Saturday, June 29, 2013

Raising dosh

Expensive times coming up. Buying that cottage next week so bang go most of our savings. Mind you, I'd rather have dosh invested in property rather than it feeding greedy bankers in a UK savings account for next to zero interest.

And Georgie's just about to go freelance, which means loads of Apple computery stuff has to be bought. Managed to cover that cost by selling my Greeves motorcycle last week. Chap came over from the UK and whisked it off on the back of his VW camper.

Then we've the added expense of building a car port (keeps the sun off in summer - what summer? - and the snow off in winter) on the side of the house which Christian's brother is threatening to knock up sometime in July. Could be somewhere around two to three thousand euros. Rather than delve into the little that's left of our savings after the cottage purchase, I figured the best way of raising the necessary dosh would be to downsize my road motorcycle. So I advertised the Honda CB1300S for sale and a French chap from Limoges came round last week-end to have a look. Said he'd buy it and he's coming round on Sunday to do the deal.

Spent the last couple of days looking for a cheaper replacement on Leboncoin (French sales site that's much more popular than eBay). Spotted a good 'un yesterday morning (Friday), up for grabs at nearby Crocq. Rang the chap and arranged to see the bike (a 650 Honda Transalp) that afternoon. "Is your house easy to find?" I asked. "Do you know the chateau in the main street?" he responded. "Er, the big long one next door to the boucherie?" "Oui, that one, that's where I live."

I know that boucherie well. It's highly rated by the locals and it's where Isabelle and Christian buy their meats. Visited a few times myself and have always been intrigued by this adjacent chateau which appeared to be unoccupied and beginning to fall into disrepair. Came as a bit of a surprise that someone was actually living there.

Parked up out front and went to what I assumed was the front door. No sign of a bell and it didn't look like the door had been opened in years. Obviously not the entry point. Spotted a big gateway to the right of the chateau. Gates were open so I wandered in. Interestingly, the back of the chateau looked even more impressive (in a dilapidated kinda way) than the main street side, so the back was the front and the front was the back, if you get my drift. Nobody seemed to be about but there was a car parked under a massive tree so I knew someone was in. Heard a welcoming shout from an open upstairs window. Chap came down and apologised for his scruffy appearance. Turned out he'd bought the place a year ago and was now busily renovating.

Followed him to the stables and checked the Transalp over. All seemed fine. Told him that my buyer was coming round on Sunday morning so, providing my sale went through, I'd be able to buy with cash on Sunday afternoon. Fingers crossed that nobody beats me to it today (Saturday) or tomorrow morning.

Bike inspection done, we went inside the chateau so the chap could jot down my details and show me the paperwork. Blimey, thought I, this was one hell of a renovation project but the work done to the kitchen showed that this chap was setting about it the right way. Original features were being retained but tastefully complemented with modern goodies. Following my ooh-ing and aah-ing about his impressive renovation work, he invited me to follow him on a quick guided tour of the chateau. Further oohs and aahs ensued as I wandered gobsmacked from room to room. Apparently the building had stood empty for forty years but, luckily, no great damage had been done. Even the delightfully ornate (and original?) wallpapers were still looking good. Asked the chap if he was intending to strip the paper off and redecorate. "No way", he said. Then he explained that he was an antiques dealer who'd long been looking for a project like this. He'd sold up, moved down here from Normandy and his plan is to live in the west wing and convert a few rooms into holiday lets. Being in antiques he's very keen to retain the originality of this chateau magnifique whilst at the same time providing it with modern amenities like wiring, plumbing and bathrooms etc.

Finally, I asked if the French government was providing financial assistance with this challenging project. Apparently not. Such a shame. Although I guess this chap isn't short of a bob or two, I feel that he deserves a bit of state funding because not only is he saving a fine chateau from ruin but, it could be argued, he's also doing his bit for French tourism. I departed feeling that the current socialist French government hasn't quite yet got its head around the idea of supporting free enterprise and cutting back on irresponsible spending (e.g. I understand rail workers can retire with generous state pensions when they reach the ridiculously young age of 52). Wakey, wakey, Monsieur Hollande, time's running out, time for change.

If my bike sells on Sunday and I have a fistful of euros, and if some other buyer doesn't beat me to this chap's Transalp before Sunday afternoon, I'll go back there cash in hand, snap up the bike and hopefully take a few snaps of the chateau's interior - something I forgot to do yesterday due to too much ooh-ing and aah-ing.