EEC 16, 17th May 2005

Well Tuesday night Patrick phoned and confirmed the apartment. He couldn't arrange to get the apartment to start Wednesday, and the next day, Thursday, was a national holiday in France so he was meeting the agent to collect the keys and complete the paperwork 7.30 am Friday morning.

This is cutting a it a touch tight. My daughter, Eleanor, has arranged to come down this weekend. She is going to Poitiers by train, collecting my car, then driving it down here. This is killing three birds with one stone. She has recently got her driving licence, so she will get a chance to do some driving. It will get my car down here, and will give a reason to visit. It has to be this weekend, she has exams starting soon. Also since Thursday is a national holiday, her boyfriend Johann has managed to get Friday off work.

So, Eleanor arrived in Poitiers, Thursday afternoon, Marie met her at the station in my car, Eleanor and Johann took Marie back home, they were shown Marie's donkey, her sheep, her chickens, and her goslings, then headed off on the 8 hour drive south to Mirande. It's Marie of course who has been letting me dump my stuff in her barn for these last two years. It's nearly all gone now Marie, thanks for putting up with it all this time!

Eleanor's plan was to drive down Thursday. But I don't have a house yet! Stop on the way I said, I'll pay the hotel. It's too far to drive in one
day anyway, after the train trip from Paris.

10.30 Friday morning I saw Patrick heading towards Mirande in his van, presumably with his second load of furniture for his new apartment. I know he can't wait to get into the town to live. Mirande has about 1000 inhabitants, but that it is a whole stage up from his old place, my new house, which is a hamlet with 6 houses.

Early afternoon he returned, and I started moving my stuff around. First I moved my camping car furniture from the workshop into the house, that provided basic living accommodation, while doing that Eleanor phoned for final directions, they were nearby, so when they came we moved a bed and mattresses from the barn here. Bed for me, since I haven't actually slept in my own ordinary bed for more than 2 years, mattresses for them.

That was all we had time for, because it was flyable. We carried the balloon all of 5 metres from the storage spot in the barn to the launch site. The wind looked liked it was, sort of, blowing away from the barn. Well it wasn't, quite, so after inflating we carried the balloon away from the barn. That "we" is not the royal we, it's actually everybody else but me, and that means Eleanor and Johann, I was standing in the basket in control. Of course Eleanor has seen balloons before, her first flight was about 15 years ago.

I flew with Johann, a beautiful flight. Light winds, as I had been promised in the area, crossing gentle valleys, as I had seen when I chose this spot to find a house. We spotted a road junction, after a while, and Eleanor, driving the van, was close, so we stopped, almost in the centre of the junction, to changes passengers.

The final landing was a little bit harder. There were power lines just before the road, so I had to come in quite quickly. We did a little bounce, and stopped on the road.

We hardly had time to grab some dinner and some sleep before it was time to fly again.

We had an amazing flight that next morning. I've never had a flight like it. I've never even heard about anyone making a flight like this. It was hazy conditions, very light winds, perfectly flyable, but you couldn't see long distances. We, myself and Eleanor, headed north, there was a tiny lake in front, I said to Eleanor sit on the side of the basket. Duh! I forgot to say, lift your feet up, so she got her feet wet on that first dunking.

Then there was a medium size lake. Well small, but bigger than the other. We dunked again, and left the balloon floating in the water. We drifted towards the island in the lake so maybe 30 metres from it I climbed out. We moved right of the trees on the island which was only about 25 metres diameter. They were smallish trees and I kept the basket below the level of the tree tops.

We flew right around the island! You got that? We flew right around the island. At a more or less constant height, within 100 ft or so. There were a few direction changes on the way, but we actually flew right around the island, we never flew over any part of the island, or touched any tree on the island, and we never flew over the lake side (or touched any tree on the lakeside). We crossed our original path, having made a long turn of 270 degrees anticlockwise, continued along, and landed on the road.

Eleanor and Johann then headed off to Pau, about an hour's drive away, to meet a friend of Eleanor's from our time in Villiers le Morhier. I brought more stuff from the barn to try and work put where to put it in the house.

The evening flight was almost normal. We just flew up the valley. We dropped to about 1 metre high and looked for a road. Now, there are fields here. If you have fields you have to have an access route. I was just thinking maybe we found the exception that proves the rule when I spotted a petit chemin (little track) in front of us. We landed on the track, then Eleanor and Johann carried the still inflated balloon, and me, to a grassy side of the field so that we could roll it all up and stuff it in the bag.

Sunday morning I drove Eleanor and Johann to Toulouse, to catch the train back, but first Eleanor met another friend, at university in Toulouse. They met when both were at university in Aix-en-Provence and later took a 2 month back packing holiday to India together. When I got back from Toulouse I carried on moving stuff.

