On Thursday morning we left early, not even sure that anyone else would be there. The meeting was being held at the office of the vendor’s notaire, about half an hour away. Waiting outside, I felt sick with nerves. Bang on 9 o’clock, Maître G, Chris and Gérard all arrived and we were shown into the waiting room of Maître B, a small serious man in large spectacles. While we waited…and waited, Maître G explained that when Monsieur had been informed that we had pulled out of the sale he suddenly panicked and decided he would pay off the debt he owed, from the proceeds of the sale of the mill. The huissier, bailiff acting on behalf of the creditor, was whizzing down from Paris to handle the legal signing off of the debt and would arrive at 10am. The notaire’s team had worked until 10pm the night before to get all the legal documentation in order and the only thing we needed now was Monsieur.
Then there was the sound of someone arriving and being ushered quickly into another room. Chris explained that Monsieur hated the huissier with a passion and they mustn’t even see each other, let alone be in the same room or everything could go terribly wrong.
So it was not without a little trepidation that we entered Maître B’s office to find Monsieur sitting there, beaming at us affably. Everyone shook hands with everyone else and sat down. As we waited for the notaire to organise the massive pile of documents neatly into piles I looked round the room. Above filing cabinets and shelves piled high with fusty paper files every inch of the walls was covered with original oil paintings of Paris, the type you see on postcards – a collection obtained from a client who used to paint in Montmartre in Paris, apparently.
The meeting got underway, with the two notaires taking it in turns to read through each clause of the Acte de Vente and explain the implications. Every now and then one or other would leave the room to deal with the huissier who had arrived and been hidden in another room. After one such absence Maître G returned with a single sheet of paper which she asked Monsieur to sign, then left the room again with a crafty thumbs up to Colin and me as she passed. One hour in and we were still ploughing through the contract. We got to the clause about the fosse septique, septic tank, which Monsieur was supposed to have had modified to bring it up to standard. “Oui, j’ai tout fait moi-même” (Yes, I did it all myself) beamed Monsieur.
“And have you had it certified, as agreed in the presale contract?”
“No, I looked on line and it said I had a year to do it”
Sharp intake of breath around the room. Monsieur had not honoured another condition of the contract. All eyes turned to us.
Colin and I had already wagered that the fosse hadn’t been done, and quite frankly we would rather get it done ourselves than trust Monsieur’s efforts. We indicated that this would not be a deal breaker and everyone visibly relaxed again.
At last, three hours after arriving, and an interminable everyone-round –the-table-signing-every-side-of-every-document again (Maître B not having a reliable enough phone connection to even contemplate doing things on line) we got to the point of handing over the keys.
“Oh, I haven’t got the keys”, said Monsieur merrily. “They’re at the mill – it’s Ok, I’ve left it all open”
Finally, as Monsieur tottered off down the road, the rest of us stood outside the notaire’s office hugging and shaking hands. Both notaires said that in all their years in the business they had never had a case like it.
Of course everything stopped for lunch time but in the afternoon we picked up the hire van, drove it back to the mill and unloaded our furniture. As the sun slid down behind the hill, we cracked open the bubbly and wondered along the river, glasses in hand, to inspect our new domain. The next chapter begins!