In February, we flew down to the Dordogne to sign the papers and take possession of the land proper.
We were met at Bergerac by the couple we sat next to in the restaurant in October. They drove us back to their gîte, which we were staying in for free, invited us the 30 or so metres to their home for an apératif, then insisted on cooking us dinner every night that week.
Pretty much all of which flew in the face of the French reputation for being arrogant, aloof, and many things besides.
Over dinner, in poor French, they listened to our Big Green Idea and concerns about gaining planning permission. They said it's a great project. We should just waltz up to the local Maire, tell him what we had in mind, and see what he said.
So we did.
The Maire was in a meeting at the time, with a harassed-looking group of people, and looked like he needed a change of scene. These are the two scenes that followed.
INT. THE MAIRIE - DAY
He: (WALKING UP, CHEERY) What can I do for you?
We: (NOT WALTZING - NERVOUS AS HELL - THIS WAS OUR FUTURE AT STAKE) Um. We're buying this land on Wednesday and we wanted to show you an idea for an exciting and sustainable project.
He: Sure, I'll have a look.
Me: (OPENING BATTERED CARDBOARD FOLDER TO REVEAL TWO BOOKS ON YURTS , SOME PHOTOS AND VARIOUS PIECES OF PAPER) Er...
He: (WALKING AWAY, DISMISSIVE) Non! C'est impossible!
EXT. THE BAR OVER THE ROAD - MOMENTS LATER
Clare, oddly convinced that everything will be alright, looks reassuringly at Alex.
Alex stares dejectedly at the head of his beer. Then looks across the road at the Mairie. He notices the number on the wall next to the door.
Over dinner that night, we review the day's events. Martin immediately calls his brother, who speaks a little English and agrees to come round the following morning.
Martin's brother likes our plans. After a heated debate, we decide that the Maire just needs something to sign and resolve to employ an architect. In the yellow pages, we find an architect in the Maire's village. We call. One of the partners speaks fluent English. He tells us one of the other partners is the third mayor. In the same village.
He's an environmental building specialist.
Just after signing the papers to buy the land, we meet the architect. Our fantastic estate agent , Nicolas, comes along (Martin's brother had also offered - by now, we're overwhelmed by offers of help). The architect loves the Idea. He phones the Maire and tells him it's exactly what the area needs.
The Maire agrees.
Then Nicolas drives us back to his home for dinner, and to meet his family, and enough animals to open a children's farm.
I would show you, but we didn't have a camera.