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Everything posted by Coco

  1. We had a French guy lined up (and had waited since April for him to start) but the silly man went and broke his leg three weeks before he was due to start our job!!  Previous experience of Brit builders in France has only been bad so we were extremely reluctant to go down this route but any French artisans we found couldn't start til NEXT April (16 months after we started looking) and as that will be into our B&B season we unfortunately HAVE to chance using a Brit.  Hopefully the one we have now chosen will be able to restore our faith in our own countrymen!
  2. Well as some have suggested, we've "walked away" from the original guy (who wanted 40%).  Silly man hadn't sent the devis as promised, so only has himself to blame!  The ones who wanted 30% on signing and 30% on commencement have agreed to 30% only as it's a short job with only cement as an outlay on their part. The vibes were getting worse and worse from the first guy and then when my husband saw him driving round in a top of the range BMW (as his SECOND car) it was the final straw!  We had already waited since last February for a builder and as the work has to be completed before our "season" starts in March we really do have to go with someone who can start now.  It's only a small job, probably a total of about 7 days over all, so can be slotted in between other jobs (just hope the slots aren't too far apart!!) Despite what everyone says, I still find it strange to have to pay up front.  We've had French guys who have had to pay for expensive bathroom suites, a boiler, veluxes etc in the past and never asked for a sous until the work was complete.  However, at least we feel comfortable with the new guy - for now at least!  God, what a minefield
  3. Thanks everyone, much as I thought! You're dead right John, I've already phoned our second choice builder (who in fact we regretted not going with almost as soon as we'd done it - he was more expensive but seems more professional)  Just hope he's prepared to take us on, having been rejected by us a couple of weeks ago Baz - the ferry he was supposed to have been on would have arrived in Boulogne at lunchtime yesterday, so I presume wouldn't have been affected by the blockade.  Besides, he did say it was due to bad weather.
  4. I know you have to sign an attestation to say that you have owned the house for more than two years, and whatever "age" the house has to be, then I presume mine has surpassed it (1734) as all previous work carried out by French artisans has been at 5.5% but that was installing central heating, a staircase and bathrooms, so more clear-cut as renovation within the existing house.
  5. Due to our French macon breaking his leg we have had to find someone else at short notice.  We have devis from two British builders.  One has quoted 5.5% TVA and the other 19.6% for the same job.  The job is to lay a concrete floor in the barn which is integral to our house, knock a doorway through from the barn to the kitchen and lower the doorway into the barn (which is currently a metre above ground level) to ground level and then consquently lowering the lintel and filling the stonework in above the new level of lintel. When we applied for the permis it was for "agrandissement" of the existing house but is that covered under renovation at 5.5% or new build at 19.6%? Can anyone tell me who is quoting the right rate?
  6. An old chestnut I know, but we have recently had devis from two English builders, both properly registered but both asking for hefty upfront deposits.  I would normally say no, but as our French builder broke his leg three weeks before his due start date we were grateful to even find anyone who could do the work this side of Christmas.  However, one is asking for 40% on commencement of work and the other is asking for 30% on signing of devis and 30% on commencement of work.  Apart from our first fiasco with a British cowboy in France, we have always used French artisans and none have asked for money up front, even the plumber who installed a central heating system complete with boiler and fuel tank. I think both of these deposits sound excessive, especially as the amount of materials needed in the first couple of weeks amounts to less than 10% of the overal cost.  What do you artisans think?  Should I negotiate this down on the basis that none of the local French artisans ask for money in advance, or walk away?
  7. Strange question I know, but I have reason to believe that our builder is starting to tell a few porkies to delay his start date.  Tonight he told us that he's stuck in the UK because Speedferries cancelled their ferry due to bad weather.  The Dover and Boulogne forecasts were both good visiblity and southerly winds of 7-9miles an hour.  As we crossed with Speedferries in January in a Force 9 gale I find a cancellation for this reason a little hard to believe. As we haven't signed the devis yet (because he also hasn't provided a written copy) we're now reluctant to do so, especially if he is telling blatant lies.  He says he sent us three hard copies and they must be getting lost in the post.  If he starts out like this (and wants 40% up-front) where is it likely to end we are asking ourselves.  And at the moment, my only conclusion is..... in tears
  8. Most hunters work a five or six day week, why should they not be allowed out so that others are.  Round here they are only allowed to hunt two days a weeks anyway, Thursdays and Sundays.  We hear them (very close by) and frequently see them on Sunday mornings and if they're walking in the lanes they usually carry their guns "broken" but I don't think I've ever hear a shot after mid-day.  I've also never seen any that would appear to be under the influence of alcohol as many people on this forum have complained about in the past.  But as I've said before, I clearly live in a very "rosey" part pf France.  Compromise is what it's all about, what about giving the huntrs free rein in the mornings and taking your walks in the woods in the afternoon? (it's usually a bit warmer at this time of year by then anyway). Besides, look just how well the hunting ban has worked in the UK.  Does anyone really believe that banning it on Sundays here would make a ha'porth of difference?  I don't think so!  And at least the hunters in this country actually eat what they kill.
