Sunday, 17 November 2019

The End Of The World As We Know It

Yup - the end of the world as we know it - in which I wax lyrical about moving house, gaming projects for next year and my pivotal role in the French Nutella riots of 2018.

France - The Long Goodbye.

The first rule of fight club is that nobody talks about fight club. The first rule about selling your house in the Creuse is that nobody ever sells their house. It's a given. If you come out here thinking you'll rebuild something and make a killing you are in for a massive disappointment. Add a swimming pool and a helipad and the locals still see it (and value it) as the barn or cowshed it used to be. In fact they see it as having slightly less value than the barn or the cowshed it used to be - since any cows they reintroduce after purchase might well drown in the swimming pool. C'est la vie.

Given these "facts" you'll understand it came as quite a surprise when after only 24hrs of putting our house on the market an eager middle aged couple from Normandy booked a rendezvous to view and then offered us the full asking price. We were pretty stunned and hurriedly began looking for new digs back in the old country. A long list of potential properties in Wales was quickly compiled and hotels, ferries, and viewings duly booked. Emails whizzed back and forth between the purchasing couple and us culminating on the day before we due to leave for Wales with them sending us a series of photographs of their donkeys, who they claimed were very excited about their forthcoming move to our field.

Now a bit of French law explanation is required here - but I'll tone it down a bit for everyone's sake. House buying over here is a two part process. The buyer makes you an offer and if you agree to it you provide them with a series of house diagnostics compiled by the local authorities (presence of asbestos. termites etc etc). A contract is signed by both parties and the buyers, who have to lodge ten percent of the asking price with a shared solicitor, then have ten days in which they can change their minds and pull out without losing their money. If they pull out after this point their deposit becomes yours. Following this signing there is a lot more fiddle faffling with local farmers who might want to make their own offer on the land - followed eventually by a final exchange of contracts and transfer of money. Job done - usually in three months.

The morning after we had the donkey pics we were packing the car to head for Dieppe when a text came through from the buyers. They'd decided not to buy. No explanation; they were just out. Since we still had one more report on the house to get finalised nothing had been signed - so we were stuffed.

Despite this huge disappointment and not to mention the expenditure, TCMB got straight back on the horse as it were and re advertised the property. Given the statement I made in this posts first paragraph we were dumbfounded to get five more requests for viewings within a week. 

One of the requests was from an older couple in Morbihan (Brittany) who wanted to see the house asap. They told us they would be coming down in their motorhome (it's a 7 hour journey) and we agreed they could come and have a look on the Friday which was four days away. Imagine our surprise when they turned up in the village the very next morning.

Somewhat taken aback we let them have a look around. While still on site they also offered us the full asking price.

A little questioning revealed that while they were shortly about to complete the sale of their house the deal on the property they had been buying to replace it had fallen through. Because they didn't relish the prospect of spending the winter in a motor home they wondered if we would consider moving out in October so that they could rent our place while the purchase process was completed during the following month?

Partially because my spider sense started tingling and partially because the whole moving from one country to another thing was already complex enough as it was I said no... but as a compromise I promised they could bring their furniture down and store it in our barn for free when we got a little nearer to the finish line.

They stayed in the village for the next three days and told the neighbours they were going to be moving in very soon. Back and forth they came, tape measures in hand. Solely into biologique foods (which is a definite form of intellectual snobbery in France) the Suirat's (which I still keep reading as "sewer rats") refused every offer of tea or coffee and seemed to exist on a diet of lentils, mung beans, and their own intensity.

Of course for us it was a question of once bitten twice shy. Tentatively we rebooked house viewings in Wales, and, after the "sewer rats" had toddled off northward the emails reassuringly continued to flow back and forth, with pictures of her daughters wedding (I know, right) and other totally unrelated nonsense. We had it seems, become firm friends.

Once in Wales we viewed everything on our list and found nothing totally to our liking except the very last house - which we couldn't actually see the inside of until our scheduled appointment the following day. Filled with sudden joy at finding what looked like a real gem we had a lovely day on the nearby beach and at lunch time went to Tesco's in Cardigan to get a coffee.

Mwnt beach. Now there's lovely look you.

Which is when we had the text telling us the "sewer rats" were also backing out of the sale!

Apparently our bestest friend in all the world was not feeling well and no longer wished to move all the way down to the Creuse.

It somewhat spoiled our day.

The Current Mrs Broom - being the grown up that she is, refused to use the extensive list of profanities I provided for her, restricting herself to a simple text acknowledgement of the situation - followed by an instant re activation of our "house for sale" advert on the internet. Two new viewings were accepted that evening, timed for  a couple of days after returning to France.

With a very heavy heart we decided to cancel the next days visit to our dream home and TCMB was reaching for the phone to do so when it pinged with an incoming email. To our surprise it was the "sewer rats".

Our bestest friend in all the world claimed she had been in a fever and hadn't meant to pull out of the sale after all. She was VERY VERY sorry and hoped we could all just move past this and continue as though nothing had happened.  Oh and could we re visit the prospect of renting them the house for a month?


