Thanks ever so for all the kind and supportive comments, of course it could all have been worse, and we'll get through it and come out the other side, and at least it gives me something to write about. There are still dark shadows flickering around, and I know there's much still to be done; Zhoen's suggestion of a defensive driving course is a good one, though I'm not sure how available such things would be out here in the wilds. On the other hand, perhaps a couple of paid lessons to help with getting used to the LHD might be useful anyway, and I think the driving schools sometimes have simulators, so that could be a possibility.
The evils of White Van Man and his reasons for being seem fairly universal. Which is not to say I see him as personally evil you understand. But striving to be reasonable, seeing both sides, often to my own detriment, is a reflex I sometimes have to be careful of - mixed with a tendency to self-denigration it can be a bloody nuisance.
Odd things come back to me, how annoyed I felt that I was having to walk in mud in a new pair of lovely simple soft leather black walking lace-ups I'd treated myself to a little while ago, and that when I rang to cancel my lesson I said I'd had un sinistre, rather than the more usual and probably more appropriate un accident, which was kind of odd, that I thought to use that word. Though actually in the etymological sense of something nasty and baleful coming from the left it was rather a good choice.
We liked the look of the other Saxo very much, it was in better condition than mine was even when I got it, although I think it may be a bit more basic in some ways even though it's the same year. The young woman who was selling it was really very young; she'd had the for her eighteenth birthday a year and a half ago, she was on her own all week because her boyfriend who she lived with, who took my call yesterday, worked away all week, her parents lived out in the country where she wished she still lived - though Lamballe is a small and pretty town, I often think I could happily live there myself, she found it noisy and unsympathetic - and I think she said she was pregnant too.
Our new garage man agreed to come out in his lunch hour and meet us there to check the car and ask the important questions (and to drive it back to the garage under his insurance if we bought it), he looked under the bonnet, said there was clearly some oil leaking, which might be nothing much but might mean a fairly whopping bill, it needed checking, told her she should do that before selling it and also get an up to date controle technique (equivalent of MOT) done as you aren't allowed to sell a car without that (I'm pretty sure people, especially expats, do so all the time, but he was quite right), who was her garagiste? Yes, he knew him, he'd sort it out OK... and he told us we shouldn't consider buying it until these things were dealt with, though otherwise it was a clean and well maintained little car. He was kind but firm and she looked very young and lost and we felt terribly sorry for her - I'm perhaps particularly susceptible to vulnerability in others just now (except for White Van Man, who, it is necessary to belive, has none), and Tom said it reminded him of being young when you sally out thinking you can do this or that and make a bit of money here or there and then some grown-up in the know puts you down.
He left and we went in with her and exchanged details, I reassured her we honestly did want the car, that we didn't expect it to be perfect but we needed to know the facts and do things properly, and she reassured us that she would reserve it for us and even if she had to pay the whopping bill she would because she needed to sell the car. I think we all felt a bit small and bossed about, though we were glad of it really, at least in part because as Tom said, if we'd bought it as a pig-in-a-poke then had to foot the whopping bill ourselves, think how stupid we'd have felt and how much finger-wagging we'd have had from the garage-man, as well as being even further out-of-pocket, and we are paying for the his services to look after us and our interests.
So I suppose we've only got each other's word on it; she might sell it to someone else who was prepared to take it as they found it as still fairly good at the price, but if she does, she does. If she turns others away and keeps it for us, we could as easily let her down; we won't but we could.
(Update, she has just e-mailed to say she's booked it in tomorrow to be looked at and for the CT on Monday, so she's obviously not sold it to the other people who were supposed to be seeing it this afternoon).
In the meanwhile, it gives us a bit of time to regroup our forces, see what happens on the insurance, and go about things a bit differently for a week or so, not being able to rely on our habitual independence of mobility: make better use of journeys, walk and stay home more, spend more time together, none of which is so bad. We've been very good and patient and kind with each other, even when we've been quite tired and ragged - I even let Tom have raw onion with his cheese and crackers tonight - and we've laughed quite a bit throughout, not always out of hysteria. Mol's had quite a bit of extra walking and car time already. Nothing much will happen about anything over the weekend, so I intend to get stuck into other things, like sorting out the really good stuff that's been coming in for the Alphabet Soup exhibition.
And I just thought I'd show you the car which was advertised on le Bon Coin the same day as the Saxo but which I didn't look at, though surely one might be tempted, since it is priced at just ten euros and has, it says, only one kilometre on the clock, and it is quite adorable.
Panhard Dyna, z12, 1960 or before (though it must be before, as according to Wiki, they stopped making them in 1959). Sweet.