Time to celebrate and reflect

This time of year is traditionally a time to reflect on the past year and look ahead to the new.

Alba Yarns celebrated five years of business in France in July 2012 (I set it up in Scotland in April 2006 before we moved.) in recent years it has become easier to set up in France with the advent of the Auto entrepreneur scheme, but when I arrived in 2007, I could speak very little French and certainly not to business standard. We now look back and laugh about our first encounter with French bureaucracy at the Chamber of Commerce in Libourne.

First of all it took us an age to find the office and we arrived just in time but somewhat hot and bothered. We thought we were reasonably well prepared and went carrying passports and copies of accounts from Scotland. Yes, they were needed and duly copied. Mme Etineau, who always had a very tidy desk and was immaculately coiffed, dressed and manicured then asked me for a copy of my marriage certificate dated within three months. But we’ve been married for more than thirty years, I said. Gallic shrug. I tried again. She wrote it down and with that we were dismissed.

I ordered a copy of the marriage certificate from the GRO in Edinburgh, and then of course needed another appointment. At this point making phone calls struck terror in me, but somehow I managed it. And off we went again clutching the new marriage certificate. All went smoothly this time, Mme E filled in all the forms, we parted with 100+€, and I had a business officially registered in France.

In the early days, the cost of cotisations (social security) was unbelievable, we had to subsidise the business heavily. Last year I was able to transfer to the new simplified system of payment – Auto entrepreneur, which is much better, as it is a percentage of turnover.

Over the last six or so years I have sent orders to most counties in the world, but the top three are currently France, UK and USA. I also have customers who call to collect orders or browse the stock by appointment.

I started a ‘knit and natter’ group, which started with great gusto, but tailed off to two or three of us. Maybe it was not the right time? Recently, one or two people have asked if I could teach them to knit, and knitting holidays seem to be really popular. I may look at both of these ideas for future years.

I am proud that I have been able to turn a hobby into a successful small but global business that enabled me to follow my dream to live in France.

This week’s seasonal photo is of my little helper, Fleur in her favourite window.

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Marche de Noel, Pineuilh. 7 & 8 December 2012

This weekend went by way too fast with another two days of Christmas markets at Pineuilh this time. There were around thirty stands this week there was a real community feel and most exhibitors were local. My stand was opposite the local school stand and there was a great turn out for the two days.

I had lots of visitors. Thank you to Hanni, Emma, Julie, Basil and Olivia from my French class and Helen from Chateau Claribes for coming along and having a chat and for buying some jewellery. I also had a long chat with Anne and Alan who intoduced themselves. They are also Scots and have moved into Saint Philippe recently. The Scottish contingent in the commune is now up to five!

There are two funny tales to report from the weekend. The first is about a little girl who looked gorgeous in her vintage velvet Santa dress and hat. She was running round having such great fun, but just as we were packing up to go home on Saturday, there was an unholy uproar and she was in tears. Everyone was concerned. What had happened? The pom pom had come off her hat and she was inconsolable!

The second story proves that my French is still far from perfect. Just when I though it was all falling into place, a woman stopped and asked something about my greetings cards. I thought she was asking if the were blank inside, and I said there was nothing in them. I guess that is not what she asked as the look on her face said it all and then she walked away…..

This week’s photo shows the large crowd gathered round Pere Noel.

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Little England?

I don’t know if you watch Little England? We do, painful though it is. Our life in France ( and not that terribly far from some of the action) bears no resemblance to the programme.

We didn’t come to have a professional ex-pat lifestyle or socialise totally with other Brits. We have French and British friends and do our best to speak the language and integrate into the community as we would anywhere. It is not always easy, but we feel it is our responsibility.

What brought this to mind was the range of nationalities that feature in my French class. Yesterday we had students from Venezuela, Vietnam, Holland, New Zealand, Australia, Uzbekistan and Ireland. Only two from England and me flying the Saltire. Nothing at all like the strange world portrayed on the telly.

And I run a global business. Granted on a small scale, but this week I have sent orders to South Africa, USA, Canada, Germany, Spain, GB and France. I have personal customers both French and British.

Probably none of this would make ‘good’ telly. And I don’t want to feature anyway!

Can it be too hot to knit?

The weather this week has been fantastic. – like high summer. This of course is less good for the business of knitting or selling wool. Mind you, I had a visit from one of my regular customers, who has just returned from holiday and had an order to collect. She, like me knits all year round, although work in the garden does eat into valuable knitting time.

T’s birthday jumper is about halfway there, with the back and one sleeve finished. I find this is a good system to check that overall I have enough yarn for a project.

I have been busy sowing seeds and G has been busy getting the vegetable garden ready for action.

This weeks picture is of the delights at Sainte Foy la Grande market this morning.

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