"The 8.16 train to London Victoria has been cancelled due to leaves on the line. We apologise for this inconvenience"
A collective groan, with British reserve, reverberated along the station platform. Another normal day in the life of the commuter trying to get into work to earn a heavily taxed crust.
I stood on the station platform and looked around me. That familiar site that had greeted my pollution-reddened eyes for the last 15 years was becoming tainted. The drab colours of ill-fitting and over worn suits, mixed with badly ironed shirts and "racy" ties. Let me tell you about those ties.
It seems that there is a belief that you can be thoughtless and grey in all of your attire, but when you enter a Gentleman's outfitters, and head for the section marked "Ties", you enter into a new world. This one garment can describe and liberate you, verging on being risqué and out of character. Your eyes are attracted to South Park characters, Disney or at worst, a Jackson Pollock reproduction that looks like your scrambled egg missed your mouth. You purchase this tasteless tie, and walk out of the shop, floating on air, like Mary Poppins clutching onto her umbrella.
The weather too- the favourite topic of conversation- never seems to vary. The grey, heavy skies with ever threatening rain, add a dull lustre to everything.
So, while waiting for the next train, that I know will be full, and that we will be treated to an experience that even cattle on the way to market would decline, I had to ask myself a question. What's it all about? This has been my life for the last 15 years, the quality of my life is being diminished by continuing to be a rodent clone in this rat race, and there must be a better way to exist- even to live happily every day. Is there a way out?
My brother had left England and moved to South West France to start a new life. He was vaguely forced to do this, as he had fallen victim of the 21st Century culture of being far too old at 54 to be considered for new employment. What happened to those values that stated that experience is everything? He bought a ruin of a property in a small village for next to nothing, spent 1 year renovating it, and began a new life. I had been to visit them on a few occasions and discovered a region in France that I had previously not known. The Languedoc-Rousillon is on the West coast of the Mediterranean heading towards the Spanish border. Their home is situated in one of the 6 regions, namely the Aude.
The 5 other regions are; Herault, Tarn, Haute Garonne, Ariege and Pyrenees Orientales. Each one is different, filled with touristic and rural villages, beaches, mountains, waterfalls, history, and variety to quench all tastes. More detailed information on the regions in future articles.
Maybe this is the way out? Sometimes the best solutions are the most obvious and simple. Why not sell my home in London, kiss goodbye to my fellow commuters (maybe not) and buy a property in the Aude and work for myself.
Over a gin and tonic, with plenty of ice, a plan was hatched. I would go and spend 2 weeks with my brother, make appointments with property finders and try and find the dream. I booked my budget ticket and flew out, filled to the brim with expectations. That was short lived as the property finders had not followed my brief at all, and the appointments that they had made for me turned out to be a total waste of time. Estate Agents were not expecting me, then they dug out a handful of properties to show me that missed the mark by many kilometres.
Imagine looking at properties, day after day, that, even with the wildest imagination, one knows that they could never be renovated to any suitable level of comfort or quality. I was looking for a primary residence, not a holiday home, and therein lies a big difference. Holiday home buyers can see things through rose tinted spectacles as their needs are different to purchasers who aim to live permanently in their new home.
At the end of my first week and 27 properties later that all got an emphatic thumbs down, I was walking from my brother's home to the Boulangerie (a trek of at least 1 minute), when I spotted a hand written notice on a green metal gate. "2 houses for sale, could be made into 1, with other properties. Contact buyer on ****** )
A phone call was made, an appointment set up for later that morning. What lay in wait behind that green gate?
Imagine 300 year old stone which was part of the villages' ramparts. Originally the total property for sale contained 6 homes, now turned into 4 "spaces", which included a ground floor apartment that was being used, partly, as a "kitchen" to sell Kebabs through a window to passing trade and a greasy living area. Then we have next door, a commercial property that housed an Estate Agent of unknown origins. Above both of these ground floor properties, there are 2 houses, both containing 2 floors. Lost? So was I when being shown around- trying to imagine the overall picture. After an interesting 3 hours of drinking Ricard and negotiating in typical French style, a deal was struck to purchase all 4 "spaces", and at the end of my second week, I was a home owner in Bize-Minervois, Aude, Languedoc.
I was now free to make the next bold step and sell up in London and move to the Aude, refurbish the spaces into workable properties, and start the dream. It was no easy move, with many "interesting" experiences. I decided to set up my own Property Finding Services to offer future dream hunters a smoother ride down this worth-while but pot-holed route to leaving the rat race behind.
Copyright 2006 Propertysolutionslanguedoc.com