Monday, 17 June 2013

Our first Collectors Fair

We have now acquired about 50 boxes of french-sourced brocante product and are about to launch ourselves on the UK Antique and Collectibles market with attendance at Ardingly Fair and then Sunbury the week after.

Much work on pricing and cataloguing the stock and planning the overall feel of what we want to look like, etc. 

We will eventually launch an ebay shop and website to support the fairs.  It is possible that we might do up to 50 days of fairs a year going forward (though that does seem a bit high).  Target profit is £500-750 per day, maybe £25,000 per year from the business in total.  No idea yet whether that would be achievable, but we are about to find out

Addendum - June 20th

Setting up at Ardingly

We are open for business!

How we look to the discerning public - though the French flag works well, we could have done with a big sign across the top, or some red, white and blue bunting.  We probably didn't push the Frenchness enough

But I did think the stuff looked nice on the shelves

Last picture before we sold the green-orange chest of drawers

Overall, our result was a bit lower than we hoped for, but not so low that we don't think it was a good idea to try. 

Addendum 2 - June 26th

The brocante business seems profitable enough for one person to be involved in, but maybe not three.  There have also been some disagreements about the best way to capitalise on the idea going forward.   

The upshot is that some big changes have taken place in how we are going to do things going forward.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Two weeks in France - week two


Off to La Rochelle first thing to meet Wife's brother and his wife who are joining us for our second week.

On the way, we passed a shallow pond that was covered with egrets and herons.  I reckon there were maybe 15 herons and at least 50 egrets there.  I managed to frighten them as I treid to investigate further.

Wife with her "amusing" french sign at the airport.  La Rochelle is such a small airport that people actual come out through a marquee tent.

Early afternoon, there is the delivery of two bikes from a local hire company and I have been coerced into taking Andrew out for a short familiarisation ride.  He has become a mad-keen cyclist, often riding well over 50 miles on a Sunday with his club.  I haven't ridden much for a number of years.  However, the stunning countryside around our house has put an idea into my head that I might bring my road bike down here and do some cycling when I'm down over the winter decorating


A quiet day at the house for everyone.  While they sat by the (slowly improving) pool, I took photos of some of the brocante stuff I'd bought and worked on a possible referencing structure

At least it was hot enough to be by the pool all day - in fact the temperature has crept up into the low 30s so far.  No one has fancied a swim yet though (as the pool is also very cold still)

In the afternoon, I took some new photos of the house with its pagoda cover over the terrace.  I really need to update some of the website photos.  It is looking so nice now that the weather has improved.  I need to paint the shutters now there is a chance of some good days without rain


Today is focused on a day out at St Emilion, just over an hours drive away to the south.  This is part of Wife's plan that A and J see something of the local tourist sites while they are here.

They soon found a speciality chocolate shop and somewhere offering wine tasting.  Linda bought me a birthday bottle of wine for E70

This shop also had some very expensive bottles, such as the various vintages of Petrus which cost over E1500 each

We did manage to find the shop for Chateau Petit Gravet and arranged a tour for later in the afternoon, so A and J can find out how wine is made

While I took some stuff back to the car, I came across 12 Ferraris parked near our car - very nice too

Lunch was at one of the well-known street cafes in town

Wife and I with our favourite Ferrari

Our wine tour was late afternoon and most enjoyable.  Back at their shop, I decided to buy a bottle of their 1962 vintage.  This would have been harvested about when I was conceived and bottled about the time I was born


Finally I have started painting the shutters over the french windows (not called "french windows" in France of course, and actually not very common in France either).  All the panels have had a coat of primer.

Into St Jean where we arranged some photos for the painting holiday website - Wife with examples of her art in front of the actual location

And on to St Jean market, where we buy various bits and pieces and enjoy all the seafood on show

Back at the house for lunch - the pool is definitely improving

This evening we had a meal with Grant and Karen who manage our property and live just the other side of St Jean from us.  I pulled out all the stops to do rather a good meal and everyone seemed to have a nice time.


