The bailiff is here! Not a phase I ever thought would be applied to me – law-abiding, play by the rules me. If anyone had ever suggested it, I would have put it on an improbability scale up there with “chocolate has no calories”. But here we are, at the end of what has been the worst 2 weeks in our new French life. Having had the bailiffs knocking on the door! Add that to my specialised vocab. Les huissiers arrivent!
When we decided to let QC, we registered as a small business, called auto-entrepreneurs. We did this with the government body RSI, using a bilingual French lady’s services to complete the appropriate paperwork. Duly registered, we have been filing our 3 monthly returns – so far declaring nil income and thus no social charges to pay. However, when we registered the French lady told us that we would get a lot of flyers, selling everything from business directory listings to additional insurances. She advised us to bin them, and if not sure, to run it by her. Which is what we duly did. However, a couple of months ago we received one from an unknown organisation, Klesia, requesting E5000. We ignored it. A month later we received the same again, only looking more official and demanding. This time Rod contacted RSI, who said “You are registered with us. Not with Klesia. Disregard it.” So, although slightly worried, we did so. (Bear in mind all of this is in French!) Then, 2 weeks ago, a bailiff turned up at the door. With an official letter, to sign for the receipt of. Demanding E5000. Solar plexus blow type feeling and sick to the pit of the stomach. Many phone calls and hours later, Rod had spoken to Klesia and RSI. He had provided the evidence of our registration and returns, and Klesia begrudgingly accepted that we did not owe them anything. It turns out that they collect social charges from employers based on the number of employees. Making an assumption of 1 employee, based on the average national wage, they were trying to claim a years worth of contributions. Based on what, we never found out. Seems like a scam to me! Anyway, we thought that was that. But a week later the bailiff turned up again. A case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. To be fair, he was very pleasant, not intimidating or anything, but it left us feeling sick. So, back to numerous phone-calls and paperwork flying back and forwards across the ether. We were told that our account at Klesia was marked zero and they confirmed that we owed nothing. A big sigh of relief. Until the next morning when we discovered that E620 had been taken from our bank account. A panicky call to the bank revealed that a notaire on behalf of the bailiffs had put a block on our account. The bank could do nothing to reverse this apparently legal move, but gave us the contact for the bailiffs. More fraught phonecalls, and it transpired that the bailiffs were now chasing us for their costs. For chasing us for money we didn’t owe in the first place! Klesia refused point blank to discuss them covering the costs, saying it was our responsibility. No skin off their nose – not their bank account that was blocked! Frantic to get the account unblocked, we arranged an emergency transfer of funds from UK to cover it. But in the 2 days it took to follow this up, their demand (charges accruing interest!!!) went from E620 to E840. Panic turned to cold sweat! They refused to send us a breakdown of the charges unless we signed a waiver to challenge them. And kept the block until we paid up. Blackmail pure and simple. So, tired from sleepless nights worrying like crazy, and feeling permanently sick in the pit of my stomach, we have just transferred the money. Facing the reality of a lack of other options. Anything to get the account unblocked – especially as it is now the weekend. Advice from the bank, and friends conversant with similar situations, has been to pay, then contest it. As the bank manager said “that is how it is done in France”. Non of that namby pamby innocent until proven guilty nonsense here!!! Apart from stress induced nausea, I feel very angry and totally impotent. The people we have dealt with have refused to even try to find anyone who could explain in English. Google Translate is great, but it does lose a lot of nuance. They just didn’t care – no comeback for them. And rarely the same person – or information- twice. We had heard about the infamous French bureaucracy. A huge, unyielding and unfathomable mammoth of a thing, and here we are, running smack into it like a block wall. Bruised and battered from it. The unfairness of it really smarts too. Paying for the bailiffs to chase us for money we don’t owe. And the worry still that we yet may not have heard the end of it!
And whilst all this was going on, the boiler quietly gave up and died. Paying guests coming next month, and no hot water. The plumber couldn’t cajole it back to life – it needed new burners. Shiny, new E800 burners! No choice but to get them! We also finally got the new solar shower up – or nearly. A lovely present from the Hussains and Sabourins last Autumn, it was to be the finishing touch to the pool area. The pool man came, created the concrete drainer, and started to install it. But then discovered several critical pieces were missing. (Why do men NEVER check off the contents or read the instructions first???) So we hot footed it up to Bergerac to Cash Piscines. To be fair, they were really helpful, and opened a new box off the shelf to give us the required pieces. Except that box was missing some bits too. So, another was opened, and we finally got the bits we needed. (Was that what happened to our box I wonder?) Eventually assembled, we had a ceremonious turning on of the tap. And the water flowed beautifully from the shower head. And flowed. And flowed. It wouldn’t turn off! The internal, integral valve was faulty! So, still assembled, into the car it went, and back to Bergerac we drove. The replacement is now bolted to the concrete and showering fabulously. For now! We just need to tile around it now.
