25th January 2009

It's rare to experience heavy winds in this region. In fact, living in inland France the normally calm weather is one of the things we love here. How could we forget that the UK, being a tiny island, is forever battered by winds from the Atlantic meeting those from the North Sea, then churning with those from the North as they meet the Channel currents. How smug we felt with recollections of all those ruined umbrellas, blown inside-out in the ever-present English gales. Well, as you've probably gathered by now, pride often goes before a fall. On Friday an unusual storm hit us totally unprepared. Gale-force winds tore down our fences and very heavy rain swelled the nearby River Aveyron so that all the nearby houses were flooded up to cellar level. The cover on our pool tore free from the ropes that Him indoors had assured me were guaranteed to keep it tethered. I certainly wasn't going to hang on to all four corners as it flew up into the air. Paragliding is not my favourite pursuit. Life's hazardous enough. But that's not all. Suddenly our electricity went out. Of course, being in the country, this is quite a frequent occurrence for intermittent minutes. But not for 2 whole days! T.G. I'd implemented my plan B when we moved here: never rely on just one power source, just in case. We've got a gas hob, electric oven, microwave and open-fire. Therefore, if anything happens to one....... And if all else fails, I thought back then, we could always throw some jacket potatoes on the fire. Well, we waited and waited for the usual intermittent electric interruption to return...and waited...and waited. The worst is that living here, it's very difficult to find out what's happening. We could hardly turn on the TV/radio/PC etc. Eventually we found out that a giant pylon in the Aveyron region had been blown down. But TG, as you can see, it's now just returned. Just as well. We'd run out of candles, matches, hot water, residual heat and food. So, I live to blog another day. Hope to see you all next Sunday, electricity willing!

18th January 2009

Like many British expats in France, I have been looking to supplement my dwindling pension due to the ever-continuing exchange rate crisis. Although a former administrator, I knew that however improved my skills in the French language, I would never be able to hold my own in a French office - it's the phone that's the killer.
Some time ago I wrote about my discovery of job bidding by the internet. To date, following my success with peopleperhour.com, I can report that this is a marvellous way to earn income supplements. All from my own computer I can send my creative articles, my own invoice and receive monies directly into my French bank account. Now that's my kind of job - all without leaving the house.
But, of course, this raises the question of French income tax. So, I was interested to read that easier ways of starting mini-enterprises like mine were introduced this month in France. The new auto-entrepreneurs system means you do not need to be formally registered on the registre du commerce (saving a fee and much bureaucracy), but you can apply on-line at www.cfenet.cci.fr (you can also subsequently close the business there too). Declarations and payments can also be managed on-line via http://www.lautoentrepreneur.com/. You also have 3-years exoneration from taxe professionnelle. For the thousands of Brits who run gites, the government has decided that the status is not obligatory for those not already formally registered on the registre du commerce. At present, it is only obligatory if your turnover is more than 32,000 euros p.a. Fat chance!
Of course, nothing comes easy, but what I like about it is that if you earn nothing, you pay nothing., unlike some other business regimes.

11th January 2009

I was interested to read that there's a new form of equity release which has started here in France. It's called Foncier reversimmo, by a French bank Credit Foncier. This new equity release is different from the old 'viager' system in that the borrower remains the owner of his property, and the scheme is reversible. That is to say that if the borrower is a ditherer, he has the option of paying back his loan with the money plus the generated interest. When the owner of the property dies, it's transferred to a spouse or an heir. If the heirs want to keep the property there is the option of paying back the loan, which is not the case in a traditional viager sale.
Why the scheme is particularly interesting is that over-65s who own a property but suddenly need extra money as they get older - perhaps for a care-home - they can release funds without selling their home. The amount you can get depends on your age. At 75 you can get up to 45% of your property value, at 95 up to 75%. The factors which see the loan ended are the death of the last of the joint borrowers, if the property is sold or given away, or if the property is transferred (except for that resulting from the death of the first joint-borrower). If, on the death of the last of the borrowers, the debt is greater than the property value, the bank is responsible for the loss! So, the heirs - in leaving the property to the bank - will have no debt to pay back.
Sounds good to me - but then, you know what a worrier I am. I always need a Plan B.

4th January 2009

January in the Tarn et Garonne region started snow-free but it's icy cold at night. Most days seem to follow the same pattern of minus degrees overnight, followed by early morning givrage then by noon the cold mist clears to reveal sunshine and blue skies.
But it's not just the weather that brings shivers. Some English people in our village have decided to return home. I can certainly feel an unsettled air around the place. Of course, the main problem has been fuelled by the global economic woes which are affecting people everywhere, coupled with the general air of depression that winter always brings. Most English people we know who have returned home do so for 2 main reasons: 1) to be near their grandchildren (...I wish.....but that's another story) and 2) because, fueled by so many TV relocation programmes, they miscalculated by confusing capital with income. I reiterate my important economic message to those contemplating moving here: make sure that your income is sufficient (e.g. at least 1000 euros p.m.) and regular. Don't forget that, although UK pensioners receive annual increases in State pension (unlike those in Canada/Australia), they don't receive additional benefits such as pension credit. Many can easily fund the purchase of a nice French house here via the often considerable capital from the sale of their homes in the UK, but it's the regular income that always proves the sticking point in the end - especially in these days of 0% interest from the banks!
But all this doom and gloom is bound to clear, like the weather, in a few months. I can't wait for the swallows to return, flying higher and higher to catch the insects in the summer heat, and for our annual difficulties treating the water in our swimming pool. We're such novices and still haven't got it right. Ah! such difficulties. Bring it on.