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  • Some time ago, I decided I would like to give it all up and go to France to grow vegetables and fruit and generally live the good French life.

    I decided I needed to meet a man with the same dream, so I spent a few fruitless years looking for him. Instead I met men who wanted babies, men who wanted a housekeeper and men who wanted a bit on the side.

    So, eventually, I came to the conclusion that this was one dream I would have to realise alone.

    Armed with a brand new sat nav called Tim, I set off determinedly and drove round my chosen area (Poitou-Charentes) looking at various houses for sale. I had a lot of adventures (for another time...), and eventually found my perfect house. I went home.

    Then the paperwork arrived. Pages and pages of obligatory tests required by the French law. All the hazards I might encounter: flooding, termites, radiation... I took a deep breath, sat down and read it through. Amiente? What was amiente? (Dictionary: Asbestos). Some keen renovator had lined the whole house with (now decaying) asbestos in the sixties.

    So. Plan B: I had seen another house. It wasn't perfect, but it had a lot of good things going for it: cherry trees, a bit of woodland, long distance footpaths, views, lovely neighbours. I went for it.

    A few months later, I went over again to seal the deal. The vendor handed over the keys to my new house, together with their original leather key fob. My house had been built by Helene Doreau, who lived there until she was ninety-four. Her name was on the keys.

    The house that Helen built. That's when I knew I'd made the right decision.

    Then I moved there, and that's when I met the right man...

    But that's another story.
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