  9. So what's strang about that Gay?  Having lived here for nearly 3 years now that sounds PERFECTLY NORMAL to me!
  10. Back to Pain Perdu: Slice of brioche, dipped in beaten egg, icing sugar and cream and fried in butter, served topped with pan-fried fruit such as peaches, nectarine or strawberries.  One of the more popular desserts I offer at our B&B - but most definitely NOT bread and butter pudding!!
  11. My one today was from the Auditor General of Nat West Banking Group plc (who I didn't realise, speaks pidgeon English).  He has been kind enough to offer me a 35% cut of a £58 million holding he has for a guy who was sadly killed, along with his wife and only child, in some Alaskan air crash. He would rather I (someone whose name he has clearly plucked from the ether from millions of other unknowns) benefit from this guy's sad demise, than HM tax office!!!
  12. I bult my own website using frontpage with no previous knowledge (it's a littl ebt slow loading but I've had lots of good feedback) and I use www.freeola.com to host it. They charged £29.99 (I think) for the name and offer free hosting.  And that £29.99 is for two years!!
  13. Have to say Will that my experience of both EDF and France Telecom have been absolutely first class compared to their oppo's in the UK.  And we've had quite occasion to call both out on many more than one occasion, what with farmers pulling down our telephone and power cables by mistake with tractors and woodpeckers eating our telephone lines!!!  They've always been there within 3 working hours of the callout and always managed to sort any problems within another two!  Again, I can only speak of my own experience but perhaps I have found that rose-coloured corner of France!
  14. Thre's a Brit owned restaurant about 15 miles from us and very good it is too. However, they serve traditional French plat du jour 6 days a week, as well as a quite adventurous (but French) a la carte menu.  They say that they know they would go out of business if they tried to serve British food, even though it's quite a touristy little town in the summer.  On Friday nights they have now decided to introduce fish and chips and have found that their clientele is about 50/50 French/British.  The French are the local notaire, vet, GP etc, apparently the local ouvriers won't entertain the idea of trying British fayre but the French middle class think it's quite "chic" to have something British.  You now have to book in advance to get a seat, but it is only one evening per week.  That's 1/11th of their opening times.  They have started to introduce a few Brit dishes - steak and kidney pud and the like to their a la carte and some of the French are starting to try it.  They seem to be going from strength to strength, so this may be the way to go. On a totally different matter: There is a fish and chip van that does the rounds here, as Dick Smith often tells us, but we've never got round to trying that either. I have heard (but can't confirm that it's true) that the fish and chip van has been temporarily put out of business by the gendarmes.  Apparently he is fully registered but he has been advertising British artisans, not all of whom are registered, and the gendarmes, who are clamping down on "black" workers in mid and south Manche have told him they will be contacting him again if they find that he has been promoting any proven "black" workers.
  15. Or so an economist on the BBC said yesterday.   And I was very pleased to hear someone backing it up with figures.  I get a bit fed up with hearing our British guests coming here and complaining about how lazy the French are and how they're never at work.  When I worked in the UK I used to get pretty p****d off at snide comments made when you came in at 9 and left bang on 5.30.  My argument was always that those that stayed later weren't any more dedicated than me.... just less effective if they couldn't get their work done in a normal working day - or allowing themselves to be taken advantage of by having an unfair workload.  Either way, as long as I got my work done, I saw no reason to hang about trying to appear so conscientious, diligent and hardworking, when a lot of people spent a lot of time taking "fag breaks" or just chatting. Apparently, the figures show that the average Frenchman works 240 hours a year less than his British counterpart (that's 6 weeks!) and yet France (with a similar population to the UK) is just as wealthy.  The economist's argument was that although the French spend less time at work, they are more efficient when they are there.  Bears out my own observations when working in London and when I've visited any offices in France.   In fact, in the last quarter the UK's economic growth was 0.4% and France's 0.7%.  So long live the French way of life, the lazy b*****ds!
