When Lawrence retired he sometimes said, “Oh I wouldn’t mind going back there”, (to one of the countries where we had lived,) but I never wanted to go back. He was quite happy that we went over to France every year and had a good holiday, but I am not a tourist at heart. I am a bit of a ‘homebody’. In our marriage I was never the adventurous one, I just went where Lawrence went and made a home there. But France was so accessible even for us, even from up north, and we could go for three or four months at a time.
When we decided to look for somewhere in France, I was 59 at the time, and Lawrence was 68. We had the time to do up at a house, and Lawrence just liked to get ‘stuck in’ to a project.
The first priority was that we were looking for something cheap, but everything in our price range needed so much work doing on it.
We had been staying at a Bed and Breakfast run by an English couple, and the Estate Agent came and picked us up every day and took us around the area. We saw the house at La Roche Rimbault on the last day before we went back. We were going through Lessay and she stopped to ask a colleague if she had anything, and came back with the details. All the others we had seen were really derelict; there was hardly a wall that was complete. We looked at this one and it had four good walls and a roof that didn’t leak. There was no sanitation or anything else, but it did have an open fire when it was cold. We thought we could live in it whilst we did it up. We had a think about it and on the ferry Lawrence rang the agents and made an offer of £28,000.
For the first year or two we just had a chemical toilet that we had taken from the caravan in Wales, and a ‘safari’ shower – which was just a big plastic bag suspended from a tree that got hot in the sun, and then you could stand under it to wash, whilst it drained out. When the water ran out that was it! But we were totally happy, and we had the weather!
There was one tap at the top of the cellar steps and an old fashioned wood stove, where we could boil water. I used to have a bath in the middle of the hall in a tin tub, filled from the stove. There was a tiny shallow sink that was the only one in the house; I don’t know how they used to live like that. When we bought it, there were potty’s everywhere! When we put the septic tank in, I asked the plumber what they used to do and he said they just ‘whoosh’ (indicates throwing into the hedge).
There were quite a lot of grass snakes, but having lived in Malaysia and Kenya it wasn’t a problem to us. They were in the walls because it was warm!
There were no foundations and so we had to make the cellar waterproof, so we dug out first to make it a bit lower. We had a plastic liner on the floor and Lawrence was outside with a concrete mixer, sending it down in a chute. Bernard (Lawrence’s brother) and I were up to our wellingtons in concrete, trying to rake it over and make it even.
We loved it!! Lawrence was in his element! He was so handy, that he would say, “we will do this”, and then he did it.