Wednesday, 5 February 2020

(Not) Working from Home

Working from home is never easy, but today looks as if it will be even worse than usual as it is 11.49 and so far I have done just 35 minutes work.  I try to keep the balance right by designating certain days as ‘work’ days, and on those days I aim to be smartly dressed (scruffy jeans for ‘home’ days only), and if I have no appointments, am at my desk by 9am.  My ‘office’ is a room in the back part of the house, just the other side of the living room, next to the laundry/boiler room area. I only mention this so you know that I have the minimum of distractions there (far from the coffee machine and no view of the pool), and that my commute to work is not too arduous.

09.00 - At desk, raring to go.
09.15 - Finish catching up on the gossip on Facebook and Twitter and open email page.
09.25 - Finish deleting all the spam (I don’t want my loft insulating, or to help Reverend Mbawe get his millions out of Nigeria, or have my penis enlarged (?!)), and finally open an enquiry from a client who asks…
09.26 - Dogs want to go outside.
09.27 -  Dogs want to come back inside.
09.31 - Cat appears on window-sill wanting to come in.  Apparently not.  Maybe later.
09.32 - Pick up all the papers that have blown onto the floor when window was opened.  Back to the email from the client who wants to know if…. 
09.34 - Cat reappears and seems to be starving to death.  Apparently his bowl is not completely full.  I remedy the situation.
09.37 - Back to desk and the client who wants to know if I can help with renting out his holiday villa.  Google the address and it looks a good property so I start typing a reply with the list of….  
09.45 - Doorbell rings and I fight my way past the dogs who still believe they can get out through a door before it is fully opened.  Postman is at the gate and needs a signature for a parcel delivery.
09.47 - In bathroom running arm under cold water until the bleeding stops and then applying a plaster to the scratch I received when a dog managed to push me into the rose-bush so he could be first to greet the postman.  NB. Possibly not deliberate.
09.55 - Back to the enquiry and I manage to send the reply, ask for a convenient time to visit, send a list of questions, and also to…. 
10.15 -  Partner turns up as he was ‘just passing’ en route to another appointment and thought it would be nice to have coffee together.
10.25 - Spend 30 minutes sitting in the garden having coffee together (see my Blogpost of 12th Jan re not drinking coffee at desks).
10.55 - Partner leaves, informs me that he will be back for lunch.  How nice.
11.00 - Delete two more spam emails then spend several minutes trying to work out how to block them, discover an important email in ‘Junk Mail’ folder, write apologetic email explaining the delay, continue replying to…
11.17 - Go outside to see why dogs are barking crazily.  Remove frog from pool and return it to pond.
11.29 - Finish last email then print out a document ready for a visit this afternoon.  Google ‘Why is my printer not responding’.  Do not understand explanation.  Unplug printer.  Plug printer back in.  Print document.
11.43 - Telephone call.  Apparently it is my lucky day - a technician is in my area and can give me a quote for loft insulation.  I teach them a few English words they may not have heard before.
11.49 - Give up and write blogpost.

Monday, 27 January 2020

When property finding works too well.

I have just been the victim of my own success  - and it is not often I can say that!  Towards the end of last year I received an enquiry from a client in Australia, wanting help and advice on relocating to Perpignan.  He wanted a very specific type of property, so before making any reckless promises I did a bit of research and was able to confirm that yes, I thought I could find some suitable properties for him, within his budget.  It wasn’t an easy search but I produced a short list of 5 and he flew over for a viewing trip in November.  He actually liked all of them, but loved the final 2 and flew back home to weigh up the pros and cons.  He also needed tax and legal advice as he has triple nationality and wanted to set up his business here too so I put him in touch with two local experts so he could get the right information.  

Last week he was ready to make his offer - and last week the agent told me that the property was sold, and even worse than that, his second choice was also under offer.  Now not only am I furious with the agent, who promised that she would let me know if there was any interest in the properties we viewed, I am also furious with myself - for doing my job too well!  The client admitted that he was very surprised that we had seen so many ‘good’ properties and that he had envisaged that it would take at least a couple of trips to find what he was looking for and had planned to sort out his legal and financial questions in the interim.

So the moral of this story is (Warning - Blatant Advertisement on way!): If you enjoy being frustrated by viewing properties that look nothing like their internet details, working with agents who don’t seem interested, and spending time and money on several trips, then don’t call me.  However, if you want to spend a day or two viewing a small selection of properties that tick all the boxes on your ‘wish-list’, then please call me!

Sunday, 12 January 2020


My partner has just walked into the kitchen and remarked ‘oh, I see you’ve already poured yourself an ‘apero’.   Given that it is 7.45pm and I’ve been cooking for over an hour I see no need to explain that in fact I am on glass number 2, and that ‘cooking with wine’ is a very important English custom!

Drinking is very important to the french and there are many unwritten laws about it, the main one being that you never drink alone but wait to share the moment with somebody.  Even on one of those ‘I’m a celebrity’ type programmes (The Island), I noticed that when a young man won the ‘reward’ of a tropical breakfast, his first reaction on being given a glass of orange juice was to express his disappointment that there was nobody to share the moment with - and this was despite the fact he had been living on water and rice for several days!

But it’s not just aperos that have their little ritual, coffee time can be a nightmare too.  In the UK if you are going to make yourself a coffee and ask if anybody else would like one, it is quite normal just to place the drink next to them and then carry on doing whatever you were doing before.  I like a coffee on my desk while I work, or in the morning while doing my make-up, but oh no, not in France.  When you arrive with the coffee the discussion of  ‘where shall we have it’ begins.  Do we sit in the kitchen, in the lounge, outside in the garden but in the shade or in the sun, by the pool or on the terrace etc etc.   By the time we finally sit down, the coffee is usually cold.  

And back to aperos (I’m assuming that everybody knows this is the shortened version of Aperitif?).  Various ‘rules’ apply here: Firstly, asking for a glass of wine is generally frowned upon, sometimes champagne will be offered but more usually spirits or those drinks we used to enjoy in the 70s (not Babycham!).   Secondly, Aperos are always served with nibbles, which need to involve olives, cheese or charcuterie - and not a packet of crisps. In fact there is a ‘new’ phenomenon here called the ‘Apero Dinatoire’ where you are given more substantial nibbles and this replaces the need to cater for a full-blown dinner party.   But the most important rule is not to drink before anybody else: you should always pour the drink for the other person before filling your own glass, then you must clink glasses and say ‘santé’ before taking a sip while looking the other person in the eyes.  Apparently this is to prove that you haven’t poisoned the other persons drink – and if my partner ever again mentions the fact that I started drinking before him, he is right to be wary…! 

Thursday, 2 January 2020

Happy New Year!

What a lovely start to the New Year.  We were walking in the vineyards yesterday and passed our neighbours farm where they were cutting branches of Mimosa, which is already in full bloom, and they handed us this lovely bunch, together with their ‘best wishes’ for 2020.  

So, this is more of a Greetings Card than a Blogpost today, but I just wanted to share this photo and the little story behind it - and to wish you all a very Happy New Year too.