08 Feb Escape to the Château 30 years ago
In the beginning, there was just this house and nothing else !
Escape to the Château ! So many years of history behind us; we changed our lives, we built a campsite from scratch putting in Kms of water pipe, underground electricity cables, building, and so, so much more. From the plans, to actually physically building it ourselves. We battled the odds, we overcame each obstacle that was laid in our path by others, including a very crooked estate agent, a notaire, an avocate and a whole lot more, you would not believe. Films are made of this stuff ! We have experienced quite an adventure and oh my goodness, what we have achieved since 09/02/1991 is nothing short of an astounding, unbelievable miracle ! As a young family we left England for our own Escape to the Château, the biggest adventure and gamble we have ever taken in our lives, on the evening of 08/02/1991. It was freezing cold and had been snowing hard all that day, as it also had been doing in France. I watched quietly, feeling very unsure, as our belongings were loaded into the removal truck. Our last calls before sailing away was to our Parent’s homes to say goodbye. This was hard, my heart shattered into a million pieces just at the thought of saying “good-bye”, my emotions were in turmoil. No longer will they be a short drive away, no longer could my children run into their homes and shout ” I’m here”! Grand-parents have so much love and years of knowledge learnt to offer to little ones. And no longer there for us, when we needed that hug and reassurance. I just felt as if I was robbing my very young children of their special moments with their grand-parents. Not forgetting nana Lainie, an amazing Lady who played a very special part in our lives and whom we loved dearly. This wonderful Lady is quite another story ! At the time my mind was like a cement mixer, turning and turning, round and round, with thoughts that deeply unsettled and upset me. My Father actually refused to say goodbye to me, he just turned away from me and said ” Just go”. At that time, I did not realise it was to hide his emotions from me. He was devastated we were moving so far away and he would not be able to call in to see me and his grandchildren. My Mother and Stuart’s parents all felt the same, empty and hollow, but wished us luck and hugged us all goodbye. All of them with deep concerns as to if we were doing the right thing. They were all losing a big part of themselves and it hurt them all deeply. It was very different 30 years ago ! That night it was an incredible, tough, emotional drive to the boat for me. We actually all sat in silence, harbouring our own thoughts, deeply lost within them as we headed towards Portsmouth. As we sailed, I left a huge chunk of my heart behind. However, our Escape to the Château, was not quite like today’s television programme. Château de Lacomté once upon a time did stand tall and proud, a beautiful building, the farm and the windmill both at one time belonging to the owner of the Château. But for a very long time now the Château ruins lay quietly buried beneath the rubble, ruins that are holding on to all of it’s secrets of the past. The Windmill now belongs to our neighbour, which be bought from the previous owner. The Dr’s nurse and subsequent girlfriend, also another story waiting to be told ” Ménage à Trois ” at Lacomté ! The Dr had a daughter, surprisingly none of the Villagers, except 1 knew about her. We have met her and she stayed here with us during 2011, it was simply incredible to reminisce with her, her memories mind blowing. We have visited her at her home on several occasions and she has given me many old photos and shared her memories of past years, simply amazing. She is now 91 years of age and I count it as a blessing to have met her. Anyway, back to the original topic ! We bought the out-buildings nestled within 30 acres of tranquil, picturesque Château parkland. I personally did not like the main building much, it was huge and not in great shape. It had mildew on the walls and smelt badly of mice, dead and alive, there was mouse or bat poo everywhere, it was very dreary, very damp and you needed a good imagination. The building felt so sad and unloved; but we felt deeply within our souls that we could change all of that, the walls would once again sing and laugh out loud ! The grounds were magical, I fell in love with them instantly. I felt as if I was a tree within the grounds, as if I was meant to be there, we belonged to this place, after all, it had actually found us ! It felt as if we were wrapped within a huge hug of nature, beguiled by it’s magic. All it needed was a happy young family and the sounds of laughter to restore it’s ailing heart. We were that young family, embarking on something that 30 years ago was not the normal topic of any conversation or subject of any television programmes. Our move to a foreign land, which after all was only over the channel, with huge dreams of creating our own business turned out to be an incredible test of our determination, hard work and love for Lacomté that knew no boundaries. We as a young Family were as one, we fought all the obstacles purposefully made and put in our way. We were alone, as we did not share any of the problems with our Parents, they would have worried so much. The children were told, “do not tell your Grand-Parents anything”. Now I reflect on our decision, maybe it was not a great decision, they could have done with support and talking to others that loved them deeply. Life was full of emotional