Wednesday, 21 March 2012

French Life Renovation

The villages of our part of France are full of old quaint houses and barns for sale as "renovation projects". This is mainly due to the demise of the villages as farms became more reliant on machinery than on people. One giant tractor can do in a day what 50 years ago would have needed a team of people.
Young people move out to the towns, the elderly die and houses become empty. The inheritance laws mean the property normally has multiple owners and all must agree before it can be put on the market. Whilst this takes place the houses fall into disrepair and move from "needs updating" to "needing renovation".
And this of course is just what the Brits like. Over here you can buy a barn with more land than you will ever need for €50-€60k. Houses are available for half of this, ( the one below is currently for sale for €20,000

But they need major surgery and in most cases the people who are buying have at best a little knowledge of first aid.
A move to France especially for retirement is an opportunity to change your life and renovation certainly changes your life!
One lady customer of the bar summed it up perfectly " In work I changed from a typewriter to a word processor to a computer, now in retirement I have changed to a cement mixer"
But the allure is easy to understand. In the UK we have small houses for big money. In our area you can buy a house with 5 or 6 bedrooms, 2 or 3 bathrooms, authentic fireplaces, beams etc  with a barn for a garden shed and perhaps an acre or two for the price of a 2 up 2 down in the South East.
The size of the plot has little impact on the price of the house so the Brits buy big.
We hear stories of pensioners living in mansions wrapped up in layers of jumpers as the house whilst big and no doubt beautifully finished is just too big to heat. They pray for the spring to warm the house but fear the growth in the gardens that are so big they can't deal with them.

And it's not only wrecks that get renovated. Fully habitable houses get the works as well. French houses often have GRENIERS, large roof spaces or attics.

Greniers seem to excite the Brits. They can be converted into more bedrooms, more bathrooms for "when the family come"  ( I think they mean the time when all kids, grandchildren, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins all happen to be passing)

I was talking to a guy whose job in the UK was loft conversions. He said that people converted because they needed extra space normally for a growing family and either didn't want to or couldn't afford to move. In France this is not the driving force, it is simply because "it's there"

You have to admire the renovators, they will not make fortunes selling on, they work day in day out in all weathers to get their house as they want it. They have to learn new trades and figure out French electrics, French plumbing and fosses. They become disciples of the god Bricomarche, but that's for another time.

I must finish now, I have a chicken house to convert into a luxury gite today.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Good to be back

We are back in Champniers. Our  holiday to the other side of the world to see son number 1 married is over and we are back in our routine. We will be open 12 hours a day six days a week until we next take a break, most probably in Jan 2013
The ice and snow we left has gone and the days are much more spring like, coldish nights but lovely clear days and warm if you can get in the sun. The trees outside have been pollarded during our break and the terrace will soon be ready for eating outside
We have survived a second winter. We have again managed to avoid a day with no customers, albeit only just on a couple of occasions !!

We reopened last Monday with the return of the Fish and Chip van after their winter break. Nothing like starting with a bang, the jet lag had to be forgotten as the car park filled with the local expats renewing their love of cod and chips with sarsons vinegar.

I also have a couple of updates to previous posts to report.

  • Despite me emailing my blog to the owner of the Wanganui Italian, he has failed to respond, He is no doubt too busy selling parmeasan
  • Red Wine man was in the bar earlier in the week and again went to the urinal. There were a number of people in the bar who had read the blog and knew the problem and  as he left the room vocal der der der der ( the sound of a siren!!) sounded and we held our breath in anticipation. We hadn't needed too, once more the lower urinal worked its magic and the floor remained dry
  • I mentioned that Christmas was simple here, However one simple thing they lack is knowing when to take the decorations down, Just about every village still has a couple of santas still climbing ropes!
  • The new MFI is apparently going the same way as the old one. Consultants unpaid and good people dismissed...what a shame