So, throw off the bowlines…
I saw this quotation on someone else’s blog today (it was Crystal over at Crystal goes to Europe) and it made me remember why we came to France in the first place.
It had been my dream for as long as I can remember. As a child, I had visited Geneva many, many times on holiday, staying in the appartment of a friend of my parents. He was a teacher at the International School, and he was also an artist. (Out of interest I looked him up on t’internet. Here is his web site. I would copy-and-paste one of his pictures, but I’m sure they are copyrighted) I remember the layout of his lovely flat perfectly, even though it’s over 35 years since I was last there! He had bookshelves crammed with books, and I always hunted out his copies of Doctor Doolittle’s Zoo and Doctor Doolittle’s Circus to read. Glynn also had a bowl of alabaster eggs and this started my collection, which I have to this day. I grew up loving the “foreignness” of abroad.
Then our holidays changed. We still came to France, but we stayed in little out-of-the-way hotels, often slightly quirky (or even very strange!) There was one in Rouen with an enormouse cast iron statue of a lion bringing down its prey, which I hated passing late in the evening. In Tauxigny (in Indre et Loire I was chatted up, on my last evening there, by the local postman, called René. We wrote to each other twice, I think).
When I married (sorry, René!), we started coming to France on holiday – we visited so many different areas, staying in gites, usually, but sometimes in Chambres d’Hotes. And more and more, I felt the pull of this country. I really have no idea why – yes, I love the food and wine, the pace of life, but surely there is something more? In the end, I suppose it is the je ne sais quoi of France that appealed so much! It actually got to the point that (I’m rather ashamed to admit!) I would start crying when we passed St Quentin on the motorway, because I knew we were on our way home, leaving France (though it could also have been because I knew I was going to be going back to teaching a new school year very shortly!)
We finally started thinking seriously about moving to France about 3 years after I stopped teaching. Miles, a friend of Mr D, had given up his lucrative job in the city, and had moved to his wife Corinne’s birthplace to start a new business, and we kept in contact with him; my French teacher, who had become a friend, moved here to open a gite/chambres d’hotes business…people we actually knew were making it a reality. It wasn’t just people we saw on TV who were doing it… I took a CELTA (teaching English as a foreign language) course, so we had a possible way of earning money. But it still all seemed to be A Step Too Far.
Until, I was at Mr D’s parent’s house, and they were having a party. I was mingling and talking to someone about France and how I dreamed about moving here. In the conversation, without really thinking about it, I said something like “I don’t want to look back at my life and I realise that I regret not doing this…” And as I said it, that was my light-bulb moment. I realised that what I had unthinkingly said, just as conversation, was in fact It. It’s not doing things that we regret more often than doing things – it’s the missed opportunities, the what-ifs, the might-have-beens… From then on, I knew that I (we) (!!) had to do this.
Mr D still wasn’t sure. He liked the idea, but he is always the practical one, the thinker, the considerer. Me, I’ll just do something and hope for the best. He came up with reasons why it wasn’t such a good idea, and I’d just say “Oh, it’ll be fine…” Until we came out to this part of the country, to visit Miles and Corinne. They had become estate agents! Miles showed us a house, which I could imagine living in, and Mr D liked it too, but he was still “Yes, but…” and was very sensible, thinking of the reasons why not. But then Miles said “When I was in London, I could think of a hundred reasons why moving out here was not a good idea. But now I’m here, those reasons mean nothing…”
It was that, I think, that got Mr D’s mind ticking over the possibilities. Someone who had been in the same business as he had actually “done it”, had taken the plunge. And he came round to thinking that, Yes, indeed, this might well be A Good Thing. So in 2005 we moved out here.
We didn’t buy the house we looked at that first time with Miles, and I’m glad. It was in a river valley, by itself, and in summer was charming and rustic. But in the depths of winter, I can imagine it would be cold, damp and slightly depressing. Instead we bought a house in the centre of the village – not at all as we’d (I’d!!!) planned. But in fact, as Mr D continued working in London for a year, and commuted back here every 10 days or so, it was a much better place to be, because I was on my own. Outside of the village, I would have become very lonely and isolated, I think.
So, here we are. This is our village, somewhere slightly south-east of central, up in the mountains. And, we are happy here. After a year, Mr D gave up working in London – the commuting became harder when the nearest airport closed the route to London, his company became less amenable to his absences, the change of pace of lfe became too stressful. So he gave up working in reinsurance to try his han at web design and computer repairs. And it meant that I, who had been a lady of leisure, being kept by Mr D’s hard work, had to get off my lazy arse and find work. Well, it was what I’d trained for, after all!!
Heavens knows, we don’t have the income of our two full time jobs in the UK, and, to be honest, finances are a little precarious at the moment, because, as I said, my Language School has lost the contract with Michelin, which means my hours have been cut drastically. But we have good friends: Martine (who retired from her job on health grounds and who obviously misses doing Stuff) has taken on the task of Finding Me Work. She is creating an Association (legally this is the best way, apparently) and they will employ me to give English lessons. She will put up posters, field enquiries, book rooms, etc etc. All I need to is turn up and teach. Let’s hope that works. And thank goodness, MrD has his job in Shopi-soon-to-be-Carrefour-Market. While he’s finding it hard work, he is doing well and becoming quite popular with the Old Dears who putter in to do their shopping on market day.
So that’s it. Even if (God forbid) we need to move back to the UK for whatever reason, I won’t ever regret our move here. We did indeed sail away from a safe harbour. We explored, we dreamed, we discovered. It hasn’t been easy- but nor has it been very difficult. But it has been an Awfully Big Adventure.