It’s a wonderful life

Keith Goodfellow and his wife Susan bought a traditional farmhouse in the Charente 12 years ago and have been living their dream in France ever since

You must be mad say our family, friends and g�te guests: you are living out most people’s dreams so why would you want to move from such an idyllic location? Good question and one which I will try to answer.

Time has flown since my last article was published in FPN in July 2003. In that issue, I described how three years earlier we had fallen in love with a beautiful Charentaise farmhouse (when we really only wanted a two-up, two-down townhouse), what our renovation plans were and the objectives for our future. Remarkably, most of our plans have materialised – some quicker than we thought, some slower!

LABOUR OF LOVE

Following the purchase of the house in 2000, we set about what we knew would be a major renovation project – but very much a labour of love. The house really needed renovating from top to bottom, including a new roof, as we found out the night we moved in, when we discovered a major leak!

Anyway, a watertight roof became the first priority. This was done by a professional roofer who stripped the roof entirely, felted it, fixed new battens etc and new clay tiles – saving the ones he could. We also did a deal with him to refurbish all the outbuilding roofs, which were in a perilousstate too.

We were then able to set about decorating the house, installing a new kitchen, bathrooms, some new windows, a sun terrace and a swimming pool. This, of course, took some considerable time, especially as at that point we were still living in England.

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Following the transformation of a barn into a g�te within our grounds, it became apparent that we really wanted (and needed) to spend more time in France, especially if we were to live the dream at its fullest. We also realised just how much money we were spending paying people to carry out essential jobs like g�te handovers, gardening and cleaning the swimming pool etc.

So in April 2006, we moved to rural Charente and have never regretted it. Yes, you miss your family and friends but with cheap flights (we can use both Poitiers and Limoges airports) and Skype we have always been able to keep in touch. Our daughters and grandchildren love coming over – they see it very much as the family home, which is nice.

Since we have been over full-time, we have turned the summer kitchen into a wonderful office for me; not many people have the views from the windows that I have. It’s fitted out with all mod cons including telephone and broadband so that I can work full-time.

We have also turned what was an old building for goats into a studio – my wife Susan restores oil paintings and gilt frames – a job she did very successfully in the UK for many years – so it’s perfect for her. We can both walk to work too; no motorway drive or train journeys for us! The only problem is our two black labs Mac and Zac cannot decide who to visit first.

ECLECTIC MIX

It’s been really good having the g�te too, not only for the income it provides but because we have also met some really interesting people who have stayed with us including a bishop, a Belgian TV news presenter, an armed response policeman (he didn’t have his gun with him), an architect, a magazine publisher, a public school headmaster and a bomb disposal officer.

Most years, we average about a 10-12-week occupancy. So far this year we are fully booked from June through to the middle of September. The g�te was awarded three stars by the Angoul�me tourist board last year. It had previously been awarded three stars from G�tes de France.

Our large garden does take a lot of looking after. We have good-sized lawns, a vegetable patch with greenhouse, an abundance of fruit trees, a fish pond and chickens protected by our beautiful cockerel. In the holiday season, the chickens are self-financing as we sell their eggs to our guests.

There’s the swimming pool too of course – which is a lot easier to clean with the robot we bought! Nevertheless it does take time to clean it properly.

So, why do we want to move on? Well the honest answer, apart from us both having itchy feet, is that it’s pretty much full-on looking after this place, especially in the holiday season. Even in the winter there is always something to do. We have never been afraid of hard work but after 12 years, we now want to take it a bit easier and really the only way to do this is to downsize.

Our house is currently on the market for €345,000 plus notaire’s fees and at the moment we don’t know where we will move to. We would like to be close to the sea this time. As I said to our neighbour, we are not just selling a house we are selling a lifestyle, where a dream can turn into reality. It did for us.

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