October 2007


As you can see (if you’re looking), I’ve added a poll to the blog.

Please take a second to help us create the Family Friendly Yurt Eco-campsite with the widest possible appeal, by answering the question. Today it’s: “When would you like to check in?”

Initially, we were thinking Sunday. It’s a great day to drive in France. (Great for guests.) But it’s also one of the only days we get to spend as a family. (Bad for us.) It’s also bad for people who choose to fly, as the fares are higher.

Looking forward to seeing the results…

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There are two reasons why I haven’t blogged for a while:

1) I’ve been working.

and

2) I’ve been working.

Let me explain.

A few weeks ago, tired of waiting for any kind of permission from the DDE, we started working on the land.

Day One saw me, medieval-style slashing weapon in hands, pruning saw in belt holster and secateurs (sécateurs) in pocket, clearing space in the woods where the guest yurts will be. If you find yourself doing this, I recommend cutting the small trees as close to the ground as you can – to save cutting them again when you discover the tripping hazards you’ve just created.

After a few minutes, I was interrupted by the thundering of hooves.

Hunters, I thought, already wary about being shot at (not wearing orange, on unfenced land, unprotected by “Hunters will not be invited to dinner” signs).

The noise got closer. The ground shook. Then several adult deer, including a stag with serious antlers, burst out of the woods about a hundred yards (metres) away, charged across the field, and disappeared into the woods on the other side.

Our field, I thought. Our woods, I thought. It was a perfect moment.

And one that definitely beats staring at a computer screen (he says, staring at a computer screen).

Now we have become more organised, me and Clare take turns to spend half a day working on the land, and half a day looking after boy (I don’t know which is harder). Leaving the rest of the time for chores, although many evenings have been spent indulging in Season 3 of Greys Anatomy, recently bought from UK ebay.

Wednesday afternoon (which, if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know is no-school day) and Clare has taken the daughter to her riding lesson (more on this later, with pictures), a load of nappies is being treated in our washing machine (all our stuff arrived from England recently – more on this later), and I’m about to spend some time staring at a computer screen.

Copywriting.

Unbelievable.

But there are two reasons why this is better than the copywriting I was doing before:

1) It’s about some kind of climate-control device, translating from the French into English for an Indonesian audience. (I know.)

and

2) I’ve already been paid. (A whole bottle of wine.)


It wasn’t so hard.

All we had to do was go into the Tourist Information Office in Bergerac, get directions for the Préfecture and pick up a form.

Which had to be completed and submitted along with another form from the Hôtel des Impôts, on the other side of town. (“Impôt” is French for “tax”. I love the idea of a hotel for taxes. Gives you the impression you can check in to pay any time you like.)

And a valid Contrôle Technique (if you’re British, the French equivalent of an MOT).

Which necessitated a rendez-vous (meeting) with our local Renault garage, a good 300 metres (yards) from our house.

Where our car got a “CT” sticker on its windscreen, and an invitation to return in two years for another one. (I have no idea how much this cost, as the garage seems unwilling to give us a bill.)

Which meant I could go back to the Préfecture and hand over the completed form I got from them. And the one from the Tax Hotel. And the CT. And my passport. My proof of address (this is called a “Justificative de Domicile” – with a soft “J” – took me about a week to say it – you try). And the British Registration papers. And the car’s first registration paper, which was from the Charente, just North of the Dordogne.

All of which was carefully photocopied and handed back to me, along with my Carte Grise (French registration) tantalisingly partially filled out.

Then I waited.

Until someone called me over to say that the Préfecture in Charente had no idea the car had been taken out of the region, let alone the country.

I should return when this was sorted out.

Which I did. And, after handing over the same documents for further photocopying, walked away with a completed Carte Grise – and the impression it takes 48 hours to make a number plate.

Fortunately, as I picked up the daughter from school and mentioned my success, another English parent said I had to have the number plate made within 48 hours. Or face a fine.

Needful to say, I went to a garage near our house and had the plates made. Which took about 48 seconds.

I’m glad I went.

Turns out the woman that works there is our neighbour from where we’re going to live. What seems more bizarre is that she didn’t know Dominique – the previous owner.

We lost the tractor.

Turns out Mandy’s husband bought it ‘cos it was such a bargain at 500 euros.

Telling me.

Now telling you.

We never knew exactly how much land we had in Brighton (something like 366 x 274 cm – give or take an inch).

Half of it was wood and the other half tiles. And to clean it, we needed half an hour, a stiff broom, a bucket, some warm water and a splash of washing up liquid.

Similarly, we don’t exactly know how much land we have now – around 10.47 acres. We looked for the boundary markers the other day, and discovered we need to employ the local géomètre-expert (who has an office behind our house).

Again, half of it is wood (although untreated and mostly vertical). And to clean it, we will need this:

Question is: How does someone who’s spent 18 years sitting in front of a computer, where the only breeze comes from a dodgy air-conditioning system, make an informed decision about outdoor machinery?

First, you accidentally walk into a chainsaw and strimmer shop, while looking for a quad bike.

A few weeks later, you go into the local B&Q equivalent (which is over 200 metres away!) and stand in front of a selection of chainsaws ranging in price, size and brand, while your partner tries to stop your son climbing on all the lawnmowers, while saying: “tractor”.

Searching for some kind of guidance, you return to the first shop and find yourself looking at a wall of STIHL, where the cheapest would be the most expensive in the B&Q. “Why the one brand?” you ask the sales geezer, who reminds you a lot of Kevin from Minneapolis.

“Because that’s the brand we sell,” he replies truthfully. “And it’s the number one brand in the world.”

Convinced by his confidence and the offer of seamless aftersales service, you turn again to face the two-dozen seemingly identical weapons of woodland warfare and say: “But which one?”

After a few more questions, it’s obvious. The ones on the left are too small. The ones on the right are too large. The one pretty much exactly in the middle (pictured) is just right.

An instore demo, some free lube, a top-up, a free chain, second pair of leather gloves and 100 euros off and the deal was done.

What, you may be thinking, no ridiculous so-called coincidence? Surely the sales geezer knew which bit of land we had bought, had even been there, and knew the previous owner, who used to work in that particular chainsaw and strimmer merchant?

Yes.

To all of the above.

Relating this tale to our esteemed estate agent in Le P’tit Loup the following day, he says: “STIHL. I have a STIHL. It’s great. It used to be my father’s.”

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