made us feel very inadequate as we were unable to go, maintain the house and sort out whatever issues that might crop up and would normally be fixed quickly. Even though we are lucky to have Françoise who can help with such things as letting the chimney sweep in every year or maintaining the garden (she owns a horticultural business up the lane), we usually have to book appointments from one visit to the next to get repairs done as we are never there long enough for them to come during our visit. It can be very frustrating. Fingers crossed this situation never happens again and we are never again away for that length of time.