And it was all going so well

Ok I said to myself this morning enough of this procrastination (and in no small part hearing the nagging voice of my son in my mind) I have to tackle some of these jobs. Weather wise it was ideal - dry and bright but not too hot.

I had decided that I have to get the outside of the house smartened up. Repair the torchis and repaint and tart up the shutters. This mammoth task is too overwhelming to tackle in one fell swoop so decided to start with the side of the house that buts on to the Rue de Loison. No torchis on this bit thank goodness so only painting and shutters to deal with.

Sanded down the shutters with great gusto and by early afternoon was ready to slap on the woodstain. And it was all going so well - even the threatening few spots of rain didn't amount to anything and I was on to my last shutter, the small one over my oval window (is there no french word for oval - all my neighbours refer to la fenetre ronde) when disaster struck. I had half a 5 litre tin of stain left, enough I thought for a second coat later in the week, when I went to move it and completely misjudged the ladder and 2.5 litres of woodstain went flying! So did several choice epithets.

Well being Scottish and loathe to have to open another tin to finish my small shutter I was up and down the ladder, careful to time it when no-one was passing, dipping my paintbrush into the inch thick puddle of ronseal on the verge. Success - enough to finish the job before I sluiced the rest away. Good job the painting was planned is all can say.

Now I am retiring to the bath with a glass of wine and a brillo pad to try and get rid of the middle ages plague victim look.

yes, we've drifted rather a long way off painting shutters :-D

Right Andrew - with this shoulder I have several more months before I could travel if necessary and no entitlement to sickness benefits for being an AE, BUT the RSI/RAM mailings I get in listing my medical payments, repayments (plus what I am getting back of the complementary) actual already put me more in pocket in theory than what I have paid in over the last three years. It is all dead simple and I am never quite sure how people get in those states to which some of us respond with advice, but also it is much more dependable than the annual tax returns game for self-employed people like me in the UK. If cotisations happen then there will be an exodus of all nationalities including French of people who need to be self-employed. It would actually be an own goal.

Anyway, what are we rambling on about given Elizabeth's original issue or is it simply that life in France does that to us all?

Yes Brian, I feel for the rest of you, I'll have my company set up within a couple of months, 20 page projets de statuts juridiques has now been drawn up, and will be leaving the scheme for a far more standard, complicated and costly set up. I hope he just freezes the scheme enabling all those already in it to continue, rather than scrapping it all together. No-one's earning a low income is going to go self employed after being an AE if they have to fork out a few hundred euros a month for cotisations even if they're not earning anything...!

it's all good fun Elizabeth, or so I keep telling myself, I think I've been here too long as I just find it normal and have forgotten how simple things can be elsewhere! We've had all the same stuff before when renting privately and from a housing authority - it's standard here ;-)

Yes, if Hollande kills off AE including people like us already in we might just start packing.

@Andrew so true - as I am still only here part time and working in the uk 9 months of the year I'm still in uk tax and pension regime but they keep changing the goal posts so budgeting and planning is permanently changing scenario

and Sheila, now you can see why I consider the AE scheme sooo easy and no bureaucracy!

from beyond the grave Brian, please let's not even go there!

Sheila, yes hence my comment about shoe size, really is quite amazing. I actually base a lot of my standards on life in Germany where they need a lot of information but none of the personal stuff that comes up here. They say Germans are stiff, French and formalities, etc, now what is that word? Cinglés, that's the one.

