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December 2004
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February 2005

January 2005

Counting down....

We are on the final push now to completion which is scheduled for the 15th February 2005.

Because we will be up to our necks in it for some considerable time we decided to take a short break in the UK to visit family and friends and celebrate Henry's birthday although its not till the 25th.

Bergerac_ryanairArriving Tuesday evening on a flight to Stanstead from Bergerac we embarked on an extremely busy and adventurous week staying with Donna's sister Kristy, Oli her husband and our kids cousin, William near Farnham. It was action packed and most enjoyable.

Wednesday started off badly as Fleur needed emergency dental treatment after tooth broke up so we spent the rest of the day doing chores.

Henry and Fleur were lucky enough to be invited to their old school, Binsted for the afternoon. Visit_to_england_18th_jan_05_009 They had a great time and even did lessons. Its great that they have so many friends and in some respects, although its only been 4 months or so it seems like they had never left.

We also took a trip with my Visit_to_england_18th_jan_05_042_1young nieces, Leah and Mollie, Kristy, Oli and Will plus all of us to West Wittering, building sand castles on the beech and crabbing at Roman Landings by the Estuary to Chichester harbour.Visit_to_england_18th_jan_05_062 Saturday morning we watched Henry's old football team Wey Valley play against Headley. Unfortunately, Wey Valley were trounced by the high flying Headley side but the highlight for us was a guest appearance by Henry for his old team. He is still registered with the FA but alas he was not able to help too much.

Visit_to_england_18th_jan_05_066 Then on to Longmoor training area  for Henry's annual birthday bash. Its a boy thing playing war games, picking up spent rifle bullets and looking for the parachutes from the schmooly flares. Longmoor was also the home for British Army Railway Training. It served to train soldiers in building and operating railways around the world when the British Empire was at its height.

Longmoor Camp was built by the troops returning from the Boar War and the railway initially built to move accommodation huts to Bordon when the ground at Longmoor was found to be too damp for the troops.

Jean Blanc

Philip & Donna Voice decided that life was too short to spend it on the treadmill. They opted to leave the rat race and pursue a more tranquil life in rural France.

Christmas_in_france_015_3 After selling their house, Wimble Cottage at the height of the boom they headed off to the Perigord region of France to start their new venture PerigordVacance. Perigord for the region and Vacance naturally for the holiday area that it serves.

Most people who visit the Dordogne, Lot et Garonne do so for the food, wine and superb climate. After an initial interesting but fruitless search, they found Jean Blanc. A small farm near Monflaquin in the Lot et Garonne.

Requiring extensive work to bring it up to a habitable state and restoration to its former glory the works are expected to take 3 phases. Firstly,Jean_blanc_4th_jan_05_017  restoration of a small two roomed house which will be put to use as their first Gite but initially be their 'home' whilst they complete phase 2. This will become their own house but as it is larger it will take up to a year to complete.

Phase 3. will be Gite 2. A luxury bolt hole for families sleeping they hope up to 8 people.

Follow a pictorial diary of their new home Jean Blanc as it evolves.

After arriving in France in early October we were becoming a little despondent. Viewing of properties was an interesting but exhausting procedure. We were finding that if one of us liked something the other wasn't too keen and vice versa.

Our wish list was:

1. Some land - important from more than one consideration, flexibility for the future in providing an income and for the persuit of leisure activities. For a cushion against future development and of course some peace and quiet.

2. Possibly a source of water. I (Philip) wanted a small lake for the beauty of the landscape and to attract wildlife. Also for the fishing. Having had some fly fishing experience I wanted a small stocked area to provide a pastime for myself and Friends and also for future guests who were to rent our Gites.

3. Woodland was a must. Wood is a widely used fuel in France and I am no different to a lot of people who craves the perfume and the crackle of an open fire or stove on a dark cold winters night. I also think that the cost of oil is becoming prohibitive. Its also a man thing to go down the woods with a chainsaw and an axe.

4.A good aspect preferably east west which allows for all day sun with the setting sun creating a good eating evening terrace.

5. Good quality accommodation which firstly provide a good opportunity for the creation of a family home and also options for Gite accommodation and storage and working space.

6. Within the easy reach of at least one majot town and many tourist attractions of the region.

7. Within an easy drive of a golf course.

Below are some views of the house and barns before as they stand before we do any work. The project will be updated regularly with progress and relevant photos of interest.


The front of Jean Blanc (front view)


Side view


Rear view with barn on left


The Barn



The small House (to be a Gite)


Gite front view (this is to be extended)

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Decision Time

1st September 2004

Its been a an amazing year since making the decision to sell up.

