It is with some sadness that I write of the death of my work boots on July 11th 2013, around noon:

boots

They came to me some years ago from English mafia Mandy. Not quite my size, very well worn and missing a hook and half a lace, but they still had plenty of life in them.

They accompanied me almost daily in the woods and fields ever since, occasionally eating through another piece of cord that I used instead of laces – largely because I had 30 metres or so sitting in the lean-to. But I didn’t begrudge this negligible running cost. That was those boots. They were as hard working and hard wearing in Winter as every other season and – given the choice between steel-toe wellies and those boots, I went for the boots almost every time. I began to think they’d go on forever.

But yesterday, while I was strimming on a particularly steep incline, I felt a pinching under my right foot. When I stopped, I looked and found this:

boots 1

Now, I know what you’re thinking: That’s an equipment failure and I should send the boots back to the manufacturer with a strongly worded letter. The evidence that it is a design flaw is all-too obvious from the other boot, which has failed in exactly the same place:

boots 2

But complaining about a second-hand pair of boots that have served me so well would seem, well, churlish. So I have decided to retire the boots and have spent actual money on a new pair. These boots will be unceremonially dumped when I get round to it. It’s just what they would have expected.

May they rest in pieces.

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.

Some of you will know all about the power of manifestation. Others will say: “Be careful what you wish for” without realising that they are acknowledging the very same unstoppable force. I won’t go into detail – it’s all out there on the interweb.

Why am I saying this? Because in my very first post, I mentioned going to France to “become a peasant”. Recently, when it looked like the yurt project was finally dead, I even started a second blog called “peasant life”. Around the same time, I changed my twitter name to bloodypeasant – trying to find the humour in what was observably a pretty dire situation.

For months now, we’ve been living not just like peasants, but as peasants. Scratching around for money, wearing clothes donated by the wonderful English Mafia, living very hand to mouth (no change there – it was just the same in England, only the overheads were higher), occasionally wailing, and might even have gnashed our teeth if we knew how.

But all that’s changed. I’ve tweaked the ecovallee.com website to announce the 2010 offering (fewer frills – not quite easyyurt but not the most luxurious yurt camp in the world, either), changed my other blog name and my twitter name. We’re not going to be peasants any more. (We’ve stopped that – it’s silly.) We’re going to be something infinitely more pleasant.

In an ideal world, you probably wouldn’t leave it this late in the year to build your winter home. But for various reasons, known and unknown, we have.

After a further visit from our friend with the JCB, who dug a nice big hole for our sceptic tank, we began our bedroom yurt platform, which currently looks like this:


Right next to it, our bathroom-to-be looked like this when the sun rose today (yes, I carried all those blocks up there, which is one of the many reasons I’m so bluddie tired at the moment):


And after being savaged by English mafia Dave and James without the benefit of a lunchbreak, looks like this as the sun begins to set:


Let’s see what we can do with the next few days of glorious weather, shall we? No pressure. Winter’s only six weeks or so away…

English mafia Dave and James came back yesterday and did some frankly beautiful work while I shovelled sand, lime and cement, and shifted blocks. I ended the day feeling a little bummed, not able to thank them enough for working for no money – although I should have been elated now the Shack looks like this:


Interesting Fact: That chunk of wood above the bathroom (-to-be) window is the first natural material in this whole structure, which formally held up some asbestos roofing material in almost the same place.

Utterly Irrelevant Fact: Those bits of wood sticking out of the wall that you can’t see in this picture… you wouldn’t believe how hard they were to get out.

Something else for nothing: The scaffolding. (Lent by a neighbour.)

Here’s a picture English mafia Dave took the other morning:


The bottom two courses visible were almost completely done by English mafia Nick. The others are all mine, laid one row at a time all the way round in a nice straight-ish line. (Seems logical, doesn’t it?)

Here’s a shot Dave took that same afternoon.


I’m the one standing next to English Mafia James, who laid all the other courses – building up each corner, then filling in the middle (like I’d been told by English mafia Lee). Guess what? It’s a helluva lot quicker. Another couple of days and it’ll be done.

The last few steps down the devolutionary ladder were expectedly frantic.

We attempted to build the bathroom extension and, thanks completely to English mafia Nick, made an excellent start. But we didn’t have enough time, so we focused our efforts on: waterproofing and laying a floor in the Shack basement for Stuff Storage; putting a joisted floor in one half of the tractor shed for Yurt Storage; sanding and oiling an 18-foot yurt frame and setting it up in the field for Other Stuff Storage; building an emergency bucket compost toilet; taking yet More Stuff (we seem to have a lot of it) to Jackie and Chris’ barn; turning the caravan into a kitchen; and keeping two small children relatively happy.

Then more of the English mafia (and one Belgian: ‘We don’t have mafia in Belgium’) pulled together to help us move – despite the heat (high 30s and beyond) and we drove away from conventional accommodation for the foreseeable future.

It’s only taken three years since having the idea, two years since moving to France, countless drops of blood, floods of sweat and the occasional tear, but we’ve done it. Finally, legally, we’re living in a tent in a field. (The devolution is so complete, I’m actually writing this on a piece of paper on a table in the shade, in biro. It probably should be a pencil. Give it time.)

Obviously, this would be an excellent time to bring this blog to an end. But I’d only have to start a new one to tell you what happens after the devolution. So I’ve settled instead on a simple name change. You know how I love parentheses.