FOUR GÎTES TO THE WIND

Hav­ing lived in France for 12 years, Ian Moore has fi­nally dusted off his busi­ness plan to start a B&B-gîte busi­ness. But will his Basil Fawlty-like host­ing skills draw in the pun­ters? He hopes so…

Living France - - CONTENTS -

Colum­nist Ian Moore ex­plains why he’ll soon be chan­nelling his in­ner Basil Fawlty

Throw open the doors, and count the mil­lions as they come rolling in

We did have a plan ini­tially, I think. I can’t re­mem­ber what it was ex­actly, but I’m pretty sure there was one. It was prob­a­bly scrib­bled on the back of a lunchtime nap­kin and read some­thing like, ‘move to France, buy big house, er… just re­lax a bit.’ It prob­a­bly came with a time frame too; five years, that’s the stan­dard for plans I be­lieve. Well, 12 years into that vague no­tion of a germ of an idea, we’re fi­nally crack­ing on with what­ever it may have been that we were think­ing about.

If you live in the UK and hap­pen to look through the prop­erty pages of this mag­a­zine, you’ll prob­a­bly need to have a sit down, or even a stiff drink. The dis­par­ity in house prices be­tween the two coun­tries is sim­ply jaw-drop­ping, to the ex­tent that should you be lucky enough to be able to move here, then the size of prop­erty avail­able to you makes you feel like you’ve won the lot­tery. Whereas if you’re try­ing to get onto the prop­erty lad­der in the UK, you prob­a­bly need to ac­tu­ally win the lot­tery. As my grandad used to say, “fill your boots.”

Well we did. Those boots were over­flow­ing, they still are. But at some point, once you’ve stopped smugly telling your UK friends what you own and what it cost you, the nuts and bolts of prop­erty cost and main­te­nance rears its ugly head. In other words, re­al­ity sets in. I do re­mem­ber our fuzzy-headed logic at the time and it went some­thing like; ‘We’ll make the prop­erty work for us. More rosé?’ The sec­ond part of that de­tailed busi­ness plan has been car­ried out with gusto and en­er­getic dili­gence, but now, fi­nally, the first part is be­ing dusted off too.

In short, we’re set­ting up a cham­bres d’hôtes/ gîte busi­ness. Now the first thing peo­ple say when one an­nounces that kind of news in France is, “Re­ally? Me too.” Ev­ery­one it seems is set­ting up a cham­bres d’hôtes-gîte busi­ness. In fact I reckon at the cur­rent rate of start-ups, peo­ple who don’t run a cham­bres d’hôtes- gîte busi­ness in France will likely be in the mi­nor­ity some­time around De­cem­ber. But why not? It seems the log­i­cal thing to do for us.

We have a lot of empty out­build­ings, a fair bit of land, we live in a UNESCO World Her­itage area, you can’t move for châteaux around these parts, vine­yards from here to the hori­zon and it’s the goat’s cheese cap­i­tal of the world. What’s not to like about that?! Throw open the doors of those out­build­ings, I say, throw them open; do them up, whack a bed in, leave a few crois­sants ly­ing about in the morn­ing and count the mil­lions as they come rolling in. This time next year Rod­ney…

It has been pointed out I might add, and cru­elly in my opin­ion, that maybe my back­ground in grouchy stand-up com­edy and grumpy au­thor­ing isn’t ex­actly ‘ge­nial host’ ma­te­rial, to which I’ll quote Ber­tie Wooster and re­ply “Tcha!” That’s our USP! That’s our an­gle. Those peo­ple who ad­ver­tise them­selves as ‘The Fawlty Tow­ers Din­ing Ex­pe­ri­ence’ are mak­ing a mint at this game and with nary a Cleese in sight. Pun­ters will be queu­ing round the block to watch me be­rate the goats, wres­tle with the or­chard ham­mock and make daily trips to the bot­tle bank.

I said ex­actly that to my wife, and her look of ‘I suf­fer this daily, peo­ple won’t buy it’ wasn’t quite strong enough to put me off. I’ve set my mind to this, so build­ing quotes and the nec­es­sary for­mal­ity of in­form­ing the may­oress have all been ar­ranged. I haven’t thought of a name for the place yet but this is def­i­nitely hap­pen­ing. I have a proper busi­ness plan and ev­ery­thing. I may even have writ­ten it down some­where...

Ian Moore is a co­me­dian, writer, chut­ney-maker and mod who lives with his fam­ily in the Loire Val­ley. His lat­est book is C’est Mod­nifique!, (£8.99, Sum­mers­dale Pub­lish­ers). ian­moore.info

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