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--- The First Day, House Hunting and Toilets ---

I stood at the bedroom window the next morning, and looked out on a view that almost made the last three days bearable. Almost but not quite.

This was what we had come to France to see. A deep blue sky emerging from the twilight and there, framed between two hillocks, the Pyrenees. Mountains, sharp-edged against the early morning sky and looking magnificent. With the Pic du Midi in the centre, dark grey and flecked with white as the first rays of morning found the lying snow.


And in the foreground, bunches of mistletoe stood out like floating green islands against the bare trees, acacia and oak, maple and walnut. A striking blue cedar and a yellow-flowered forsythia added colour to the left, green fields and swathes of trees swept up to the skyline on the right. And over everything, hung the cold sharp breath of a winter morning.

I could have stayed there all day. But I was hungry. And getting cold.

I dressed quickly and went in search of the kitchen, stepping through the obstacle course of packing cases and assorted boxes, with one thought in mind.


Where was it?

And then I remembered. We had intended to stop off at a supermarket on the way down and stock up with fresh food and essentials. That is before roofs started flying through the air and our leisurely journey through France became a mercy dash through Hell.

I found the remains of a digestive biscuit, the last survivor of our rations from the trip. I had envisaged our first breakfast in our new home as being something to remember - full of hot croissants and steaming coffee, a chocolate brioche or two, maybe a wedge of Brie. Instead, I was staring into a bagful of leftovers.

I tossed the bag aside. At least there was coffee.

I rummaged amongst the assorted boxes, thankful that we had labelled every one with a brief description of its contents. And there it was - coffee, both instant and ground. Things were looking up.

The percolator posed a more difficult problem. I knew I'd packed it at the bottom of one of the boxes marked, Kitchen Materials. But I couldn't remember if it was with the electricals or pots and pans. Or assorted tea towels and cutlery for that matter. Our system of packing had evolved radically when it came to the kitchen. Our first thought had been to pack by cupboard so we'd know exactly what each box contained. But the crockery weighed too much and the pots and pans didn't stack very well. So we started improvising and spreading the weight and filling gaps until we had an amalgam of kitchen goods.

Several minutes of hard rummaging later I found it, pulled it out, unwrapped it and...


That was the other item on our list of things to buy on the way down. A French round-pin plug to fit onto our extension lead. It had seemed a brilliant plan, buy the one plug on the way down, fit it to a multi-socket extension lead and then we could use all our English square-pin electrical equipment from Day One without changing plugs.

But we didn't have that one plug so ... I sat the percolator down. It would have to be instant.

But not from a kettle - also electric.

I was not easily defeated. I'd made coffee from water boiled in saucepans before. As I turned the tap, I prayed that something would come out. I could look philosophically upon the lack of electricity, but the thought of being water-less, was not one that a veteran of a three-day mercy dash through Hell’s maw should have to face.

We had water. Yay! The patron saint of house-movers had awoken from her slumbers.

Before promptly rolling over and closing her eyes again. We had no gas.

As Shelagh stepped through the kitchen door, she found her husband slumped over the kitchen table with a pan of water clutched in one hand and a jar of instant coffee in the other.