turnings, I never knew for sure if I was choosing the right road to follow. Bringing up children is an unknown road for all Parents, we can only do our best and what we think is right at the time. With regards to our new venture, off course at that time there was no internet with pages of in depth information; no expat pages on facebook with info from others who had already moved to France, a place where we could pose a question and those that have moved before, would kindly answer for you. Or, a little spiteful with their comments, depending on the question. Also at that time we could not find a French person who was willing to help us with the “correct information” we were treated by those who sat in offices as something rather unpleasant. As for the children there were no other British children in their class when they first started school, so our little ones had to learn the language and quickly to survive. School life could be tough for them, it was heart breaking as a parent to be way out of our comfort zone. As at the time our French was not that great, so we could not help with their homework. Their English homework correct, always, but they never got a 20/20, that was reserved for the teacher only. Their maths, correct too, but Stuart used a different method to teach them how to find the answer. Although their answers were correct the teacher put a heavy red line through their work and gave them 0/20 ! Very cruel to children who were doing their best in a very new, difficult situation. They were brilliant though, they did their very best to the best of their ability and carried on with our encouragement, they had too, as there was no extra teacher’s guidance to help them. The day Stuart’s French was good enough, he went to the teacher/parent meeting and did what any loving Father would do, and questioned them on their cruel attitude. It changed a little after that. On occasions when we thought we had found angels to help us, they turned out to be demons in disguise. I had no idea there were so many !!!! Trying to take what was ours from under our feet at every opportunity. So, we did it alone, just the 5 of us ! Stuart and I definitely did not have enough knowledge of the French language for the total change of life we were going to experience, anything you can think of we lived through and more. As there were so very few British people here, in the long run I think this helped us to be more resilient and more than ever, determined to succeed. But for us there were was no allowances for mis-understanding in the language, it was tough. No English speaking persons in offices like there is today. However, Brexit may change that ?! If we got it wrong, we paid for our misunderstandings ! If we disagreed, there was no discussion, we were just told, “If you do not like it, go home, we did not ask you to come here !” We never once imagined any negative situations regarding our dream before we moved, just as well really ! How times have changed. We had made a decision, one we knew in our hearts would work, but goodness me did we have some hard physical work ahead of us and some very tough and exhausting mental and emotional challenges. As time progressed it turned out, that we were the only ones that thought that a campsite would work and there were so many who wanted to see us fail and did their utmost to ensure that we did. Fortunately they did not succeed, we are still here because of one person who never, ever gave up, and that is Stuart ! He kept going when I was broken, he kept going till I was mended and ready to fight back alongside him. Our past is what defines us and our future, what we learnt along our long, meandering path which led to our situation today, we have put to good use. I seriously know no-one like him, his courage in our darkest of times shone through the heavy curtain of darkness. He kept fighting, earning him on occasions very unfair comments, when all he was doing was fighting for his Family, our future and what was ours. And those three young children that arrived here all those years ago, just 9, almost 8 and just 3 years old and one week, are now wonderful parents themselves and the most incredible young Adults. Words cannot describe our pride; their love and ideas now in turn, keeping us going for new adventures. They themselves too, were battered by circumstances, but they stood tall coped with the bad times and enjoyed the good times, of which there were so many. Stuart and I are now happy grand-parents, but a little dazed that time has gone by so quickly. When I look at all my grand-children, I simply cannot believe what we did and achieved all those years ago. Our eldest and youngest being roughly the same age as we were when we moved here. I am simply in awe of what we actually did an achieve, it seems so unreal somehow. For all of you that stayed with us over the years, thank you. You made our dream come true, we have so many incredible happy memories of great times shared with you all. And so many of you still coming to stay with us, Wow ! I sit here ashamed that I have not yet finished “That Book”, that so many of you keep telling me to write, along with the little voice in my head each & every night telling me it is time, come on, Write, write, write !!!!! It really is a story like no other, a real roller coaster of a ride that had no stop button ! Our best wishes to all of you who have read this, hope to see you again very soon. Keep smiling, this moment in time “is simply just that, a moment in time” everything passes in time ! Best Wishes Sheila and Stuart xx