  16. But if you had stayed where you were and got a less well paid job locally you may have cut an awful lot of that out and had more time etc. Neither of us did the journey for the hell of it.  If I'd taken a local job I'd have taken a drop of about £12,000 per year (absolutely NO exaggeration!!! ) and my husband a drop of about £5,000 and then we'd have been even more hard up than we are here because we couldn't have paid the mortgage!!  I'm afraid that's why I never have any sympathy for teachers who work in central London and say they can't afford houses there - most people CAN'T, that's usually why people commute!.  At least here we own our house outright and that's another pressure we no longer have. No, as I said before, my reasons for coming were never financial, I always knew we would be "poor" in France.  We may be poor but we's 'appy   It would be an absolute disaster to both of us if for any reason we had to return to the UK.
  17. Back to the original question.  I think it's a mixture of several of the statements made so far.  It definitely depends, as SB said, on WHICH bit of the UK's grass you are comparing with which piece of French turf.  Coming from the overcrowded south east with a daily commute down the M1 into central London, to a rural part of Normandy I would definitely say that the French grass is greener.  HOWEVER, I do not have to go out to work for someone else full-time.  That does not mean we don't have money worries.  We run a B&B and what will probably be our last guests until next Spring, are due this weekend (that's if they don't cancel due to the riots; they've already phoned once to check if it will be safe to drive through France)  That means we have to struggle through on an extremely frugal budget and watch every penny. The work is more physical and in the summer we certainly work longer hours than we did in the UK.  But the work is also much more satisfying and 4 hours of our day isn't spent sitting in traffic jams inhaling car fumes.  I used to use an inhaler for my asthma twice a day in the UK.  In nearly three years here in France I have used it TWICE (and that's when I had the only cold I have had in that time).  So two more BIG pluses there; apparently no more asthma and one cold in nearly three years as opposed to 4 or 5 each winter!!!  We still haven't taken our form to register with a doctor into the surgery because we've never needed to go, unlike the UK when I was visiting for one reason or another at least once a month (that's about 33 fewer visits already! ) State of mind does have a lot to do with it.  What are you expecting from France?  It's not Utopia but if you have realistic expectations then you can have a wonderful life here. Yes, money is important.  There's very little you can do without it.  But I think far too many people are moving to France because of the UK property boom and thinking they will have a much cheaper life here.  My husband and I first fell in love with France on a holiday 25 years ago, when France was certainly more expensive than the UK, so a CHEAPER lifestyle was never one of our priorities.  We just wanted to be able to afford to live in France. What would make my life in France better?  If I had just a little more of that vital necessity - yes, money!  Then during the winter months we would be able to spend more time travelling around the country and visiting friends who live too far away (within France) for us to be able to afford to visit them regularly.  But that day will come! What do we miss from the UK?  Well, less and less actually.  My husband misses a decent pint of Abbot Ale and we both desparately miss a decent Indian meal and going to the pub on a Friday evening.  Although part of the joy of the pub visit was knowing that it heralded the beginning of two commuter-free days, so it may not have the same impact now anyway.  I do have to say that we are going to the UK for a five day visit at the end of this month and I really am very excited,  about as excited as I used to be about our French breaks when living in the UK.  The nice thing about it is, I know that at the end of five days I will be looking forward even more to getting back to France. Finally, gites.  Yes the market is fairly saturated but again, if you choose well and make a good job of it then they can be a success.  We have friends here in Normandy who currently have two 3 bed gites, which are already fully booked for next August, were booked for half term just gone, have Christmas and New Year bookings, as well as Spring half term and Easter bookings.  They are in the process of renovating a third property because they have to turn away so many people and these days most of their bookings are either repeat or word of mouth.  They are managing to bring up two children and run two cars on that income, as well as several trips to the UK each year.   I also know of someone else in exactly the same region who only had theirs booked for August this year. 
  18. You could be right Gay but I hope not.  We are getting professional artisans to do all the structural work, my husband will be doing things like dry-lining the walls, laying floorboards on the first floor joists, fitting the shower room, painting, fitting the kitchen etc.  What I am concerned about is that the concrete floor is level, that the soil removed from the barn floor has not been taken down so far that it affects the building's footings, that the drainage works correctly, that the doors and windows all fit correctly without leaking.  I can't see how my husband's (mostly cosmetic) work is going to affect that or the guarantees that go with it all.  In fact our roofer, who is putting in the first floor joists and replacing a couple of beams, was the one that suggested that it would be cheaper for us if my husband then proceeded to  plasterboard the kitchen ceiling and lay the floorboards on the room above himself, and I definitely know that he has ten year insurance.
