Saturday, April 6, 2013

Sex, Money, and Statistics ...

So Margo went off to see the bank this morning (I am allergic to bankers because of my skin condition, and I had a note to excuse me), partly to find out just how much it was going to cost us to pay back the loans that are still outstanding and partly to expose our business plan, such as it is. As far as the loans go we were agreeably surprised to find that the main one - the big scary one, that we finish paying back in two months anyway - was the only secured loan, so once that's out of the way the place is mortgage-free. At least, until the new owners get their hands on it.

Mad Karen recently remarked that bank "counselors" seem to be getting younger and stupider with every passing year - personally I think that maybe she's just getting older and possibly a bit wiser, if not actually smarter - and I have to admit that he apparently reckoned that our plan looked pretty solid and stood a good chance of passing. It was awfully nice of him to say so, especially considering that the figures came from a few hectic days of googling, a bit of screen-scraping and some work with a calculator. And the traditional back of an envelope.

To be quite honest, most of the work with the calculator involved either starting off with the same figures and using a different methodology to get at the numbers that interested me, or using a different data set to see whether or not roughly the same figures came out. And the envelope gets covered in doodles, some of them not technically obscene.

Benoit de Boigne, putting his best foot forward
I remember it being drummed into me to do that back in the distant past when I thought that doing statistics at varsity would be fun - I soon found out the truth - and I must admit that it's something that has served me well over the years. "It doesn't matter", Norm would say, "if the figures are right or not. They just have to be plausible, and coherent."

Sad to say, the underlying data sets are not particularly easy to get at, nor is it at all evident to work out what the sample population is. The INSEE looked quite promising, until I looked at the results and discovered that their bottom line was glaringly incompatible with those on sites like "Gites de France". I mean, when one source announces an average stay duration of nine days and the other one, one of three the disparity is kind of glaring, even to my eyes. So then I went spelunking, and discovered that the INSEE's "meublés labellisés" does not restrict itself to chambres d'hote, which is - for my purposes at least - a bit of a bugger.

Because while the average occupation rate is one very important thing, the length of stay is yet another because that definitely comes into play when you're trying to work out what the demand might be for table d'hote, this being something that interests me. One may reasonably assume that people would, if they could, eat twice during their stay (unless just that once turns out to be definitively enough, in which case you're doing something wrong, repeat business would seem unlikely, and you may very well find yourselves being shut down by the health department anyway): once on arriving, and again before leaving.

You see my point: if the average stay is nine days that means you may expect to do two dinners per person in that period, whereas if it's three you're looking at six in the same time. There's a big quantitative difference here, people.

A casualty of Easter
Whatever, if you've been keeping up to speed you'll be aware that there is the house in Moux, some 270m² with four double bedrooms and an apartment for us, and the plan is to get a more or less adjacent barn of about 380m² to turn into a workshop, office, and two or maybe three gîtes: exactly how many will depend on cash and what an architect thinks is possible.

The point is that gîtes are traditionally named: terminally cutely in my admittedly limited experience. Names like "Bleuet", or "Glycine". Anything to do with flowers seems to go down well, although there appears to be a flourishing market for famous, non-contentious, and preferably dead people. But Margo rejected my suggestions of "Toxic Waste" and "Oil Spill" with almost insulting rapidity and I guess I can see her point, these might frighten the punters, but can anyone explain to me what could be wrong with "Windscale", "Three Mile Island", and "Chernobyl"? Just asking, is all.

N° 3 in the series: Hideously Ugly Municipal Statuary
Then Bryan texted, and we arranged to meet at the Beer Tree that evening ... I had hoped to hear news of Beckham's complicated love life at some point, but to my dismay all he wanted to talk about, when finally we managed to get together, was his life plans (which, given his age, seem mostly to center around avoiding death for as long as possible). With my usual perspicacity it took me no more than ten minutes to work out that this could only mean The Business Partner From Hell again, so in a fit of unusual generosity I ordered another round to encourage him to continue his tale of woe.

Do you remember, struggling with fifth-form French, having to learn such incredibly useful phrases as "la plume de ma tante est dans le jardin de mon oncle", which were supposed to make us feel at ease in a foreign language? Can just imagine throwing that one into a conversation, everyone would be amazed.

The French had - still have, I suspect - the same thing: back in the day it was la méthode Assimil, where you learnt to say "My tailor is rich" (even if true, and it only goes to confirm my prejudices as to how they get their money, I fail to see the relevance to everyday life), and more recently, in some misguided attempt to make it more interesting, one may follow the adventures of Brian, who seems to spend most of his time in the kitchen. Often, with your sister. Or so it seems.

Getting to the point: although this joint-venture language school in Aix does seem to be working, it is not actually making money to the point where he can pay himself (not helped by the discovery that they must pay TVA on the income, which was an unexpected blow and I admit that waking up to find that you've just taken a 20% hit on your net revenue is indeed an unpleasant surprise). Also, his partner's breezy tendency to consider a bank account as being some sort of bottomless pit does not help.

So in a stroke of what I can but qualify, awestruck, as brilliance, Bryan (our one, not the creepy one getting too close to your sister over the dirty dishes) came up with the idea of opening his own language workshop and calling it "Bryan's Kitchen". I think that could definitely fly.

And then Jeremy is living up to his title as Lord of the Dead (machines): I do not know how he managed it, but he has managed to kill the ethernet adapter on the machine I loaned him. Packets go out, but none come in ... maybe he was not made to live with the Internet. It was my office machine, suppose I should go up there with a hard drive and salvage what I can before the rest of the hardware goes titsup.

I finally cracked, rejigged the mortgage, and bought some asparagus this morning. In my defence, let it be said that the broccoli, in normal circumstances an excellent and estimable vegetable, was looking particularly jaundiced, nor do I really enjoy shelling five kg of petits pois to find myself with a small bowl full of green ball-bearings. So it's definitely a ragout d'asperges that will accompany the lamb leg steaks tonight, maybe with some chips de panais (that'd be parsnip chips, to you) on the side. And I picked up some tomatoes too: doubtless to my regret, but hope springs eternal ...

And speaking of spring, the sky may well be still dull and gray but the forsythia is in flower, the daffodils are out in the paddock, and the wee birdies are definitely getting all excited. Unfortunately they are doing this in the eaves around our bedroom, and I have never personally been a great fan of the dawn chorus. Especially as practiced by a small persistent starling with a raging hard-on.

Whatever, have a nice drought, people. Be thinking of you, as the rain sullenly persists down.

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