French Living: One lady went to mow

In her life in France and role as a property finder, Maureen Wasilouski comes across many challenging situations...

Relocating my business, my dogs, and my life to the Limousin from Liverpool in 2004 was no easy feat. I knew I wanted a share in the lifestyle France had to offer but wasn’t quite sure how to get it. In those days, property finders like me were few and far between. You had to get on a bus, boat or plane, and in some ways, hope the information you were given was the truth.

Nobody told you of the complexities of living in the country, the importance of a ‘devis’ or just the way to behave when confronted with a wild boar! Suffice to say, I have come a long way and hope that over the course of time you may hear my words and not make the mistakes I have made. There are many stories I will share with you over the coming months; some funny, others a little more serious.We will deal with septic tanks, wood burning, vegetable patches, renovations and more. I hope you enjoy and learn from these experiences. First though, let me introduce you to Alice.

Boulders and mole hills

Inanely, one of the greatest pulls of moving from a postage stamp garden in England to an acre of grassland in France is the realisation that you can justifiably own a sit-on lawn mower. For a mere €500 I inherited the beautiful Alice as part of the sale of the house. It took three months before Alice and I became acquainted in such a way that the memories and subsequent scarring are still vivid in my mind.

I had been left a number of items in my barn, which to this day, are a mystery to me. My French neighbour kindly showed me how to use Alice and , of course, I was too embarrassed to inform him that I had no idea what he was saying. I tried the French manual but it might as well have been written in Swahili, as my French lessons hadn’t quite reached the stage of the intricacies of lawn mower mechanics. I prudently waited until my neighbour left for work before endeavouring to take Alice out for a spin. Five hours later and battered from my adventures, I have these crucial pointers for all those individuals intending to purchase such a machine.

Take corners in a lower gear and definitely not on a camber – not taking this advice can result in coming off the machine, picking yourself up from the adjoining field and chasing after the said machine, which is now heading for your newly-built swimming pool.

Most machines now come with a cut-off switch underneath the seat; checking this is advisable. Although molehills seem rather unobtrusive, do not mow them as the soil is caught up in the collecting tube and you could spend hours travelling around your garden thinking you are cutting grass when in fact, you are just spreading soil.

If like me, you are not fortunate enough to have had your garden ‘de-bouldered’, raked and flattened, be aware that rocks and stones seem to ‘grow’ from below ground, surfacing just as you are mowing over them. It’s not a surprise to find that the machine takes the brunt of the incident! Alice was out of action for five weeks, I replaced a belt and two iron cutters, which in itself is a story all of its own. The grass was up to my knees and hide-and-seek became the preferred pastime of my two cocker spaniels.

When using your old machine for the first time after a long cold winter, do make sure you are familiar with jump leads, as it can be embarrassing when you have to scream for help when you have reversed the polarity and subsequently need assistance in putting out the ensuing fire!

Joking aside, they are delicate machines, they need oiling often or can seize, the cutting mechanism is fragile; even the smallest rock can affect the machine, and unless you live in a town or have a large stockist just down the lane, parts take a great deal of time to arrive. Poor Alice has aged half a century in the space of two years due to my ignorance. Remember, they are part of the family now and should be treated as such! Next month, I will tackle the wonderful world of the fosse septique.

Maureen Wasilouski runs Tailormade, a property-finding company finding homes and land across France, and helping to organise bank accounts, mortgages, schools and research the local area Tel: 0033 (0)5 55 78 62 03 (France) 07902 690 256 (UK)

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