Donna and I (before Kids) had holiday'd in France since we were married in 1988. It has always been a dream as it is with many to give up the 'Rat Race' and move to somehwhere with a slower pace of life with character, and a bit more sun. The idea was to do this when Henry and Fleur had left home and begun work and I never contemplated it sooner.

However, July 16th 2001 was the catalyst for change. My Mum, Lynda Voice sadly and suddenly died after a brave and long 8 year fight with her health, she was only 57.

The cliche' 'Life is too short' rattled around our heads and entered into our many conversations.

Lots of water went under the bridge in the following weeks and  months!,  extreme pressures at times with work and the long hours took their toll.  Our day seemed to be 28 hours in duration and the working week was 8 days long, things had to change.  It became so bad that we made the momentous decision to bring things forward. The success and the money by now was not a compensation.

I would browse the IFP website nightly, drooling over the many houses for sale. Then, one day in October 2003 we booked the Eurotunnel and drove down to to the Loire and viewed a property near Loches in the Loire.

It was a whirlwind visit, initially planning to go down and return on the same day. However, as we should have known, France is a big place and although we used the excellent Autoroutes we just didn't have enough time.

The house was near Charnizay, a very quiet and peaceful village. We met the English agent in the car park beside the church and proseeded to follow him deeper into the countryside. I already felt at ease.

It was not ideal for us but it was a lovely house. However, we went away warm in the thought that these pictures on the internet were real tangible places and not beyond our reach.

We felt 'cream crackered' after our journey and 2 hour long viewing, but we realised that the stack of un-organised paper and schedules back in the office were not an important part of what is a finite life.

We stayed overnight in Loches itself, a wonderful place, we felt so relaxed even though just 2 days previous we were up to eyes in running the business.

We came back and almost simultaneously Donna and I decided that the timing was right, we should make the move now, it was the right oportunity and  that we had a  year window in which to conjure up a plan and execute it so Henry could transfer schools without affecting him too much.

Selling the Business

Wow!! it started to dawn on us that we had 'made the decision' and the first thing was to sell the business. Hard call because it had been my life for 19.5 years. I had known no different and it is how we made our living.

I made a call to my Friend James Bligh who had worked for us in the early nineties when we built the now legendary 'Walled Garden' for Carrie Zetter (Zetters Pools). James and I had nearly bought a nursery together some years previously and I knew how anbitious he was. James came to see me, I think in November 2003 and by Feb 10th 2004 the deal was done! I remain as a consultant for Philip Voice Ltd but thankfully Chris, James' friend and General Manager was quick to get established and now I'm free to advance to the next challenge.

However, business was not all gloom and over the years it was fullfilling for the majority of the time and we completed some wonderful projects. I will add photos at a later date (01/09/04)

I am proud to have lasted 20 years !! and I wish James and Chris every success for the future.

Not to hog the limelight myself , Donna was and remains a magnificent partner in business and in life too:) Her


contribution to Philip Voice Ltd was as equal to mine and together we made and make one of the best Husband/Wife partnerships you can have in business.

Wimble Cottage

We lived at Wimble Cottage, Wimble_rear_view_website_2 Oakhanger  (formerly the Bungalow) for 14 years having moved in in July 1990.

Leaving somewhere that you love is an amazingly hard thing to do but now IS the right time for us. Having sold the  business it really gave us the oportunity to 'Live the Dream' ! Sounds corny on paper but that is exactly what we are doing. Only time will tell if it is right. (note: 7th November 2004. We find we do not miss the house itself)

The leaving party

Last night was fantastic, a night that we will never forget. The weather made a spectacular effort for us and the evening was warm and clear. Many shooting stars (and I don't mean my Elvis impression either!) were seen in the clear starry sky, surely an omen?


Friends travelled from far and wide to be with us and Donna and I feel so humble that so many came to see us off. Thank you for the cards and presents too!

To all our friends regardless of whether you managed to make it or not Thank you!

We now have to clear up the mess!

We are now on full countdown to the move date of the 13th September. I'm probably mad but with the help of Clive, James and David and 2 self drive lorries we are going to tackle the task ourselves!

We will continue to pack the last Hector_1of our things till then and as we do the house feels emptier and emptier and Hector, our Lab is getting more and more nervous as he tries to work our whats going on.

5th September 2004

Another day closer! Henry has attended what will probably be his last training match playing against the Wey Valley  'A' team.

