“We agreed on À la Belle Étoile, which re­flects the mag­nif­i­cence of the Loire Val­ley sky and the fact that, so far, it had no roof”

Living France - - The Essentials - 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

There’s no such thing as in­ac­tiv­ity when you’re start­ing a new ven­ture. Just be­cause those who dish out plan­ning per­mis­sion were still miss­ing in ac­tion, with search par­ties ven­tur­ing out into the cold tun­dra of bu­reau­cracy hop­ing for a sign of ex­is­tence, it doesn’t mean there’s noth­ing to be done. For starters, we hadn’t yet come up with a name for our cham­bres d’hôtes-gîtes.

I sug­gested Shangri-la – myth­i­cal place names feel­ing rather in keep­ing, see­ing as the thing was still just a vague dream even this many months into the project. Natalie sug­gested La Cara­pace de Tortue, The Tor­toise Shell – a com­fort­ing, homely im­age and a bit­ing satire on the cur­rent rate of for­ward progress. We agreed though on À la Belle Étoile, ‘Un­der the Stars’, which re­flects the mag­nif­i­cence of the Loire Val­ley sky and the fact that, so far, it had no roof. Mar­ket­ing would be next, and lo­cal word of mouth is vi­tal.

“Still wait­ing for the per­mis de con­stru­ire?” Gus­tave the builder asked for the umpteenth time, chuck­ling, his pa­tience in­fin­itely greater than mine.

I worry about Gus­tave, a love­lier man you couldn’t wish to meet, but in­jury prone. Hav­ing listed be­fore his var­i­ous suc­ces­sive work-re­lated ail­ments, he ar­rived this time with a heavy limp, his crutches thrown aside as his re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion from a pre­vi­ous wound con­tin­ued.

This re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion how­ever was to wear a built-up shoe that would grad­u­ally be shaved over the com­ing weeks un­til it was on a par with the other foot. This was early days though, and he listed as though on a rough sea cross­ing.

“Built-up shoe, eh?” I said, “How did you get plan­ning per­mis­sion?”

Gus­tave gave a gen­tle, al­most pre­tend, laugh. Maybe some­thing got lost in trans­la­tion but frankly I thought it de­served more. A few min­utes later though, he was rolling around and barely able to con­tain him­self. He’d ar­rived to mark out where the new sta­ble (pend­ing au­tho­ri­sa­tion) would go, and to make life eas­ier we’d fenced off the horse and goats, so that the builders wouldn’t have to bat­tle in­quis­i­tive live­stock.

The horse was be­hav­ing her­self, but the goats were treat­ing the whole ex­er­cise like it was a play­ground; jump­ing through the elec­tric fence as though at a cir­cus. The wretched an­i­mals couldn’t have looked more relaxed about their ‘in­car­cer­a­tion’ had they been lolling about on their backs and run­ning the elec­tri­fied tape sug­ges­tively through their hoof toes.

I was livid; Gus­tave thought it hi­lar­i­ous. And what was even more hi­lar­i­ous ap­par­ently was the thun­der­ous look on my face and my at­tempts to herd the beasts into their pen.

“Ha ha!” Gus­tave laughed, “it’s like the lawn mower!”

I stopped goat rustling briefly, my dig­nity crushed. The Lawn Mower In­ci­dent. So, word had got out.

I wasn’t fussed about mowing the lawn so when the thing wouldn’t start, I was quite pleased un­til Natalie then in­sisted I take it to the me­chanic and get it fixed. I’m no good in these sit­u­a­tions. The week be­fore, I’d called out an elec­tri­cian for an emer­gency power fail­ure, only to find the power fail­ure was en­tirely mine and I’d pressed the wrong switch. It was the same with the mower. I got it to the me­chanic’s, lifted the heavy thing out of the car, re­con­structed the han­dle, ex­plained the prob­lem and, of course, he started it first time. “Good,” I said, as if it was all a test. He was look­ing at me oddly while I qui­etly dis­man­tled the han­dle, lifted the thing back into the car, waved good­bye and then drove off up the slight in­cline, thus send­ing the un­se­cured lawn mower ca­reer­ing through the car boot win­dow with a mas­sive crash. The me­chanic re­moved his base­ball cap, scratched his head and looked about for any hid­den cam­eras.

So, word is spread­ing about me and our new ven­ture… there’s no such thing as bad pub­lic­ity, right?

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