192 pages, paperback, 15 Black & White drawings, 146mm x 208mm.
Published by Leonie Press, October 1997.Reprinted December 1997, March 1999, September 2000,
"A Bull by the Back Door" describes how Anne and Jack Loader find their own paradise in rural France. It is illustrated with line drawings and a watercolour cover by their friend of more than 30 years, Patricia Kelsall.
The 65,000-words paperback, now available in e-book format, chronicles how the couple buy an old house in the Limousin region of central France as a holiday home and base for future retirement. It has been empty for years but its character and sound construction are immediately obvious. Their new neighbours welcome the family and help them to feel at home. They learn about the history of the house and the sad story of the late owner, Marguerite. It is not long before they become aware of her presence in the farmhouse and her approval of the renovations which are taking place. Indeed it almost appears as if she has chosen the Loaders for this task as she begins to show them the house's "treasures."
"We are very practical and down-to-earth and have never had any paranormal experiences before," says Anne. "But Marguerite seemed to intervene so many times in the early days that it got a long way beyond the realms of coincidence."
The family have tackled all the house restoration themselves - plumbing, electrical work, land clearance and carpentry - thanks to the skills of Anne's husband, ICI research scientist Jack and their sons Alex and Chris. The decorating is Anne's domain.
When they bought it the building was in a timewarp. It had been unoccupied for many years and apart from lethal electric wiring - installed in the 1920s as the height of modernity - was essentially as it had been at the time of the First World War.
"There was one cold tap, one electrical socket and a septic tank," says Jack. "What more could you ask for?"
"A Bull by the Back Door" traces how the Loaders face what they describe as "A-Level Housebuying", complete with charts and copious documents, and how they nearly fail. It depicts life in the village of St Paradis* and how the family are assimilated, as well as detailing what they do to bring their beautiful stone house back to life again.
"I liked Peter Mayle's book about Provence, but I was disappointed that he only seemed to write about his relationship with French tradesmen, whom he made objects of fun," says Anne. "I hope that my book shows what it is really like to live as a foreigner in the French countryside - where the inhabitants are the wise ones and the English need all the advice they can get. The heroes of my book are our much-loved and long-suffering neighbours who have made us feel part of their community. We thank them from the bottom of our hearts."
Following the success of this book and to satisfy the demands of readers who wanted to know what happened next, Anne wrote the sequel "The Duck with a Dirty Laugh". Requests for further news of life in St Paradis then continued and so Anne's third book in the series of what became the St Paradis saga, "The Bells of St Paradis", was published in December 2001.
*The name of the village and its exact location have been disguised to protect the privacy of the neighbours.
Anne Loader started in journalism in 1965, with East Midland Allied Press in Lincolnshire and Norfolk. After her marriage she worked as a senior reporter on the Southern Evening Echo at Southampton. She was the feature writer on Northwich World from 1980-84 and was editor of the Crewe Guardian for ten years until 1995 when she was made redundant. She now runs a business publishing short-run books on autobiography and local history. Anne wrote the book to amuse her elderly mother, who had lived in France and had instilled a passion for France in her daughter from her earliest years.
Patricia Kelsall is a professional artist and a part-time art lecturer. She has exhibited in various parts of the country including the Royal Academy, and also in France. She often runs watercolour painting classes for cruise liner passengers. The two friends, who both live in Hartford, Cheshire, share a love of France and have been involved with the Hartford-Mornant twinning since it began more than 25 years ago.
Couldn't put it down; I feel as if I've been there; Wonderfully readable; Just like our own experiences; Thank you for writing this book, I look forward to the next one! - Readers' comments
A Bull by the Back Door starts with an account of 'A-level house buying' and many readers will recognise the false hopes and near-misses at the beginning of their search. The family's wholehearted acceptance by the villagers and their efforts to renovate the beautiful stone house will ring bells with anyone who has attempted the same thing and will act as encouragement to others just beginning. - French Property NewsAmazon Customer Review - Rating *****
If you like you can download the first chapter of "A Bull by the Back Door" in Adobe Acrobat Format as a self-extracting ZIP file or view it in your browser Acrobat add-in. The free Adobe Acrobat Reader may be downloaded from a variety of sites including Adobe's own, http://www.adobe.com.
As an alternative there is a charming reading of the first chapter by Grace Johnson which you can play if you are using a device which is sound enabled.