Why do these things seem to go in 3’s? At the height of the Klesia/RSI saga, copying/printing and scanning documents to send here, there and everywhere, the printer decided to add to the stress levels and packed up. So, all in all, an expensive and stressful fortnight!
OK, so, rant over. It hasn’t all been doom and gloom. Since the last post we have had lots of visitors, our first paying guests in the gite and some fabulous meals out.
Mark and Maria came out to join Dadad for his birthday – our present for him was the flights here. Mark bought him a set of golf clubs to leave here, so they had a couple of games of golf as well. On his actual birthday we went on a gabarre on the Garonne canal. It was a lovely day – we took a birthday picnic and champagne and just chilled for 4 hours as the water gently rippled by. Very tranquil, and to be recommended.
We also opened up the pool and managed to get in it – in April! At 21 it was bracing, but in the heat of the day, quite refreshing.
In May, Sam arrived, and it was lovely to have him here for 2 weeks. Ryan joined him for a long weekend, and, as the weather was great, they were able to chill out and catch up.
The shutters for the gite bedroom arrived, so Sam helped to paint them, but in spite of jobs, managed to play golf and join us for some fab meals out. The best one was a Sunday lunch paella at a local village. The weather was perfect, eating out under a jolly marquee, with nearly 400 people. And a brilliant paella.
Lots of jobs later, and Dadad returned, with our first paying guests. Sam overlapped with him for 3 days – another excuse for golf! Taking Sam back to the airport, we stopped en route for a quick lunch. And made a real find. A very unprepossessing roadside restaurant, which has an oasis of a terrace behind, run by a real character with full handlebar moustache. We were’t offered any menus, just got what we got! Soup, meat platter, moules, beef, cheese, pudding. Unlimited wine, which just kept magically replenishing. Ditto bread. By this stage we were getting apprehensive about how much this was going to be as the food and wine kept coming. It’s not often that the bill is a huge surprise – in the nicest possible way! At E14.50 per head it has to win the prize for best value around. And it’s location is going to be a best kept secret!
We welcomed our gite guests with champagne, and officially started our new business venture. Because we knew them, we tried to walk the fine line of giving them privacy and space but not appearing unsociable. I hope that we got it right! They were delighted with the accommodation, saying that it way exceeded their expectations and previous experiences, which was a relief! Check out our reviews on TripAdvisor!
Carol also came out for a few days over half term, which was an excuse for me to lay off jobs for a few days. We had a nice day trip to Pont L’Eveque sightseeing, and the weather held for some pool use.
The sheep have taken a lot of care and attention recently. As the weather got hotter, shearing them became imperative. A local farmer came and got 2 of them done, but then his shears broke. After 3 false attempts to get another shearer, we were left with the only option of doing it ourselves. Some friends were kind enough to lend us the clippers, and with Rod (getting cramp in his leg) and Sam (with a badly wrenched back) taking it in turns to hold (wrestle??) with the sheep, I made a start. It took us over an hour and half – thank goodness we only had to do the one. She did end up looking like something from the Specksavers advert, but at least she was cooler (if not “cool”).
Rod also had a small mishap with the lambs, and discovered that they can swim! He left the gate open from mowing the paddock, and got up in the morning to discover the lambs in the garden. With the unhelpful intervention of the dogs, the lambs were herded into the pool! He fished them out, but not before they ripped the summer cover. Swimming sheep!!
The other Dartmoor has been losing weight, and, after shearing we realised how thin she was. Continuing to go downhill, we got the vet out. It transpires that she has a congenital deformity of her teeth, which are now so angled as to not meet, so she can’t grind down the grass. So, whilst she is still eating, she can’t extract any nutrition from it. We are keeping her going by feeding soaked hard horse feed, but her time is sadly limited as it’s not a long term solution. When the pigs are dispatched I think it will be kinder to have her dispatched too. The 2 lambs had to be weaned immediately, so they are now down with the pigs – we are keeping an eye on poorly sheep’s lamb to see if he has inherited bad teeth too. At the moment he seems to be thriving. So, Pate and Terrine are now booked in for dispatch. The butcher came and did a reccee, and the evil hour is this Wednesday. It should be a lot less stressful for the pigs than carting them to the abattoir, but we shall see. I can’t say I’m looking forward to it. We are borrowing a sausage machine and are going to give it a go.
On a nicer note……..
The weather has been unseasonably hot, which has been great for all our visitors. But, as the weather breaks, we have had some torrential rain and spectacular storms. and some flash flooding.
Finally – and ironically considering the unforeseen expenditure of the last fortnight, I have been doing a little spending to make the pool area look inviting. We now have a new gazebo for shaded seating (last year’s sun faded one now looking a little shabby), a swing seat, and new sunbed cushions. Looking good!
We also have a new table tennis table – which came with 179 component parts!! Took us 2 days to construct it!
So, very nearly ready for visitors!