August 2010

A few months ago, I learnt something about those moving overseas-type TV shows. And the thing I learnt was this: They’re filmed in reverse.

(Don’t worry TV people, hardly anyone reads this blog.)

Essentially, the programme makers find someone who’s recently moved into a new property; films them there, having settled in; films them looking at other properties in the same price bracket; films them umming and ahhing; films them in England, going about their previous life; and cuts it all together backwards.

Makes perfect sense – you could probably do the whole show in a weekend.

(This is where any TV producer reading this spits their extra-shot latte over their keyboard, exclaiming: ‘A weekend! I haven’t had that much time since the 80s!’)

It amuses me to wonder how often the TV companies find more attractive properties than the one people actually chose – look in their eyes next time you see a show like this. I would, but we don’t have a TV any more.

Today, I learnt something about the newspaper game. And that thing is: They make it up as they go along.

Some Sundays past, a journalist from an English language newspaper in France asked to come round for a chat. They were writing about yurts and wanted to talk to someone who lives in one, and has come up against some of the bureaucratic issues involved.

So I chatted. We chatted. We drank elderflower champagne. It was nice.

Today, my inbox shows me a pdf of the article that’s already gone to press. Not the discreet, background information, no-names jobbie I was expecting. No. Quite a large piece with two photos of me (including one with Her Outdoors), riddled with inaccuracies and generously garnished with words I never said. Or more accurately, words I never said in that order.

I have to say, it doesn’t amuse me very much at all.

It was probably my fault.

Last week, I remember cramming some rabbit halves into the downstairs bit of our fridge-freezer, ignorant of the fact I was supposed to leave space clear around the fan at the back. (I didn’t even know there was a fan at the back. I’ve written instruction manuals from time to time, but haven’t read many.)

The device made uncharacteristic noises for a day or so, and then began to lose its cool.

Of course, I panicked.

I shot into Bergerac and spent a large-ish amount of money on a small-ish A+ chest freezer (which we needed anyway, having taken up space in two friends’ freezers since butchering the last pig in the Spring). Then I read (see how quickly things change – suddenly I’m reading already) that our new freezer needed to sit for 24 hours before being turned on; and left for another 58 hours to get down to temperature.


So I borrowed some space in a neighbour’s freezer (they’re on holiday and I had the key – they’ll never know) to save our precious meat and started to cool down myself.

Since then, we’ve re-discovered how dependent we are on refrigeration. The emergency coolbox and freezer blocks have been fine up to a point, but without a spring nearby, there’s no ready supply of cold beers and instantly drinkable rosé. Carrots go off remarkably quickly when left on the kitchen table. There’s no sense in buying dairy products in any quantity (once again, exposing our lack of goat or access to cow). And the dumping ground on top of the freezer is valuable space our small kitchen feels even smaller without (especially as the new chest freezer is in there, behind the door, where a useful work surface used to be).

The good news is, the fridge-freezer has probably been fixed and may even be sitting in the kitchen right now (I’m at work for the day). The other good news is, we have the chest freezer that marks another step (bizarrely) down the road to self sufficiency. And finally, we had enough money to get through the emergency.

Now, if I can only get the phone working again, we’ll have it all.

Surely there should be some way of marking the fact that we arrived in France three years ago today.

A spectacular meal with all our own food, perhaps; to show how far we’ve come down the road to self sufficiency. Pate with home-made bread to start, maybe, followed by pork bolognaise with pasta made from our own eggs, then tart with home-made jam, summer pudding, or crepes flambéed in a friend’s do-not-drink-under-any-circumstances eau de vie?

Sadly not.

You see, we’re a bit knackered today, after a yesterday spent canoeing down the river from Siorac to Limeuil, followed by dinner in the square at the marche nocture in Mauzac, followed by a film outdoors next to the abbey in Cadouin (all after taking care of our own animals and the neighbour’s veggie patch and house while they are away).

So we’ll have to make do with a bottle of our own very excellent elderflower champagne. The good life’s not so bad, really.

*But only if you’re prepared to wake up at a reasonable time of day and work surprisingly hard, digging, weeding, pushing wheelbarrows, making paths, clearing woodland to encourage healthy growth, fencing, yurt platform building and doing some of the other jobs that need doing over the autumn and winter months.

Yes. After the last guests leave on September 18th, the guest yurt will be free for you, people like you and people you like to come and help us continue to build écovallée. Youth, fitness and strength would all be a bonus. But seeing as we started this with none of those things, are not compulsory.

As soon as we get the paperwork sorted out, we’ll be registering as WWOOFing hosts. But as there’s a very good chance you’ll be reading this before that happens, you’re one of the first to know. We can put you up and feed you but, as we’re still fantastically poor and you’re probably English, couldn’t possibly pay your booze bill. Fortunately, very good wine is available from the “Cave” 500 metres (yards) away.

If you’re interested, send us an email. If you know anyone who might be interested – especially tree surgeons, gardeners, geologists, carpenters, biologists, blacksmiths, scythers (I can dream, can’t I?) – send them an email instead.

(In the time-honoured traditions of anglo-saxon advertising, here comes the time-limited bit…) But don’t leave it too long. From April 2nd 2011, we’ll be welcoming the first of next year’s fabulous paying guests.

Obviously, with the sun shining and the prospect of months of beautiful weather ahead, we’re thinking about heating the guest yurt. (Although maybe it would be more obvious if you knew about the guests we might be having in November.)

Her Outdoors did a bit of research and came up with this little beauty from Windy Smithy:

(I’d have given them the order for the name alone.)