It feels like a lifetime ago that I read ‘A Year in Provence’, along with several million other jealous people. Why couldn’t my life be like that; just chilling out and having fun? Well, to start with I was only twenty-five and serving in Hong Kong with a Gurkha Regiment. Unknowingly, the Berlin Wall was about to fall and the Cold War (from which I was making my living) was coming to an end. But still, there would be other distractions, not least the Gulf War, the Balkans, Iraq and so on and so on. The Army was fun and they paid pretty well. So well in fact that I played the game for thirty two years but all good things come to an end and it was time to get a proper job……or was it?

I married Melanie in 2013 and we decided there and then that neither of us wanted to stay in the Army. The question was what would we do? Simple; what do we like….wine, cheese, wine, food, wine, okay you get the picture, we like wine, so we moved to France.

So here we are in the Loire Valley, one of the most renowned wine regions in the world, having bought a 14th Century Manoir, a small wood and a barn. ‘Good luck,’ our friends said, ‘we hope it works out for you.’ What exactly did they mean by that, why wouldn’t it work? How hard can it be for two fit, intelligent and able ex-Army officers to run a Bed & Breakfast? Did I mention we had twins this year?

Okay let’s put this in perspective, it’s not a complete rebuild, well not all of it. Structurally it’s pretty sound or at least most of it and I did a home improvements course when I left the Army so I should able to do most of the work or at least some of it and we’ve employed an Architect who doesn’t speak English……perhaps we should read Peter Mayle’s book again? We explained to the architect what we wanted in each room; he replied, ‘I have decided yet.’ Apparently paying the bills doesn’t entitle us to an opinion! I’m sure it’s just the French way; it will be fine. Too late for doubts, we are now getting to grips with plumbing, plastering, masonry, central heating and the electrics. Our plan is taking shape…..or is it  the architect’s plan?

As you can see from the photograph, it’s pretty impressive already but of course we’re British so we have to tamper with 500 years of medieval architecture to make it even more impressive. There are lots of blokes looking busy, which means we are slowly making progress.  Oh, the frustrations!  We are hoping that very soon it will start to look pretty awesome inside as well as outside. It is likely to be a cross between Grand Designs and Amazing Spaces – as always, over budget and overdue!

I’m not Peter Mayle and we don’t have a year; we need to be open by next summer (so the twins don’t starve) so why not follow our progress? I’ll write the blog and if you read it I’ll try to keep you amused. Let’s face it, there are going to be times when laughing will be the only tonic. Let me know what you think.