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.
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?
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!
5th September 2004
Another day closer! Henry has attended what will probably be his last training match playing against the Wey Valley 'A' team.
I 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. 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 possessions 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).
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 eat 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.
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.
10th October 2004
We are still in the holiday mode and as the weather is ‘balmy’ at the moment so the pleasure is heightened.
However, we realise that the reality of the situation is such that things will become tougher. The weather will undoubtedly break and I’m certain there will be other problems that will niggle away at us.
The language is the biggest barrier, although we are managing well. Henry and Fleur have made a good start at school and they are receiving homework already.
I have collected about 100 kilos of walnut which at Belves market on a Wednesday should net about 200 euros.
Mind you, I have had to re examine my collection because it appeared I had too many that whilst appeared ‘good’ were too far gone. This took a great deal of time but the lesson was worth it. I have gained a critical eye already and now I will do a sweep almost on the hour to collect the latest fallers. I note that the good ones are orange and soft when freshly fallen si discard any others now. The secret in so clear the grass by cutting and raking before the fall starts and collect regularly and that way you can ensure that you only collect viable nuts and this way I will ensure that they are fresh. They will then be dried before being stored ready for market.
My estimate is that we will double the amount by the time they all have fallen and the 400 euros will come in handy for the winter. This will buy the wood (Bois) for the fire.
I have made some friends already since we have been coming here. Colin and Jackie Brieley have been a great support and inspiration to us. They have been here about 12 years and have renovated their house and this year opened their new Gite. In Colin’s words ‘It is to die for’ and I must admit I can only agree with him. He has taught himself his building and woodworking skills and has made nearly all the furnishings including the beds and kitchen etc. Jackie is studying patchworking and makes the bed covers and curtains. They are an amazing couple. Potential home
We have viewed a few properties since our arrival and the latest one is superb. It is very rural and it is arrived at via a long access road of about half a mile through a chestnut wood. When the woodland ends you end up in a 40 acre clearing which has 4 small fermettes in. There is a small vineyard plus tobacco growing together with Maize and fruit trees.
The property itself is very attractive and has the right amount of buildings that we require to start our Gite business. Until recently the owners father lived there but he has sadly died. The place has stood still in time and I kid you not that an almanac dated 1937 plus some neatly stacked French magazines dated 1967 were on a table next to the bed.
There are also two Owls in the barn and I have convinced Henry that we can put in some cameras to record the birds hatching out their young. So far the house is my current favourite so watch this space. (since rejected!)
The Boar hunters were out in force today after a delayed start to their season. Rabies has reared its ugly head after a confirmed case from a dog that was illegally imported from Morocco. It is known to have bitten people and dogs before being killed and tested at the Pasteur institute. France is distraught to have lost its Rabies free status and it is once again working to regain it. Hector, fortunately as part of the Pet passport scheme is ok. If your dog is not treated then its an offence not to have it on a leash or muzzled.
Therefore the hunters were not allowed to use their dogs until they had been inoculated by the vet. Due to the sheer volume of hunting dogs (it is a major pastime) it has only just been completed and the local Marie (Mayor) given permission to continue.