Friday, 19 April 2013

Its Daughter's Birthday - 24 today

In Daughter's busy schedule, it is perhaps surprising that she is actually home when it is her birthday.  So 24 today - an age she describes as being a "crap age", neither young enough or old enough apparently.  I don't know what that means really.

Last year we went to Le Caprice and saw Tara Palmer Tomkinson.  This year we went to a really nice pub near Oxford that one of Wife's clients recommended and had a really lovely meal.  The place was packed out - so some pubs are doing OK

Daughter has had quite a year.  This time last year, she was working for a Management Consultants in London and not enjoying it.  A few month's later she quit.  Since then, she has been to India for 3 months working for a micro finance bank, had three months in the far east where she visited four or five countries and did a yoga-teacher-training course.  And she is off to Tanzania in a few weeks time where she'll be teaching English for a couple of months.

She has some things to do in Europe over the summer and then should be starting her MSc / PhD in the autumn. 

So what a year!

Today I bought a van!

As we develop our current business idea, we have reached the decision that we could do with a van.  It costs us around £400 to do a round trip to France with a hired van and we are planning to go there perhaps 8 times a year.  It would cost us about £3750 to buy a Van that ought to last four or five years and so would cost under £1000 per year.  So a big potential saving by having our own.

And if the business doesn't work out, I will probably to be able to get £3k for itand so it will have still been better to own one rather than hire one.

That said, it is Jerome that will be looking after the van and doing most of the driving in it.  He is hoping to get some small "man with a van" jobs each week in Bristol to help pay for it all. 

So we are planning a trip to France in a few weeks time - to deliver the furniture I have here that I want in "Petits chats", pick up some stuff that I bought on the last trip, and to allow us to visit several brocante markets and try and buy 50 to 100 boxes of stuff to re-sell in the UK.

So another exciting development 

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Today, I rescued a deer

A man out walking his dog knocked on our door this morning to say that there was a deer trapped in a wire fence in the field opposite and could I call the RSPCA or someone.

I can do better than that - I can walk down into the field and free it myself.

Its back leg was caught in a loop of wire and it was in a very twisted position.  It is fair to say that it wasn't very happy that I was approaching, but it didn't take me long to untwist the wire and free the leg.  As you'd expect, it rushed off in a panic (getting trapped in a dead end between two fences but eventually finding its way out again)

Never let it be said that I am not friend to man and beast.

Painting holidays in France

Another idea for boosting the revenue from our French property - hosting painting holidays.

Our two friends - J and Y - seem up for the callenge of running this.  Y is an art teacher, so the actual painting part of the holidays should be fine, while J is half-french, so that should help too.

There are some complications though.  For instance, J has to return to the UK for access to his two children.  That return journey was part of the reason we were looking at the brocante business idea as the regular trips back could be used to bring stuff.  This has meant that the holidays have to be organised as one-week-on, one-week-off, which might not be ideal. 

There are some upfront costs for this venture which we are finding, but hopefully J and Y will manage most of it themselves, in effect paying us rent out of their turnover. 

Wife and I are hoping that our experience running holidays in Europe back in 2008 will be of help.

The painting holiday website is at

A trip out with Jerome and Yvette

A day out with Jerome and Yvette reveiwing nearby locations that have products for sale that sort of match the type of thing we can buy at brocantes in France.

First up is Witney Warehouse, a furniture store that does a line in shabby chic painted furniture and is pretty good at it. 

Then on to Chipping Norton antique centre where there is much more expensive shabby chic stuff and loads of french collectibles of various sorts - most at prices of perhaps 6 times what we would need to pay for the item in France.

Finally to Oxford to view the Thursday antique and craft market in Gloucester Green - our stuff would be better than the typical stuff for sale here

So a reasonable showcase of the trade we are getting into - and no sign that the plan is particularly far-fetched.

Monday, 1 April 2013

New painting projects

There is a new Annie Sloan furniture-painting book out which has inspired me to start a few new furniture painting projects despite it being freezing cold out in my "workshop".  I am also thinking that these sorts of projects could add a good diversification to the brocante business ideas.  Suppose I could turn out four pieces a week.  If they cost £50-100 each to buy, but sold for £200, that would be £400-500 gross profit per week.  Sounds a bit unlikely that I could make this each week, but where is the error in this analysis?

So my three new projects are two cupboards I bought recently from Haynes reclamation yard and a chest of drawers that I bought some while ago.  All three are earmarked for France, but they do provide practice for the business idea and allow me to assess accurately how long each piece takes to finish and what paint costs, etc, I should factor in. 

Project One

This first cupboard is a fairly large piece that I plan to put in one of the new bathrooms in Les Petits Chats.  It has a number of interesting features in its panelling and round its base.  There are two long drawers at the top left and right, and a large main cupboard.  I was not able to remove the fittings on the door handles which was a shame, and means that there will inevitably be some paint on these when I've finished.

My plan was to sand this down, prime it and then paint it in Farrow & Ball Oxford Stone paint.  I was not looking to distress this piece but instead produce a good-quality, smooth paint job.

After the primer coat

During the first top coat.  Oxford stone is a rather nice greenish-grey. 

After two coats of top coat but awaiting the doors and drawers.

Overall, this item cost £68, has required about £4 of primer and £6 of top coat.  It has taken about 6 hours to process, spread over four days.  If sold for £200, the profit would be about £120 or £20 per hour - though the "work" does have some hobby aspect to it as well, so the hourly rate should be considered to be a bit higher than this.

Project Two

This is a smaller, but much heavier cupboard.  It has a carved trim round the top and sides and the top actually lists up to reveals a wide open surface.  Again I am thinking of this as a bathroom peice for France.

I decided that this one should be painted using Annie Sloan's Chateau Grey, a very greeny grey.  Then afterwards I am going to decide whether to give it a light wash over of a paler colour - probably a watered down mix of Old White and Paris Grey

For this one, I was able to remove the hinges and fittings - which should make it a much cleaner finish.

Post painting - door hinges are to be reattached and the whole thing still to be waxed. 

This piece cost £88 and has used about £6 of paint so far.  It does need a new plywood back though, so a little more cost to incur.  Time taken was a little quicker than the F&B project

Project three

This chest of drawers was bought a couple of months ago for France but I have only recently decided to go ahead and paint it.  The other chest I bought the same day is going to be kept unpainted at it has a rather nice patina on the drawers and top.

I decided that this would also be painted in F&B Oxford Stone