Forgiveness. Not my strong suit I'm afraid; but needs must when the devil vomits on your eiderdown as they say.

Frankly worried about losing what looked like our best bet for re settlement in the UK we provisionally agreed to their rental request armed with the knowledge that we now had two more potential purchasers coming around in the following week.

Conciliatory emails continued to fly thick and fast, the Wales house was viewed and money deposited to secure it. I can assure you that committing yourself to such an expensive enterprise when you doubt the sincerity of your own buyers is a worrying situation that I hope no one else has to ever go through.

The first new pair came to see the house a week after we returned. They were city folk from (relatively) near by Clermont Ferrand. We sat outside for a while and they picked grapes from our vines to munch in the sunshine. They made an offer the next day.

I accepted it immediately.

My email to the "sewer rats" calling off the sale was polite (despite myself) but short. They responded straight back. They were looking forward to coming down to our village on the 24th September with their furniture - which they'd be putting in our barn!

I checked the translation of my previous email several times but its message was pretty clear. Diplomatically I replied that, no, they couldn't bring their furniture to put in our barn, because we were no longer selling them our house. "Ding" came the instant reply. They were really looking forward to seeing us again on the 24th and would be bringing wine and cakes.

The emails went back and forth a further 8 times, my final one asking them what the "f**k did they not understand?" Each of my increasingly furious responses was matched by an instant nonsensical but loving reply filled with heart emoji's. Aaaargh.

I sat around outside our barn on the 24th with a very big stick. Unfortunately, or thankfully, depending on your viewpoint, they didn't show.

We later found out that anyone renting a property in France over the winter months cannot (by law) be evicted - even if they fail to pay any rent. Once the winter is over they would have been in residence long enough to claim the French equivalent of squatters rights.

I submit to you all that this was in fact a bullet well and truly dodged.

With all reports completed (and there's a whole extra story there about the septic tank which I will spare you) the new couple signed on the the 30th October and with their back out period now expired we are set to complete on the 10th December. I hope.

Trouble at T'Mill - Intermarche

And so on to less serious matters. During January 2018 I popped into the Aubusson branch of Intermarche to get TCMB a jar of Nutella (other chocolate and nut based spreads are available - so I'm told). It transpires that the French, like my darling wife, are mad for all things chocolate and after five years out here I've seen this particular product smeared on just about everything - well... nearly everything! I suppose there'll be a website for that somewhere.

I'd arrived that morning unaware that this was a critical moment in French retail, a critical moment in which I was destined to play a pivotal part.

Wandering idly towards the Nutella isle I noticed a small crowd had gathered, a small crowd muttering in excited agitation. One of the shops junior staff was putting up a sign which translated as - "today only, special discount."

Even from the back of the pack I could see that the price of a Nutella jar had been slashed from Euro 4,50 to Euro1,40.

What madness was this?

Their strap line on the pot claims - Nutella arouses your enthusiasm.

Recognising a "good thing" when I saw it I pushed through the stupefied throng and picked up two jars quick sharp.

A hand gripped my wrist, its owner apparently taking issue with my attempted "bulk" purchase.

Telling him to get lost in my halting French served only to reveal I was from perfidious Albion. Sacre Blue! One of the plastic jar's was knocked from my grip whereupon it cracked open on the floor.

People desperate to get a piece of the action pushed past my sparring partner and I, smearing the contents of the broken jar across the tiles like dog shit. A flustered store manager arrived to restore order but it was already too late. The crowd were angry. Hadn't he heard? Foreigners were taking their Nutella! The few individuals who like me had managed to get their mitts on two jars found themselves eagerly misidentified as "etranger" and berated by those only able to grab the one. Swearing became shoving which in turn became something far more ugly. I handed my remaining jar to a grateful old lady and rapidly made my exit.

The Gendarmerie managed to calm the riot that followed in under an hour but thanks to the interwebz the news was already out. Hordes of spread crazy paysan descended on local stores across the country seeking a similar deal. Many were terribly disappointed. Disappointment soon turned to violence.

For those seeking verification of such a tall tale I can only refer them to this contemporaneous BBC report… a link which I'm sure won't work unless you have better google foo than I. I'm crap at computers, me.

Of course you could always just google Nutella riot's I s'pose.

The shape of things to come?

With numerous back and forth trips now required across la Manche its going to be busy busy busy. Consequently I doubt there'll be much time left for blogging and certainly not for gaming.

Hopefully next year when some sort of "normality" has been re established I can pick things up where I left off before life got in the way.

During 2020 I would very much like:

1) To attempt to resurrect the Royalist cause in a second part to my original alternative civil war campaign, using Msr Foy's excellent Ramekin version of his C&C rules conversion.

2) Produce a 15mm Viking army to match my existing Saxons in some Dux Bellorum shenanigans.

3) Have a good old bash at Norms (frankly bloody excellent looking) Tigers at Minsk rules.

