So a year ago yesterday we moved to France. My post on Facebook read “sitting in the car with coffee spilt down the front of me, and 4 cats, 2 who have already shit and I am not even on the train yet! What an adventure!!” (A witty friend on Facebook put in response – 2Isn’t that meant to be lucky?!”) Our train was delayed by three hours, and we didn’t arrive at our rented house until one am in the morning. But we still cracked open the wine, and had the lamb chops we had brought over with us for tea.
Our circuits were completely haywire because we had moved on the Monday after the clocks had gone forward in England and added to the extra hour in France it knocked us for six and took us about three weeks to overcome what felt like jet lag!
I have often said how our house in Herne Bay was beautiful, and how I did struggle to leave it, I have recently found some photo’s of it and thought that I would share them with you.
I was heartbroken to leave it, but you know what? I wouldn’t go back. I loved the house, I didn’t love where it was particularly, (although I do still miss our neighbours Jo and Mike). Reflecting now I am surprised to see how much I have moved on. Just goes to show you that what you thought you wanted is not always what it seemed and when you take the chance and make a change, frightening though it may be, it all becomes clear.
Due to the anniversary of our year of living here I have reflected on our adventure to date (don’t I always?) and here are some of my reflections and advice for those who may be thinking of taking the adventure.
We rented our rental property at short term notice, as a previous arrangement had fallen through, and on reflection it was bloody expensive. The cost was meant to include all of the bills, which when you consider we were moving into it in the summer months, was no great shakes really as we were not going to really use anything. My understanding was that a gardener was included in the cost but within a week of moving in we had a phone call from the English couple who we had rented from to advise us that the cost of the gardener was not included in the £840.00 (yes really !! 1092 euro) we were paying a month. Being the nice people we are we did not argue, although I have to say I would now! We decided we would do the gardening ourselves with his old lawn mower, which he thought was great but turned our didn’t work, so off we went to buy a sit on, as we concluded we would need that in the future anyway. A week later we had another phone call to say that they did not think that we were mowing the lawn often enough – obviously they were having us watched!!- I kid you not!!! We decided to get out of the property asap as it was clear that they were going to be a pain in the proverbial, and to say that they had seriously pissed us off at that point is an understatement. But you know what when we did get out the cheeky buggers still deducted £50.00 for gardening!!
I have been dying to say that since we moved, time to say it now. What did I learn from it? Don’t think that people are nice on face value because, sadly, nine times out of 10 they’re not! Much as it is difficult when you rent something with all the bills included, get an idea of rents out here first (400-450 euro a month without bills) and that will give you some negotiating power.
Having said that we did have a relaxing time in that house, as there were no renovations to do, and could concentrate on finding our new home, and enjoying France. The weather last summer was fantastic, albeit (and I can’t believe I am saying this) too hot. It was thirty five degrees at nine thirty at night some nights. My two best memories from our time there? Dancing naked in the rain with the Rich in the totally secluded garden (hopefully they weren’t having us watched that day, or they would have been in for a shock!) Apologies to my son now as I am sure that is not an image he will want in his head! And buying a paddling pool for what we thought was us, but turned out to be for my handsome Harley pup, who acted like a toddler and just wanted us to play in it with him all the time.
Good times and we can’t wait to get it out (the paddling pool, not our bodies this time, our neighbours might complain!) this year and see what Squiggle Piglet (or Wiglet) makes of it.
I have well documented moving here to our current home, and for those who did not read my blog at the time I would urge you to have a look at my archives, which will also show you the changes that we have made to our house to date.
Other memorable moments – balancing an American fridge freezer on my head as we desperately tried to squeeze it through a door frame and it got stuck, and having to hold it there whilst Rich tried to free it. Being only five foot four inches I seriously thought I might die at that point!
Turning our water on and it leaking everywhere – just goes to show that you can overcome so many things.
Sitting in the bar listening to music in Ambrieres in September.
Watching the fireworks in Ambrieres, and in Ruille Sur Le Loire on Bastille day.
Having a cheeky Frenchman whisper in my ear his age and then winking and asking if I understood (he was 69!)
Sitting at the sweet little bar in Ruille with all the other French people – we avoided the main square where all the English were who had travelled there for Le Mans. Being hugged by the landlady when we said goodbye.
The lovely French ladies in the Super U in Ruille Sur La Loire – our French was pretty poor then and they must have dreaded every time we arrived to book a van to move our belongings. But by the end they would chat away and we felt that we knew them well.
Travelling to our new house on moving day, with my friend Mary, her first trek across France and she had a cat in a box on her lap who had also had a shit (they like to do that, cats, when they are in cars!)
Sitting outside the first night we moved into this house in the pitch black, with the stars glittering in the sky, like a quilt of diamonds, listening to the owls.
Seeing the seasons change.
What have been the downers?
The cold – really well documented in my blog over the last few months, and the job for the summer is to get the doors, windows, cellar and floor in the living room weatherproofed for this winter, we simply didn’t have time last year.
People – some of who are unreliable, some of who tell you one thing but do another, some the way that the speak to other people, especially on Facebook; seriously sometimes I think that people are way up on the Asperger’s spectrum because I can find no other reason (other than they are an arsehole) as to why they would put what they put on other people’s posts. But that will be a blog for another day, because it times I have laughed until my sides have ached with the petty arguments that ensue.
Also added to this is the fact that people seem to think that they have a right to know what you are doing, and right to comment on it. When we first moved here someone we knew over here did not welcome us, just made contact to ask what were we going to do for a living and were we registered because if not you would get a ten thousand euro fine. That is very popular over here, English people telling you that you will be fined for this, and fined for that. This is all fine (no pun intended) if you have asked them for their advice but most often than not people have not, but they say it anyway! I have made no bones in this blog to advise people that where we are concerned they will quite simply get told to f***k off if they provide uninvited negative comments to us. If we have asked you for your opinion it is welcome, if we have not then it’s not.
