Picking up from my last post in this series it was January 2019, and we had lived in France nearly four years. That January was hard, RD had not been paid for a job he had done and we were down to our last bones, literally. On my birthday we had five euros to our name. But we had learned that what you need will come if you just believe, and on that evening my tablet pinged informing me that I had made an Etsy sale of over one hundred euro, we were solvent again until our pensions went into our account. Our belief had not failed us, it was another of the lessons we had learned ‘what you need will come.’
The next morning as we sat drinking our tea I felt a surge of anger and drive and I looked at RD and said “Fuck it’ you aren’t working via someone else anymore you’re advertising and working for yourself. Add to that your not cutting corners when you are asked to save them money, if they don’t want a good job done they can get someone else to do it. We are not going to be like other people out here, we’re having an ethos and that ethos will be ‘if a jobs worth doing it’s worth doing well.’”
I had seen so many times how people would undercut others to get the work instead, but then do a very bad job. It would have been so easy to be like them but that was the crux, that was the test: no matter how hard don’t get sucked into the same mindset as the others, rise above it, have faith that keeping your integrity and principles will get you what you need. God did we learn that lesson well!
So that very day I redesigned our Facebook page, and I advertised RD as available for work on the local sites. Within an hour he had a job to start, with a person who came to be our friend. She had been let down and ripped off before by other people in the area, but once RD had spent three days with her the trust had been built and she gave him a fabulous review which I could then use to further promote our service. Life had spurred me on to do what I had the skill to do.
In the next two day I set up a website with our ethos ‘If A Jobs Worth Doing It’s Worth Doing Well’ and I advertised us on the local sites twice a week.
Now it was common for other English in the area to then comment negatively on other people’s posts, and believe me I had my fair share of that. But I was not prepared to be bullied by others, as I was back in ‘work mode’. If they were rude I would answer them brusquely and professionally, they could never respond because more often they were lying or just being negative.
On one post a lady put that ‘it would be good if you answered your emails.’ Now I was in charge of all admin, and trust me when I say I am always on top of it. I went back through any contact confirming that no email had been received, so I told her so, in firm professional and businesslike way, also advising her that she was being rude in her tone. It was clear she was lying, but at that point other people took interest and answered her, appreciating the fact that I had put a stop to the nastiness. From there RD got a job with a lovely couple, who were respected in the area. We stood by our principles and they gave him another fabulous review, and work took off from there.
France is tough, for every euro you earn you have to pay a minimum of 25% in social security, irrespective of any costs that are not taken into account, and before any tax is deducted. This meant that very often RD was working for less than a euro an hour. We survived that year, stuck to our principles and even refused work when people wanted us to cut corners. RD did some fabulous work and we built a client base and even had work in the winter (so hard in France).
But still it was difficult and still the discussion around whether to stay went on. One sunny day in March we walked down our road, looking out across the valleys and agreed that ‘Life would show us the way.’
It was in the Spring that year that I bought ‘The Book Of Awakening’ by Mark Nepo, and I would read a passage most mornings as we drank our early morning tea. We found that each passage seemed to resonate with our thoughts at that time, and more and more we questioned what we were doing. But still we stayed.
As work came in we took it that the message from Life was to stay in France. But I think ‘Life’ is more subtle than that at times, so over time we realised how we were still struggling, it wasn’t as hard, but it was still a struggle.
We loved our French neighbours, and French friends, we loved our home and it’s location, and there were times we were confused as to the message ‘Life’ was sending. Now I know that ‘Life’ was showing us, as it so often does, that even with fairly regular work in France it was still an existence. More than anything it was challenging us to still be honest with ourselves and ask ourselves did we want to ‘just exist?’
Over the course of the year we met people who would say how difficult it was to live in the old stone houses, and how they had sold up because of the problems. They look lovely but they are hard work. Then I cleaned a lady’s house who was returning to the UK, after living in France for ten years. When I asked her why she was leaving she explained that she felt life went in ten year cycles, and that we should always consider change as the cycle grows old. It resonated with me and I knew that meeting her was one of ‘Life’s’ messages.
In the summer we read March the 7th passage from ‘The Book Of Awakening’ entitled ‘Let Go Of The Rice’. It is one of the things that changed the way I look at life, or should I say ‘we’? It said it all, how monkeys are caught in traps because they do not believe that what they need will come, because they live in fear, and consequently lose their lives when all they had to do was ‘let go of the rice.’ And that was it, we understood and we started to look at houses in Ireland.
In the August of that year I was ill, I have written how we had no health insurance and how it frightened me. It was life asking me to consider what we would do, whether France was really the right place for us. It’s bad enough being ill, add the complications of language and it is multiplied a thousand times. To reinforce its message ‘Life’ sent us to work with people whose husbands had suffered strokes, or sadly deteriorated from Dementia, and all of them were having horrendous problems in the French system. I found myself questioning how we would survive (there’s that word again!) as we got older: When chopping our own wood no-longer became an option, when RD could no-longer work.
I couldn’t find work in France, no matter how I tried, not enough to support us. I questioned whether I wanted to grow old in France, and after I was ill in the August those doubts began to build, but still we persevered, until in the end, as she so often does, ‘Life’ started to hit us round the head to make us listen……
More to come…