16th October 2008
So, unemployment in Britain has reached catastrophic proportions yet again. I remember just after Mrs Thatcher took power when unemployment passed three million for the first time since the 1930s depression. One in eight people was out of work. I'm also old enough to remember the '70s Winter of Discontent when electricity supplies were rationed in the UK and binmen and even some gravediggers downed tools. And here we are again. But people can be surprisingly resilient. Some, particularly those with a latent artistic talent have moved to France to try, for the first time, something new. But like everything else, it's not easy. There are two English ladies who work as artists in the Lot, not far from here near Cahors. One works as an interior illustrator and portrait artist and the other has won awards with the Royal Society of Oil Painters and is a member of the Societe des Pastellistes de France. This entitles you to run classes to supplement your income and to hang your work up on public display. Like most painters here, they came to this area to get the space to paint, finding France an inspirational place for colour. (They're a sentimental pair, always full of emulsion, but we'll gloss over that!)But the registration process has really tightened up over the past few years. English-speaking artists established professionally and resident in France are self-employed workers unless they have a binding contract of employment. They must register at the Chambre de Metiers of the departement where they live and apply for a SIREN reg. no. If in difficulty with all the administration, the Franco-British Chamber of Commerce can help. The best thing of all to do, though, as some of our friends here have discovered, is to simply come to France when you've retired. Then, you can simply enjoy your artistic talent, whether it be painting, writing or roller-skating(!), without all those hassles. (As Him indoors would say: no-one asked Van Gogh for anything, because he said he'd got one 'ere!). Enjoy your life, whatever your talent. C'est la joie de vivre.