April 2008


Yes, the new job (which starts tomorrow morning at nine) means cash coming in instead of going out without so much as a ‘by your leave’ (whatever that means).

Yes, it means we get a Carte Vitale after a month, which gives us access to possibly the most impressive healthcare system in the world without paying very much for it.

Yes, I’m only going to work four days a week because I think five days is inhuman and I don’t want to lose my fantastically enjoyable level of fitness.

Yes, it means we’ll get subsidised childcare, so Boy can get to know more people and learn more French while Her Outdoors can do more work (on the land).

Yes, chances are, we’ll be able to survive until we open for business.

Yes, the job involves speaking English to English people in England.

Yes, there’s a very small commission which will lift the wage off the minimum.

And yes, it’s not copywriting (although the boss has asked me what I can do with his websites).

BUT

The commute is only 100 yards, so I’M NOT GOING TO GET MUCH READING DONE.

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A few weeks ago, I went to “Success in the Dordogne” – an event organised by Périgord Développement designed to help British people establish businesses in these parts.

On the way out, I was accosted by a beautiful young French woman who invited me to enter a Free Prize Draw for a weekend for two in a French Chateau Hotel. In the spirit of ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained’, I entered the Draw and walked away.

This morning, two people from a local bank came to the house to tell me I’d won.

Which leads me nicely into today’s French expression, which you’ll hear shouted out by children in playgrounds around the country, and by me in rooms all over this house: “J’ai gagné” (pron: Dzay gan-yay). J’ai gagné.

Working with wood is a bit like reincarnation. If you don’t get it right the first time (and that’s assuming there is such a thing as a ‘right’, which I won’t go into here – it upsets people), you can always go back and have another go.

For instance, I put this gate up yesterday:


Looks OK from a distance. A bit of a gap on the right. But let me… No, I won’t even begin to tell you how much hassle I had with these hinges:


So today I went back with these hinges:


And had a much, much easier and more satisfying time:


The real beauty of it is, I know the next gate’ll be even better.

Even though we have nothing on paper, it finally feels like we’re going to get this project on the ground. Which means we haven’t been completely wasting our time putting up a polytunnel:


Digging our first veggie beds:


Thinking of a way we can use the water that appears at the bottom of Pepito’s field, flows along under the blackthorn, and disappears into a hole in the ground that, bizarrely, we don’t own:


Or getting a job. Like I just did (more on this, later).

Me and Her Outdoors were both a bit nervous before our first meeting with Madame le Maire. Hardly surprising. We have no Plan B (just a range of modifications to Plan A), and she has the power to emotionally and financially ruin us.

Which is exactly what she didn’t do.

After an impressive summary of the situation from Daniel the builder, our new mayor revealed that:
o she is open to the project (huzzah!).
o she will find out where the problem was (huzzah!).
o and work with us to find a solution that works for everyone (huzzah!).
o she is not the law, as some people say (ah), but has a degree of flexibility to work within the law as it stands.
o we will not be allowed to live in a fixed yurt all year round (double ah) because it is exempt from tax d’habitation. Her Outdoors asked if we could pay the tax voluntarily, but the system does not allow for this degree of flexibility.
o we might have to build a house (triple ah). I said it would have to be a straw-bale house. She said fine and Daniel said he works with someone who can make this happen (double huzzah!!).
o we won’t be opening this year (quadruple ah).
o we can put up a yurt every couple of weeks, for a couple of weeks, for friends and family (huzzah!).
o she’s going on holiday for a couple of weeks (ah).
o she’ll call us when she gets back, to arrange to see the land with her adjutant (huzzah!).

It all ended with handshakes, smiles, and assurances not to worry. Which is a pretty good re-start.

Today, we had meeting at the social security number place. And found out why there are so many cars in the car park.

First we met the receptionist, whose job it was to check a short list and ask us to sit down in the design-filled but otherwise empty open-plan space (think Jobcentre Plus with more style and no people). Oh, and to take photocopies of our passports.

About a minute later, a lovely woman invited me into one of several numbered offices, asked a few questions, keyed a few things into a computer, printed a few things out and told me she’d arranged a meeting with a consultant (heart sinks) in a few minutes (heart re-floats).

She then showed me into a different seating area, where a corporate video about the service we were enjoying played on a loop, and where I briefly saw Her Outdoors, fresh from a simultaneous appointment, before…

Another lovely woman whisked me into another room. More questions, more shaking of the head in response our current predicament, more tapping on the computer, more print-outs (including a couple of seasonal jobs in wine shops that sound quite tasty) and that was that.

We’re on the system. Or in it.

I don’t think anyone really knows what happens next. There are just too many people in too many departments to know for sure. The last lovely woman said something about coming back in July, but probably to another office and I probably wouldn’t be seeing her again. The whole experience was beautifully inefficient.

In other news, we’re meeting the new mayor tomorrow. At three.

Our meeting with the new mayor’s now going to happen on Monday.

Or Tuesday.

Maybe.

(Looks like I shaved for no reason. Again.)

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