August 2009


I could get used to this.

Two weeks ago, we were at the point of wondering if we could afford toilet roll or whether we should put the appallingly low-quality junk mail to re-use. We had €3.15 to last until September, with bills to be left unpaid, a mortgage to put us overdrawn – all that not-so-fun stuff.

Then my older brother arrived and, very generously, stocked us up on beers, juice, wine and sundries. Then I opened a letter with belated money back from the solicitor, as you know. Yesterday, I opened another letter with a tax rebate from my paltry income last year: €1,000 euros.

‘Yes,’ said the fairly godless mutha, ‘you shall have the sand for your second-stage sewerage treatment before winter.’

I feels very much like we’ve hit financial bottom and bounced back up again. Again.

(One day, if you’re very good, I might even tell you the story about how the criminal banking practices of NatWest at the end of the last recession nearly killed me; a tale which, although disgraceful, criminal and almost unforgivable, put me firmly on the anti-capitalist, anti-materialist path that will have me and my family living happily ever after.)

You know when you get some unexpected money and then something comes along, like a car service or a broken boiler, and takes your excess spondoolies away almost to the penny? This has just happened the other way round.

Last week we got a letter from the social services telling us we’re entitled to €280 euros to send The Daughter back to school (which means we can pay the mortgage and phone bill).

Today I opened a letter from our solicitor with a belated rebate cheque that will not only pay the outstanding (and very impressive) water bills, put petrol in the car and juice on the breakfast table, but could even pay for the upcoming Controle Technique (MOT equivalent).

Minor miracles, but we take them where we find them.

(Just came back from the social services in Bergerac, where the woman who’s given us months of grief has been replaced by a young, good-looking, very helpful temp; I had a feeling things were going to go well when I found a free parking space outside the office. On the way home all the traffic lights were green – if I didn’t know better, I’d go out and buy a lottery ticket.)

I have to compile a large and detailed dossier to present to the local Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mairie, banks and anyone else who wants to see it. Part of this dossier should, ideally, contain Market Research on our Target Audience, which could be done by phone.

Or blog.

If you have a moment, I’d be very grateful if you could send me your thoughts on the following to ecovallee@mac.com. When you come down and see us, I’ll pour you an extra large glass of wine and let you try some of our outstanding prosciutto:
o Are you intending to travel to France in the next 5 years?
o Do you consider yourself an ethical or responsible traveller?
o Do you have children under 10?
o Have you visited one of those kids’ farms in the last 12 months?
o Which parenting magazines do you read?
o Would you consider a yurt camping holiday?
o How long would you want to stay on a yurt campsite?
o What facilities would you want in to see on the campsite?
o What animals would you want to see in/around the campsite?
o How much would you want to pay per week?
o Would you travel by plane, train or automobile?
o Anything else you want to add (other than I’d never get a job in market research)?

Thank you in advance for you help. Would you like some cheese to go with that glass of wine? I can recommend the camembert (although it is a little runny).

We had a meeting with the mayor yesterday to talk about next steps.

You may remember, this is the mayor who told us that, if we bought the Shack and got permission to enlarge it, we could live next door to it in our yurts and have up to 20 people in yurts on the land next year. The mayor who, when I asked for that in writing, gave us her Parole.

Her word.

Her solemn oath.

So I was more than a little surprised when she told us yesterday that we couldn’t live next door to the Shack in our yurts. That we had to show we were living in the Shack (external dimensions to be 7 x 3 metres when finished – which is something we can’t currently afford to do anyway and winter is approaching fast). She told us, in fact, we couldn’t live in yurts for more than eight months in a year. And that we couldn’t have three yurts on our land for guests next year. She suggested putting up one yurt and, if no one says anything, putting the other two up in 2011. Problem is, we can’t live on one yurt’s income. We’re already overdrawn (which is very inadvisable with a French bank). And we’ll never raise the money for the showers and toilets if we can’t pay the loan back.

The French word for this situation is translated as: Shit (hence the headline).