4) Find new uses for the Galleys and Galleons rule set that I've thoroughly enjoyed playing this year.

And Finally...

Given that this is likely to be my last post for this year - or maybe for ever if things don't work out so well on the other side, I'd like to thank everyone who has visited this blog and especially those who've bothered to leave the occasional comment. You are all, without exception, a witty, kind, inspirational bunch. The sort of people I've never managed to meet in real life. You'll never know how much your involvement has meant to a frankly lonely old cove in self imposed exile.

I wish you all peace and good fortune for the coming year.

All the best,



  1. I shall miss your posts, and look forward to seeing them resume in the New Year!

    1. Fingers crossed matey. Your attitude to gaming is one of the "inspirations" I mentioned above. First and foremost it should be fun!

  2. Well they say moving is one of the most stressful things that we do and your journey sounds every bit of that. Thank goodness you ultimately avoided the strangeness of your newest best friends,the mobile home people, no doubt some other poor soul will already be having the pleasure of their attentions.

    Nutella - who'd have thought it could raise such passion - Turkish Delight - Yes, but Nutella!

    Thanks for the Tigers at Minsk shout.

    Hope after the tribulations that 10th December goes to plan - safe journey, Norm.

    1. Norm, I've read the Tigers at Minsk rules several times over and I'm really looking forward to giving them a go. They seem to possess the same elegant simplicity that msr Foys adaptation of C&C had. Pure cat nip to me. Wished I'd seen them a few years ago.

      Turkish delight. Lol. Now a bar of Old Jamaica - that'd get me rioting.

  3. Once again a most excellent morning read with my coffee JBM. The Nutella Riot had me laughing out loud and my wife also enjoyed it.

    Your house sale experience was clearly very stressful and had me wobbling a bit at times as you described buyers pulling out at the last moment. Things seem very similar to Spain where a house purchase/sale can proceed very fast and is a relatively straightforward two stage process that can be completed in as little time as 6 weeks. given that both sides are fully committed. I think we are Ok now, bloody well better be as we have everything booked for a return on 16th December.

    Very best of luck with your move, may it go as smoothly as these things can go, given that it's a massive upheaval when moving between countries. Maybe I'll see you on the other side next year, all being well. At sometime maybe I will recount my adventures here, the Spanish bank experience being top of the list, that's been fun, we refer to it now as the Black Hole of Sabadell. Then there is the Iberdrola affair, I swear there is a little Spanish guy sitting in an office somewhere smoking and monitoring our electricity usage on a nightly basis, the number of times we have been plunged into darkness when simply turning on the oven or even the kettle.

    Hobby plans sound great, those Tigers at Minsk rules seem to produce a very challenging and realistic game.

    Cheers JBM,


    1. Lee, I know you are going through the same load of old crap as the wife and I so Iets hope it works out okay for both of us. Talk about your life in their hands eh!

      I know from your blog that you are also in the process of folding things up at that end but it'd be great to get a post or two from you on your Spanish experiences when you get a mo. Sounds like you've a few to tell!

  4. Yet another entertaining post sir...
    Though not so much for you as you lived through it...
    When I was buying my first house... the most important piece of advice I was given was... Trust No One!...
    And this was at a time in Scotland when a verbal acceptance of an offer was binding... I am not sure if things are still like that today...
    I actually remember the Nutella riots being reported on the Beeb... I also noted that on the report you linked to they didn’t end it by asking if anyone had been effected by the events reported in the article and would they like a contact number if they required support or counselling...
    As one of the few people on the planet who actually dislikes chocolate, witnessing such events may have caused me considerable distress(Excessive laughter can potentially cause serious injury)... The nightmares my have lasted for... minutes.
    I hope your move goes smoothly and I look forward more wargames posts in the new year...

    All the best. Aly

    1. Cheers Aly, I can't believe I missed out on an offer of counseling and support, bugger me I'm slipping. I was medically classed as a nutter in 2012 but if I'd played my cards right I could have been upgraded to the status of a Nutella nutter in early 2018. Goddamit, I took my eye off the ball there didn't I.

  5. So it was all your fault JBM! Imagine it could have led to the birth of the Sixth Republic and the new national anthem le Baladier Joyeuse.

    Fingers crossed for the rest of the relocation exercise. And a return to blogging in 2020.

    1. Lol. Trust me, here in France we are only ever one Nutella jar away from revolution.

      See you on the flip side matey.

  6. You have not lost form! This is another fine example of your Adventures in France episodes. I would not have predicted your exploits would include contributing to an international incident. Hope the move goes smoothly. Well not too smoothly as I really enjoy your tales from the front.

    Great stuff!

  7. Good luck with your continuing move, sounds like you're having an eventful time of it, you always spin a good yarn, I'm looking forward to hearing what Wales has in store for you!
    Best Iain

  8. Good luck with the move, and good thing you avoided the "sewer rats; they obviously knew exactly what the were up to, non?