Andrew: until we drop, that's optimistic, I reckon they'll expect us to keep going from beyond the grave the way things stand :D

@Brian, I think we'll all be working until we drop wth the current economic situation :-(

Sheila, the email, or rather the amount of information they want to know, is very standard when renting in France. Many anglophones are amazed and not aware as they buy straight away or rent from other anglophones who have a more anglosaxon approach! We had to wait a week while the said landlord gathered everyone's dossier loaded with all their details, bank statements, pay slips, my last three years accounts in our case and the figures for the tabac, both last year and the projected ones, my inside leg measurement and so on. We got the place but they still need more info - yes it's normal, it's France! People are soooo worried about bad payers and not being able to get them out with the trêve hivernale and all that! It's that daft that some agencies won't even bother showing you round houses for rent unless you've got a CDI and can provide all the info and docs before visiting. It doesn't phase me at all anymore, you get used to it. As for the CAF/MSA, we'll we're with the MSA but it wouldn't pay the rent! Having said that I sold a house/ruin to someone who earnt as much out of the CAF as I do working full time, long story but I have acharge over the house as she is paying for it in installements, she can't pay anymore after her OH shot two people in the village and they had to leave, he went off to prison, now they're back in the PO, not far from you, didn't fit in here at all in the aveyron but she still owes me 20k. The hussiers are on to that one now...! Life' never dull :-D

Andrew, was that email from a proposed landlord? That came across to me as incredibly nosy - is it that they want to know that even if you make no money on the tabac, that you can use your child benefit to help pay the rent?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yes, your father is good example. My two combined pensions (UK and D) will barely pay for dog and cat food each week and anyway nobody in this human rights type of field is ever able to retire because somebody always has another question or request. So we drop rather than stop, so I'm trying to stay fit for that.

Glad to know the shoulder's on the mend, as for pushing yourself, well I made it through all the military training when I was training to be a pilot/naval officer, including the "pilot shot down in enemy territory training (where on person ended up in a coma), I made it through losing around a stone in the 10 days! I've since kept to more reasonable exploits but recently had to strap an additional 3m ladder to my big 8m one when rebuilding a chimney some 10m up, and whilst doing so had to abandon the project a few times when the bees started swarming around their nest entrance in the said chimney :-O

When I was a blacksmith I kept to the quality side of things too - it always pays off.

and yes we all need on going repairs! I'm unfortunately having to watch my dad fighting off parkinsons and god knows what else after having beaten cancer 10 years ago, the only thing is the cancer knocked pretty much everything out of him and they had to remove so much of him that the rest finds it hard to carry on working properly. He has at last retired at 73 though.

Rhod, no never, he works only with one or two other people, does work to the highest craft standards and reckons to take about four months to put up a house. The interior, except the dividing walls perhaps, is not his business. OK, half a dozen men building the house 200m from us took well over a year, it is perhaps 15 months finished and the repairs being done are amazing. It is that old thing about craftsmen and crafty men that my father and his partner used to talk about. Also, intellectually he is also a University of Cardiff science dropout who on the one hand understands the properties and qualities of 'things' such as materials and knows how to think. The latter helps, as I know you know.

My physio was congratulating me today. Within a month I intend to be driving again and a little further on able to draw my longbow. Septemberish on my bike so that we can teach out daughters to cycle properly. I've decided to defy nature and get back to as I was before this sh!t happened which was esentially having the health and physical condition of somebody in mid to late 40s. I'll accept limits, but push them when I can. No roofing or cornice stone laying for me though, accepted that already. It is partly mind over matter and too many of my contemporaries look 80 already for me to accept it has to be that way. Like old buildings, occasional repairs help.

He'll wipe the floor with french builders, if he isn't already doing so, as more and more people cotton on to how poor standard french building technologies are (well they can be very good but so few bother- béton cellulaire being the perfect example). As for building work... I shot both elbows to bits using poor quality hammer tools to dig out a cave and now sometimes find it difficult typing for long periods! I simpathise with your shoulder, bloody nightmare when things need doing. Even though I'm SO MUCH younger than you Brian, I've already realised that I can't do half the things I could only 10/15 years ago and stick to full on cycling to keep the heart and lungs in shape and tackle all the back-breaking chores as and when I feel up to it/have to. It's one of the reasons I've shelved the idea of a self-build, liek you I have the skills and the know-how but think it'd just be too much, physically and mentally, with everything else going on - I'm learning that sometims you just have to accept your limits...!

