Any old iron

As Ian Moore tries to clear the decks ready for his B&B and gîte con­ver­sion, his wife has other ideas

Living France - - Contents - 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

Ihadn’t ex­actly ex­pected world dom­i­na­tion by this point; our all-pow­er­ful, global chain of cham­bres d’hôtes will no doubt take time. But hav­ing made a bleak mid­win­ter, fire­side de­ci­sion to start down the hos­pi­tal­ity route, I hadn’t en­vis­aged re-stock­ing the win­ter fire­wood be­fore sod had even been bro­ken, as it were. Don’t get me wrong, we moved to France pretty much for the pace of life, but this is now mak­ing tec­tonic plate move­ment look wil­fully cav­a­lier.

For a na­tion that prides it­self on revo­lu­tion, in­dus­trial ac­tion and gen­er­ally stick­ing it to the ‘man’, France loves a rule. In par­tic­u­lar, it likes to get per­mis­sion, and plan­ning per­mis­sion es­pe­cially. In or­der to con­vert the horse’s sta­ble into a high-end cham­bre de charme, we need to kick the horse out and build the can­tan­ker­ous old beast a new sta­ble, which ap­par­ently now re­quires the dreaded plan­ning per­mis­sion too. Our shoul­ders slumped on the news, but the ha­rassed may­oress, now with a Chief In­spec­tor Drey­fus eye twitch fol­low­ing a gen­eral elec­tion and two rounds of leg­isla­tive elec­tions, was un­bend­ing. “The horse will need per­mis­sion,” she said.

“I’m not sure we’ll get her up the stairs to your of­fice for that,” I replied un­help­fully, and set­ting the twitch off to max­i­mum flap.

It’s im­por­tant not to lose sight of the goal when faced with ob­sta­cles, so while ar­chi­tects, politi­cians, builders and other trades­peo­ple ham­mer these things out, we need to be ready for the mo­ment the ac­tion ac­tu­ally starts. And I was de­ter­mined to clear out a lot of old junk, and make space for the com­ing trans­for­ma­tion. My first mis­take was do­ing this at the start of the bro­cante sea­son, my sec­ond was to strut around loudly hail­ing the oceans of space I had cre­ated. Throw into that mix my wife’s ad­dic­tion to other peo­ple’s cast-offs and by the end of the sum­mer, we had full barns again.

Once upon a time the French bro­cante was rightly hailed as the source of an­tique won­der, but eBay and mass plun­der­ing by Brits (usu­ally with a TV crew in tow) have put paid to that. And now this once mighty in­sti­tu­tion is just a jum­ble sale of babies’ cloth­ing, old McDon­ald’s Happy Meal toys, VHS cas­settes and in­com­plete board games. Yet de­spite this dearth of qual­ity, my wife still re­turns with a full car ev­ery time. And so, de­spite it be­ing made very clear that the cham­bres d’hôtes would be my ‘depart­ment’ and mine only, I was un­cer­e­mo­ni­ously dumped from the in­te­rior de­sign com­mit­tee while she went shabby chic crazy. I’m still not en­tirely sure of the de­sign route she’s taken, only that the dom­i­nant colour is rust and that the mass of space I had cre­ated by re­mov­ing a moun­tain of hastily bought ‘an­tiques’ has now been re­filled with iden­ti­cal stuff.

I am con­vinced that we have reached the apoth­e­o­sis of re­cy­cling here. We bought some­one’s old tat, sorry heir­loom, stored it for a while be­fore I then dumped it at the lo­cal déchet­terie. Some­one else then res­cued it, took it to a bro­cante and my wife re-bought it think­ing she now has a match­ing pair. It’s the Cir­cle of Life as Sir El­ton once sang.

Of course, it might be very clever job cre­ation. Sens­ing my frus­tra­tion at the snail-like pace of ad­min­is­tra­tion, what she’s ac­tu­ally do­ing is keep­ing me gain­fully em­ployed, like throw­ing a ball for a dog so it doesn’t go dig­ging in the flower beds. I had a timetable in mind, which was prob­a­bly naïve but took into ac­count the ‘noth­ing will hap­pen, it’s sum­mer’ pe­riod, the dis­trac­tion of la ren­trée and a harsh win­ter and I was still fairly con­fi­dent of cut­ting the rib­bon on the thing next spring.

“And we have to buy all the fur­ni­ture yet!” I whined into my late-sum­mer pastis.

“Oh, don’t worry about that,” she said, “the bro­cantes will be up again by Easter.”

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