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But we had the view. And the house.

And what a lot of house. An eight-bedroomed maison de maître set in seven acres of grounds, fields and woods. It even had a swimming pool ... of sorts. The sort without any water, and sides that cracked and bulged inwards at alarming angles. And there were two outbuildings, marking out a half courtyard, forming an L on the edge of the house. It had fig trees and an orchard - apples, pears, plum, cherries and apricot. And it was all ours. For well under a third of the price of our three-bedroomed farm and forty acres of Devonshire mud.

But it had eight bedrooms. And there were only two of us, six if we counted all the animals.

"Eight bedrooms!" had been Shelagh's first reaction when I phoned her with the news of my purchase. I told her it was a bargain. "But eight bedrooms?"

I tried to put a gloss on it, seeing as the bargain ploy wasn't going down too well. "They'll come in handy."

"For what?"

"Well, a spare room for a start. And a study for the Great Novel." I could have added another room for the Great Novel's rejection slips but thought better of it. "And four of the bedrooms are in the attic, so why not look at it as a four-bedroomed house with a carpeted loft?" A touch of genius.

But house hunting is often like that. You start off with a tight list of what you want - the two-bedroom bungalow, the tiny stone cottage - refine it over a period of months, then let your husband loose in France while you look after the farm, and back he comes with the keys to an eight-bedroom mansion.

But it could have been worse. During my two-week house hunting expedition I discovered that the rural French builder had a flair for the unusual. And a hankering for the past, when building was more art than science, before architects and building inspectors started framing laws to curb the creative householder. Like the man in Brittany who ran the mains water pipe through a working chimney.

"I think you might have to move the water pipe," the estate agent told me as we entered the lounge.

"Why?" I asked.

"It comes in through the chimney."

"Like Father Christmas?" I asked, wondering if perhaps it was there to provide water for the reindeer.

Unfortunately not. It entered the house through the back wall of the fireplace, hovered a few feet over the grate and then bent along the wall in search of a kitchen.

‘Why?’ is a question often asked in house hunting. Sometimes it actually precipitates an answer. This was not one of those times.

But we did have theories. A rudimentary hot water system? A useful pipe for hanging a cooking pot from? Favourite was the 'it was the closest point to the road - therefore less copper pipe to buy.'

Then there was the toilet in the Dordogne.

Now, I've seen toilets before - I'm a man of the world. And I've seen them underneath stairs before, but I'd never seen one at the foot of a staircase. We had to squeeze past the bowl to get to the bottom step. Not that we did much squeezing, we mainly stood and stared.

Perhaps the stairs were a later addition, I wondered. Maybe there was nowhere else to put the staircase when the upper floor was converted.

No. I looked; the plumbing appeared more recent than the stairs.

For days afterwards, I theorised and explored various reasons for the unique placement of the toilet. It was like one of those mental agility tests about dwarves in lifts - perhaps the man had one leg shorter than the other and needed the first step for balance?

Or perhaps it was a conversation piece. It certainly worked.