When I ran B&B in France I had Basil Fawlty

Show business was never meant to be like this; this is not what I had in mind at all. I’d be driven four hours back from a mediocre stand-up gig in Leeds to our little Victorian in Crawley. It was now three in the morning. I was lucky because I managed to find a parking space within walking distance of our house, but then I tripped over the dog as I walked through the front door, waking up our young son and him. that’s my sleeping wife. I wasn’t popular and I wasn’t happy.

Fortunately, we were going on vacation soon, and we would have an annual chance to spread out a bit in the bucolic, freeze-frame Loire Valley, where my half-French wife, Natalie, had family. It meant a long lazy afternoon and God’s food.

But I wanted more.

“Really, Natalie, come and see! See what we could afford over here.” As usual, I was drawn in by the windows of the local estate agents, with their catnip-like offers of space and value. “We could buy a village!”

France, Center Val de Loire region, Chateaux of the Loire Valley,

Ian’s wife has family from the Loire Valley, so the Moores were regular visitors – Andrea Pistolesi/Stone RF

OK, that was an exaggeration, but at the time the pound was extremely strong against the euro and I was making a point. Natalie continued walking. The plan was always that we would retire here one day, much later in life and enjoy the pastoral tranquility of the area; I would write undemanding light comedy novels and Natalie would tend to her future horses. It was a pipe dream; an ambition, and one that is far from you in your early thirties. But, I thought, what if..?

I’m not necessarily a persuasive person, but I’m infuriatingly relentless, and eventually, later that summer, I threw her down. As I flew away for a weekend of gigs in Birmingham, Natalie looked for property. I came back on Sunday, we signed for our dream house on Monday, and we’ve been here ever since, 20 years later. “But how will you work?” asked my agent, mentally deleted from his roster. “I’ll be flying back every weekend,” I replied cheerfully. “There is a Ryanair service from my local airport.”

Ian Moore's property in the Loire ValleyIan Moore's property in the Loire Valley

Ian thought it was a dream to move to France because it would give him a bigger property.

Looking back now, the terribly naive notion of relying on budget airlines for your work commute is like thinking spaghetti doubles as an effective walking stick. But on such gossamer-thin whimsies life-changing decisions are made, and we sold up in the UK and made the move. If nothing else, it would provide me with a wealth of material and, more importantly, I would be able to park my car outside my own house.

The stark truth about it is, we were like kids in a sweet shop. For the same price as our tiny box in the UK we could get land, outbuildings, an orchard, a pond, even a swimming pool… and with that a whole heap of maintenance, which everyone warned us about and we ignored. “Doesn’t matter?” We said, “We are young!”

We got old very quickly.

The great thing about having lots of space is that you fill it up. A couple with a young son and an aging Jack Russell became, in a few years, a couple with three sons, a pack of dogs, a succession of cats, two horses, numerous short-term chickens and the world’s most unfriendly collection of goats. . My wife was keen to rescue any strays that passed by, as she was a local minister for abandoned animals, an unsupported charity that cares for animals with behavioral problems. One goat came while I was away. Natalie had been set down by a man on the short drive into town.

The country of the Loire in France.The country of the Loire in France.

Ian’s family lives near the wonderful countryside and friendly locals – Philippe Sainte-Laudy Photography/Moment RF

“Would you like a baby goat?” he asked. Apparently there was no chest.

“Not really,” replied my wife. “We already have two, and they don’t get along with my husband.”

The man’s face fell. “That’s a shame. I’ll just have to eat this one then.”

“Put it in the shoe,” Natalie said, without hesitation.

I complained about him, I spoke out against him, I laid down rules that were usually ignored because, despite French law laughingly claiming that I was “head of the house”, I really wasn’t. but a constitutional monarch, wheeled out for ceremonial purposes. I was very embarrassed by the French fans’ complicated dance of meeting and greeting because mainly, and I will swear this to my dying day, they keep changing the rules! It’s never just a handshake or a kiss on each cheek; subtle differences have been laid by each and every area like traps for the man the wonderfully friendly locals are beginning to call “Monsieur So British”.

The life of a touring comedian – late nights in the city centre, living without fast food and a constant blur of fatigue – could not be more different from the life of the countryside, making the cuties, the goats at home and, to be. honestly, although I didn’t say this on stage (when the good news doesn’t laugh), I had success with it. It was everything I always wanted. You would return home after each separate shift to go on vacation, and how many people returning from work could claim that?

Ian on his property in FranceIan on his property in France

‘Coming home was like going on holiday’: Ian at his property in France

Brexit changed things, no doubt. It added a mountain of stress and bureaucracy to a life that was already full of those things because it was clear that our security depended on me being in the French tax system. The decision, therefore, to convert one of our barns into a chambre d’hotes (posh B&B), it was not taken lightly, and when I told friends I was moving into the world of hospitality, they laughed. As the old joke goes, they’re not laughing now. There is no way to dress this up: there is no training to be polite to people for 20 years as a comedian. If you wake up in the middle of the night because “there’s a spider in our room”, it’s bad enough; complaints that “there’s too much grass in the garden” caused a fairly light-hearted, though entirely justified, riposte. Basil Fawlty was more angry with me because of the invasive demands and the inevitable, unavoidable and sometimes rude demands on families from all over the world. To give you some idea of ​​my state of mind, my first crime novel, Death and Croissantswhich centers on the owner of a B&B in the French countryside whose guests start dying…

My chambre d’hotes It closes its doors for the last time at the end of this summer, for my safety and for the hospitality world as a whole. It will then be a full-time Writers’ Retreat for quiet types who can make their own breakfast and know when to stay out of my way. After that, our house will be back to normal. Animal farming tends to be the usual fare, overburdened bureaucracy, outrageously expensive utilities; a remote, sometimes lonely life with brutal winters tempered by wonderful locals, wonderful countryside, family and a driveway I can park half a dozen cars on. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Ian Moore is a stand-up comedian, husband, father of three boys, farm hand maker and chutney maker in France, where he owns the Writers’ Retreat. He is the best-selling author of the Follet Valley crime series that began with Death and Croissants, and the author of The Man Who Didn’t Burn, the first in the Juge Lombard series. His memoir, Vive le Chaos: My So-called Tranquil Family Life in Rural France, is published by Summersdale, £9.99.

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