Mon dieu,tout, sauf ton taille de chaussure. J'en suis venu à s'attendre à quelque chose, chaque fois que j'ai 'enquêtes' de cette nature.

Yes, Rhod has the 37 and 50 cm ones delivered and the former come out much cheaper for doing it. He orders roughly two average size house loads a time though. As the son of a house builder who had my weekends and school holidays from age 10 onward on site (only way to get pocket money) until I had other jobs, I learned a lot and do a lot of building myself - bloody shoulder has put a curse on that now though.

they are pretty much the best thing since sliced bread along with béton cellulaire (ytong) but there are some problems with rendering béton cellulaire which, like for like, comes out slightly better than monomur but is now beaten by the 50cm blocks - not that I've heard of any arriving here in France yet, there still on the 37 cm ones which are excellent anyway. The biggest problem is getting builders who know how to build with them, there have been so many well documented horror stories that people end up going with parpaing/brick in internal insulation (the worst of the modern options) because that's what every one does and it's the easiest...!Yes I've heard of people getting their entire house worth of monomur delivered direct from Germany, Belgium etc. I haven't completely given up hope of building a place but I think it'll be more having a place built now as I simply haven't got the time or the energy anymore. Will wait a year or so into our business project and if the accounts are good enough we'll be back into home ownership in a couple of years. As for rental in France - it never ceases to amaze me how much they want to know - have a look at this email I received this morning:


Je reviens vers vous, car j’ai changé mon ordinateur et une nouvelle version a été installée et a transformé de nombreux fichiers que j’avais reçus et sauvegardés, dont les vôtres, en un format que je ne peux plus ouvrir.

Pour mon dossier d’assurance, obligatoire pour nos emprunts, pouvez-vous me faire parvenir dès que possible : 1 R.I.B., 1 pièce d’identité pour chacun d’entre vous, les trois derniers bulletins de salaire, les deux derniers avis d’imposition annuels, les 3 dernières quittances de votre fournisseur d’électricité, 1 copie de votre carte professionnelle en tant que commerçant (relative à votre bureau de tabac, lorsque vous serez en sa possession), une attestation d’allocations familiales s’il ya a lieu. Veuillez donc me faire parvenir tous les documents que vous m’aviez envoyés auparavant, notamment en ce qui concerne l’acquisition du bureau de tabac et le prévisionnel établi par le comptable. Je ne sais pas si vous pouvez vous le procurer, on me demande l’attestation de l’expert comptable confirmant le montant des bénéfices pour l’année en cours.

Je reste à votre disposition en cas de problème.

Je vous remercie par avance de votre collaboration.


Andrew: VM are pushing the monomur bricks as the best thing since sliced bread hereabout and my friend Rhodri (He has been here so long he is far more French than Welsh) who specialises in building traditional Périgordine style uses them inside the limestone cladding and if we can raise the money to rebuild the nasty bit of our house (in which I am now) with horrible blue bricks that transmit cold even if you insulate and the steel and asbestos roof, they are what he proposes to use. The big advantage is the self-insulating clay brick remains intact after drying out which is not the case with interior insulation. They are also incredible load bearers so that traditonal roofing including floor beams, joists and all are no problem.

But no oeuil de boeuf, we'll stick to local style lucarnes, but with double glazing of course.

The other thing is that when we relaid and repair one roof we lined it and intend to strip the big roof and do the same and a local builder told us it was all modern nonsense that they had never used. Marcus, the Belgian roofer who did us, laughed himself silly. Marc imports the stuff from England because in SW France nobody stocks it and when ordered it comes out umpteen times the price of having it delivered in bulk by Norbert Dentressangle.

Ah damp in old places... you just have to live with it and the walls don't like it if you try and dry them out too much! Very pragmatic here in the Aveyron, traditional houses always us the ground floor for the animals and storage with all living accommodation on the first floor avoiding damp problems and providing some heating, if rather smelly, from the animals in the winter! yes it sounds like a spring, I've had a couple of places here where the well was actually in the cave/basement - that way paople can't nick your water or poison it!