Things seemed finally to be on the up, or so I thought.
I seemed to have recovered pretty well from my surgery (the new saggy granny-belly apart) we had sold our house and had some money in the bank to spend on the second part of our grand French plan and I had actually been head-hunted for a very lucrative new job, hurrah!!!
None of the above had seemed the least bit likely until that October, having just experienced a really trying twelve months which included frustration at procrastinating house buyers who just wanted to look around our home for fun, no spare cash & debilitating disillusionment with my then job.
The illusion that at least I was holding it together physically came crashing down when I developed a weird and still unexplained rash on every part of my body apart from the left hand side of my face and my hands. My Doctor’s guess was that this was a delayed reaction to over two years of being ill, followed by urgent treatment & my ignoring all this to move forward our plans for France, meaning I had failed abysmally to look after myself properly and my body was rebelling by manifesting stress in weird ways.
I could cope with the skin problems (long sleeved tops & don’t get too close to the clients so no-one can study the dodgy bits) but when my hair started falling out in chunks it was clear I had to slow down and take stock (granny belly & nearly bald- not an attractive look).
It was at this point that we found out that our existing passports were about to expire so I was obliged to trowel make up on over the dodgy looking rash, prop open my semi closed right eye and comb over the bald bits in order to take an acceptable passport photo.
Believe me when I say that not smiling was not a problem.
I am of course stuck with this photo until 2017 and every time I go through passport control I am studied closely whilst various officials speculate if the photo is actually me. I have noted that none have been brave enough to enquire as to what the hell was wrong with me at the time.
We had booked a break to go over to France expecting some progress but it transpired that the original plans and planning application submitted by our builder had disappeared and everything had to be submitted again, the wheels of bureaucracy moving frustratingly slowly- So, news that hopefully the terrace work and serious structural stuff would finally happen next year and we could get on with creating new walls & doorways to make our patchwork house flow better put us back into a positive & pro-active frame of mind.
We went to view some seaside property options close to the French/Spanish border, dismissing mobile homes, which though an inexpensive option came with some eye watering site fees and alarming conditions to replace with new every few years (we wanted a quieter life, not a more stressful one) so we whittled our options down to one bedroomed seaside apartments that would give us both a seasonal income from holiday makers and a second seaside pied-a-terre for our own benefit.
This type of double property holding is very common amongst the French
I was adamant that we could not take on anything more than a bit of decoration and cosmetic work as we had enough on our plate with the house and needed a rental income coming in as soon as possible. So we went hunting with a list of strict criteria.
Like the gut feeling we had for our French house & it’s amazing and evocative village location, we liked the feel of Argeles Plage’s North beach area and the smaller mid-century holiday residences which felt that little bit removed from the flashy all singing & dancing holiday complexes with neighbours so close that you could shake hands without leaving your balcony.
We finally found a little top floor apartment with open views in pretty good condition. It already had a new boiler, gas central heating, a decent modern shower room, quality dishwasher & washing machine and sliding double glazed doors to the covered balcony which allowed year round use of this space. Totting up the costs of adding all the above essentials to any prospective purchase we decided that it was good value and pressed for a quick purchase, the ten month delay on purchasing the house at Campagne having really done my head in & we couldn’t face that again
Typically, I managed to go down with flu the day before we flew over to France to complete the purchase, and drugged up & delirious I somehow got through the formalities with the Notaire, though I was dimly aware that the vendors were looking at me strangely. That could have been the leather cowboy hat I was wearing to cover the bald patches and the fact that I was so tanked up on painkillers and flu medication that I was hallucinating and perilously close to passing out.
Trevor drove back to Campagne & I collapsed onto the camp bed where I remained out cold for almost two days. It is times like these when I value Trevor’s capacity not to be alarmed by anything as prosaic as being stuck in an unfinished medieval hovel with a seriously sick and mentally deranged girlfriend.
The apartment at Argeles Plage, December 2007- below before and after my makeover!