It’s been nearly ten weeks since I last put pen to paper on this here blog. That’s a touch slack, but hey… apart from my parents no one’s said anything so I presume no one’s noticed, or bothered. In fact, that’s a little lie. A few kindly people have mentioned they like to keep up to date on what we’re up to so… the ink is flowing. The title to this latest blog I’ve stolen, as I love the quote from Percy Shelley, the rest will be my own words. Promise. I actually wrote a few paragraphs about three weeks ago, but gave up as it was turning into another long piece about my new addiction. Etsy. Before I go any further, a little warning… there will be an Etsy update, and I’ll try – and probably fail – to keep it brief. The last time I wrote here it was the middle of a very long, very hot summer, which has now, finally, done its thing. Six months of the hot stuff was plenty, and now we’re well into a stretch of beautiful, vibrant, relatively cool autumn with what was a sea of green slowly changing into a swell of saffron and burnt orange.
Beyond a change of season much has happened. Family guests having been and gone, and what an absolute pleasure it has been to at last put our top floor to use, beyond storage for our Etsy stock (sorry, unnecessary Etsy mention). Having family stay with us has been a joy, plus they’re always keen on daily visits to the local boulangerie, which means an upgrade on the usual marmite on toast for breakfast. Sharing our stories, our new life, and our walking routes with family has been lovely, even though at times it became almost intolerable in the heat. We’ve had visits from some old gite guests who have become friends, and recently took ourselves away with our besty neighbours for a few nights in Fouras (below), on the Atlantic coast just south of La Rochelle; a fab stay including a fight with a persistent gale, a fine round of golf and some quite spectacular mussels.
Regular visitors to this blog will be aware of our initial plans for making a living here, and will also be aware that plans, especially initial ones, are very often changed. Such is the case with us. Next year our gite will almost certainly be changing from a short-term holiday let into a long-term permanent one. Without going into the boring monetary minutiae, suffice to say the workload versus financial reward ratio isn’t sufficient to keep it going as is. By far the best part of running our little gite for the last 15 months has been the wonderful feedback from happy guests. We’ve spent some lovely times meeting many of them, some who have become good friends, and the feeling of contentment and a job well done when our reviews come through on airbnb has always given us a very warm glow. But, until the end of this year at least we’re still on airbnb and taking bookings, if anyone wants a relaxing break in a top-rated historic gite in Rochechouart.
So, Etsy. Rather than what we expected to be a ‘top-up’ income, it has become our main one. This is partly down to the amount of time, and money, we’re putting into our online shop. Clearly our initial idea of a shop with around 50 items in it has expanded somewhat to one with a current stock list of over 200 pieces. We love almost every aspect of running our Etsy shop, and as any business owner knows, if you find something you’re passionate about and you put in the time and energy, you stand a much higher chance of succeeding, because that passion is everything. Without it we wouldn’t have the enthusiasm to learn, to research, and to become as knowledgeable as we are about the vintage and antique French treasures we find and sell. I will resist the temptation to expand on this passion – I’ll no doubt be unable to resist it in the future – but for now it’s simply an absolute pleasure to be able to earn a living doing something we love.
This time next month will be two years since we arrived in France. Year one wasn’t easy for many reasons; covid, car accidents, catastrophically bad weather and coming to terms with a new way of life. This year has felt so much more straightforward. We feel more settled, but are both totally aware that until our ability to speak conversational French reaches a good level, we’ll struggle to feel fully-fledged Rochechouartais. Our bash at French fluency gets a weekly outing each Sunday when we visit a vide-grenier or three. We’re getting to grips with pricing, bartering – “le maximum que je peux payer est” or “mon maximum est”, or as is often the case “c’est tres joli mais un peu trop cher pour moi”… – and dealing with les brocanteurs, asking about age, origin and such like. A friendly face when making such offers seems to help, and having Pepper in tow also seems to put people at ease. So, we’re getting there. Slowly but surely our knowledge and confidence is growing, aided by our weekly French lessons.
Did I mention Etsy?