My Expat Focus regulars know all about Charity Cottage, the holiday home in rural Burgundy that we run in aid of Combat Stress. Check out www.charity-cottage.org.uk.
Well, one day I found my way to the Daily Telegraph Expat section. They invited expats to tell their stories, and in January 2012 my first piece appeared.Then Charity Cottage opened for visitors. The DT published my articles in return for a free subscription to the ‘paper’ expat edition and publicity for Charity Cottage. We were gobsmacked when we won the Charity section of the 2012 Best of British awards. The certificate and trophy are on display in the cottage.
My effusions prompted a steady trickle of mail: booking enquiries, requests for advice, fan mail praising our efforts. What do you make of this enquiry, however?
I hereby inform you that we are getting a direct sponsorship from London, UK and will like everything regarding payment to be settled before we come over for the vacation. A cheque payment will be sent to you from our sponsors in the amount of £ 3,600.00 that will cover the cost of our accommodations and other necessary arrangements for us.
However, we also made an arrangement with a prepaid Transport Consultant who will take care of our flight arrangements to other destinations and transportation requirements during our entire stay, we have decided that only one person will have to handle the cheque.
So once you are in receipt of the cheque you are required to cash the cheque payment then you deduct £2,000.00 as our deposit for your accommodation and send the balance of £1,600.00 to the Transport Consultant for them to arrange our flight ticket to your property and other logistics arrangement. I will send you the agent details and exact arrival time once everything is concluded.
Hm. What if the cheque bounced and we were £1600 out of pocket? I declined courteously.
Then there was the putative lottery winner who wanted to share his good fortune with us to the tune of $300,000. Well, I passed the buck…
As the money will be donated to Combat Stress, I must insist you deal with them direct in order to take advantage of Gift Aid, for which as an expat I do not qualify. I am copying this to my contact in Combat Stress, who I am sure will be pleased to liaise with you.
If Combat Stress ever received any money they have yet to tell me. More straightforward were emails from expats in France. Colin and Elaine came from Meillonnas in spring 2013 and a joyous time was had by all. The same goes for Robert at Montigny aux Amognes., who sent pictures of himself with a glass of wine, cat Honey asleep on his car, and his house. Pleasant people.
Then Captain Tim responded to a piece about the taste of home. Tim owns a boat called The Randle which pootles gently along the French waterways.
One thing led to another, and we ended up exchanging visits: Tim to admire Charity Cottage and John and me to admire The Randle. Now to me boating means roughing it. Not so The Randle, which offers the last word in luxury at a price to match. Check out Tim's website.
And now for a pilgrim who almost made it to Charity Cottage, but was thwarted at every turn. Simon from Australia hoped tovisit after making the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.
I stumbled across your site, doing a lot of stumbling, after eating dinner tonight in Sahagun in Spain. I am walking the Camino de Santiago. Under 400km to go.
I am an Australian who served in the Australian army for 21 years, did a stint in Vietnam in 1968 as a rifleman and developed my case of trauma. I went back to school about six years after Vietnam and became a psychologist. Worked as a psych for 33 years all up, 7 in the army. My work as a psych was primarily in the area of trauma and over the years I have worked with many veterans, Vietnam, gulf war, Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa as well as a share of police and emergency service personnel. I have looked at the site that you support. Sounds fantastic.
What Simon did not mention until much later is that he suffers from several forms of painful arthritis. In his circumstances I’d have signed up for a coach trip, but not Simon! The pilgrimage took much longer than expected (sore feet among other troubles), his flight back to Oz could not be changed, the French traffic controllers went on strike, and Simon flew home without visiting us. We lost a visitor but gained a penpal…
A family from Liverpool were our first visitors to come via Combat Stress: Stephen is one of their ‘old lags’. Stephen, Julie and their son George arrived in July 2013 with their car laden with everything from a barbecue and charcoal to HP Sauce and a beautiful ceramic snail, their gift to us.
The weather was glorious and they spent a lot of time by (and in) the Etang du Goulot at Lormes, and sunbathing in our garden. Stephen did a spot of gardening at the local rate of 10 euros an hour, which we added to his donation of £50 in cash. Combat Stress received my cheque in respect of the gardening, but the £50 disappeared. I am still incensed about that.
We have had disappointments: people who made bookings, then cancelled for one reason or another, or simply failed to turn up. Charity Cottage stood empty all through June and July 2015, but as I write we are spring-cleaning in preparation for a couple from England, ETA teatime on August 1 for two weeks. Then it’s joyous reunion time. Stephen and Julie are coming again on August 21 2015, without George, who is now doing spectacularly well at Bristol University. We are planning a barbecue to celebrate the 10th anniversary of our arrival here, and Steve is our official Barbecue Chef.
Together with husband John, Rosemary Border Rabson emigrated to the Morvan in rural Burgundy in 2005, where few other Brits have ventured. Rosy's chief preoccupation is Charity Cottage, a holiday home-from-home in their garden at Maré le Bas. Rosy runs Charity Cottage in aid of Combat Stress. The cottage has its own website, www.charity-cottage.org.uk , which has links to Combat Stress.
The Rabsons are taking bookings for 2015.