It’s been a year time go get a bit honest now!
Sadly also in this category are the people you lose touch with; who you really wanted to stay in touch with but good old life takes over and the good intentions eventually curl up and die. For those reading this – get in touch it would be great to hear from you no matter how much time has passed. (As an addendum to this one particular person who means everything to me has just got back in touch, yesterday, how weird was that on the anniversary of us moving over here, I have tears in my eyes now to know that he is back in my life.)
I miss the people who you cannot just pop round the corner to see. Those who you know you may never get to see again – still love you all.
Work – it has been hard. We took peoples advice (see above) when in fact it was crap, registered Rich way too early in a different Department and now can find no trace of his carte vitel (social security card for those who do not live in France) – but that is something for me to sort out for another day. Work has also been hard to come by, but looking at others we have not done bad, and have managed to survive just …. keep reading the sun is coming up over the horizon.
Lack of some favourite foods – we have had a stock of brown sauce brought over, along with Oxo cubes (other well known stock cubes are available). Weirdly miss beefburgers, you know the patty type which I did not eat that often in England, but now that they are not available, want them!!!!! (Sorry but I’m not keen on the French version.) And of course the old favourites sausages, because I am sorry my French friends but your sausages are vile. No other word, vile.
We also miss beef, yes beef as in topside, a good joint of beef. Doesn’t matter what cut you buy over here they do not roast well. Steaks melt in your mouth, stewing steak is lovely but roast beef? Forget it. Sadly we have arranged for people to bring us joints over when they come to visit.
And of course not being able to speak the language well – but I am sure that will change in the next year – watch this space.
What is the good side?
The hot summers – the very warm springs – bring them on, cannot wait.
The tranquility – as I have said so many times hearing the birds in the trees, the owls at night, our resident woodpecker. Our surroundings, our beautiful, tatty, old house which keeps us safe – currently roof or no roof!
Our garden, cannot wait to get to work on it.
People – the lovely people we have met, the lovely people we have founded relationships with on Facebook, feeling as if they are your friend even though you may never have even met them.
I feel that it is important over here to give people support, especially when the going gets tough, and yes there have been many many people who have given us support and good advice. You all know who you are and you are all a welcome addition to our lives. Only today I received an email from a lovely man in England who also has a house out here, but has not moved over here full time yet; we are going to meet up with him for coffee when he next comes over. There is the lovely lady who gave us Squiggle piglet, because she knew we would love her. She gives me such support. Then there is my good fellow blogger (she knows who she is) whose feedback for this blog is always so positive. In addition there are the people who have taken the time to set up Facebook sites for people to help each other – you are some kind of people with the crap you have to deal with sometimes, respect to you all.
Our new friends the neighbours, who have been brilliant and supportive. I am sure that we will continue to integrate into French life as the year goes on.
Those people back home, who avidly read my blog, give me feedback (please folks all feedback is welcome) who support us through Facebook, I have blogged about them before. To know that people want to stay in touch, makes you realise that you are important to them, and that is a good thing to know. The people who also read it in Spain, Brazil, Argentina and other far flung countries, don’t know how you found me but keep reading.
The friends who have been to see us, and helped us so much, the friends that are due to come to see us on Monday (I cannot wait) the family members who have supported us.
Animals – Mad as we are we love animals, and although Sophie the Sofa Loaf (see my family and other furry creatures) has no teeth, has obviously had a head injury and is at times a complete mad pain in the butt, I am glad that she lives with us, and sits on Rich’s shoulder as he walks around the house like a parrot.
But last and NEVER least we have our new addition (five months now) the Wiglet as she is affectionately known. She has changed our lives so much, and poor old Harley’s, and has now become her human brothers adopted dog, to whom we will be sending regular updates because that dog never fails to make you smile.
Looking for cats – saying hello to the world without having to go out in the rain.
Chilling on one of her favourite chairs.
It never ceases to amaze me, when I look out of my window that I have what looks like two teddies running around my garden.
Work – which is picking up. Rich has a management job with a gite complex, and a couple of regular clients – just need to get a few more, and my book printed (always believe in the power of positive thought) and we will be laughing.
Food – When we first came here we really missed takeaways (they deliver kebabs over here, but rarely.) No Chinese, Indian deliveries here no sirree. But you know what we don’t miss them now. I have learnt to cook a mean Chinese (as my friend Mary will confirm – not Rich as of course he will say it is good because it is more than his life is worth.), we have found doner meat in Lidl which I cook up with some Moroccan spices, and chicken breast and seriously it is as good as any kebab.
When we occasionally go out for a meal my favourite dish is moules and frites, of any variety, but my favourite is with Roquefort cheese and I highly recommend it.
In fact I am cooking more now than I have ever done, love my new kitchen as it works better than my old one, but the only problem is that I now seem to be the main chef!!!
But most of all for me, it is the way of life. It is the quietness and solitude that I love, I no longer feel stressed all the time, I feel healthier than I have for a long time. Rich has now recovered from his panic attack earlier in the week and no longer wants to move to a caravan in Benidorm (see previous post); his repairs on the roof have held pending the repair via the insurance, and we are now have a plan, of sorts, to keep our heads above water for the next year. We are out in the garden for the next few days, planting up and a blog will be on its way about that, as much work has already been done (another thanks to Den for his help).
So the first year has passed in a flurry I hope you have enjoyed my blog to date, and want to continue reading to see what the next year entails – please share it with your friends.