Planning Permission and other joys…

The hot water heater was the final straw. I now officially admit that I am getting very, VERY sick of my 1/4 renovated house which we currently live in.

The hot water heater on the fritz has of course absolutely nothing to do with the renovations we’re currently planning, but today I’m just in a fug of frustration about home ownership.

When we moved here in the summer of 2004 it seemed to me a good idea to find a fixer-upper to buy (and anyone who knows Franck and I will know that we seem to be drawn to truly desperate causes). Here were my reasons;

1. In France it is possible to get a 4.5% fixed rate mortgage for a 25 year term and amortization. That’s right – no renegotiating – same low rate for the whole 25 years.

2. I really wanted to have a base here that we could settle into, and didn’t have to be worrying about a landlord selling, repossessing, or kicking us out of our abode.

3. I wanted any work and / or investment we put into our house to benefit us, not a landlord

4. Paying monthly rent to a landlord frankly drives me crazy when I consider that I could be paying a mortgage instead (and a mortgage with good terms – see Point #1)

5. Lastly, and most importantly, I had this VISION. Now, my “VISIONS” often are what get me into deep water and / or seemingly endless and impossible reno projects. This particular VISION was of a comfortable country style home here in the vineyards, near Franck’s family, where we could receive friends and have wonderful leisurely meals out on the deck. When we move back to Canada it would be a place to come back to for us and our girls, hopefully bringing cousins and assorted kidlets along with us as the children get older. I saw it as our anchor here in France. I think you’ll agree with me, this is quite a lovely vision.

However, as it stands today there is still an alarmingly LARGE gap between my vision and reality. Besides the fact that we have no hot water at the moment, we also have hideous wallpaper that I told my best friend Andrea when she came in the Spring of our first year here that I couldn’t live with for another three months (this was two years ago), a kitchen counter that is so infiltrated with water that the whole thing is collapsing before my eyes, a deck that still has the stylish (not) finish of broken tiles and raw cement…the list goes on an on.

For the past two years the hideous state of our home here in France was only a mild embarrassment as we were working on the other gites and although I am quite crazy I am not crazy enough to embark on more than 1 renovation project at a time. I know a Freudian psychoanalyst would have a field day as to why I spend a good part of my life fixing up wonderful places for other people to stay in while my own abode is such a downright dive, but frankly there are some things that are just not worth thinking about overmuch.

And besides, we have encountered some real roadblocks. The biggest of all is planning permission. We have the fortune / misfortune to be located in the vicinity of two historically classed monuments a: 1) 12th Century Chateau tower and a 2) a 12th century chapel at the top of Mont Saint Victor (never mind that it is completely hidden by trees).

This means we have the dire misfortune of coming under the jurisdiction of the “Architect of the Historical Monuments of France”. So we filled out and submitted all the forms, jumped through all the hoops, etc. to ask permission to open up one extra french door leading on to out deck. The response is supposed to come in 6 weeks. This was 3 months ago…

Appeal? you suggest. Phone and ask then to hurry up? Ah-hah. But seriously, no. This is the worst possible manifestation of french administration we are talking about here. The man has absolute power (and what did they say about absolute power again?…that thing about corrupting absolutely? anyway, I’ll let you read in the rest and stop just short of libel). The only person he has to answer to is the Minister of Culture, and if you think that the Minister of Culture in Paris will be accepting our phone calls because our planning permission for our french doors is late, well then you must just be the kind of crazy person that would undertake two reno projects at the same time.

Besides, we already had a little (ahem) tussle with him over La Vieille Vigne. He and Franck had a bit of a (cough – understatement alert) difference of opinions concerning the colour of the shutters and our skylights in the main room. This paragon of administrative uselessness thinks that ALL shutters in Burgundy should be painted GRAY. Charming. So I painted La Vieille Vigne’s bright turquoise and we bulldozed the permission for the skylights through the Mayor’s Office. So let’s just say we’re not on his good books. So now we’re just trying to lay real low and hope that as there are a lot of Germains in Burgundy he will confuse us with someone else. But until we get the permission we can’t do anything.

So there’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. In the meanwhile here’s a photo my lovely friend Heather took when they were visiting from Germany the other week. Franck made an amazing “tagine” and we ate it out on the deck while the kids watched a video inside. Besides the unfinished aggregate on the deck and the exposed mortar blocks that are not painted or stuccoed it captures the essence of my still elusive dream.