Monday, 30 November 2009

Death of a yurt camp

I happened to meet the mayor today, while picking up some papers to scrap or sell the car. 'Work (on the house) coming on?' She offered.

'Yes,' I said. 'But not so well with the business.'

'Why? What?' She said.

I told her that: 'People have told us it can go ahead with only a Simple Declaration in the Mairie; Her Outdoors picked up the papers and went to the DDE (Planning) to get help filling it in; Madame Couderc said it couldn't be done with a Simple Declaration and had to be a full CU...'

She didn't even let me finish. 'If the DDE have said no (they haven't - one woman has said no and not even on paper), I can't change it. I'm not going to fight for you. If they've said no (they haven't), it can't be done (it can).' Then she walked away angrily, muttering something about yurts.

Which, I must admit, left me feeling more than a little pissed off.

With good reason.

Here were are (actually, I am - Her Outdoors gave up the fight a few weeks ago, in tears after that meeting with Madame Couderc), trying to launch a sustainable, forward-thinking business IN ORDER TO PAY TAXES, create employment in an area which is bereft - and not just for the over-educated, formerly well-off English population - and promote environmental tourism. And here is my mayor, whose duty it is to support her constituents, telling me she won't support me - mere months after giving me her word that everything would be OK.

The apparent futility of trying to get the yurt camp off the ground - or rather, onto it - and the pissed-offness it caused all morning made me realise I don't have the strength to fight this any longer, either.

I give up.

We came to this country to live self-sufficiently because land in the UK was too expensive. We are still utterly behind that decision. It feels right. It is right.

Trying to get the yurt camp on the ground has caused endless amounts of grief, sapped us of our capital and, at times, made us resent our land - our 14-odd acres of woods and meadow - which is insane. I have often suspected that we would only succeed in getting past all the rules and regulations one moment before the global economy crashed and all the rules would be thrown out of the window anyway. So I'll stop early and save my energy for some much-needed focus on self-sufficiency.

We're a long way from it. But we're a hell of a lot closer than we were.

Oh yes. I nearly forgot. For sale:
o Three 18-foot coppiced chestnut yurt frames (with or without covers), two of which have extra-wide doors for disabled access.
o One 12-foot coppiced chestnut yurt with extra-wide door for the same reason.

If you or anyone you know has the land and the stomach for a fight, do get in touch. Friends and friends of friends, worry not. There'll be a yurt for you here and we'd love to see you. We've got a few stories. Let me tell you.


A very short time later, we had a visit from the mayor, we ungave up, we built a yurt camp, opened for business, were listed as one of the top 10 eco campsites in Europe by The Guardian, were filmed by ITV1 for a series called Little England and a whole lot of other stuff. More recent posts explain how.


dND said...

I don't know what to say :-( you've tried so hard. Maybe while you concentrate on something else - self-sufficiency - another way will become clear.

Do be careful with your self- sufficient bit that you don't become liable for MSA cotatisations they kick in at 3400€ per year. I've decided to buy my own health insurance and wait for the 5 years to pass so I only have to pay 350€ to MSA as I'm a registered farmer. This is after 2 years of going round in circles and I still don't know the actual legislation and I suspect neither do the official agencies.

Wishing you all the best.

Me? I'm just someone. said...

Thanks Deborah. Actually, I feel much more relaxed now than I have for a long time. I didn't realise how much subconscious energy I was using coming up with ways around problems, suppressing anger and frustration, wondering how we were going to get everything achieved in an ever-shortening time frame.

Now I actually have time for the animals, children and day-to-day peasant life. Although I've started a new blog. There's probably a link in my profile.

Your €3,400 figure is interesting. Is that earnings from selling to other people? Sorry. You may not know. And I think you're right about the authorities... Nobody knows anything and they're all so terrified of making a mistake and/or looking stupid that they make mistakes and/and look stupid quite a lot of the time.

Likewise, good luck with you.

SarahW said...

Alex, I am so sorry to hear that. I was only reading about your car the other day and wondering how you kept going in the face of so many challenges.

It boggles my brain that it is so incredibly difficult for hardworking decent people to make a living and contribute to the economy in this country.

Him indoors and I wish you bundles of luck for 2010 and will watch with interest to see what happens next.


Me? I'm just someone. said...

Thanks Sarah. Perhaps it should be 'why we kept going in the face of so many challenges'. It was just such a bloody good idea. Easy money, in fact - theoretically something like a €60K turnover with just three yurts, working six months of the year (apart from the other six months).

But maybe that was the problem. Getting the business going became a huge distraction from the original intention of living off the land. (Now, we're fairly intuitive people. Maybe we should have seen it sooner, that - and forgive me if this seems a little new age - the universe did not support this easy money business. Fundamentally, neither do I. The two are connected.)

I'm interested to see what happens next, too. And for the first time in a long time, I'm enjoying the process. Hope your 2010 is everything you want it to be.

Greg said...

Wow Alex,

so much going on - hang in there, bro. Just a couple ideas:

You know every functionaire has their own opinion. How about an appt. with another person at DDE?

How about running the CU ap?

Freinds of friends of freinds. That's everybody. Set up your yurts and run in the black. If legal - you will face inspections from sanitaire, food and other campsite orgs.

Let go of the fight as it seems you have done, and if you are certain of this decision, then Congrats! my freiend. You know we tried to 'do the right thing' with planete green and had to let it go. For me this was a great release, and even though I know money must be made, maybe I can make it as a result of sseeking a life, not seeking a living.

Good on ya, mate, and all the best.


Me? I'm just someone. said...

Greg, that's a great mantra. I'll think I'll try it for a while.

Maybe bringing a business with us was a bit fear-based (if I've said this elsewhere, forgive me). Like you, we realised we needed to make money, for taxes, insurance, petrol and the food we can't grow. And the way yurt camps were taking off, the money was potentially easy and plentiful. But this pursuit of money has led to nothing but stress and distraction. The release is huge - although nothing's changed on the outside, I instantly have more time for the kids and other animals. It feels really good.

We've already had two people show interest in buying the yurts, so nothing will go to waste. (Maybe they were never for us, we were just the people to bring them here.)

Let's meet up soon. You'll find us much more relaxed...

greg said...

Yeah - you know... life is just strange and full of surprises. i guess its a case of 'as man plans, our souls laugh.'

How about lunch here when you fix the wheels. :D

rockmother said...

Oh no I'm so sorry to read this and can not believe the short-sightedness (is there such a word?) of people. It's so vile and smalltown and prejudiced. I wish you all the luck in the world and shall ask around - I know of an independent self-sufficient school in Cornwall which may well want a Yurt. All the best.

Me? I'm just someone. said...

Thanks ro-mo. Having had a break in December, I've a bit more energy for a fight this year. I have no confidence it'll get me anywhere but, like Morgan Freeman's character in SHAWSHANK, maybe that's the point at which my passage will be granted - and I'll get to walk down the vallee, jacket over my shoulder, wondering why someone's painting a boat in the orchard. Or is it a shed? Boat? Shed? Boat?