You’ll remember from reading The Back Story that I had the weirdest feeling of “coming home” when we first headed towards Villefranche-du-Perigord in July 2017.
On the journey from the point of Frayssinet le Gelat onwards I kept seeing things that were triggering strong emotions, until by the time we drove into the village and pulled up in the car park by the lake it just felt like we were home. Over the coming days this feeling increased in magnitude for many reasons, some completely inexplicable some more easily explained.
I’ve always liked France, but never had the strong compulsion to live there, not like my frequent whims to live in the Canary Islands, or Spain – every time we went on holiday somewhere I would want to look at house prices and sell up and move to a new life. But this was different, it felt much more like coming back to a place that I belonged.
We met up with Carole and Bernard twice in the July visit, firstly for afternoon tea and cakes when it was just lovely to sit with them and reminisce about the times we visited them with Dad and Ann, and their very strong friendship they had with them. And then we were invited for Saturday night dinner, where we met Carol and Craig – another English couple. By Saturday evening we had made so many enquiries with the Notaire, Immobilier and Maire that we had loads to tell Carole and Bernard and as we told the four of them I found myself listening to the words coming out of my mouth. It was so strange because the ideas were evolving in my head as I verbalised it, and plans for doing this, that and the other were quite literally unfolding as I spoke.
I hadn’t really fully considered the prospect of actually building a home to live in and moving to France up until this point – just the concept of getting the land ownership in the right place was the priority up until that point (currently it is in limbo land – Ann dying first left it to Dad, and there was no time to complete a transfer of ownership in the short 2 months before he then died).
But as we spoke, both Martin and myself, to Carol and Bernard (who had their own very magical memories of the land), and to Carol and Craig (who both thought it all sounded brilliant), our own dreams began.
We also met Pierre – our immediate neighbour on this trip. See plots 467, 468 and 383 on the map – that’s his land – 17, 18 and 19 are our lands or “the land” as we were referring to it at this time.
The dogs had been running around and not having any boundaries between the plots of land, had ventured over to Pierre’s plot. His young daughter, Lucy Luna, had been a bit scared and so he had wondered over to see who these people were. Luckily Pierre speaks English quite well (far better than our French which is not difficult) and we were able to explain who we were. I asked him if he remembered Dad and Ann, and he said he had never met them, but he had heard tales of this old English couple who had worked on the land but had disappeared suddenly. I explained that they had both died, having never even started to build. Pierre asked our plans for the land, saying that he had friends who might be interested in buying it to increase their community (more about Pierre’s family in another post but they are the loveliest family, who live a very eco-friendly, simple, sustainable existence). The feelings of possessiveness came back to me again, as had happened a few days before when we found the wrong plot and thought someone had built on “our” land, again reinforcing that feeling of needing to do something. I told Pierre that we were going to go back to England and think about our options but would definitely be doing something. He said, in his lovely, gentle, soft voice that he would be very pleased to have us as his neighbours, and that his mother Alice would be ecstatic!! We asked why and he explained that she speaks perfect English and yearns for people to speak English to. We didn’t get the opportunity to meet Alice as she was away, but we felt really pleased with the prospect of perhaps living in a place when we wouldn’t feel too much like outsiders coming in.
Still, at that point we did not have the firm, concrete plans that we do now – it was all just feelings, ideas, dreams – popping into our heads.
The romantic notion of pursuing something that Dad and Ann had set out to do before their dreams were cut short was definitely pulling at the heart strings. It felt so utterly unfair that not even one of them had lived for long enough to see even foundations put down on “this little piece of land”.
Strange as it seems, I felt, and still do now all the time, feel more connected to my father there on the land than I ever did when he was alive. It’s as if I feel his spirit rustling in the trees. We never had the relationship that I would have wanted when he was alive, for many reasons, and for no-ones and everyone’s fault in equal measures. But here, on this little piece of land, in this lovely French village, nestled in the very bottom jigsaw shape piece of the Dordogne/Lot border I felt as if I wanted to carry on their dreams in honour of them. But equally, it was more than wanting to continue their dreams, we began to want to do it for ourselves too.
We stalled our return home for a few days as we just couldn’t tear ourselves away, and instead of visiting a few more places we stayed a few more nights. Before we left we placed some flowers in a make do vase, cable tied to the tree that marks the beginning of the land. The words on it are simple – “RIP Dad and Ann – Forever in Your Dream Home”. They might not have achieved their dream house, but this place was definitely their “Dream Home”.
I left there thinking that it won’t really matter what we end up doing on the land – if it is just a concrete hand standing with electric and water so that we can park Marsha the Motorhome on that will be fine but a little wooden house would be lovely.
Once back in the UK we had discussions with James about the finer points of how we could progress this – and came up with a way forward. I think we could all see the benefit in us doing something with it, they can visit with the children and we can all enjoy the beautiful space that meant so much to Dad and Ann.
The words of the beautiful song that we chose as one of our Wedding pieces “Feels like home” by Chantal Kreviazuk resonate very strongly with me in connection with this land.
I feel happier here than anywhere else in my whole life, settled, calm, comfortable. Luckily, Martin feels very similarly to me – he has lots of fond memories of visiting Dad and Ann also, and both of us are so soppy and sentimental about both of our Dad’s that he makes the same sort of connections.
We have found our forever home – and can’t wait to begin to put our own stamp on it.
©Sharon Rees-Williams – wordpress.com/thislittlepieceof.land, 2018
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