In the spring, I’ll be doing the usual preparation work before écovallée opens, and I have to finish the road to the car park some time before then. But I have plenty of other projects to be getting on with.

The first big project is a new idea: teaching people how to create or improve their own website, using WordPress. I’ll be running one-day introductory courses, and one-day content courses, in one of the region’s best restaurants – Les Petits Plats. (I’ll be re-doing their website, too.) I’ve written about the courses here and I’ll keep you up to date on this blog, from time to time.

Apart from that, I’ll be working hard on music. My objective is to get my solo piano set in my head, so I can throw my chord charts away. Then I’ll try and do the same with the band. Both sets added together run to about six hours, so it won’t be easy. As part of this process, I’m going to be recording a load of piano tutorials on my new YouTube channel. I couldn’t have learnt the 200-odd songs I’ve learnt in the last few years without YouTube. This is my attempt to put something back.

If you’re thinking that the blog is wandering off track, both of these activities still fall under the banner of self sufficiency. At the end of his book, John Seymour recommends using all your skills to bring in the money our world doesn’t let you live without. It’s not just about pushing wheelbarrows and wearing dirty clothes.

As an added bonus, during the winter months, I can do both of these inside.

I just had a remarkably easy trip into Bergerac to sort out some paperwork.

First stop, the caf (the people who handle child benefit) to tell them about the recent change in our domestic situation.

The caf itself has changed a lot since 2007. It’s evolved from a hostile place, where you were made to feel like a scrounger and a burden on the state, into something far more friendly and service oriented.

My previous draconian experiences helped smooth the way, though. Instead of taking the few bits of paper I thought they might want to see (a strategy that invariably leads to multiple trips to the caf), I took all possible files in a large shopping bag. A short wait. Some confusion over the wording of a form (a form provided by them and which took three people to understand), and I was in and out of there in minutes. Job done. (Hopefully. I’ll keep an eye on the post box.)

With unexpected time on my hands, I went to the Chamber of Commerce to see if I could add a few activities to my Auto Entrepreneur (translation: self-employed) status. This wasn’t necessarily going to be easy, as the former Her Outdoors attempted this on the Internet, then over the phone, and was charged about €120 for the changes. But fortune smiled on me again and I found myself sitting in the office of the woman who helped put me on the system in 2013. She added everything I do and am planning on doing – free of charge. (More on this, later.)

Face to face with a human, I learnt that great changes are coming to the Auto Entrepreneur system. Presumably, someone will write to everyone and explain what’s going on before the form-completing deadline of December 18th this year. I also discovered that the Chamber of Commerce is being moved from Bergerac to the regional capital of Périgueux. Which means that next year, many more people will have to struggle their way through the impenetrable government websites.

I’m not sure who this will make life easier for, but I ingenuinely hope they’ll be very happy.

In the last few days, I’ve re-read the blog(s) while writing a short(ish) summary of the bureaucratic issues surrounding the project so far. I can’t tell you why at the moment.

During this reading, I’ve noticed a few things. One thing is that importing the original Blogger blog into Wordpress didn’t go as well as I thought. The order of posts is a bit random and some posts have disappeared altogether (ALL: “Some posts have disappeared!”).

So, for a more satisfying reader experience, for posts leading up to September 23 2012, go here.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that my blog posts have become far less frequent – and less playful or amusing. I’ll try and redress that over the coming months – months during which, once again, I will try and write Part Two of my book.

I’m keeping the prices for 2016 the same as this year, but there are a few changes you should be aware of.

prices 2016

Change the first

Because I will be running écovallée on my own, I will no longer have time to do the laundry. So when you come, you can either bring your own sheets and towels… or pay €20 per person for sheets and towels that will be laundered in Lalinde.

Change the second

To encourage guests to leave écovallée as they found it, there will now be an additional cleaning charge of €40. The good news is that this will be returned to those who leave the place immaculate. Which should pay for lunch on the way home.

Change the third

You can now book from any day of the week. Outside July and August, it’s a four-night minimum stay. Inside July and August, it’s still full weeks.

Weeks are already being booked, so don’t leave it too long. This year was our best-ever season – with some of the most interesting and lovely guests we have ever had. But next year promises to be even better…

Last week’s lovely guests left this on the bed, next to a bottle of wine. I hope they don’t mind me posting it here.


Come back any time guys… xxx

Before other news (of which there is much), here’s where we now stand on the long-running re-zoning issue that was already ongoing when we arrived here over eight years ago.

We’ve just presented a dossier about the whole project to someone who is so intrigued that he will come and see us in the next couple of weeks. He will then write a report about all the projects going on in the village, before the end of October. His report will then be studied by other people, who will take the advice of yet more people, and a final zoning decision will be made in January. Possibly January. Almost certainly in the first few months of next year. After which, we can start filling out a whole bunch of new bits of paper. (I say we, but it will actually be me, as one of the Very Big Bits of News from this year is that I will be running écovallée on my own from now on. More on that, later.)

It feels – as I’ve written many times before – like we’re back where we thought we were in 2007. To say nothing moves fast in this country is an understatement of massive proportions. By way of a comparison, over the same period, light everywhere has travelled over 47 billions miles (over 76 billion kilometres).

More on this, too, in the posts to come.

Back in 2008, weary after so many futile meetings, I wrote this blog post. At the time it looked like our bureaucratic troubles were over. They weren’t. A couple of years later, we stopped going to meetings with bureaucrats because it was just upsetting.

Until today.

This afternoon, we’ve got a meeting with our third mayor in eight years and have been asked to “bring everything” relating to the project. (I’m going to need a box for all the papers.) We’re assured that we’re in the final stages of the bureaucratic process, but there’s always another piece of paper that needs to be stamped. In this case, a new organisation that apparently needs to know all about us.

So I’m bringing the bureaucracy tab out of retirement and I’ll let you know what’s going on as it happens.


Tweaking the dossier today to give to the person in charge of the process this afternoon. Will have to wait until January for a Final Decision on change of use. I’m hoping that will be this coming January…


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