May 2013

A couple things, now I come to mention it.

The first is: During my first post-paperwork paid job, my strimmer broke down and will be in the strimmer hospital for a couple of weeks. I’m hoping it’s not serious (or expensive) and am confident the strimmer doctor will do his best. Fortunately, I have access to two other machines through the English mafia, and the breakdown only stopped me for a few minutes, which coincided nicely with lunch.

The second is: I met someone on Friday who confirmed that the auto-entrepreneur scheme will be abolished. Apparently, nothing will be written into law until September, so there is still plenty of time for people to get very, very upset in an attempt to overturn, or amend, delay, or in other ways fight the abolition. All we can do in the meantime, which is all we have ever been able to do, is: Go back to work.

I had meeting with a Very Nice Woman at the Chamber of Commerce, first thing. I explained that I’d registered as an auto-entrepreneur (AE) last month but the dossier had disappeared. She checked to make sure it really wasn’t on the system and we went through the whole process again. It only took a few minutes and was punctuated by the odd phone call, some banter with other women in the office, and the occasional dashing out for some reason. I was fine with all of this – I was paying 42 very hard-earned euros for the meeting, so I was determined to enjoy every moment.

When all the details were in her computer, she printed out a document for me to read and sign. Then she went off to photocopy it, along with various pieces of paper I brought with me, and gave me a whole load of papers to take away.

If you’re thinking of becoming an auto-entrepreneur, I recommend having the meeting. She went through the same steps as I did before, but when it came to something I didn’t understand (like which medical insurance I would like to sign up for – answer, it doesn’t matter – and when would I like to pay a tax I will never have to pay – answer, annually), she could explain. When you do it at home, you just look at the computer screen while your brain goes into lockdown because It Just Doesn’t Make Any Sense.

I also Learnt Something New. One of the pieces of paper she gave me has the registered number for my business on it. I asked if it was my SIREN or my SIRET (types of business registration) and she told me that the nine-figure number is my SIREN. The SIRET has another five figures, which is the postcode for the business. If we ever move, the SIRET will change, but the SIREN would always be the same. (Ahhhh, I don’t hear you say.)

After the meeting, I went to the job centre to give them copies of the things they need copies for. A woman came over and I explained the situation to her. She directed me to another woman, behind a reception desk and I explained everything to her. I was then asked to sit and wait for a few minutes. I sat, calm and composed, feeling like I had won a black belt in bureaucracy. I remained serene while explaining everything to another woman, who changed some information on her computer and gave me another form to complete. I am to wait for Something to arrive in the post and send a copy to another office where, presumably, a woman will type something into a computer and Everything Will Be Alright.

Will the Something arrive in the post on time for something? How can we be sure that everything really will be alright? Where are all the men? Come back soon for Part Three of my latest bureaucratic adventure.

We haven’t been enjoying our usual Spring weather recently, so work on… the… new 12-foot yurt area has… been somewh…at int… er… rupt… ed.

Her Outdoors has nearly finished the wall on which the kitchen will be built, though, and only needs a few hours for the roof (look at how lush that grass shouldn’t be):

new yurt area

And I need some dry (non-strimming) hours to paint Death to All Wood-Boring Insects on the joists and a couple of days to lay the floor.

yurt platform


I’m pleased with the new joist layout (not that anyone will see it after the floor goes down). It’s satisfyingly close to the original design.

I took that video of the bunnies six weeks ago. This is what they look like now:


Here’s how the very long-term coppice experiment is going at the moment:


You can see last year’s blog post here, for reference.

I’ve spent half my working life as a self-employed person.

In the UK, it was pretty straightforward. You’d call an accountant. They’d do something accountantish. A couple of hours later, you were good to go. You’d do some work. Send an invoice. And get paid. (The only trap to be aware of is remembering to put your tax money aside when the cheque comes in, so when the tax bill arrives 18 months later, you can pay it. It took me a long time to get that one.)

Over in France, as you might expect, it’s a bit more complicated.