And that was what I did most of the week. In between I scrubbed the lounge floor and the kitchen floor and the bedroom floor using diluted hydrochloric acid, which really brought the dirt off.

I'd had an email from Mila and Markus Lau at the end of April to say they were slowly heading my way. Of course, I'd said to call in if they were passing. I'd met them in San Cristobal de la Casas, in Mexico, about a year ago, they had spent a year cycling down from Vancouver, and had passed the year since then cycling further south, to Chile and Peru. Now they were on the way back to Germany from Madrid. So Thursday I had another email from them to say they were in Pau, and would be with me in 2 or 3 days.

Thursday was also the day of the big boundary meeting. Patrick who is selling the house, his father, my new neighbour who is the owner of the house on the other side, the estate agent, and the surveyor. The surveyor had drawn up accurate plans showing the boundary, as defined in the records, and the boundary as marked with walls fences, etc. Nowhere was the boundary correct, it was generally about 2 metres out, sometimes one side, sometimes the other! Patrick had built the fence in the wrong place, the neighbour had built a wall taking in part of "my" property, also the old boundary was quite irregular. We walked around, and decided were the new boundary lines should be, so that although the lines were changed, and simplified, the actual areas of the various properties remained the same.

It will take about another 3 weeks for the official records to be changed, so the signing has been delayed yet again. It does not affect me too much, I am in the house, I have already sent the money to the lawyer to cover the purchase price, we know the signing is going to go ahead, so it's just a matter of awaiting the official papers. But of course until we sign Patrick can't get his hands on the money and I think he would rather like to see that 80,000 Euros in his bank account!

Friday the surveyor was out again, putting in the official boundary markers, as agreed. I spotted Patrick, who works with his father in the fois gras business, he invited me to join them for a morning coffee. Then I rushed off in the van to Tarbes to do some shopping. I went around all the big stores, and bought a fridge/freezer, a washing machine, a cooker, a combination microwave and grill, and an electric fryer. I looked at bed settees an nearly bought one, but they didn't have one in stock the colour I wanted. I also bought floor paint for the kitchen and my bedroom. Well, maybe I shouldn't make it sound grander that it is. It's not just my bedroom, it's THE bedroom, until I get the workshop converted that is, and there's more than a touch of work to do in that direction.

On the way back Markus phoned. Where was I he asked? On the way back home I said. Where are you? In your house said Markus, we made better time than we expected.

Luckily I had already put a bottle of my Loire Valley Champagne in the fridge to prepare itself for drinking. The fridge by the way, is the tasteful wood effect fridge that I used keep in my study to keep my drinks cool, but it's not very big, the temperature control is bust, it works on full cold all the time (great for drinks) and the freezer section is just about big enough for one tray of ice cubes.

Mila is really nice but Markus is just amazing. I'm quite handy at doing things but he keeps spotting easier ways of doing things. The double front door was catching at the bottom. I was going to sandpaper it, with a machine that I have, like I did with the shutters, but Markus suggests, put some washers on the hinges, raise the doors a touch. Brilliant! The door closes now. We did other stuff the same, I forget exactly what. He noticed the car tyre was under inflated. Eleanor had said the car was pulling to the left but I hadn't noticed the tyre. With the many suggestions from Markus I started saying, Oh wow! With that idea, you can stay another day. Finally I said, you can stay as long as you want! They have computer stuff to do, to update their website, and need access to a computer and the internet so I guess they are here for a few days.

Saturday night I painted the kitchen floor. It takes10 hours to dry. So we hopped in and out of the lounge through the window, and the Lau's slept in their tent. Sunday I put a second coat on the kitchen, and painted most of the workshop floor which was previously bare concrete. This made trips to the loo rather more complicated. Jump out of the lounge window, back in through my bedroom window, then return by the same route. The lounge is separated from the kitchen by vertical, open beams. So to get to the kitchen from the lounge you just climb through the wall. Reminds me of the way they walk through walls in science fiction movies.

Monday we went to the market in Mirande, installed the fridge/freezer and the cooker, then repaired the broken showerbath folding splashguard. Here again Marcus made good contribution to his stay by doing most of the work in a way better than I could have done. Take note, all you other welcome visitors, you have a hard act to follow!

We hoped to fly in the evening but the weather was not kind enough. Tuesday I saw the dentist and the doctor, haven't been in one place long enough to make an appointment before now, and later I cleared out a few more boxes from the lounge. Tomorrow, Wednesday, it's over to Ikea in Toulouse to check out bed settees.

Sorry about the lack of photos. I'll get back to that as soon as I've caught up with this other stuff.

Best regards

David Barker
Mirande, France

Continue to EC 17

Return to start page