MOST builders are happy to put their feet up after a hard day on site carrying bricks and mixing cement, but for Trevor Morris his day job has become his writing muse.
His experience of running a building company in the Tarn region of South West France is the back drop to his book Vive la Rénovation, which features tales from the property restorations he has been involved with.
Since crossing the Channel with his wife, Sue, and their feline friends the couple have settled into village life in a small hamlet just outside Albi.
Trevor's book offers an entertaining look at settling in to a new country, as well as the many characters he meets in his work, and you have a chance to win a copy of Vive la Renovation by leaving a comment after the interview.
My first question to Trevor was to ask why he decided to move to France?
I've been a builder all my working life, 20 years now, and the last place we were living was in Dorchester and what prompted the move was that the son of our next door neighbour bought a barn to renovate in the Tarn and it came up in conversation that he wanted to do it up and that there was work to be done down in the South West of France.
We had been thinking of doing something like that anyway and things just moved along, we had a look at the barn and just stayed put.
Did you know the south west corner of France?
No not really, we'd been camping in France, but the Tarn, we didn't know at all. We visited the area and the main town was Albi which is a really pretty, red brick town and it was so nice that we thought it will do for us and that was it, the decision was made.
How easy was it to start your business, Trevor Morris Renovation, any tips to pass on?
The biggest tip is don't as it was a fairly long winded process, made a little more difficult for us as we were at first living in a holiday gite just renting it, therefore the registration of out personal details was a bit complicated.
France though is just one big system, and once you get your first foot in to the system, you are OK and everything just follows along, but that initial step was quite tricky. I ended up doing loads of trips backwards and forwards to the Chambres de Metiers for the registration of the business but once everything was in place things just started to click together.
Does the building business split evenly between Brits and the French?
No it is more or less all Brits, it is one of those situations that works both ways as being part of a community means that my details are passed on by word of mouth, I don't advertise, so being passed around really helps and you end up with a waiting list of people.
Naturally communication problems don't exist, I do speak French, but many people I work for don't and they can come unstuck when using French artisans, besides the cultural differences, the biggest problem is explaining what actually needs doing.
With all this work how did you find the time to write your book, Vive la Renovation?
I actually write a weekly column for the Dorset Echo and have been doing so since we came out here, it covers the differences and similarities of life in France, and is a little bit of a diary and so the discipline of producing something every week helps me to do the writing.
So what sort of characters have you crossed, are those in the book from real-life?
Yes, there is no real need to embellish many of the stories. There was one electrician I used when I came out here, a French guy, with massive hands and yet he could work on the fiddliest of electrics, with his cables all so neat, but he was completely mad.
When things started getting a bit difficult he would start biting his arm, literally chewing away to make it red raw, and at one point I found him outside banging his head against a brick wall. He was quite terrifying sometimes, he was a huge bloke, and although I knew he wouldn't hurt me you did wonder.
There is my colleague Guillaume who works with me most of the time but is hugely accident prone, not the best quality for a builder, but he is a lovely bloke. But he is the sort of guy who once cut a plank in the floor that he was stood on and fell through to the floor below, breaking bones in his foot.
One time when I was working with him we were taking down the support on a chimney which had been finished, but he's there undoing the support, despite a piece of wood at the top of it.
And he's happily undoing it before the lump of wood falls, cracks him on the head and we are off to the hospital where blood and stitches were involved.
What plans are there for a second book?
I think I will have another book ready in about six months to a year, although I don't know what I'll call it just yet, I've not really thought of a title, but two thirds of the material is there and ready.
Do you have a reputation in the local area for your literary talents?
The local newspapers have run stories and I've done a couple of book signings in local shops, but it does make customers a little nervous as they can give me some ammunition and obviously the worse a customer is, means the more chance I have of a little bit of revenge.
Sometimes when they give me a hard time on site, I think you are going to pay for that in an article, revenge is a dish best served cold!
To win a copy of Vive la Rénovation please leave a comment below and I will pick a message at random. Closing date for entry is Friday, February 15 (11am Paris time).
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