Henry___pals_1I am hoping that we can arrange a return with what will be our local team when we are established in France. Even at this stage I am in contact with Craig McGinty another expat who plays for St Cernin close to Monpazier.

Its odd, we have seen these boys grow up together since the age of 5. In the picture below are some of Henry's friends from Oakhanger and Binsted School.

7th September 2004

Not much really going on with the moving of the furniture just 5 days away.

I believe in fate so I was warmed by what happened this afternoon while clearing the last of the loft. We have a book called the Rough Guide To France and we were debating if we needed to keep it.

I opened the book randomly and wow! I opened it at the page of Monpazier, the local town to where we will live for the next 6 months. Donna says its because we have bent the spine of the book while reading the page in the past. I know what I think!

9th September 2004

Packing is reaching the final stage now and Monday looms large!

The Herald paper, who we advertised with for the last 20 years ran a feature on our move today.

After such a wonderful week with the weather set fair I hear that the ramains of hurricane Frances is to sweep across the UK from Sunday onwards. As we are going over the channel on Monday (13th) it looks like a choppy crossing to come.

Blackmoor Golf Club

I played my last game as a member.Last_game_of_golf_010_1 It has been a big part of my life. I have been associated with the club since a wee boy having sat on the Caddie bench at about 7 years of age, waiting for someone to hire me. A tradition long gone as I'm sure political correctness means 7 year olds can't work for pocket money anymore.

I went on to work on the greens straight from school under Head Greenkeeper  Bill Moseley, but 2 major accidents changed the direction of my life and I had to leave. A brief but special spell at Lower Roundhurst Farm ( The summer resting placer for Sefton the horse who was nearly killed by the bomb in Hyde Park), Blackdown, Haslemere then led on to me starting my business (although an odd job style existence to start with).

12th September 2004.

Well reality is really starting to dawn. It is our final night in Wimble Cottage and tomorrow we load all of our belongings into two lorries and sail to France. Donna has worked tirelessly to get the packing done both for the move and the holiday we are having in the interim.

The journey to France was brilliant. David, Clive and James were stars! Everything went so smoothly and I could not have wished for a better result.

We unloaded our wordly Clive_phil_james_david_editedpossessions into the barn at Le Mas and after a hearty BBQ and a couple of bottles of Paddy's (Chilean wine!!) and a good nights kip we returned to Blighty (a lot qicker than we came).

Thankyou Guys

3rd October 2004

Well, its really Happened!!

We left Wimble Cottage on the 17th September for the final time. No real sadness just happy memories.

Since then we have been on an amazing journey of the geographical sense and emotional kind too. We have had to scrounge beds with friends and hade to take two holidays to Sunset_menroca_2eat up the time between completion and moving here to Le Mas in France. We have been to Cornwall where we visited the Eden Project and the Lost Gardens of Heligan and then to Menorca for a week. We flew back on Saturday morning (1st Oct) and that same night we were on the ferry to France arriving the following morning.

4th October

Henry and Fleur have been enrolled in school. Henry will attend Monpazier and Fleur Capdrot.



They start tomorrow (Tues 5th Oct) They are amazingly excited and even made friends this afternoon when we went back to complete the form filling.

Its a shame that they will go to different schools but they are both so confident that we will not worry about them.

5th October 2004

Well the day started disastrously! After setting my mobile phone to awaken me at 6.30am I turned it off and went back to sleep.

I re awoke at 7.50am in a panic. Henry & Fleur needed to be at Monpazier for 8.30am. After a cup of hurried coffee (no time for showers) and taking Hector for a quick wee we headed off to the school. Surprise! we were the first there.

Normally Henry will start at 9.10am and Fleur would then be taken to Capdrot for the same start time. We just didn't want to be late.

While the kids were at school Donna and I took the oportunity to visit Issabelle Leygues (whom we know quite well now after our numerous visits to France). We arranged a visit before we have to pick the kids up to a fermette and small cottage near Biron 5 miles from Monpazier.

A lovely place with lots of buildings and  hectare of land. It would be ideal but a little high on price considering the work that needs to be done.

But the highlight of the viewing was walking up into an attic room above the small house and seeing two (distressed) Barn Owls flying around.

One managed to escape through the small window but the other (which the owner tried to intercept) flew straight down the stairs brushing my leg and flying past Donna and out the door! Fantastic and it might be worth buying the property just for the owls.

There were also Bats which I find fascinating. Kinda shame to disturb the wildlife but we have already researched nest and box cams so one day we might get a chance to film something like that.

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