  19. Going back to the tourism point.  We had an English couple who booked this coming weekend way back in July for the husband's 40th.  Today they sent an email cancelling it, without reason.  Although we're in the wilds of the Normandy countryside, perhaps they felt the same as Baz - special birthday, not worth the risk of spoiling it.  We also have an American family due to come across from their army base in Germany.  They phoned today to find out if it would be safe to come here and whether we were affected by the riots.  I assured them that Rennes (the closest so far) is more than 120km away and that even if there was rioting in our local town of Saint Lo (only 16km away) they'd never know about it, tucked away here!  So fortunately for me, they've decided that they're still coming. I have also found that French guests we have had staying here have been extremely outspoken about racism and immigrants.  At least 75% of them have asked us if we left England because our government has such a free and easy policy of allowing immigrants in.  They have also complained about the amount of immigrants in France and when we have mentioned the fact that we are also immigrants to their country they always (and with no hesitation or embarrassment) tell me that we are fine because we are white.  I found it quite shocking the first time I heard it but c'est normale now!
  20. Thanks both of you.  That will make a big difference to who we choose.  My husband and his friend of quite capable of laying the concrete floor themselves and doing the small amount of stonework that would be necessary.  The reason we "wanted" to pay more for a proper company was to make sure that we had the insurance cover for any structural work that we have done.  So although my husband is doing a lot of the work himself, for digging out and laying the concrete floor (without damaging the integrity of the property) and for putting first floor joists and veluxes in, we wanted proper tradesmen with full insurance.  The couple who came to see us yesterday have been running their business in France for over ten years and were talking about the high cost of insurance and cotisations and the sad fact that they can't even afford to take on their own son who has just completed his stone-mason's apprenticeship because of the high costs of employers cotisations.  So it looks like we will probably to using them as they seem to be doing everything by the book.
  21. We were due to have our French macon start work on our barn conversion in the next couple of weeks and then he went and broke his leg!!  So I've been searching for someone who can start before next summer!!! I've now found three British builders who are all registered (I've checked them out on that website you can use).  However, even though they're all registered, there seems to be degrees of professionalism in the way they present themselves.  Unfortunately, the one who seems to be the most knowledgeable about his trade also outwardly appears the least professional.  He drives a battered old Ford van, still UK registered after 3 years of living here and has so far only offered a verbal devis.  I know that I must get a written one from him before we go ahead but what I also want to know is, just because you are registered, with a siret number, does that also mean that you have full insurance?  I know I could go back and ask him myself but I'd like to get things underway asap and because I have already double-checked that he's defnitely registered I don't want to get off on the wrong foot by making it sound as though I don't trust him if registration also means mandatory insurance.
  22. They haven't been out of date in my experience.  And when they put them right by the entrance to the supermarket with te old BOGOF offer on them it makes it incredibly difficult to start that new year diet!
  23. It scared the sh1t out of me to but then it does say on the bottom, which strangely I and others missed, that if you have sent your information in then to ignore the letter. This came up in conversation today with some friends who actually went there with the letter and were told that it's impossible to proccess all the forms received in the time allocated by the computer so it just turns out loads of these letters. The lady told them that probably half of France gets them. Fortunatly I had my letter already stating my contribution which I had copied and sent back with the letter and a cover note. So don't panic yet if the above is what has happened. Thanks for that Chris (and Miki).  We got one of those last week and having sent the original information in well before 15th September I was also a little nervous as to why they were sending us a letter dated 20th Oct asking for the information again.  I thought that perhaps they didn't believe us and that we would get whacked with huge new payments (I just don't trust URSSAF since my first aweful experience with them back in 2003 when they took over 60% of my salary!).  I did spot the sentance at the bottom saying not to worry if this letter had crossed with mine, but as there was more than a 6 week timelapse between sending the info and the latest letter being sent out, I was a little concerned. I think I'll still go and see them anyway, but at least now I know I'll just get the explanation that Miki did.  Phew!!
  24. We managed to do a rescan last night and found them all there, although ITV2 and ITV4 were both called "10072"   Anyway, we now have all four ITV channels, including the regional ITV1 for the Channel Islands, which may help with slightly more accurate weather forecasts, as we are only a little SE of Jersey!  When am I ever going to get any work done now?  We had such bad reception in the UK that we had to receive our TV by cable so now we've got loads more channels than we ever had in the UK and don't have to pay a monthly charge either
  25. We've used Darty.fr for our white goods.  We've been impressed with their prices and delivery service (less than 48 hours from ordering).
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