Sales site

April 13, 2023

How to buy prints of Simon’s photographs

Easy: go to the sales site:


August 20, 2021

Sentein – under the Crabère
Folklore – Sentein-style
Les Biroussans

La Palme – juin 2021

June 22, 2021

New French property blog

February 9, 2012

Here’s a new blog opened by one of the oldest players in the French property game: Cheap French Property.

For years they have been unearthing cheap houses for sale in deepest France – many of them village houses in the little village of SW France. As a rule they only list properties under €100,000 and most of these are for sale directly through the owner.

It’s not an estate agent – just a listing site – and all their properties come from small ads, freebie newspapers, handwritten signs on the side of the road … the sort of sources that overseas buyers just don’t have access to.

Every month the listing is introduced by a little piece on the state of the housing market in France that month – interesting insights from people on the ground.

They have now launched a cheap French property blog which examines housing-related questions more thoroughly.

After more than a year of paperwork and incessant hassling of the bureaucracy, I now have my estate agent’s licence.

The company is called GITES à la française and the niche we are aiming at is selling all those beautiful B&Bs and holiday homes that the Brits bought and renovated over the past twenty years. Now that the pound has plunged and that the financial crisis is biting they are desperately trying to sell.

Prices are high, however, as these poor people can’t bring themselves to actually sell at a loss. High by French standards … but still refreshingly low for the cold and rainswept northern Europeans who dream of a place in the sun.

The idea is that, as all these properties are income-producing, prospective buyers should consider their purchase as an investment rather than just throwing a lot of money at a two-week-a-year holiday place. Most of the properties at GITES à la française comprise at least one self-catering unit as well as the main habitation … producing a useful income to cover most taxes, utilities and other running costs.

For the moment the properties we have on the books range from village houses sans garden to 50-acre estates with 3 or 4 self-catering units and 12-metre heated pool. What they all have in common is their location: south of a line going from Nantes to Montpellier.

The English-language gateway is

* There’s going to be an army coup in Pakistan. And, as usual, it will be ‘welcomed’  by most world leaders.

* While on the subject of coups d’état … there’s going to be an attempted one in Egypt … but it won’t succeed. Tunisian-style democratic forces will beat back the soldiers into their barracks, elections will be held and relative democrats will take power. Not for long though.

* The Irish elections, probably at the beginning of May, will result in a very strong showing by the populist right-wing Sinn Fein party. Despite a lot of bla bla about being for a workers’ republic, they will defend the church (and its reactionary teachings) and continue to support the corruption and skullduggery of their friends in Fianna Fail.

* The Euro will be in the news again, but not because of Spain but rather Italy: a government crisis will reveal the disastrous state of the Italian economy, excessive debt and the need for immediate German/IMF intervention.

* Leinster win the Heineken Cup and Australia walk it in the RWC.

* Mexico legalizes marijuana, sets up a state-controlled production and distribution service. Thousands of unemployed gangsters and drug-smugglers demonstrate in Mexico City, desperate for work.

* Chinese scientists find a way of squirting hydrogen peroxide particles into the upper atmosphere to reduce temperatures over East Asia by 4 degrees. Outcry in the West: a lot of shivering in the East.

May 20, 2010

Simon Oliver as a Quaker oat

B&B goes urban

March 19, 2010

Finding a B&B in Britain and Ireland has always been a fairly easy business: not just in tourist areas but in the main cities too. Whole streets used to be lined with them and their ubiquitous “B&B” signs were universally recognized and recognizable.

Not so in France. The ‘chambre d’hôte‘ is a fairly recent phenomenon, emerging from discreet obscurity only fifteen or so years ago. And even then, it was exclusively rural in conception, filling a niche for upmarket, comfortable accommodation in country regions where the hotels were shabby and ill-equipped. As the French country hotel has declined (over-zealous Health & Safety regs) so the chambre d’hôte has seen its star rise. An ill-defined legal status has meant that folk in the country have preferred to let out a couple of rooms to make a few extra bob rather than leasing long-term with the – very real – possibility of getting stuck with insolvent lodgers.

Now the rural chambre d’hôte has come to town. Hotels are restructuring, upgrading and becoming relatively expensive, despite their VAT advantage (0-3 star hotels pay just 5.5%). Bed and Breakfast establishments are beginning to appear in city centres and suburbs, timidly, without the brash signs of the Edgeware Road. For the moment the only legal requirement is a declaration to the tax people.

The advantages for tourists and travellers are clear: they are cheaper, more spacious and a lot quieter than two or three star hotels clustered around the station. Breakfast is always included in the price and tends to be more copious and of better quality than hotel fare. Your host is also likely to have much more time to explain how to get to the Airbus plant or give advice on restaurants or bars.

I’ve just finished a website for Toulouse’s newest B&B: check it out!
Toulouse Bed and Breakfast

It’s all coming out now: the terrible terrible truth of the decades (centuries?) of humiliation handed down by the Irish Catholic church to those placed in its ‘care’. And all this with the connivance and approbation of successive ‘Irish’ governments. Shame on yez all.

Ever since I chanced upon the Tweetdeck my life has marched to the rhythm of incoming tweets glowing on the screen. Well, it’s only been three days but it has leached whatever good intentions I had for working  seriously out of my system.

Within this short space of time one learns to mentally filter the tweets into 3 distinct categories:

1. “Hello world: I’m having breakfast” – where people reply to the basic Twitterquest ‘What are you doing now?’

2. “Get rich quick” –  shameless pushing of music, MLM sites or other consumerism

3. “Breaking news reports” – short news items of importance with links to the lowdown. The Ryan report in Ireland  and the Commons expenses scandal are examples

The first and second of these categories are of little interest past the first day of twittering whereas the third section can cause manic dysfunction to the man at the screen.  There’s something called PICAMP going on in Belfast this week? That sounds interesting. Click … and away we go through mists of time to what we thought we knew about but clearly don’t.

There is an insidious first/fourth category when the ‘what are you doing’ tweet becomes part of a narrative that, by clever crafting of the text, becomes as addictive as a Soprano’s series.  So @unarocks is in Amsterdam waiting for a friend? Now she’s listening to a band. Begod, she’s out drinking pints of Heineken with the lead singer in wet and windy ‘Dam!

By piecing together various tweets of this type from a given location – say Dublin – one can almost reconstruct a virtual image or Street View of Tweeters’ lives as they carouse from South William Street to Westmoreland Street passing through Trinity Ball on their way.

Twitter is like having gobbets of Ulysses been thrown at your windscreen as you fiddle with the GPS in downtown Dublin.

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