Hand-brake turn

“Are you sure you put the hand-brake on?”

It was a legitimate question, given the situation, but coming as it did from the lips of my wife, as I wrestled with the door of the rental car (which sat inexplicitly not in the place where we had left it), it made me want to scream, punch the bloody car and stamp my feet in frustration. I may well have done any, or all, of these things if I hadn’t been already occupied with the previously mentioned door-wrestling thing.

“Not helpful, but thank you” I said, through gritted teeth, probably not loud enough to hear. I successfully opened the door, flopped onto the seat and… pulled the handbrake up.

The car was in the middle of a road. Not only was it in the middle of a road it was also on the blind corner of a very busy road: the lorries rumbling around the corner would not see it until it was too late to stop, and they would have two choices; a) swerve around it (and perhaps crash into oncoming traffic); or b) plough straight through it.

We had driven up north of Limoges to look at properties. To be honest, I was disappointed. The scenery was nothing to write home about (or a blog about for that matter), and as we were driving to view the first property I took careful note of the towns and villages we passed through and didn’t think I would want to visit them again, let alone visit a holiday home in one of them year after sorry year.

We arrived in the village ready to meet the owners of the first house we had first seen on the internet. The hamlet was small and arranged on either side of the main road, which was populated, by trucks, lorries and cars. It had a post office next to the house we were looking at and a café at the far end of the village, which had enough parking space for the two or three lorries parked outside it.

I had parked up on the pavement, along with a couple of other cars. We’d spent 10 minutes walking round the property, having a lovely chat with the owners (one was French and the other one Russian, they were selling up to move permanently to Russia) about the property and the village. After looking at the small, but adequate, attached garden we all agreed we would walk the short distance to the unattached piece of land, which also came with the property (many French properties come with unattached pieces of land which is the result of the French inheritance law – a proportion of the property must be divided between surviving children; known as the Reserve Legale).

As we came out of the garden gate I was surprised to see two or three people on the pavement in front of us staring at an abandoned car sitting in the middle of the road. Odd, I thought, looks like our car.

Back in the car, cursing as I fumbled with the keys, started the engine and drove the car back onto the pavement, where I had left it, I thought how lucky I was. Not only that the car had survived the ordeal without a scratch (especially as I had refused extra insurance cover), but that I hadn’t ended up squished on the radiator of a truck like an old, battered and abandoned soft toy mascot on a dustbin lorry.

Later, after a delicious pizza in the old part of Limoges, we discussed how disappointed we were with the area to the north, and agreed that it was not for us. We had 7 properties to see in La Creuse, the department to the east of Limoges in the morning, and we realised that looking for properties is a great way to see another country, as well as a good excuse for a nose around other peoples houses.

The snow tumbled out of the sky as we slept; dreaming of houses, handbrakes and oncoming trucks.

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