...dear boy, is timing.
And of largesse, it would seem.
In the normal course of events, riding into town with a wheelbarrow full of cash to help restore the historic features of vernacular buildings would be seen as a pretty nice thing to do. OK, it might not make auburn-haired temptresses swoon at your feet, but it should make you rather more popular than the night-soil man.
But that's the normal course of events, and not events as manifested through the prism of a national assembly and the EU, and launched at precisely the moment when economic confidence and the will on the part of punters to invest in such things has gone through the parquet.
So I find myself in the odd position of having money to give away and yet no-one's queuing up to take it. All I get are rather suspicious looks.
The problem is that the cash in question is grant money that needs to be match-funded. Nasty plastic windows? You really need some nice timber windows instead. One snag. You need to fill in a nine-page form, seek three tenders, get planning permission, be granted a unique case number by the national assembly and have the work done and signed off in three months. Just enough time for the pigs to get their pilot's licence, I would have thought, given the way things work in these parts.
Oh, and you've got to pay 20 per cent of the cost.
Normally the 20 per cent wouldn't be too much of an issue, but two things have thrown a spanner in the works. One is Joe Sixpack defaulting on his tar-paper shack and sending the world's banks into meltdown, and the other is the fact that the areas I'm targeting have just been blitzed by a uPVC window company practically giving away their shite on the never-never. Walking down the road is a depressing experience - every other house has brand new plastic windows, many of them still with the paper protective tape round the frames. And, understandably, the owners aren't too gruntled at the prospect of forking out to replace the windows they've already bought and will be paying off over the next ten years.