More painting of shutters - some panels have had a coat of green now

Also the first pool use - though it did take me 20 mins to get in it as it is still very cold

A trip to see the neighbourhood donkey this afternoon - he likes carrots but is not very keen on the other salad stuff we took him - parhaps because of the bits of onion in it

Out this evening to Royan for the much anticiapted seafood supper


A quiet day - the morning's highlight is a trip to the Leclerc supermarket

In the afternoon, Wife and I went to Emmaus where we sent E40 on more brocante stuff and a fur coat for Wife

While A cycled huge distances this afternoon, I went to Ecoyeux to look at it as a location for the painting holidays.  Along with another village nearby, it could work out well


Highlight of the day - a long lunch at L'Annexe in St Jean.  This is probably my favourite restaurant in St Jean.  I had foie gras followed by Mussels.  And I had forgotten that the dessert menu was full of ice creams 


Back to La Rochelle airport where Wife is also travlling back to the UK today

I then went to a large Brocante at Ronces des Bains on the coast near Isle d'Oleron.  Spent another E500 on some decent enough stuff.  I think we can definitely say that sourcing stuff isn't going to be the problem I thought it might be


So I have one extra day down at the house and can spend the morning with Grant and the team.  They are in for most of the next 3 weeks and so big progress and big bill are likely.  While Steve the electrician worked upstairs, one door has been hung downstairs, the old door way blocked in and the second new doorway cut

And the deviding wall is being built between the downstairs bedroom and what will be the new bathroom

Loads of electrical wiring in place

But so much work to do still

Two weeks in France - week one


Our journey down to our house in France was broken up today by a diversion into Brittany tovisit our friend Ellie.  In a dramatic move, she has got divorced, sold her house and used the proceeds to buy a house with attached Gites.  We get there late morning for a few hours visit.

The overwhelming impression is just how pleased and excited Ellie is by the developments.  She has only been in the house for two weeks and is working long hours getting everything sorted out.  She has even had her first guests staying.  She is so fired up about it all, though how things will seem in darkest February, who knows. 

We had a walk round the entire site - Ellie has quite a few acres of land, mostly meadows but also some woodland and what might be a bog.  It really is a stunning location.  We had a lovely lunch and a long chat about the various things we were up to, and how odd it is that we have both ended up doing something similar.  Interestingly, Ellie had a few thoughts about the painting holidays / brocante business which we should think about in detail

We left early afternoon for the four hour drive down to our house.  Hopefully we should see more of Ellie going forward which would be very nice.

We arrived at our house around 7:00pm - Wife's first visit since February.  There has been loads of work downe since then and I was pleased that Wife seems to like how it has all turned out.  This first week will give us time to review everything I've done and make a few changes to a few things - and I have some new work that I want to get done - painting the shutters for instance


First thing to review is the progress on our renovation project - Petit Chats.  Recently work has been focused on levelling the floor in the loft ready for new floorboards to go down and removing the old electricals, ready for a full re-wire

Lots of new joists in place, making a level surface for the new floorboards

Also there has been some work on the downstairs bedroom / bathroom.  The old shower has been removed and the prep work done for the cutting of two new doors and the closing of one existing door.  Some slight problems here caused by the existance of a sort of dummy wall.  To get a level wall, this will have to be covered over.

Amazing amounts of dust produced as the wall is prepped

The downstairs lounge remains the store room and is now very full

As is the kitchen

Our main concern is the conditionof the pool which is currently still a cloudy green colour as the chemical treatments slowly make progress against the winter algae.  The filter is also not working very well, but we should see some gains this week

Wednesday to Friday

Work continues on Petit Chats for much of the week.  The electricals are nearly done and while Steve works on this, Grant and his colleague are doing the downstairs doors. I have severeal trips out with them to buy materials. 

While this goes on, Wife and I make some small changes to various other things in the house and I worked on what will eventually be a painter's studio (and is now the garage)

Wife has also been quite tried this week and has had a few long lies-in.  She has also not wanted to do much going out - in fact we didn't manage to do any of the things I had wanted to.  But never mind, she has definitely perked up as the week has progressed


Out early this morning to visit a street Brocante at Arvert down near the coast at Oleron.  This is partly a test of whether we can acquire sufficient stock for our brocante business and generally the morning goes quite well.  Some real bargains, some more expensive things. I paid around E30 each for three pictures that might be a bit extravagent.  But actually a nice morning out.

Today's haul

In the afternoon, Wife and I travelled back down to the same area and visited Mornac, one of France's official "most beautiful villages".  This will be a perfect location for the painting holidays.

Then onto Royan for dinner out at the place we went to after we bought our house.  This does huge seafood platters for two to share and I am going to try and persuade my sister-in-law to have one with me, when they are down for our second week.