It used to be fantastically complicated, and punishingly expensive. Then President Sarkosy’s government introduced a new system called “Auto Entrepreneur” (AE) to make things easier. Instead of paying all your charges up front (I kid you not – Her Outdoors was quoted a minimum of €3,400 per year if she wanted to make and sell arty cushion covers, for example), you could pay a percentage of what you earn, as you earn it.

Many people, it must be said, found the change to the new, simple system extremely distressing and they’ve been vigorously campaigning against it ever since. Every now and again, we hear that the AE system will be abolished and everyone will be enrolled in the old, complicated, expensive system. But just as many people find this prospect just as distressing and are campaigning equally vigorously against that.

Meanwhile the window to becoming an AE remains open, and I have climbed through it, strimmer in hand.

I made the leap in early April, the day before I had agreed to do some work for someone – for actual money. To make my life easier, I decided to sign up using the official website. My first difficulty was deciding what kind of work I am going to do. Many English speakers do gardening work, but after a little digging (ahem), I discovered that mowing is not covered by the AE scheme as it is considered agricultural and therefore handled by a different department that allows you to work a certain number of hours a year, after which you have to become a Chef d’Enterprise and start paying those €3,400-odd charges. But I did discover that, while I could not legally mow a lawn, I can strim around the edges – and lawns have lots of edges.

I ticked the right boxes, clicked “Submit” and waited for Some Documents to arrive. Very quickly, I got an email asking for my French ID, among other things, even though I had sent in a copy of my passport. I re-sent it. And waited for those Some Documents again. (I also started working, which partly explains the lack of blog posts recently.)

Last week, I decided to see how it was all going and discovered that my dossier had vanished. But I need those Some Documents, I emailed. The rapid reply suggested I go back to the website and start again.

Only a fool with a lot of time on their hands would be taken in by such a suggestion, so I arranged a meeting with a Real Person at the Chamber of Commerce next week. I am to pay €42 for this meeting. I’m not sure why, and am aware that I will have to sweat away strimming incredibly steep embankments, receiving nettle fragments to exposed areas of neck, slug parts to the face shield, occasionally finding the outlets of septic tanks with my feet and trying to avoid dog shit hitting what amounts to a very fast-moving hand-held fan for 3.5 long hours (before tax – and paying for my own fuel – and transport) to pay for this short meeting. So I’m going to make sure it’s value for money.

You, on the other hand, can come back in a few days and see what happened for nothing.

strimmer head

I’ve been doing a lot of strimming (US: weed whacking, Aus: brush cutting) recently. For money (more on that, soon). Which made me notice that the insert for my strimmer head was actually wearing out. I didn’t know how badly it was worn until I bought a new one (pictured right).

I’m beginning to think Pepito, our “working horse”, is a bit of a hippy. He has the long, flowing blond hair, he gets through an unbelievable amount of grass – and he keeps breaking out of his field to set our rabbits free.

A few weeks ago (or was it months – we’ve been busy), he broke out, kicked the mobile rabbit runs around and allowed the boy rabbits to mingle freely with the girl rabbits, the result of which was… more rabbits.

This much you may know.

More recently, he broke out and re-released the rabbits, one of which (the mother of the unplanned bunnies) came back only at the end of the day looking tired and out of breath.

Then, yesterday (was it only yesterday – we really have been busy), he broke out again, re-re-released the rabbits, and allowed the mummy bunny to go all born free and return to the wild, from which she has not returned. I know what you’re thinking – “been eaten by a fox, more like” – and up until recently, I’d have been with you all the way.

But some years ago, after our first break-out (it’s only just occurred to me that it may have been Pepito, who broke back into his field before breakfast) and two female bunnies ran off into the night. We assumed they’d been eaten, until – a couple of weeks ago – Her Outdoors spotted a large, white bunny rabbit just down the road. Almost certainly one of ours, or a blood relative. (Most of the wild rabbits are smallish and brownish.)

It’s a good job we don’t keep lions.